As this blog has demonstrated again and again in the past few months, the energy around Rap Genius’s recent launch of Poetry Brain is a powerful force. The editors of the site act as a kind of literary first response unit, responding to cultural interests and events within the intellectual community. Poetry Brain published an annotated Emancipation Proclamation in time for the 150th anniversary of that historical document on the 1st of January. As Oscar season begins with much buzz about the recent film version of Les Misérables, we’ve uploaded Victor Hugo’s original French novel in translation. Thanks to the hard work of the Poetry Brain editors, the site is quickly becoming the place online for literary enthusiasts to discuss and annotate great works of literature.
Now Rap Genius/Poetry Brain is beginning a major initiative to recruit K-16 educators to begin using our social reading platform in their classrooms. Already teachers and professors from a wide range of disciplines have been assigning their students to explain poetry, novels, speeches, legal documents, and song lyrics on the site. Online Poetry Brain editions of The Great Gatsby, Heart of Darkness, Moby Dick, and selected poems of T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, and Gwendolyn Brooks all prominently feature published student work. These assignments have reenergized class discussion and student essays because young people are using Poetry Brain to read, think, and write about literature and history in community. Look for a moving student testimonial forthcoming on the Poetry Brain blog!
Students using Poetry Brain will cultivate a wide range of traditional academic skills from reading comprehension to literary analysis. In many ways, Rap Genius is the ultimate close reading tool as it asks users to look deeply at small pieces of text. The power of the platform, though, is that this reading and analysis is done collaboratively so that students are not working alone, but building knowledge together as a community of learners. Students working on Poetry Brain are thus active producers of knowledge, not just passive recipients. As more and more text moves online, students are required to compose different types of writing, integrating images and hyperlinks, and responding to broader audiences. Through the use of our social reading and writing tool, Poetry Braniacs will develop critical digital literacy skills, skills that will help them more effectively navigate other social networks within academia, and also become responsible digital citizens outside the classroom.
If you are a teacher or professor interested in using Poetry Brain in your classes, check out our “Rap Genius for Educators” page to learn how the annotation platform can be useful for you and your students. Please contact Chief of Education Jeremy Dean (email@example.com or Lucky_Desperado on Rap Genius) for more information.