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.
The Cello Weekend 2015 was a blast!
We had 26 cellos playing together as an orchestra, and throughout the two days there were classes and workshops that stretched every one of us- from classical, to...Read more
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.
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.
Photos taken by Roz Hall
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.
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.
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.
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)
We did take some time to record some music… both in the cabins and by the water’s edge:
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:
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!
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.
— laura ritchie (@laura_ritchie) May 20, 2015
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.
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.
We had 26 cellos playing together as an orchestra, and throughout the two days there were classes and workshops that stretched every one of us- from classical, to pop, folk, and contemporary sounds, here are some visual highlights of the moments we had during the two days…
(yes we learned the cup song from the film ‘Pitch Perfect’)
Last night was one of those nights where I was reminded what is truly important in the most gentle and lovely way.
I had tucked my son in his bed and no sooner had I sat down at the computer in the next room, that I hear a faint, but persistent call of ‘Mummy-‘ I must admit to feeling tired at hearing that call so soon.
I went quickly into the dark room and asked, ‘What is it?’
He was upset, a bit tearful and he sat up and put his arms around me and said, ‘It’s just, [sniff], well, I’m not sure I’m doing a very good job of taking care of you, mummy.[sniff, weep, sniff]’
I was a bit confused and completely taken aback. When I was 8 is that what I thought of? I’m sure I was thinking about whether or not I could really fly and whether I should test this by doing more than jumping off the sofa onto a pile of cushions when I was 8. I did lots of comforting and reassured him that actually children, and especially 8 year olds weren’t supposed to take care of their mummy or daddy…
He said, ‘but we’re all supposed to take care of each other, aren’t we? and I’m not doing it very well.’
I think my heart melted. I reassured him again, that his talking to me, playing outside with me, sitting near me, helping me cook, and even helping me with levels on games was all taking care of me.
In the end we all (the whole family) decided that we are actually all good at taking care of each other, and that we each have different ways of doing that.
I know this isn’t a typical subject to write on a blog about, but it made me stop, and just writing it in my book of children’s quotes didn’t seem enough. I am very aware that sometimes learning and life and everything happens when I am least expecting it. This was exactly one of those moments.
Photo CC licensed here: http://bit.ly/1Qd0mgV
This is a #Musiquality update, and boy am I proud of what we have been able to accomplish. Where are we at?? Well, my 5 students and I have raised the money to cover our flights, room & board and expenses for our trip to California to work with students and teachers from Righetti High School, Professors from UCLA and Cal Poly, parents, and grade school kids, oh and can’t forget the two amazing alumni coming on the trip. This is Open Education at its best.
We’re going out there to share what we know, teach, create, and also to learn from those around us. Sponges. That’s what we all are.
So what’s the news?!? We have arrived at the final push, and it’s really a way to get YOU involved. If you have been following the project, you will know that we want to document everything- we will be recording music and sounds, interviewing people, and making it all available as free downloads afterwards. (no, we don’t have funding for any of that, but at the moment we are just doing it out of love and it is something we really do believe in) We also want to make a documentary about it – how often does this happen? Kids and adults, across so many different backgrounds, coming together to celebrate life and learning together – not for a class, not for a degree, not for anyone but because the love it and want to learn. -It’s like I said; we’re all sponges for learning and sharing, and it connects us in amazing ways.
we have a kickstarter and the clock is ticking. What we really want is to create a sort of educational roll call of supporters – and we want you on that list. All we’re asking is that each person donate one dollar. That’s not even a cup of coffee in most places, but how amazing would it be if we had 5,000 people behind the project.
very. very. amazing.
So just like the song – we’re going to share our story with you. Will you share your dollar with us?
(cue the tune…) hey hey hey, I need a dollar…
Join us here! <– that’s the link to the kickstarter page where you can pledge your dollar
Dollar photo CC licensed: http://bit.ly/1EMZZoD
This is one of those posts about something that really happened, it was just yesterday –
There was a knock on the door and I opened it to find the postman asking me to sign for a parcel, and I noticed a car stopped in the road (we have a sort of drive that goes above the main road, and we can see the main road from our house) and there was an older gentleman explaining to the police that he had locked himself out of his car. I thought, ‘ah, poor man. What an unfortunate thing to do…’ and went back in the house. A good hour later I happened to walk out of the front door, and the man was still there ! He was leaning on his car, standing, with his head resting on his arm leaning above the door of the car and he looked really weary. I went back into the house and thought ‘poor, poor man. I should do something.’
So I did.
I went out there and asked him – I said:
Excuse me, are you ok? I overheard that you locked yourself out of your car a while ago, and you’re still there. Would you like a glass of water, cup of tea, or a marmite sandwich or something? Would you like a chair?
He looked so pleased and said:
Actually a cup of tea and somewhere to sit down would be wonderful.
It turns out he had a cup of coffee in the car and it spilled. When he stopped to shake the spill off his newspaper, as he shook- the keys slipped out of his hand and into the car, and as he turned, the door shut and autolocked with the keys inside!
It was so easy. But before I said anything to him, after I saw he was still there, I went back in the house and for half a minute I wrestled with myself – oooh, I really should do something, ah, but you don’t just invite strangers to lunch do you? -that second thought didn’t last long, because sometimes I do just invite strangers to lunch- in a matter of speaking. I did what I would want someone to do if I was in that situation.
So out came a garden chair and a cup of tea and that man stopped leaning wearily on his car, and I brought him a pencil and he did the crossword puzzle while he waited and kept watch. First the AA car rescue people came, and then they called in a locksmith. I guess all electronic newish cars are hard to break into without damaging them. There was of course an hour wait for each of these people to arrive. Good thing it was a nice day out! I came out to chat to him and make sure he was ok, and I said that if they finally fixed it and I wasn’t around, it was fine for him to just go. And in the end (nearly 4 hours later!) he did.
The magic of the story is that neither of us ever knew the other’s name. His wife was having a reunion with some people she had taken a course with at the university where I teach, and it would have been easy to say – oh I teach there, I’m blah blah blah, but giving him a rest and a drink wasn’t about me, and it was delicious to think that I could be remembered as a random nice stranger.
So to the man in his little red car, I hope your wife believed your story when you eventually picked her up, and I hope she wasn’t cross that your shopping trip took a *little* longer than expected. Safe journey home.
(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.
Photo CC licensed by-nc-nd here: http://bit.ly/1HZqEk5
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