teaching · technology

mix “tapes” are now in

My recently purchased cassette player. I wanted an old school Walkman. Couldn’t find one, but this shall do.


Yesterday the students enrolled in my “Bebop to Hip Hop: Young America and Music” undergraduate course turned in their mix “tapes” and mix tape essays that act as “soundtracks” for the plot in Lynda Barry’s “The Good Times Are Killing Me.” I often say I look forward to this or that and mean it, but I especially look forward to hearing how these amazing students engaged various ideas concerning postwar America through the eyes of two adolescent girls, one of them African American and the other white.

I first discovered this assigned reading when I was an undergraduate at the University of Miami in 1988. It addresses in part how people of varying backgrounds cope with changes in urban life after the Second World War.

I went out and found a mini old school cassette recorder from The Trading Post, a Tuscaloosa thrift store that my husband loves. Upon learning about the assignment, the owner was kind of enough to give it to me. I must find a way to repay him. Such community support means a lot.

I have this small cassette player because I don’t want to be tied to a boom box while listening to actual tapes (indeed, some students were never entirely successful and ended up putting their mixes on CDs and even on various online sites like Spotify and Mixcloud).

Over the next two weeks, I will put on earphones like we did back in the day and listen to their textual analyses on paper and via sound. This alternative approach to traditional essays has been experimental, but very worthwhile. I told the students as much as we started class yesterday.

Several shared their hurdles with “old” and “new” technology. One of them said in the end they are not so sure technology is all it’s cracked up to be. Given my own experiences, I would have to agree. That said, technology is part of many work in progress moments before us in and outside the United States. We’ll see how it goes. Meanwhile, stay tuned as I share some of the yummy writing I have already seen. Many of the students “get” how messy and contradictory postwar life has been and continues to be if the current presidential debate is any indicator. Roll!

This pile of tapes and CDs in a box await me. Yay!

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