BY AARON FOWLES
I imagine that most people reading this are familiar with Last.fm, an online streaming music site. I taught ESL social studies last year with a focus on geography, and while my students were working on a project about Poland, I had the idea to play some music from that country.
Somehow, it worked. Rather than choosing jazz, as highlighted in the screenshot, I just entered the word Polish and let last.fm do the rest. My students were immediately immersed in the aural spectrum of a country of which they had no immediate knowledge. Talk about meaningful. “What are they saying?” “They like hip-hop, too?” “What’s this music about,” my students kept clamoring. Yes, clamoring.
This isn’t really a tech tool, but just a tech idea. The applications for social studies and foreign language classes are pretty clear, as those subjects deal intensely with culture. It is less obvious how to use this service for other subjects. I tried entering math and I got mostly punk music. Shakespeare produced very mixed results, while biology was decidedly emo (there’s a band named Biology). Electron was tied to spacesynth and trance electronic, and prepositions was mostly funk.
If you’re just looking for something quiet to play in the background, try searching for studying. Last.fm allows you to create an account that tracks loved and hated tracks, constantly refining your playlist based on your preferences. WARNING: last.fm does not censor out illicit lyrics, so be always on your guard.