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Time to practice

Cello cello cello cello cello

That’s where my brain is at the moment. Every year I do a recital at the University and every year there is a moment when I wonder why why why?  I don’t have to. Nobody requires me to, it’s not part of my job. But somehow I need to. It is very important to me to put myself through the paces, to learn and do the same as I require the students to do, but it’s a balancing act and it’s no more easy for me than it is for them or anyone. It takes time. I’ve started waking up early, going to bed late, even waking up after everyone else has gone to bed. I think the music just creeps into your blood.


Practise practise practise! (or practice in ‘Americanish’ as my children used to say)

I very much enjoy the process, the sound, and having something to say – a voice – where I don’t have to have words. If you asked me what the music means, I wouldn’t have words, but it is full of meaning. I’m happy to talk about that, but maybe another time.

Screen Shot 2016-01-23 at 10.30.27This morning someone asked if I’d share some of my practising, and that was a really lovely challenge for me. It is amazing how after you push the record button awareness is heightened, nerves kick in, and a real sense of the now of time is apparent while playing. It is hard to liken it to another discipline. I suppose every moment could be like that – we only live each moment once, but if it was all adrenaline filled, that would be exhausting!! I decided to play a passage that I hadn’t played yet today, as a sort of test (test of memory as much as anything). So this is for you Ronald. We don’t often see the practising, the process, and I have been an advocate of this, so here goes… (and I’ll admit to changing the settings on soundcloud 4 times to go from private to public to private to public – this sharing and being open thing is not easy, but I think there’s merit in it for the sake of learning, process, and being human)

This is the first cadenza from Kabalevsky’s 2nd Concerto (it doesn’t have accompaniment, that’s why I chose this bit). I perform it in a recital (with piano) in two weeks. Until then, I’ll be in the practice room!


#HEAOpen is here!

Embracing Open Learning


Today’s the day!

I’m running a day long workshop for the HEA at my uni (University of Chichester) and in the spirit of the title of the day I thought I’d include the schedule and the info I’m using/sharing with the people attending. The schedule is below – please feel free to join in. On Twitter we’re using the hashtag #HEAOpen and there will be other ways to connect as well throughout the day. You’ll find a link to my slides HERE. I’ll be tweeting links throughout the day- so follow along! I’m @laura_ritchie on Twitter.

10:00 Arrival

10:30 Welcome

10:45 MUS654

11:00 Twitter, websites & blogs

11:45 Listening in and reaching out: An audio interview with Howard Rheingold (part 1)

12:15 A demonstration of connection: Blog exercise

12:45 Posting

1:00    A ‘Net’-Working Lunch with the students

1:45    The value of extended networks: comments and feedback

2:00    Collaborative connection: from apps to articles

2:30    Twitter chat/Hangout

3:00    A group tweet: A few more words from Howard Rheingold (part 2)

3:15    Hosting a hangout

3:30    Plenary: reflections on the day

HEA logo landscape

featured image by CC BY-SA

(note added after the event) All of the tabs used in the day were compiled by Vanessa Vale and shared HERE

The question of connection

(2 min read) In learning,

there is not always an equal anything.

Give, Take-

Maybe there is…

but I don’t think it comes in predefined, easy to see values. If someone is in a class for x minutes it doesn’t mean they will have learned y, or even close to y. It doesn’t mean they haven’t learned, but it is possible to be involved in a learning experience, a communication interchange of and to learn ‘orange’.


Not even in the same ball park as the question and not the expected answer. (Image by Steluma CC BY-NC-ND)

As teachers we don’t get to decide exactly how people take in, interact with, or even use what they learn, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something passed on, accomplished, or learned. It can be like that on a grand scale, but also on the most small scale- with communication. It can be a whole module that is tricky to communicate, or a single tutorial. (I’m talking from the teacher’s point of view.)

The scenario for this post comes from Day 2 of the #BYOD4L project, questions how to connect, and it involves the unknown, doubt, and just wondering how to change and adopt new methods. The whole idea of having a few people to talk with or not knowing how to ‘find out’, is realistic, and even a commonly sentiment among academics. Let’s turn it on it’s head and think of it like you were being asked that question by a student – the student comes to you about a project and says, I don’t know how to find out about it… The first response might be to suggest they look it up, or ask for help and then maybe they could exchange ideas with someone else. All of these apply exactly to the teacher too.

However, there is still that initial inquiry; there are few who share in the same specialist area, and so it doesn’t always seem easy. That is where the wider community is so useful and amazing. It is surprising how much we can learn both from those in our areas of specialism and across the globe doing completely different things across walks of life.

Taking that step to reach out, and metaphorically ‘look up’ like minded people or ask for help or even just say something about what you do can feel like a risk, but how can we learn if we don’t ask and do? It does take that effort and once you do find a few like minded people, then the collaboration can begin. Sometimes it will be fruitful and other times it may feel less so, but in doing you (we) can learn. It is necessary to be brave and go for it. Then you’ll find the other side of the equation. There is an equal sign somewhere, but be prepared for the ‘answer’ to be open – it might be more than you expect or less, or come in a different form. As long as you take that step, you can begin the process…


Image shared by Olivier Gillet CC BY-NC-ND

Featured Image by PROMartin LaBar CC BY-NC


Embracing Open 20 Jan







These are all words that, for me, are synonymous with aspects of good teaching and learning. I didn’t always use all of these in the context of ‘open’ the way I do now. Why the change? I was never against the idea, and I think I always practiced both connected learning and co-learning, but at some point I was introduced to different technological tools, techniques, and then I was encouraged. I’m a student too – always learning to teach better, differently, and part of that for me involves reaching out. I hope to be an encourager for others and perhaps to introduce a few new things…

On January 20th I have the privilege of running a workshop on ‘Embracing Open‘ at the University of Chichester for the Higher Education Academy. It is a day long event that is free to attend for anyone who is a Fellow of the HEA, and there will be points in the day where we invite anyone from around the globe to join in. We’ll be exploring aspects of blogging, Tweets, Google Hangouts, Open Source Learning and CC content, collaborative activities and how all these can be used in different everyday teaching situations across disciplines. There will be opportunities to ‘have a go’ at using all of these, and the day will be dotted with real-time connections with teachers and learners across the globe. Students will be involved too. We’ll be Tweeting with the hashtag #HEAOpen and you are more than welcome to join in!

I don’t want to give too much away, but here’s a sneak peek at the schedule for the day:

10:00 Arrival

10:30 Welcome

10:45 MUS654

11:00 Twitter, websites & blogs

11:45 Listening in and reaching out: An interview with Howard Rheingold (part 1)

12:15 A demonstration of connection: Blog exercise

12:45 Posting

1:00 A ‘Net’-Working Lunch with the students

1:45 The value of extended networks: comments and feedback

2:00 Collaborative connection: From apps to articles

2:30 Twitter chat/Hangout

3:00 A group tweet: A few more words from Howard Rheingold (part 2)

3:15 Hosting a hangout

3:30 Plenary: reflections on the day


Featured image by Ram Viswanathan CC BY-NC

I saw your light

When you (or I) light that candle there is no telling how far the light will extend, how many lives it will touch now or in the future, and how many other candles will be lit from it. 

This morning while still in darkness, with sounds of wind kicking up and splaying bouts of rain on the house I read something from one of those unmet friends – one of the connections from the land of the Internet. Gardner Campbell very eloquently told a story of connection, meaning, and value in his blog post from today (well last night still on his half of the world) and I kept thinking yep, hey, I know exactly what you mean. I don’t want to spoil his post by telling you all about it – you should definitely read every word of it. It is not an academic article – it relates to everyone who has ever met another human being and been affected by their words, touch, or presence and felt that sense of connection – the gratitude that gives you a resonance of warmth, and then if you let it, radiates from you.

The glow of Gardner’s post, that light from his ‘Candle in the window‘ as he called it was felt across the ocean. I have to admit it took me two goes to read it – I saw his initial tweet and Candle in the window is a children’s Christmas song in the UK and it happens to be the one you hear at school with the class half-singing to a cheesy CD backing track – and as a performing musician not quite learning things right sometimes makes me cringe. Because of that association, I didn’t click the link on his original tweet, but then it popped up again on my Twitter feed:Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 07.39.09

– and this time I clicked on it.

In this fast-paced now-land that we live in, the million instant views of a video clip on facebook (with all the autoplay on devices) is very appealing and I too find myself thinking wouldn’t it be nice it…. one day I’ll figure that all out. In the meantime I really really like the idea of the unmet friends. -and Gardner, when we do meet there’s a lot of catching up to do since we last met virtually on that last webinar of Connected Courses. Remember I improvised a bit on my cello for the first time live on air? My candle was lit then; I borrowed some of the fire from your flame.

When someone else lights their candle from mine, or I from theirs, is not diminished (we all know that Buddhist saying). Recently I’ve been reminded about the importance of telling people what they mean, what they do, thank you. In academia we call it feedback. In life we call it communication. Whatever the label, it is important and how else can we know? When tragedy does happen, there are often fantastic eulogies, and the dead person finally gets told so much, but shouldn’t living ears hear those words? The important thing is that we stoke the fire while it burns.

Keep blogging. You’ve got something to say and it’s not falling on deaf ears.


Image CC BY-NC by Santanu Vasant

Featured image (top) by Diana CC BY-NC-ND


I got something to say.

Every day is a journey in learning and life and this past year has been no exception. I remember starting a conversation in January with ‘what if…?’ – having no idea how things would take shape. Everything was a question, from funding to how the collaborations would spin out. At one point I found myself in California last May in a breakout group of a dozen people – age 9-45, students, professionals, -a real mix of life, in the middle of Yosemite National Park and one of those people was Nik Koyama (who is someone also fuelled by the same passions and cravings for life, growth, and connection). As we walked, Nik asked me about the collaboration that was happening and unfolding and Nik asked: ‘what do you want to do with this? where is it going? what are your goals? … for a couple of months or next year?’ and I without hesitation I said that it wasn’t about then, about where we haven’t yet arrived, about where we’re going – what I really wanted was to be here right now and to let that happen.

All we have is now. Each now, one after another, and there is magic in that. It goes back to so many things- belief (self-efficacy of course!), permission to learn, to experience, to explore, awareness, attention, reflection, connection, and all of these create value. Educationally as a teacher I continue to learn to trust my students and I give them more and more freedoms. Freedom to design their assessments, choose their focus, make collaborations, reach out and go beyond what I can conceive. There’s that old phrase – you know what you know. And as a teacher/lecturer/leader whatever someone wants to call me or you, we only know what we know and each of us is still learning. I love when students surprise me with new angles and discoveries. I have been fortunate to learn from great teachers, and still do-  because they are all around me. My students, the audience at my performances, the people on Twitter, my children – I can learn something from each one of them.

Last week I had the fantastic pleasure of having a good friend of mine (and yes, he’s my teacher too) David Preston, travel 6,000 miles to share and celebrate my book. That would never have unfolded if I hadn’t asked ‘what if…’ It was super fun, and fortunately my uni streamed it and gave me permission to put it up on youtube (thank you uni!). David’s talk is fantastic – and then there was my part with music, and the way I work is to put myself out there as openly and visibly as possible to show that whatever the talk, the theory – I mean it and I’m willing to do it. I may not be perfect, but that’s part of it – it’s about process and about learning and about the value and respect and making that real in learning and doing. After all what’s the point of waiting for that one moment when you ‘arrive’, when I’m learning all the way along and each of those now moments is a progressive arrival that stacks to build a part of whoever I am now. Few of us have had a performance where we honestly think – yeah, I’m done now. But this post isn’t about that event, it’s about two things that both came out of the event.

IMG_5080One was I was given a present. That is not wholly unusual to be given a gift at this time of year, but it was unexpected and very poignant. Here it is —->

I thought to myself, I’ve been given the gift of time. (yes, I actually have a melodramatic dreamy mind like that and I really did think that.) Besides being beautiful, you can turn it and watch it and enjoy the slowness of the sands passing, or also the idea of containment, and no matter how many times I start timing it – I never quite catch the end of it. It is a perfect metaphor – a former student, now professional has given me the gift of time. It brought me back to that now again.

The second thing was that a group of my students (the Musiquality bunch) said they would play a set of music after the main event, and I went over with my handy recorder and set it running for one of the songs. In the song, one of the students sang, and he had only recently done that for the first time (paralleling my singing in the event), and so when I recorded it, I didn’t intrude and left the machine on the floor and went back to the cupcakes and people. It wasn’t until later that I listened, and pasted it to the end of the video. -I don’t know the whole song, but it is perfect. I only have about 40 seconds of it – but it starts with ‘yeah we grow’… Yes indeed.

Have a listen (the embedded video starts there). Enjoy these 40 seconds of now. And sometime in the future, in another now, I hope to connect with you. As the story goes – I got a lot to say, and I’m sure you do too.

Featured image by Shannan Sinclair CC BY-ND

Live music + cupcakes + David Preston = my book launch!

It’s all about that #YesICan. Self-efficacy. The book. This Tuesday 5:30-6:30 GMT is the time to share and celebrate, and yes, the event will be live-streamed.

I’m not so good at celebrating or accepting compliments of any sort, and somehow I have managed to make this event into something that I am really looking forward to and am so excited to share – and, no, I am not going to stand on a soap box and talk at people. I am going to do the book –  show you what it says on the tin. The event is to celebrate and launch my book  Fostering self-efficacy in higher education students and it has also been billed as a Learning & Teaching event by the University of Chichester, where I work. I love that – it is absolutely lovely, and makes me feel valued and supported ‘at home’. I am very grateful. There is a very special guest coming to say a few words – My good friend and colleague David Preston (He founded the Open Source Learning Foundation and I am pleased to be able to say I am also one of the co-founding members of the OSLF, which is in it’s infancy yet, but international links and projects are springing up already) is on the plane at this very moment winging his way from LA to England (the land of tea and cakes that I call home).

It all happens on Tuesday, 15 Dec. at 5:30 GMT in the University of Chichester Chapel and it kicks off withDavid as the special guest speaker at the event. That in itself is reason to tune in (or drop in if you are local). David is one inspiring person with whom I have been very fortunate to collaborate on many projects over the past year.

The idea of the book in a nutshell is that self-efficacy is a sort of holy grail in life, and no less in education. If someone wants to do something, and believes in him or herself, then that belief + the requisite skills + experience = #YesICan.

Now you may be thinking, ah, there are so many books that tell you what to do…. The difference is that I do it too. I do the things that I expect of my students. I learn. I sometimes explain it to them saying that I am still some sort of hungry student and I just want to keep learning… the thing is that when I do this, I keep my teaching fresh because I know what it is like (really know what it is like) to do things for the first time. I’m going to do this on Tuesday too – my part of this event, my book launch, is to show – if you want to read the book, you can, but I can temp you to it by showing you what I mean. I am going to play a really fun duet with a lovely violinist who just graduated from the MA in Music. For that I play my cello (which is my main musical instrument) and that is something we do as teachers, we model, we demonstrate, and we do what we do well. That’s all good and I’m excited for that because it’s an excellent piece. Then I will show a bit of my learning as I sing a song, accompanied by a fantastic second year student. For some that’s no big deal – for me trust me, it’s a gib deal. It is not what people expect from me: It’s a pop song. Remember I am a classically trained cellist. Royal College of Music and all, and I’m singing a pop song – like, with a microphone and all. Some people talk about walking in other people’s shoes. You can see me do it.

I’ll be honest – that makes me nervous, nervous and excited, because I haven’t done that before. But the point is I have learned. I have worked hard on developing the requisite skills, and I have built my self-efficacy over months and months. You see in the book I talk all about building this Yes I Can, and Tuesday I will be showing you another part of my own journey. (you can read some of the earlier bits in the book.) I am still nervous, because until I do it, I won’t have done it. Sounds basic, but it’s real, and I can tell you I sympathise with the students who have to do a task for the first time! So my performing? Anyone can watch – it will be streamed via this link:

I am so pleased to be supported by both my colleagues and my students. Hope you can join us!

As for me, I might just sneak in a little more practise before I call it a night… :)


Image CC BY-NC-ND by Sylvia Chan

Featured image CC BY-NC-ND by Ars Electronica

Zesty botanicals and children’s laughter

(30 sec read) This is one of those stories that is lovely just because it is, and with so many stories that involve children, it has direct relevance to adult life. Zesty botanicals have less to do with it – but the freshness that they conjure is relevant to the residue left on me by this story.

A good friend of mine came to visit (over a decade ago) and my children were very small, 2 and nearly 4 at the time. This friend was magic – he had no children of his own, but mine adored him and he had a simple, but amazing game he played with them.

They would do what little children did and stretch their arms upwards and ask, ‘Can you pick me up? Pleeeeeease?’ (or in the case of the 2 year old ‘pick up peez!’

-but he would not pick them up. Not unless they said, “I wish.”

Those were the magic words and then he would scoop them up and toss them in the air and catch them. And much laughter followed, mixed with squeals of delight.

I love that. Not can I have, not I want, but I wish

There is something magic about wishing – free of obligation, free of possession, free of greed or gluttony. Maybe not always, but I am a dreamer and it still makes me smile.

Featured photo CC-BY by Jesse Millan

Did you hear me?

This post is about learning, and what happens when learning is visible – to the learner and to others. (2 min read)

This morning I was practising and I had one of those moments that really made me stop in my tracks and think. In a week I have a big event, it’s my book launch. The book is all about self-efficacy and fostering that positive self-belief in students. -and I have my good friend, and co-founder of the Open Source Learning Foundation, David Preston coming over from LA to speak, and then I’m going to be playing a fun duet with a recent graduate and then I sing a song (accompanied by a second year student) before a tea and cake reception. More on the singing a song later – for this story the important part is the cello/violin duet.

As I played I noticed something out of my peripheral vision. It was my husband – I could see him in the garden through the window.

IMMEDIATELY I became aware that I was very self-conscious of how I was playing and what I sounded like. I had been really going for it in my practising – playing with abandon and making a big sound, really doing all the things I should be doing, and suddenly I questioned everything and shrank. It was as if someone had seen me naked.

That made me think about the idea of body image and I thought about the attention that acceptance of different bodies and individuality is taught. Overwhelmingly there has been a move away from some perfect body image to the idea that people are individual and that’s ok, and then I thought back to musical practice and wondered about my musical identity. Am I comfortable with who I am musically? What about processes? Why would I doubt myself so much if someone saw me learning? -especially if it was my husband! Of all people, he is the most supportive and would not be passing critical judgement – certainly not as he was on his way to mow the lawn. He wasn’t focused on the few notes he heard as he passed by.

I recorded a little passage when I felt self-conscious and noticed what was happening:

I felt physically small, felt tight, was listening in a nervously critical way, my coordination was getting sloppy and it started to go out of tune… Oh my goodness! Not at all what you would want and certainly not a conducive environment for learning.

So my mind moved to the garden (stay with me, it’s a good analogy – promise). There is nothing wrong with watching someone garden. I have never known someone to get sheepish and embarrassed about planting a flower or raking leaves and having dirty hands or leaves still on the ground. We are ok with process in that pursuit. That was a revelation for me. We are ok with process in gardening. We are ok with process in cooking. We watch people do these things from start to finish. There are popular tv shows about it.

Why is it different in musical learning?

8278228668_7c12d295b0_zI don’t think it should be. Yes it is very important to know the difference between something in progress and something finished, and if a learner does not have the perceptive capabilities to know that there are still areas to improve, then that is not so good… but surely the process of learning should not be something that people are ashamed of. If someone walks in just after I’ve cracked an egg into a bowl, I don’t get worried that they have seen the breakfast crepes before I have cooked them; that would be silly. (photo CC BY-NC-ND by Rakka

So what am I going to do about it? I’m not completely sure, and would love suggestions. I had the idea to do a practising hangout. In my open music class #MUS654 we talk about all sorts of aspects of music learning from the point of view of teachers, and I think that next year I will add at least one ‘in progress’ hangout to put that process out there. I’ll be the guinea pig – as it’s not fair to ask that sort of thing of the students, certainly not if I am not willing to do it myself! – and I’ll be the fly on the wall and talk through the process. Learning to learn is so important, and I don’t think it’s something anyone should hide from.

More on the book launch soon – as for putting the cards on the table, I’m singing a song and that is a big deal for me. I’m definitely still a student there, and it’s a pop song… like with a microphone. and we’re live streaming it… It’s all about learning and living it, every day.

Featured image CC BY-SA by Hernán Piñera

What a wonderful world

Today I was inspired. I woke up to a fantastic video posted by my friend Duane Padilla. He has done things for me on my MUS654 music course- recorded videos, and chatted to us in one of our hangouts – he is an all round inspiring musician. Today he shared this video of himself playing a multi-track version of ‘Let it Snow’ using an app called Acapella.

Duane discovered this app right after it was released and spread the word quickly – basically it lets you record multi-track 1 minute videos for free. He had sent me a happy birthday track a week ago, and I have been mentioning the app to my students and other musicians, and I kept thinking to myself… the next time I have a ‘free day’ I should have a go with that app…

Today was that day! My aim was to do the first minute of Louis Armstrong’s live performance of ‘What a Wonderful World’. Here’s what I ended up with:


Thanks for the inspiration Duane!

This first effort goes to Charlotte, who asked me to play a song for her. :)