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like the back of your hand?

The question was posed to me:

How well do you know the back of your hand?

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 06.44.48It was a daily prompt in a project to get people connected through technology (that is a huge under-simplification of  the AGORA, web-associated activities connected to the University of Guadalajara (UdG) Student Centred and Mobile Learning Diploma). Although the Daily Try was created as part of the project, it is wide reaching and open to anyone. I have dipped in and out of it this summer and looking back at my collection of Daily Try entries, they form a positive scrapbook of reflectivity and storytelling.

So the back of my hand? I thought you would never ask. This is my left hand, and it is in shadow because it will never be classically beautiful like my grandmother’s (she was a hand model in the day when mannequins were live people). That is primarily because I have cello fingers. To play the cello, short nails are a must, and if you had a better view of my thumb, you would see a callus on the side of it from playing as well – If I play a lot the ends of my fingers look like little frog’s fingers. It sounds odd, but it’s not – promise.

Then there’s the ring. Well two rings. You probably can’t see them in the photo, but that’s ok- the story isn’t about what they look like. One has been there 18 years and the other a bit longer. The engagement ring was not bought (I am a very big fan of passing on/lending/giving things to others, and have been lucky enough to be on the receiving end as well). This was one of those stories- In short the ring was hers:

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She was Laura Anne, some semi-distant ancestor of my husband. She was not a great woman in history, but we do have her story and she endured many things- including spending weeks on a fishing boat and giving birth at sea sometime in the mid 1850’s. The ring itself was falling apart (lost the main stone down the sink drain in the loo at the Royal College of Music!), but it got cobbled back together and I love that it was hers and that I can carry on that story. Someday some ancestor of mine might take it out of a box and say to their child – do you have a ring? would you like to have/give this one?

on the back of that story, I commend the Daily Try to you.

Connecting and reflecting with #tjc15

(3 min read) Yesterday I was involved with #tjc15, which is like a twitter book club except with journal articles. We discussed the 2011 article by Kop, Fournier, and Mak:

A Pedagogy of Abundance or a Pedagogy to Support Human Beings? Participant Support on Massive Open Online Courses

Typically I don’t do those things – but yesterday I did. I read the article during the twitter conversation and typed/tweeted as I read, and was instantly sparked by a number of things and how they related to me as a teacher.

In a couple of weeks I will run the second iteration of my own mini-mooc-esque class #MUS654. It isn’t officially sponsored by anyone, or advertised by anyone, and in truth I put it together for the students so they could have a better experience and get connected. I teach a physical class who are all encouraged to follow along… starts in the second week of September. More on that in another post. This is about the article.

There were a few standouts that were definitely worth sharing. Firstly the idea that:

one should question if all adult learners are capable of taking on this responsibility

This made me ask myself (and the twitter community) what about younger learners? I know the context of the article was that of higher education, but my 8 year old uses the computer, self-directs his learning, and dips into various tutorials (with permission and supervision). Why should engagement with this sort of learning not be about younger learners. There is not a magic line when suddenly you have a license to drive your own learning. It happens organically and as we integrate connectivity into schools and the classroom, it is something that should be in the minds of parents and teachers, because it is certainly in the minds of students.

the major challenges is to create a pedagogy that supports human beings

I agree. completely. and this applies to all who are engaged with pedagogy – those classically called ‘learners’ as well as ‘teachers’. The more I teach the more I find I am really a secret, or public, learner. I’m not sure if the traditional infrastructure in higher education regards established teachers as learners, certainly some places do, and there are others where there is still ground to gain on that point. I crave learning, and it is a real challenge to create something that honestly supports all involved. There are so many variables, and the important ones to me have to do with engagement – intrinsically motivated engagement. I tell my students that if there is no point, why bother. I certainly wouldn’t engage just for a grade. Maybe that is a brash statement, but it’s true (for me at least).

So back to the online learning model and connection. In this study there were many registered on the class (1500+), and rather fewer participated on a regular basis (40-60). That is not surprising or uncommon. There were various attempts for engagement and this sentence really rang true:

This highlights the need of participants for social presence, but in a self-determined way.

It reminded me of the classic psychology idea that you are responsible for your actions. (As in thought precedes action (see Bandura, 2001 esp p.4-5) I can advise, tell, direct, ask – but only you can do it. And in creating authentic doing, that aspect of self-direction and self-regulation (see Zimmerman & Schunk, 2001) is essential. It is the magic of achieving something that is truly student-led (forgive the edu-speak).

It made me think, because I don’t know how my open course will unfold, or who will join in, or even who will be interested – it is about making a music curriculum, but has almost mini-courses each week about various core components of music and music learning. We’ll see… and I’ll be learning too.

It brings me back to these two sentences, found at the beginning of the article’s conclusion section:

This research showed the importance of making connections between learners and fellow-learners and between learners and facilitators. Meaningful learning occurs if social and teaching presence forms the basis of design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive processes for the realization of personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes.

I am very glad Laura Gogia organised #tjc15 and hope very much that next month you will join in too. You can read the full article we discussed here.

A story of connection

A friend of mine asked for some stories of connection for an upcoming conference presentation he is giving… and here’s mine. (Alan, you’re in it!) It is yet another little glimpse into the #Musiqualiy story, and the stories keep folding and unfolding. Intricate as fractals.

 

 

Music and the soul

This morning a friend shared this, page 155 from the Book of Embraces by Eduardo Galeano, (it comes right after the Culture of Terror section and before Alienation). (photo credit: Anji Gaspar-Milanovic) I haven’t read the book yet, but it is on order. The passage struck me for several reasons. First it made me think of a story told to me by Marjorie Garrigue, who was a pianist I stayed with during my summers at Meadowmount. In her youth she was a student of Rachmaninov, and she was 98 when I lived with her. I can’t remember if this was her story, or a story told by a teacher, or just a sort of musical parable- but it stuck with me, and here’s the short version:

Someone had an audition (maybe it was a performance?) and there were only a handful of people in the audience, but what the performer learned afterward was that one of those listening was a very influential musician himself and because he had prepared like it was the performance of his life and still performed, really performed, despite the small audience – that night a door opened because of the impact the performance had on those two or three audience members. – I hope it was a true story.

and so the page from Galeano’s book struck me.

It also made me reflect on my own conception of performance, and how that has shifted and continues to shift. Sometimes people judge the success of a performance on numbers – don’t all paths in society use metrics? It could be height, weight, salary, grades, views, or any number of measurables. Can you measure music’s connection with people? probably, but I would prefer not to have to label it in those terms.

Some of my most meaningful performances have been in the most unlikely spaces. This summer during the Musiquality adventure we played in a racquet ball court and then at Yosemite I played on a giant rock. The best bit of that was that it was all beyond convention. In school we are taught musical conventions, and yes, these are important. Rules, manners, heritage, culture, and tradition are all important in performance, but at the heart of it all still is the music and when the music comes first and is able to transcend the situation then there is something beyond words. This can happen in many different settings – including a traditional concert hall with people neatly tucked silently in rows.

I am certainly not against that. There is not only one way to have a meaningful performance.

Lately though, I have moved. My perspective has altered and I find I am willing to ‘play’ more in music making. That is something that wasn’t necessarily schooled into me – we spend so much time ‘working’ that there isn’t often time to play. As a late starter, I was always trying to catch up to the others … how many thousand hours had they practised more than me??… It would be foolish to dismiss the work, but the play is still somehow necessary and essential. I am pleased to be finding it and beginning to share it with others.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 17.38.51So on that rock, there was no concert hall and one little girl climbed right up next to me. The older students and adults assembled in a traditionally audience-shaped mass, but she didn’t know about that and just came by me.

And why not? 

For me there is a great value in that connection, and it is a continual journey – really the Musiquality journey is all about bringing quality and connection through music. It is about participating in the process and being aware of your own perspective and how interaction changes, challenges, or enhances it.

I still have many many stories to share from the California adventure. One of the best ‘happenings’ was when I visited my grade school friend Anji, and upon arriving at her flat in LA, I noticed that her husband had a guitar… and within a few minutes we were playing. I had not met him before, and it was so lovely to play – to have a conversation – and a connection, and the audience of one was perfect. My only regret from that evening is that we didn’t record the other songs we played.

Like I said, I am on a journey. One year ago I was asked to just play (improvise) on a live-streamed skype call, and that was a big step forward for me. This year I am comfortable inviting others to play with me. The thing is – it’s catchy, this making music with people thing, and I don’t think we (I) do it nearly as much as we could or even should. I know I am typing now, but sometimes it is nice to talk without words too.

Music . . . was bestowed for the sake of harmony. And harmony, which has motions akin to the revolutions of the soul within us, was given by the muses … not as an aid to irrational pleasure (as is now supposed), but as an auxiliary to the inner revolution of the soul, when it has lost its harmony, to assist in restoring it to order and concord with itself.

Plato, The Timæus, c. 360 BC

Reflections: My learning wall

(2 min read) This morning I woke up to someone posting one of those motivational phrases, or something that was supposed to be motivational about how ‘tomorrow is everything’ …and I thought, hang on, nobody ‘gets’ tomorrow, all we have is where we’re at, right now. I’ve been working on the now, my now for some time, (that in itself sounds like a paradox, but I mean over the past 6-12 months really) and I decided that this morning I would get stuck in to my wall. I sometimes do big DIY projects while thinking about academic writing.

This wall made me think about learning.

How does stripping wallpaper in ‘the hallway from hell’ make a good analogy to learning?

As a learner I have certainly been in the position of wanting to do something and really wanting to do something and plugging away at it and seemingly making no progress.  That was also how I felt a few minutes ago. I thought:

  • When learning how do we know we are making progress?
  • Where’s the evidence?
  • What do we use as markers?
  • Do we do this when we learn?
  • Do we help our students to do this when they learn?

Ah, there are in-built systems, you might say – with tutorials, and assignments, and feedback, and and and, but are these telling the students about what they are learning or how they are performing? Perhaps a bit of both.

The most important thing is that the student can recognise the evidence of their learning and know what they, personally, are aiming for.

This morning I almost got lost in the ‘wallness’ of my current project and couldn’t see what I was doing, why, or how far I had come – and for a fleeting moment it was depressing. IMG_4139

 

Then I looked down. It was that fleeting moment when the thought of failure crept in, but somehow it turned into an moment of enlightenment. IMG_4136When I looked down and I saw all the rubbish I had scraped off the wall – I saw the evidence of my progress. It had not been easy, scraping off this stuff, but I have made progress. (by the way who in their right mind wallpapers a wall, plasters over the wallpaper, puts *more* wallpaper, and then paints over that?!?! – this is no easy task.) That was when I started to think about learning and this process made me think about how learning works.

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There is no machine that will do it for me, no quick fix. It
takes patience, and grind, and work. Not necessarily rambunctious effort or gung-ho enthusiasm, but gentle, careful, considered persistence. Learning is like that. Sometimes the dirt gets under your fingernails, and sometimes it seems you get nowhere, but then there are times when something goes right and where there seemed to be no progress, something happens.

 

 

Even if this is a slow process, I can see the value in completing it,

and I’m going to keep plugging away.

Good morning world

I went for a run with my shadow by the sea
heard the birds and the insects alongside my breath
and I thanked the world for having me

 

Sometimes summer days are lovely in every way, and this is one of them.

Westminster Higher Education Forum 24 June 2015

Today I had the absolute pleasure of speaking at the Westminster Higher Education Forum Keynote Seminar event on ‘Technology in Higher Education ‐ best practice, skills and the student offer’, which was held in a lovely room in Whitehall, London. The morning was scheduled in two halves, each with keynotes followed by a panel of speakers and then questions. There was a very wide representation of the HE sector both on the platform and in the audience. The first session was hosted by Baroness Morgan of Huyton and the second session, where I spoke, was hosted by Lord Holmes of Richmond. He began the discussion by complimenting the delegates –  that there were so many doctors in the academic audience and he had never begun a PhD…. but somehow I am sure that there were no other Paralympic Gold Medal winners in the room (let alone someone who had won Gold 9 times). He chaired knowledgeably and with grace.

My topic was:

Supporting students and enhancing skills ‐ using online sources, social media and other technologies to assist learning

and I had 5 minutes to cover it.

Here’s what I said:

My Lord, ladies and gentlemen, I am an advocate of technology in learning at the University of Chichester – from creating videos with Panopto, files on Moodle, to the material that I self-host as an Open Sourced Learning supplement to an undergraduate module about creating a curriculum, designed to connect students and engage them with their skills across a range of media and technologies.

Today’s learners do not need encouragement to engage with technology, it is every bit a part of the fabric of their lives, just like tea and toast. Universities provide VLEs or LMS- which could be Moodle, Blackboard, or any number of platforms. Academics sometimes refer to these as different to the World-Wide-Wilderness of the internet. The internal ‘walled gardens’ are intended to be a safe environment for students to interact and develop their learning.

So why are some students reticent to engage with an internal system and seemingly more ready to use something like Facebook, which has a wholly different purpose?

The underlying issues are not always obvious. With an internal platform, (hopefully) the institution is aware of the controls, of who can see files or posts, and as a result of this, where data posted might end up.

Wider social media sites are commercial enterprises and often we, the users, are the product. This does not mean that external sites cannot be used effectively to forward learning, but it does mean that people- students and educators- need to be aware.

I for one am not aware of all the repercussions and ramifications of the way my data is used when I post online. Finding out those details is difficult, and even more challenging is understanding the fine print. If you think you know what you ‘let out’ for the world, go to the website www.takethislollipop.com and see what it reveals. An unrestricted advocacy of using anything out there is at the very least misinformed and at worst can be honestly dangerous.

Data, security, and the morality of informed consent aside, why might students favour various platforms and how can we encourage engagement?

To answer this, I will draw upon my experiences over the last few months…

Where I worked with 5 students on a collaborative project separate from their coursework. To do this we formed a closed group on Slack, which is a team management tool for business. When we began, these students did not stand out as early adopters of online learning or new technologies- in fact, one had actively avoided the internet, but, with a purpose, they became driven to accomplish goals and learned to use technology to their advantage – Tweeting, posting blogs, even exploring Kickstarter. The various avenues helped them develop, reflect on, and take forward the skills learned in their Instrumental / Vocal Teaching Music degree, for example Pete gave online Skype sessions, Victoria made instructional videos, and Jess mentored an American high school student Omar, who wanted to learn to be a songwriter. The music profession is changing, the way young learners experience music is changing, and teachers need to move forward too. In those three months we collected over 4 hrs of audio, 50GB of video, and over 50K words of planning, and correspondence, not to mention the associated links, files, recorded Skype calls, and the deliverable of an accepted abstract to present about their collaboration and use of technology at the Researching, Advancing & Inspiring Student Engagement conference this September.

Beside the physical engagement and digital literacy, they have gained confidence and experience that extends beyond the walls of any classroom. This became vital when we made the online collaborations face-to-face with a visit to the people we had been working with, north of Los Angeles. A high point was recording Omar’s first original song, with vocals, guitar, and strings.

Has technology played a big role in this? Most definitely yes.

Facilitation, openness, and integration beyond the formal learning space has enabled the learning processes and the transition from learner to practitioner to unfold organically.

Going back to my earlier question of internal vs. external and engagement:

Having the capability to shape the learning landscape of the platform – to make it their own – impacted my students greatly. In my experience, a key ingredient to participation and engagement with technology in learning is having a genuine sense of collaboration – at all stages. This includes being a co-creator, co-author, and co-learner – and then the platform, along with all those who use it – both teachers and students, will come alive.

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Photos taken by Roz Hall

#Musiquality adventures in Open Source Learning

The first Open Source Learning collaboration has happened…

We did it!

Six of us on this side of the pond dreamed, planned, worked for funding, and traveled to meet with wonderful people in America and to make amazing things happen. The thing is that the whole adventure was so completely delicious from start until where we are now that I cannot really fathom where to begin. -and so this will be just a taste of what is to come. We have a story that needs to be told and it will be told so that we can share the processes, personalities, progress, and productivity of it all with as many as care to have a look in.

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 08.25.43This is us! From left to right: me, Victoria, IzzI, Freya, Jess, and Pete up top.

As a group we had many goals that ranged from the global goals of wanting to inspire and facilitate connection through music making. This was not a formal sit in rows and learn from a book type activity – and although all different sorts of learning are valuable, that was not the approach we took on this trip. We had the pleasure of joining an extremely welcoming and lively bunch of students and teachers who had gathered to celebrate life and learning in the fantastic setting of Yosemite.

The whole collaboration started basically with a phone call – well, a Skype – where I asked David Preston if I could come and he extended the invitation to include my students. The rest unfolded as a wonderful mille-feuille type flower, with initiative after initiative and more hard work and determination than we all knew was within us. From the funding, where I initially sponsored my students by purchasing their flights to the end where they sponsored me – paying part of my costs. I used the last bit of a grant to buy my flight, but the fundraising we did together paid for my other costs. In the past few days it has really struck me how amazing that is – my students sponsored me in this initiative: They paid my room and board at Yosemite. From start to finish this was a co-learning feast.

In America we first visited UCLA where we were exceptionally hosted by the Chief Innovation officer and Assistant Dean of Students Kenn Heller and members of his fantastic team. They shared with us some of what they do, with the low ropes course and a general red-carpet welcome to LA and we shared some of the music we had planned for Yosemite.

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After our LA adventure we headed nearly 600 miles north to Yosemite. We were driven by one of the leading staff of UniCamp, who is also FATHER CHRISTMAS!!!! -no joke! Wally is amazing, and what a gift to be driven all that way by Wally and Kenn.

Our first glimpses of Yosemite were stunning and, unsurprisingly, literally took our breath away.

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From there we went on to the Nature Bridge facilities, where we met the Righetti students, and the rest of the gang. Our teacher-collaborators were there with their children, and the adventure continued with good food, good friends, and good times. We began to melt, formulating happenings and  creating … events, outcomes, experiences, and connections: from student to student, from teacher to student, teacher becoming student, everyone becoming a bit closer to nature. (can I just add that I really, really do love the trees)

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We did take some time to record some music… both in the cabins and by the water’s edge:

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Laura Pete River Yosemite copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And after our time at Yosemite, we went back to Santa Maria, where we made more music (there is a theme here!) – and this time we also did a workshop at a primary school. You can almost hear the rhythms in these snaps:

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There was an awful lot more that happened. People achieved goals on many levels. There was inspiration, and hopefully the joy that is #Musiquality was felt and genuinely contributed to the nature and atmosphere of the Open Source Learning initiative. We have each come back enriched.

As our collaborator, and founder of the OSL Foundation, Dr. David Preston said (at 14:28 in Nik’s video below):

“Don’t forget to tell your story. Every single one of you has a wonderful story – not just about this weekend, but about who you are, and what you do, and what you’re learning, and what you’re hoping for, and what you’re fearing- all those wonderful things that make you you, and I want you to be more you out loud, because as I’ve gotten to know each and every single one of you, it’s made my life richer, and I want to say thank you for that.”

Thank you right back at you… !

Video by Nik Koyama

All of this doesn’t begin to touch the whole story… but I will find a way to compile it. For now I leave you with the trees. I do love the trees.

and p.s. this is just the beginning. We will do more… if you would like to be involved, please get in touch!

Yosemite Trees

Leaving on a jet plane! #Musiqulity

Well we’re crossing the pond! Here are some very excited faces at the unreal hour of 6am… on the way to Heathrow Airport. It is hard to describe the excitement that everyone feels. Last night I was skyping these guys, as I have been in Arizona for two days.

I’ve been recording sounds, clearing my mind, and really setting the scene to look forward to the week ahead. It has been months in planning and it hardly seems real that we are actually doing this. I have come to love when people ask – what are you doing exactly? -because I am completely comfortable with saying that I really don’t know what we will do exactly because we haven’t done it yet, and it is going to unfold. We are going to meet and work with amazing people, both younger and older than we are, and part of the magic is that what unfolds will include all of us.

Today I met up with Alan Levine, who drove 4 hours out of his way to meet me. We had never actually met before, and he didn’t really know what was going to happen- all I told him was that I wanted to ask him how he learned music and maybe we could play something. We did just that.

Alan chose a chord progression and I played a simple bass line (truth be told I am not a confident improviser on the spot, and it takes me a while to be comfortable exploring around changes… and then I still have a very long way to go!). This will be the foundation for one of the collaborative musical somethings that we make on this trip. Hopefully there will be many layers, with different instruments and people building on what we started today. It was a privilege to bring Alan into that, even if it was in a very a small way. Alan captured the whole thing and posted it here.

This whole #Musiquality adventure has been organic. My fabulous five were rehearsing after midnight the night before they left – making notes on possible workshops and ways to get others involved. And the best thing was that I was nowhere to be seen. Well I did skype them about remembering important documents and making sure to drink plenty and being a mum really… but this is not my project that they are a part of. It is all of ours and I cannot wait to see their faces when they arrive in Los Angeles this afternoon.

It has begun. #Musiquality

The project that has become Musiquality is actually hitting the road. I jump on the plane in two days, followed two days later by the other 5 in the group. When this started back in September – as a fleck of excitement in a skype call – we had no idea where it would go and I think the best bit is that we actually had no idea. Nobody involved has put limits on this venture. If there are rules or criteria, often people work to them which can be good, but they can also turn into limits. For this, there was never any doubt that people were committed and so there was no need to put some sort of basic requirement on it, and instead it has truly blossomed beyond what any of us could individually imagine.

I have approached the whole project as a collaboration. I am not the ‘teacher’ and in fact my colleagues are as much teachers in this as I am. It is slightly unusual in that the other 5 in the group are actually completing their third year at University, so technically they are students, but I class myself as a student too, and I have learned so much – and been fully supported by the others so we as a group could create and learn together.

For anyone who has followed the few updates I’ve posted you’ll know that this has been a roller coaster of a venture where we all tested our edges and pushed boundaries. I initially funded the students’ plane tickets and they paid me back within 3 weeks – fundraising their socks off! None of us knew each other very well before we started this – we were in the same lecture (me on one side of the fence and they on the other! -and the ‘students’ didn’t know one another either.) So, as a group we have continued to work at it, because the learning and collaboration is something that we really really believe in. Going out to make connections and bring quality and smiles through music is in itself a worthy cause. Over the course of the month leading up to the actual trip, people have begun to come out of the woodwork and say- can I join in too? YES! The plan is not for us to produce the most perfect or innovative music that ever was, but to create music with others and for them to genuinely feel a part of it.

We had our first outing on Wednesday evening at the end of year BBQ at Uni, and it was great. I am not saying we were note-perfect- but it was a great coming together. Two of the players came running from an orchestra rehearsal (they had a concert later that night) and I had my challenge of singing a song – first time in public like that since I was 14 (!) and we were playing to the head of department, the other staff, and the students. We have the most supportive environment and community. We still have lots to learn, and every time we play it will be different – as new people will join in and add something new to the mix.

Here’s a snippet of what we performed the other night:

Our first stop on the Don’t You Quit world tour (well, California tour) is LA, where we we are looking forward to having one of the Asst. Deans join us on the stage to perform at UCLA- (it might be on the racquet ball court, or on the beach – we’re not sure yet, and we’re not picky!). Next stop is Yosemite, where we will be joined by 20+ High School students, 2 of their teachers, a prof from CalPoly, a few extraordinary alumni from Righetti HS, and a handful of parents and children. For four days we will live and learn together, making and playing music, and exploring the wonderful setting. (For me that is going to be a very special drive up north, as it is the land that my grandfather helped to map back in the 1940’s and it will be my first visit to Yosemite.) One of the High School students has sent us the beginnings of a song he has written that we’ll collaboratively finish and perform. We hope to have a supply of extra instruments to share with people, to give that magical experience of creating music as an orchestra. Finally we have a house concert in Santa Maria. We’ll see how it all pans out. There will be challenges and opportunities for everyone. I’ll be posting updates and tagging them #Musiquality. Hope you follow along and chime in along the way.