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Here’s How One Black Ivy League Student Brings Hip-Hop into the Classroom

3-life-skills-students-can-learn-hip-hop-and-technologyIn today’s high tech world, the average attention span peaks at around eight seconds. That means a few animals can out-focus some modern day students.

For Black and Hispanic low-income students, this difference fares worse on them. Some educators who are aware of this disparity have restructured the learning curve so today’s low-income students can process information as efficiently as they recognize who’s playing in the Super Bowl.

And that’s where Austin Martin comes in.

The Brown University undergraduate created a web-based program to combine hip-hop culture and preparation for college entrance exams. Still in its early phases, Martin travels to test his program in middle and high school classrooms.

His website, Rhymes with Reason, uses hip-hop to connect students with its lyrical delivery of words rather than memorization on paper. The website is easily accessible via smartphone, laptop, or home computer which allows students the freedom to use Rhymes with Reason anywhere.

Hip-hop, Martin explains, is full of words students might need to know for the SAT or ACT. In fact, he’s complied more than 450 examples. All sorts of vocabulary words like, “distort,” “complex,” and “meticulous” emerge from these hip-hop tunes. Martin has received a lot of positive feedback from both students and teachers who experienced Rhymes with Reason in their classrooms.

“I just got out of high school. My sister is in high school,” says the 20-year-old Martin. “I’m in tune with that climate.”

Perhaps inspiration for Rhymes with Reason stemmed from the Hip Hop Education Center founded by New York University Professor Martha Diaz, who shared a list of initiatives that foster hip-hop in education.

“I knew every last thing there was to know about hip-hop and basketball,” Martin said. “My favorite NBA player was Allen Iverson. I could tell you what points-per-game average he had in 2004.”

In a structure that forces kids to sit still and listen for eight hours a day, why not implement a program that engages their attention in a way that adds fun?

Rhymes with Reason is still in the beta-testing phase. It hasn’t taken on a widespread implementation and Martin is still gathering data to show it increases student vocabulary. So far, the students seem eager to take on the challenge.

If the culture around learning has changed, why not redefine the way teach too?

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