Print Project Proposal: History Makes You Genius

It seems everyone has heard of Spotify. Whether you use it or have just been seeing it in the news recently with Neil Young and other artists leaving over COVID-19 misinformation. But have you ever scrolled down and watched the lyrics as your new favorite song was playing? Or used the Spotify app on your TV and it gave you all this insider knowledge on a song? That is Genius. As in smart of Spotify, but also a website where people can give the lyrics of a song, book, you name it and annotate the lyrics.  

This is the website Genius being used to annotate the popular song “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version)” and an example of the approved annotations by the site. https://genius.com/Taylor-swift-all-too-well-10-minute-version-taylors-version-live-acoustic-lyrics

College’s, professor’s, and K-12 educators have started to use this across the country as a tool to help students share their thoughts with their classes about texts they are reading, songs they are using to analyze texts, and more. Annotators can also request for Genius to check their annotation and for it to be approved by the site and be made public.  This tool can be very useful in a history classroom to engage students in the words of primary source texts in live action with their fellow students also working on reading the assignment.  Below is an attached picture of an Black Literature class I took in undergrad and how my professor used this platform to give students the opportunity to share their thoughts on the book The Hate U Give and compare the passage to a 2Pac song we had listened to.  

Photo of Dr. Rutter’s ENG 215: Black Literature course at Ball State University the Fall semester of 2019 using Genius to analyze a text in the classroom. https://genius.com/18477764

The purpose of this print project would be to explore the site and see how classes are using this platform to engage in learning and different kinds of texts.  I would explore different subject areas to see how these methods would transfer to history classrooms at the secondary and collegiate levels.  Primary source based learning is significant in secondary education so having a useful tool readily available for educators to upload to and have their students annotate their understanding of a document would be useful for knowledge and skills checks. This could also be useful to people browsing the website who happen to cross your classes page and read about historical topics.

To accomplish this task, I would compile pages of classrooms using the site and identify different methods and sources used in the classroom.  This would help to facilitate and analyze what types of texts have engaging annotations, what those annotation requirements were, and what the purpose of the assignment was.  I would then take this and compare it to history classes that have Genius pages and describe the best methods for educators to use this tool to analyze historical writings.  This research would be useful for social studies educators and history professionals alike as a tool to engage students and the public in historical learning.

-McKenna Crews

One Reply to “Print Project Proposal: History Makes You Genius”

  1. Hi McKenna,

    This is a great idea for a project. Genius is an amazing resource and platform, and it’s clear that a lot of memory work is happening there. I think it’s particularly interesting in contexts where it has become the go to source for drawing out the history behind lyrics that often get misinterpreted, like the verses from Killing in the Name of have some rather rich historical context layered in through he platform at this point (https://genius.com/123154 ).

    I had not heard about Genius being used as a history education platform, but it is such a great idea. I think your idea of identifying examples of how and where classes are using the platform and the kinds of interpretation, they are adding in on the site is great. As an added layer to the project, if you were to run with it for your course project, I think it would be particularly illuminating to reach out to some of the educators that are using it to teach history to get them to tell you a bit about some examples of where it has been particularly useful, or any kinds of lessons learned they have gleaned from using it for teaching and learning.

    Again, overall, this is a great idea for a project, and I think it would be of broad interest.

    Best, Trevor

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