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The Daily Connect

(1 min read) My first thoughts today were: every moment is now. We can. I am. Happy Friday!

I am one of those people who wake up feeling like that, and today was no exception.

(that’s my morning view. my photo cc licensed here)

Bursting with exuberance hits the spot nicely, so it’s a good time to reflect on yesterday’s Daily Connect.

What has connected courses meant for me?

connection, giving rise to a voice, reason to thoughts, tangible outcomes.

I still can’t get my head around that everyone doesn’t run a class online.My MUS654 open music course (all the sessions are on the tab on the menu bar, latest page here) has two weeks to run in this, its first iteration. I initially thought that connected courses was a gathering point for people who already did that, to form a community of people who did that, to build practice. So in the beginning when I signed up and there was a question on the form – are you a participant or facilitator? I thought, that’s odd… certainly they know the people who are on that staff page – they must mean who runs a course or who has only taken a course- so I ticked facilitator.

…aren’t I naïve!  – well I guess it was partly right as I worked closely with Jonathan on his trust content here, and he couldn’t mention that until afterwards.

I digress.

I remember that moment of signing up, and it was a bit like crossing a threshold.

I had done it. Committed to something. Declared I would take a risk, and through it I have met and interacted with some of the most inspiring thinking, educating, sharing people I have ever come across. It has taken me out of my daily existence and given me sight of others – glimpses into practice, flickers of personalities, and a host of ideas. Everyday can drag you down, not in a depressing way, but into detail, Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 07.54.03into minutiae, and connected courses has reminded me that all this time I have wings to stop that ‘can’t see the forest for the trees’ feeling and fly above and look at the forest and even see the ocean or the desert if I want to.

So if it is about forming connections, then it has succeeded already. I value the connections. I value the encouragement. I value that I have risked connecting to others and I sincerely value that they have reached back. My mind sparkles a bit like the dance of a highly carbonated drink freshly poured in a glass or spring rain dancing on the pavement when I think what might come out of all these new connections. (photo cc licensed by me here)

If you haven’t joined the Connected Courses bus yet, there is room and your stop is on the map. You can bring a friend, and the ride is free, and as long as you are willing, you are guaranteed to learn.

Has that edge moved again?

I find that my edge is moving daily. What I used to think was the edge is now quite far behind me as my confidence grows and new connections become more integrated into my professional and daily life. It is like standing on the edge of the invisible bridge that is there if you trust or climbing a tree – every step that is new can feel like the edge, even if it is something that someone else has tested, if it is new for you.

I need to remember that for my students. My edge may be very different to their edge… and today is a day that they see their edge change under their feet as they cross the stage on graduation day. I have had several graduations, and it was the last one that really meant something. I owned it. I really felt that I had learned and earned and that I had gained something that would take me forward – not the piece of paper, but the experience and what I had produced. Some of the earlier graduations weren’t really anything. I did them, they were big, with big crowds and they were a big deal to my family, and I even got presents – but the last one, where my husband and children weren’t even allowed to be there (the two tickets went to overseas family) – That was the one that meant something to me.

For my students, I hope that they are able to really feel that this graduation means something to them today. That they value it, and that each of them can begin to see their edge move in a good way. That they feel that their skills and experiences are already taking them from where they were to somewhere new. Not just having jumped some hoops and leaving the test scores behind, but taking the experiences forward and letting them infuse into what comes next.

Today I am bringing my children to see what happens at graduation. No, they aren’t going to be in the ceremony. What I want them to see is the atmosphere, the shared respect for achievement, and the celebration. My youngest is in primary school and the older two are a few years away from university. They are each at a different stage in their own life and educational journeys. I don’t know if in their day-to-day learning and activity they have the opportunity to see why they are doing it – to dream – and what that means for their lives, and where can it take them. There is a big difference from the homework papers to life, and if I can show them a small vision, a tiny aspect of the big picture, the reason, and the value – then it is worth it.

See you there!

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Protected: The script: From practice to performance

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This story begins with a conversation on Twitter:

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Bring my A game?? A challenge???


The gauntlet has been cast5937288293_a50fca3d01_z

Photo CC licensed:

Jonathan, I accept the challenge to bring my ‘A’ game and I raise you to an A# game. (yes, that’s a sharp and not a hashtag) I present #MusicFood – or is it #MusicPhood? In our session today my students and I are planning to digest our notes.

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Music feeds the soul, and a bit of high grade cocoa powder helps too.

So, to the pholks at #phonar with your #phonarphood, I hope you haven’t seen the last of us…. we’ll be Bach. …and maybe one day you can join us!

Where’s your edge?

Photo CC licensed here: (3 min read)

Last night’s #ccourses webinar had some really inspiring moments, and several people picked up on Howard Rheingold saying “if you’re not falling off it, you’re really not exploring the edge.” (the full quote is below, and timestamps are from within the webinar for reference)

This really resonated with me. I believe it is very important to continually learn and to share this with my students and anyone I connect with. Sharing is new, new is daunting, daunting can be exposing if we are not sure how to recover from a stumble.

Gardner Campbell hit it spot on when he described students’ faux understanding of learning in the context of term papers of days gone saying:

“Imitating a spurious authority that they didn’t really believe people had…” (51:43) 

Oh my goodness, this is exactly why we need to allow students to see us on that edge, and yes, falling off the edge sometimes too. We need to show them that we learn, and how we do it.

Kim Jaxon raised a good point though about how “It doesn’t all have to be shared.” and there are limits. Laura Hilliger went on to explain that she keeps personal aspects of life separate, and that’s ok. Nobody would suggest that a window into learning, showing yourself walking that tightrope, should include everything. 

My question to all of us is where is your professional learning edge?

When something is new, we make a judgement about our capabilities, and this informs the course of action we choose, perseverance, the way we react in difficulty or failure – everything. This self-efficacy belief is important, and for our learners, they need to develop self-efficacy for the things they do – whether learning or performing. There have been various comments throughout these first few weeks of connected courses about learning how to … learn, trust, be, blog, … and yes, there are many learning how to aspects of what we do, and it is important to have models, and experience. Experience is the most informative teacher, but without the skill and belief – someone could easily dive headlong and end up doing a proverbial belly-flop, whereas if they see someone else (us perhaps?) teeter on the edge and sometimes wobbling, sometimes aceing it, sometimes falling a bit. As Harold said:

“I just want to reinforce that I am happy when I fail technically in front of my students, It gives me an opportunity to, first, say IF YOU’RE NOT FALLING OFF IT, YOU’RE REALLY NOT EXPLORING THE EDGE, and also to model what you do when you fail, which it – you try stuff – and I’d 95% of the time I can figure out what went wrong and how to fix it while they’re watching.” (32:13) 

This is learning how to learn for us, and teaching how to learn for our students.

What about connecting it up? I turn to Howard again:

“If you’re a bright person, a self-motivated person, and you don’t have access to great schools, or maybe don’t have access to schools at all, but you have access to the web- then you have access to great lectures, and access to other learners and to engage in an essentially social activity that learning has become” (48:00)

So how are you doing it? It could be small things or big things…

In the past I have put myself out there, in the student’s shoes in different ways – some private and some public. The most public was when I played a concerto a few years ago with the orchestra and having the students and the audience assess me just as the students are in their final performances… same assessment forms, same marking scheme. That was fun, but scary! and they were honest and it was a way in to assessment and the process for many of them.

The edge I am on now involves taking a singing exam at the end of the term. That may not sound scary, especially for a musician, but there are two reasons it is a big edge for me. 1. I had that dreaded experience where people told me ‘you can’t sing’ when I was a teenager. and 2. It isn’t just a singing exam, it is pop music. So this classically trained cellist is singing Joni Mitchell, Debbie Harry, and Mandy Moore, and the first reaction of people when I told them was to laugh. (!) I will be singing for my students as a stepping stone, and I it makes me nervous even to think of it, my edge. -but I love the challenge.

As for why we don’t share, I talked about that in my post yesterday for my own course MUS654 (scroll to the baby photo). It is important for me to show my students that they can explore what they like, that I will respect it, and that I will help them to learn as best as I can.

“It is important to impart the skill and thirst for learning. …they need to be equipped to learn on their own.” -Howard


Photo CC licensed here:

Halfway through MUS654: Are you finding your way?

Five weeks in… already?! So how is it going? Are you finding your way? What are you getting from MUS654?

My university students are drawing together a curriculum for a year’s musical tuition for a someone – the age, the level, the instrument is all up to them. You may be doing that too, or perhaps just following along and reading bits to stretch your musical brain.

(photo CC Licensed:

Someone asked me this week what did I want to accomplish with all of this?? and I said that I hope to give people the keys to think differently, to think about the things that they do or might be doing. Take a parallel, an analogy- when I came to London I didn’t like it.  As a post-graduate student coming from a different country, although London has a way, I couldn’t quite apprehend it – spatially, socially, or culturally – at least not in the space of those first 10 months I spent there. My experience involved carrying a cello an hour and a bit across London to and from music college where I didn’t know anyone and didn’t understand the routines or the ways it all worked.  I needed a key to somehow unlock the maze that I was busy running around in.

MUS654 is not an answer booklet, it’s no A-Z of teaching, but it is a catalyst, a tool to help you find or even custom-cut your own keys.  once you have the keys, you can have more freedom to go where you like. Think of the topics in the sessions as different houses, and we get to glimpse into some of the rooms – certainly not all of them – but a glimpse can give some insight into a topic or way of thinking, and you can take it from there. So far we’ve taken a tour of a neighbourhood of topics, and from here on out we are going to look at how to connect it up with both specific issues, and with links that bring the topics together.

Have you done a few tasks? Shared any thoughts or ideas? Commented on someone else’s tasks? Let’s hope so!


Timid? Quiet? Ah, perhaps that’s something deeply learned…  What are some of the first demands placed on a baby? What do the parents say? — Hush, don’t cry. DON’T CRY. HUSH. — as a mother of three, my heart sank a little bit. Yes, I did it too.

So could it make a little sense that children, that people, that we are reluctant to share things?Hopefully not. Please have a voice! As intellectually curious learners lets be keen to promote a culture of learning.

(Photo CC licensed:

 As you will know, we learn by doing, and so I hope that you are able to do some of the bits of MUS654 and sharing your creations and insights. Have a voice, as we make the learning community!

Here’s to the upcoming weeks,

(Session 6 is out on Thursday)



Writing with greats and randomness: reflections on the #dailyconnect

I loved the Daily Connect suggested by @dogtrax where we were invited to write something and various long-established writers would also contribute. It took me back to childhood days of playing on our Texas Instruments computer with a programme called Eliza. As far as I was concerned it was a great game where you had to outthink the questions and predicted direction of the auto-generation programme that worked hard to get the person at the end of the keyboard to avoid closed answers to questions. My goal was always to stump Eliza, and it was fun. There is a version of Eliza here that you can play with.

The daily connects are also fun. That’s what makes connection so great- I am not coming at it with a plan or an agenda – but just with an explore and to genuinely see what it is like to experience something of another person’s idea or something from their discipline or even from their teaching.

That random generator… apparently it uses something called Markov Chains and it has been used in more complex ways with surprising results. There are programmixn5es that compose randomly generated comments that we all see as spam on blogs (and our students get excited at the first one that almost makes sense, thinking it might be a real comment), but then there is also the random essay generator. Actually there are lots of these sites – I like the Postmodern Essay Generator. I just got this gem:

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What I love about these generators, is that people believe them! They have not only successfully generated whole essays, but this one from MIT’s SCIGen was accepted, yes actually accepted, as a conference paper. (the full paper is available here)

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As a doctor friend of mine likes to say – the mind boggles. (and I giggle)

I love codes, Easter eggs, and hidden things and meanings in general, but it can be a great tool when actually there is no meaning in it – randomness. I use the example to debunk the fears, assumptions, and expectations that my undergraduates have toward essay writing. Fancy words put next to one another don’t necessarily equal meaning. Sometimes fancy words are called for, but there is a time for simplicity too.


MUS654 Connecting the dots: Session 4

Session 4 is up and this week’s tasks are about connecting the dots. We hear perspectives from three different violinists (from L.A., Hawaii, and the UK) about how they connect their learning talking from Twinkle Twinkle to Paganini.

Listen, explore, experiment…



All the sessions are under the MUS654 tab:

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…or you could go straight to Session 4 with this link

Time for me to practice, teach, and talk to others.

Hope to meet you along the way!

Have a great day-


An appreciative word: Thank you.

This is a story of a connection that spans time, continents, and generations.

It started with a glance at my ‘others’ message box on facebook. You know, if you aren’t friends with someone (and yes, my security settings are that way inclined) then if they message you it stays hidden in this ‘other’ box without notification unless you happen to look. There was a very cryptic message in there. I am well versed in the issues raised by @jonathan_worth in this week’s #ccourses topic of Trust, and a message that seemed personal, but was from someone I didn’t know should ring alarm bells. But this was intriguing, because it had information in it that I hadn’t mentioned or even thought about in at least 20 years. It said:

I came across a copy of “Hope for the Flowers” with your autograph and was wondering if you remembered the book.

The comment was so specific that it had to be written by either someone who knew me, or someone who was extremely curious and picked up the book at a garage sale. At this point I wasn’t sure.

Screen shot 2014-09-30 at 08.26.49What is the book? It is a story of a pair of caterpillars who are basically running in the rat race of life, and they end up climbing on the hog-pile (caterpillar-pile) to get higher into the sky… and this involves stepping on others, losing any sense of vision, camaraderie, and openness to learning and becoming. In the end one of the caterpillars decides that he’s had enough and goes off. I don’t really remember the details, but I am sure it wasn’t easy to leave the pile and the routine, and it did involve courage and even loneliness, but then (you guessed it) he turns into a beautiful butterfly and is able to soar – and see above that rat race and actually be free.

So what the heck was my name doing in the book??? It was something my family used to give all of my teachers as presents – you know instead of a box of chocolates – and I would sometimes write something in the cover.


I was curiouser and curiouser. WHO WAS THIS??

I replied with something truthful, yet tentative:

…of course I do. glad it made it into someone else’s hands. That would have been from about 1983. We used to give it to my school teachers as presents…

It turns out I did write something and I was neither expecting nor ready for what came next:

Well I wanted you to know I have kept it all these years. I have shared the story with many others including my own kids. It meant a lot to me when I first received it. Still does. Trust all is well by you. I suspect you are still inspiring those lucky enough to know you.

…FYI, I kept the book because of the kind words you wrote. As perhaps the first written words of appreciation it has made an impression on me. Among other things, you taught me the value of showing appreciation. I contacted you to extend a belated thank you.


Yes I was sitting down. Yes I had tears on my face. No I am not good at receiving praise, and am guilty of preparing myself for people’s comments – armoured for criticism. This time I was completely unguarded, and it humbled me beyond words.

With more written exchange, I found out that this was from one of the people who came in to school to help with a club, and of course I remembered who it was. This particular teacher (yes, even though he didn’t run a class, he was my teacher) made an impact on me – coming to school to work with the individuals in the speech team, and in my case it was reading poetry. As a visitor to the school, he came without the judgements associated with how I did in other classes, or what friends circles I did or did not have, and he treated me as a valid person with my own potential. He wasn’t gregarious, and he didn’t lavish compliments, but acknowledged and encouraged. For me that was so liberating.

I remember writing in that book back in 1990. I don’t remember exactly what I wrote, but I remember that I meant it – and wanted to really convey something, as much as an awkward teenager can, of what it meant to be allowed to be me.

So why am I sharing this soppy sentimental story?

I have been a part of Connected Courses over the past month and have started to meet people involved in different aspects of education across the world, and we are being encouraged to build networks, and part of that is commenting. There has been encouragement from facilitators to get talking to each other, and I see the same encouragement mirrored within courses like ds106 and #phonar where there are healthy communities of conversation and connection.

For many people this is daunting in practice – for example sometimes I feel that I don’t have the expertise to comment on these well established, flash-bang people’s writing – that it might show me as thick, or inexperienced… or I just wonder if I have anything of value to say.

The truth is we don’t know the impact of our comments, now or in the future. I certainly would not have thought that my comments could possibly have meaning for my teacher, but they did.

…As perhaps the first written words of appreciation it has made an impression on me. Among other things, you taught me the value of showing appreciation…

So to that teacher- you taught me to glimpse myself, to not hide, and to be free to speak. Who would have thought that of the many teachers, the one who helped at the after school club would have an impact so great. In my life speaking to people through teaching is a large part of what I do, and few people are actually trained in how to do this. I am very thankful that you were and are my teacher.

and for old times sake… I recorded one of the poems you helped me learn.

The Box, by Kendrew Lascelles

I still have them all.



The fish lady and the free lunch

No such thing as a free lunch?

(1-2 min read) Nope, they definitely got that one wrong. This is my story of the fantastic random act of kindness the fish lady bestowed on me yesterday…

On Friday at the university where I work there was a sort of food fair, and besides all the free packs of crisps, popcorn, and energy drinks, there were a few curious stalls. One was a complete cornucopia of veg and the other was a whole chiller display of fresh fish. I mean a proper chiller thing, like you get at a grocery store.

I did get some of the freebies to take home to my kids, and spoke to the stall holders who said they had been all round the country doing this for the past week and they loved putting a smile on people’s faces when they realised that they could just *have* something. So what was up with the fish lady?? She said that many uni students didn’t really know what real fish looked like. Of course they ate fish and chips, but could they recognise a whole cod? (actually that was one of the fish I did not know) It was a great idea. She had oysters, sea bass, Dover sole, plaice, cod, sardines, and at least six others, and then my eye fell on the salmon. It stretched across two bits of this chiller thing. I commented on how really nice all the fish looked, and she told me that it was a shame it had to go after the display – as the electrics weren’t working and she had the fish on ice…. so was going to offer them to the uni chef, but wasn’t completely sure if they would/could be used, and in reply, I offered to re-home the salmon… thinking this was a jolly sort of comment, and


IMG_1968I think I looked at her with the disbelief of a thousand disbelieving disbelievers, and that disbelief changed to amazement. I don’t think I have ever had a more fun time cycling home, that on Friday with a giant salmon, wrapped in paper and whatever plastic bags I could find, flapping half out of my bike panniers. And today we cooked it – and had to cut it in two just to fit in in the oven, and after lunch with our family and the grandparents, there is still 5.4 lbs of untouched salmon left. That was one giant fish! So not only did we have a free lunch, but we will also have a free supper, another lunch, and plenty of fishcakes in the freezer.

There is a lot of kindness out there, and I sincerely hope that chef was able to cook the rest of the fish for the uni students, because our salmon was gorgeous.

So to that kind lady I said with great sincerity and a huge smile- so long, and thanks for all the fish.