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Blogging secrets – it’s the wind

(2 min read) Yesterday was the second webinar of those helpful Blog Brothers, and they were visited by some helpful Blog Sisters. I could only tune in to the second half as I am away at a conference and although the formal programme finished about halfway into the webinar, forgetting my headphones meant that being inconspicuous while listening was a bit tricky. Nice thing was a few others came over to see what I was listening to.

I am going to cobble a few of the lovely things that people said because they reminded me of a story- There was a discussion about how you just have to be you in your blog, and then some comments about the audience and who was listening.

I woke up this morning and thought of those things and how it feels sometimes to blog, and the audience (or lack of one) and the possibilities- so I was reminded of this story/folktale (and forgive me if I get it wrong or miss a bit – folk tales are like that when passed around folk!)

There was once a man who had a secret. He couldn’t tell anyone his secret, but he desperately wanted to tell the secret. He worried about what to do and finally came up with a solution. (I think this is the abridged version of the story – I am sure there is a longer one out there) He walked far away from his friends and family, far away from his house, walked until there was nothing around him. There, there was the place he felt he could tell his secret and finally get it out. He began to dig a hole, and he dug a very deep hole. He dug and he dug, and then when he thought it was a good enough hole to hold his secret, he told his secret into the hole and then he buried it. Safe within the Earth’s belly he left his secret and then he went home and felt better. …Now some time had passed and the seasons changed and the winter came and went, and it was springtime- just like now- and in that place where there was nothing, the grasses sprung up and when they did they went to seed- and as they swayed in the wind they sang. They sang the song of that man’s secret and it was heard all over the land, and it didn’t stay buried in that hole, but thousands of seeds carried the secret and wherever they landed, that song was passed on and sung out to be heard.

I always liked that story- not because the man had a secret he couldn’t deal with, but because of the magic of the song on the wind and how it could be shared. I think the story was originally about a lie, but I like to look for the positive, and it reminded me about blogging. Sometimes it feels like talking into a hole, and there may or may not be an audience, but whatever it is, there is that possibility that it will be picked up on the wind and shared, or somehow reach someone else. And for me life is all about connection, so that is reason enough to write. I’m not always good at academically informing or technologically advancing whizz-pop posts, but sometimes I am. Mostly I write about the little things that I have learned from others and how those happen and impact my own learning and teaching and living.

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Photo CC licensed by-nc-nd here: http://bit.ly/1HZqEk5

Projects, projectiles, and provocations

I haven’t blogged in a few weeks and time has been slipping through my fingertips. Oh, there’s been plenty on- Many wheels are moving and the way people are coming together to work and make things happen is amazing. Monday I submitted my final (I hope) typescript for my upcoming book: Fostering self-efficacy in higher education students, and that was a major milestone. If all goes to plan, it will be finished and in the pulp (can’t really say in the flesh?) by October. Then there’s the Cello Weekend that I am running in April, with a lovely guest flying over from Chicago, and in May is the big event – the Musiquality ‘Don’t You Quit’ world tour – where the group (5 students + me + our instruments) fly off to California to connect, collaborate, and create with students and teachers from Righetti HS, UCLA, and Cal Poly. That is going to be amazing. (more on that project in a few days)

So I have let writing on the blog slip-

and then on Monday I tuned in to the first #DMLCommons webinar and Alan Levine said something that was an absolute cracker:

‘you don’t get a community with everyone sitting on their front porch talking to themselves.’

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He really got me thinking, and he’s right, you know. You don’t get a community when people get too busy to talk to anyone either! Time is a magic thing and I am so hungry to learn. The real problem suddenly dawned on me – with the level of connectedness available through technology it is humanly impossible to keep up. That’s pretty much it. There is just so much to do, so much life to live, and today – so much cake to eat! (fitting in a bake sale in about an hour for the Musiquality project) Maybe it’s like you have to paddle really hard and then you can ride the wave? I’m paddling at the moment and having that vision of the goal is so inspiring.

 

 

So we’ve had the projects and the provocation of the quote. What’s the projectile? It’s vaulting ‘us’ into the learning and living experience. For me, in the midst of all these projects I’m singing, playing, baking, hiking, doing, reflecting, learning, and living more in the here and now and doing it all with confidence and real joy. I love the hustle of the cross-continental communication that comes in at all hours and I love the peace of chasing the moon across the sea until it sets – real time, synchronous, asynchronous, connecting with the land, with people, within and without.

I am challenging myself to take Alan’s advice to heart- small and large scale. So if I meet you along one of my journeys, don’t be surprised if I say hello. I may not know you yet, but we may be part of a community soon.

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Photo credits: People photo: CC licensed here http://bit.ly/18XirOs ROcker photo CC licensed here: http://bit.ly/1CaMUmg Featured image CC licensed here: http://bit.ly/1N7tt2y

Instrumental Disruption

Reflections on my surprise visit to the two-day Expo at Coventry’s Disruptive Media Learning Lab. I presented a session over the lunch break on day two that truly disrupted people – we did an orchestral flash mob, and although they (mostly staff) could see the instruments arranged and on display all morning, they were completely unaware that they would be the people playing them.

Throughout the morning people became curiouser and curiouser, and watching their reactions was lovely.

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As I wasn’t on the printed programme, I had a sort of secret license to not follow traditional rules – this was a conference and speakers were respectfully introduced for other sessions, but it was also in a place that was actually named a ‘Disruptive‘ Learning Lab. So when Kate Green, who was coordinating my visit began discussing how I might be announced or how to let people know what was going to happen, and I said that I would just disrupt whatever people were doing and announce that there was something happening now…. *that was fun! 

I walked into meetings and said ‘excuse me, please may I disrupt you?’ (good thing I have no clue who most of the people were or I am sure I would have been daunted) I invited them all to take part – invited the IT man, the cleaner, the Deputy Dean, staff, staff’s bosses, and their bosses, and the students. See, in this session, in my flashmob, we are all in it together and it’s about working together to realise yet untapped capabilities. I don’t know who you are, and I am not going to pre-judge what you can or can’t do. My job is to give you a chance, believe in possibilities, and show you that you can believe in yourself too. I hope that came across to the people there on that bean-shaped ‘hill’.

Everyday, as teachers, we put our students in situations where we want and expect them to learn, and that means they are vulnerable- vulnerable to failure (both public, and private failure). With a clear approach that fosters achievement and supports their beliefs that they CAN do what is being presented or asked, then somehow they (and we) tend to exceed expectations. In short we learn not to get in our own way. So in this very short 45 min session, I presented a full version of a pop song that we as a group would play, gave them a whistle-stop instructional tour of the basics of holding the instruments, gave them graphic scores for the song with their parts on it (we divided into sections, like in an orchestra). They were responsible for 5 different parts, and I took the remaining two parts, with the help of my loop pedal.

We only had time for one full run through of the song, but it worked! Along the way there were some supremely good ‘failures’, which after all is what happens when we learn. Don’t get me wrong, I do NOT mean they actually failed, but in music the act of creation is something that is ‘out there’, it is sound, and unlike thoughts or even typed text, that can be kept private until polished, sound is obviously exposed. Certainly in this group setting, all of the initial workings-out and explorations were very public. Those who sat there and did it, the bosses who willingly found their notes and squeaked alongside the students and their other colleagues, they deserve a HUGE well done. It takes guts, and it was exposing and it was a risk – and the joyous thing is that they all did it with a smile. There was a sense of I CAN, and there was laughter, and they were playing – both in terms of violins, violas, and cellos, but also in terms of playfulness. It is a real privilege that I was allowed to bring that in the middle of a very nice buffet lunch.
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I won’t pretend we produced a concert performance, but I thought everyone did really well, and did achieve. Afterwards I told them they were both brilliant failures and brilliant successes. I sincerely hope they understood that I meant they were great learners, they allowed themselves to be vulnerable, to learn, to co-learn, and to be open, and as a result they were able to grow and achieve.

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Many thanks to Crostóbal Cobo for the short video clip and the group photos.

When you dare to ask…

#Musiquality is one big adventure:

Me, 5 students, 5,000 miles, raising a whole load of money to cover costs and make this collaboration completely awesome. However, if you look at it with a level-headed approach – there is a lot of risk. Why risk? Well because I bought the plane tickets, and as my wonderful husband reminded me yesterday, we start paying interest on that credit card bill in 20 days…. We had some fundraising advice that was hugely helpful, but also included the reality check warning that the amount of money we needed to raise within the timeframe was perhaps unrealistic for us. (we’re going in May)

So what?? should we give up? Ditch the idea – like I am going to say to the students… oh, this collaboration, the idea of making an album with students from America while we spend time learning and working together, um, well maybe not this time…

I don’t think so.

 

You know that saying ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’? I am willing to work – hard and carefully. At university in America I got given a car for being the one who learned the most in a competition amongst my teacher’s students. A CAR. (admittedly, that 1981 Chevy Malibu Classic didn’t last too long, especially as that was in 1994, but MAN was it awesome.) I wrote a PhD on self-efficacy – that’s a person’s belief in their capability to carry out a task. I believe in this and I believe in my students. I don’t spend money on airline tickets (that we don’t actually have) lightly. Have I completely lost it? No. I really really do believe that there is a lot of good out there, and people are capable of a heck of a lot more than they may think.

So how are we doing? Well since buying the tickets on Feb 13th we have:

£500 and $2500 in corporate donations

£93 from our first bake sale

There are fundraisers in the pipeline, like another bake sale this week, a raffle this weekend (with donated prizes), a club night at the Uni Student Union, and I have just written an article for my village magazine offering whatever we can do in return for donations – gardening, dinner music (we are musicians after all), cleaning… and that ‘we’ includes me – this isn’t a ‘teacher stands by and watches’ type initiative.

What’s the goal? £10,000 (which is a lot of money!) That covers all the costs for us for a week and allows my 5 students to make sure they each have some sort of working laptop or phone to help with the recording project, and it also leaves a few hundred pounds that each of these 5 students can leave as a scholarship fund to ‘pay it forward’ toward a future student’s costs toward another collaboration – it may be to the same place and it may be with entirely different people.

The idea is that through #Musiquality we can bring something unique to others – we can create with others, can share our skills, make, tell stories, and laugh through music. All of my students study aspects of Instrumental / Vocal Teaching and this collaboration is the sort of real world application that goes way beyond any classroom’s walls. -and you know, life is like that. Working in music now means that you have to adapt. I love that my Mac has no ‘CD hole’ (as I bluntly tell the students). Music is changing. We are changing. Society is changing. And I want to be on the crest of the wave.

I’ve been reading Cory Doctorow’s new book Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free and it has a LOT of great stuff in it, and I can’t put the book down. SO much resonates with what we are doing, and how I live. – the biggest lessons so far are 1. People have to know about you, and 2. People have to care.

Well we are spreading the word however we can, and we believe in what we are doing. As Pete (one of the students going on the trip) said:

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He’s right, you know. It is about reaching out and connecting with people – going beyond school or university, beyond age, beyond race or gender – to make music and learn together – and about living for right now with all the gusto and the capability that we can each muster. I love it. As Leonard Nimoy said in “Star Trek: TNG” Unification II:

One can begin to reshape the landscape with a single flower, Captain.

I can’t pay for my students to do this – and neither can they, and oh my there is still a long way to go, but it will happen. I must say that we have all been working at it incredibly hard at getting there- and we know that hard work will continue, but you know what – just tonight two of the students approached their landlord for help and he said, ‘girls, you deserve it because you are so lovely’ and gave them £700 toward the project! My heart nearly burst. There is a lot of good out there.

We aren’t afraid to ask for help along the way.

We can’t do it alone, and

We completely welcome your support- whether that is through a donation or by spreading the word about the project.

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The Resonance of #Phonar

It all began at the HEA conference in July 2014. Jonathan Worth and I were both presenting on behalf of the Association of National Teaching Fellows, and blamo. I am a very confident person and I love (did I say love? – just checking, I meant to say LOVE) being on the stage, but ask me to talk to someone, and boy does that take courage. So, I plucked up the courage and said, (taking a deep breath, and trying to look normal) “I’d like to work with you on a project one day.”

and Jonathan said, “Drop me an email…”

The door opened. and I walked through.

That was the beginning of a great collaboration, and now I need to tell the backstory –

Last April, a very inspiring composer friend and colleague of mine – Jill Jarman – began to write a piece for me. She finished the first movement and gave it to me as a gift. as. a. gift. wow. (that is British understatement, the American in me says OH MY GOSH THAT IS SO COOL!) There are (or will be) two more movements, but I need to raise the funds or some sponsorship for those, but that is for another story… The piece of music is called Resonance and it is all about all the different sounds the cello can make – and it is meant to be visualised – you know, like with cymatics. Uber cool.

I got to talking with Jonathan about it, and played it to him one day at my house and then he had the idea that it would be great if his students could visualise it and create a sort of post-photographic portrait of the music as their final project for #Phonar. We both share a common ideology about collaborating and freedom of information – and on the back of that Jill (the composer) agreed that I could record the piece and release it under a Creative Commons license that allowed remixing – and that way the students could dream and make, and it would all be legit.

I made a trip to Coventry last December to see Jonathan’s students present their final work. It was a blast. I decided that something that would make my visit more meaningful was to give the students the chance to really experience the music, so I brought a van full of instruments and we played… It was supremely fun. At the time I mentioned that I had a concert at Chichester in February and that I would like to show some of the work while I played the piece live. -That event is happening this Thursday and today in preparation I was printing high quality photos from the students. The image in the poster is from one of the #Phonar students. There will be poster-sized photographic prints around the Chapel while I play and the audience will be able to access links and read about what the students were thinking. It is a chance for me to celebrate their work, and to reinforce the connection that we have had in sound, image, face to face, and now indirectly through an audience. As an effort to reach out and connect further, I recruited a couple of the university IT people to help me to set up live streaming for the concert. I use Panopto a lot (it is the system we have)- not really to record my lectures as it was intended, but for other things – reflection, student work, and I guess lectures too… but this time it will be to stream the concert.

So if you are free Thursday Feb 26th at 7:30 pm GMT, tune in on this link for an hour of music! Resonance is second on the programme, and will start about 5 minutes in, after a short vocalise for voice, cello, and piano. I can’t promise the sound or picture quality will be perfect, but that’s because it’s a first for me – gotta start somewhere!

Cello and voice poster

#Muisquality update

I was interviewed yesterday about the project – you know – this whole co-learning California recording music adventure that my students and I are going on – and I asked the people (who were from the International Office at my Uni) to please film a bit on my phone… The interview is going to be made into a 5 min description of the project – interspersed with photos from our fundraising efforts to date, and some of the things that have crossed the pond between learners.

This is what was on my phone:

We are going to launch a big fundraising campaign – a crowd sourced one, but in the meantime my students are writing to companies faster than I can type myself. It is hard work, but SO inspiring.

And just to report, so far they have repaid £593.68 of the bill for the airplane tickets. That is money received – there is more pledged. -Long way to go yet, but definitely not bad going!

Walking and talking and singing that song

This morning I did something and I’m not sure if I am crazy or stupid, or maybe a bit of both. What I am sure of is that I believe in this. I booked the 5 airplane tickets for a project, that might actually be a way of life that is beginning to spill out into other pursuits. It’s all about that self-actualisation and doing something that really has essence and meaning, and connecting. Don’t get me wrong, there is incredible meaning in the simplicity of a cup of tea, but sometimes there is also meaning when you (or me or a student or anyone) allows themselves to go beyond what they expected, what they thought they could do. (Photo CC licensed: http://bit.ly/1KT1eSb)

Laura Gibbs posted an article by Carole Dweck about the perspective on intelligence and it goes back to the concept of ability vs. capability that Frank Pajares put so well when contextualising how we look at self-efficacy. I love that. This whole project is about capability. I can. I dream, but also I can. I want to do, and very fortunately for me – in May I will be on a do-ing journey with 5 of my students. We will be working with dozens of other students and teachers too, to create, learn, teach, and make some music.

There are people asking how do we get out of the box. This is my out of the box – my striving to go beyond and do something else. To be quite honest, I don’t quite know where this will take us. We came up with a blurb, and have started raising the money to cover the costs, because let’s face it, students today don’t generally have the kind of money that just takes them 5,000 miles away to realise a collaborative dream. They are going to have to earn it, and I am going to work my socks off to make sure they are able to make the most of the opportunity.

We started with a vision that started as conversations between 5 teachers/professors working across 5 different disciplines and then over the months it has become more tangible and taken on a form of its own. Here’s the way my students and I decided to phrase our understanding of it:

This project is an educational initiative that is about open sourced learning (free and connected) where individuals pursue their goals with passion and the hope of being able to actualise their dreams. Working through music, we will teach, communicate, reaching out to making connections with people, learn new skills, and develop confidence. Working across cultures and outside the traditional educational learning environment.

We’re going to California! Oh My Goodness!!

The one thing we do know is that we are going to document the whole thing – and record – we’re going to make music – an album. That in itself is incredibly exciting. This all started as a project to connect and open learning. It is challenging me and my students to really use the skills we have, and go forward. We are really being like new children walking – we know there will be scabbed knees and we will trip up, but I am confident and inspired in what we have already done and I’m willing to dive in wholeheartedly to see where we can take this. We’ve turned our boxes into cars and planes and we’re off on one hell of a ride.

ps watch out for the hashtag #musiquality on future posts about this project including plans, connections, and our funding adventures/opportunities! I think I’m on bake sale duty again in 2 weeks time. My brownies and banana muffins were a hit :)

 

 

Connecting it up… testing, testing…

Tonight I had a visit from my sound guru, Richard Earnshaw, to advise me on sound equipment for the trip. What trip?? Well….

I’M TAKING 5 STUDENTS TO AMERICA IN MAY!

(I am afraid that is an all caps moment, and if you knew me you would hear it in my voice)

We have been working with a class outside of LA and it is all very exciting, and we are planning all sorts of things… For one, we are going to make an album as a result of our collaboration. The 6 from the UK will make a sort of string quartet (two cellos, a viola, and a violin), a guitar, and a vocalist. Besides being one of our chief cookie bakers for bake sales, I sorted out the audio equipment yesterday. In California, we will be recording on location in the fringes of Yosemite and are hoping to capture ambient sounds as well as interviews and music.

So back to Richard and audio equipment…

After talking about a few different mics and discussing how and where the recording would take place, we tested out this supremely cool little H4n zoom device. All by itself it sounds like this (well, Richard sounds like this when recorded on it, but you knew what I meant… and he is very silly -well worth a listen!)

and some talking…

and then we recorded a bit of cello using my very portable stereo mic to see how well it picked up the sounds and the ring (in my kitchen?? I am not quite sure how this compares to Yosemite, but it’s a start). It is going to be really important to be easy to set up- and we might well be hiking somewhere and need to record – and not having a tag-along crew, well you know. We thought this little setup might just do the trick.

Back to work for today. Meetings with students and planning and typing and practising :) oh, and some baking. First bake sale is tomorrow!

Cello Weekend 2015 Join us!

Registration is open for this year’s Cello Weekend. Email me for details!

Connecting the dots

This year my students and I keep reaching out and opened doors, to see where it will take us. Before Christmas, as a creative exchange we sent various bits of recorded music to a class of art students. They listened to the music and they created. Nearly half a world away, receiving this 6 second video from the teacher made us feel like we were in the next room. Can’t wait to meet in person in May!