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Posts from the ‘Life & Learning’ Category

California and the Ukulele!

California here we come! (yes, again!!) Remember that crazy trip where my students fundraised their way to America? and then it became a credit-bearing class? The one that also became a book? Well this is that class, we’re getting ready to hit the sunshine in 2018!

…not just yet, actually the class doesn’t ‘officially’ start until the new year, but the students joining me this year started their work back in May. They spent the summer fundraising and playing together and now they have been devising workshops for groups of students in primary schools and also for staff as well. The sessions for staff aim to give camp councillors the foundations for some fun summer workshops they can use with their campers.

Every year the cohort on this module is different. Last year I was busy preparing formal recital material with one of the students so we could perform as a duo. This year the group have formed a folk band with a violin, drum/bass, ukulele, and singer. They will be teaching the underlying chords and components of some great tunes, as well as presenting elements of their own instruments and interests. The singer will be teaching some traditional Polish songs, and the ukulele player just shared this with me: (can you identify the tune? … my 10 year old can!)

I can’t wait to see what they come up with in the coming months. This is one of those classes where students put into real life use the skills they have learned throughout their degree. We’re even hoping to go to a conference together.

Our trip to California is in February, and in the meantime we’re working on fundraising to buy ukuleles for all the kids we work with. We would love to do workshops and leave instruments with each of the schools. Watch this space for updates on our trip and fundraising.

As they say … pass it on!  🙂

The Delay, The Wheelchair, And The Northern Lights

Booked in to fly from Kamloops to London I was sad to leave beautiful friends, but eager to see my family again. I spent time in the morning soaking up the surroundings one last time, and all was well. The taxi driver and I talked about London, as he grew up there, and all the changes that have happened over the past 20 years with the roads.

Delay number 1.

It was only a 14 minute delay, and heck, they sent an email about it. No worries.

but then, another few minutes, and then a bit more, and then we took off. The land was too beautiful to think of delays, but as we came in to land in Calgary, over the loud speaker came, “We have a passenger making a very tight connection to London…” Everyone was lovely and let me right to the front to get off first, but then… Read more

Pushing the boat out: Creativity in the Open

Kamloops. Creativity in the Open. Out in the open. The Wilderness stretches as far as the eye can see, and there is water in the valley, snow on the distant mountains, etched clouds above, and wonderful smiles to surround us on the TRU (Thompson Rivers University) campus here in Canada. It was an opportunity to push boundaries and explore. My appetite for learning is large and this was a feast.

The convergence of beautiful surroundings, people, thought, has been magic over the past few days during the Creativity in the Open event, organised by Tanya Dorey. It has been a privilege to share so much with these people. It started as a conversation at an online meeting between academics from diverse fields – a curriculum designer, a biologist, a philosopher, and a musician. It was our ‘play-date’ where we could talk and snatch a precious few moments to know one another better than text-base interactions allow. (there’s a story connecting that meeting to the event that just happened, and that will be in the collaborative magazine Kintsugim issue coming out in about a week)

There is an inherent joy for me, in being at a place and an event where creativity is valued, welcomed, and fostered. I knew that I came bringing something that would be new for people – playing instruments and giving them the tools to make some recognisable sounds in a short space of time. Working together in different ways than the everyday desk environment provides, and using a different medium to convey creativity – sound. I would be pushing people, but there were also opportunities for people to push me. Read more

Applied Imagination: I think, therefore I can

Yes you can. That’s a powerful refrain in my life, and it underpins so very very much. I had the privilege of teaching on the ‘Applied Imagination’ module at the University of Warwick yesterday. To contextualise, this class sits within Warwick’s Institute of Advanced Teaching and Learning (IATL) and the students come from all different departments and schools across the university- trans, inter, cross disciplinary are all big themes of the class, as well as thought, imagination, belief, and accomplishment.

It was such a special morning. I set off pre-dawn with my little care packed full of instruments, as my session would use music, but music as a metaphor. I know that people are not going to learn to be ‘musicians’ in a couple of hours, but music is so wonderful – it moves, it grooves, it makes you feel, and for so many of us it remains untouchable. I love to bring people to something that is perceived as being outside their reach. <— Hold that thought; I’ll return to it in a minute. Read more

A scene of hope

This is a post about life, and finding hope in what you have, where you are.

The church is ancient. The village is in the Bayeaux tapestry, King Cnut’s daughter is buried there, the place goes way back before anything I could claim to be ‘my time’ or really my understanding of time.

I was in the midst of it, and for a few moments time I was aware of the scene around me. Read more

Meeting the Mother of Yes

“When you grow up you can be anything you want.”

I remember a few school teachers saying that to me, and other adults – I’m sure my parents said it, but I remember grandparents instilling that in me. For them it was the chance they, as young people living through the Great Depression, and then war, didn’t have.

Often people think they are supposed to be one thing or another, following in the footsteps of past generations. Sometimes that is amazing; other times it is a forced fit. I recently had a student comment – out of the blue- and put it poignantly. Here is the essence of what he said:

Sometimes people want to be part of a group. They make themselves fit and then as time progresses, some of that group will become exceptional. When that happens, they cease to be part of the group, but become individuals. Become themselves.

I want to be myself. I want to explore and expand my mind.

Read more

Students, measurement, & connection: Book Club Post 4

Time for another Summer Book Club post! What? You say summer is over?? I am keen to hold on to every ray of sunshine, and as a slow reader, I’ll be posting well into November. This post covers pages 240-347 of Stephen Downes’ (free) ebook: Toward Personal Learning. I wrote about the earlier sections in these posts:

My method in writing these posts is to gather the bits that stop me in my tracks, make me think, write them down, and then connect the dots around them. Three themes emerged for me in these hundred pages: the students, the measurements that sometimes bind (as in hold fast, like hands tied) us, and connections. Let’s start with the students. Read more

A self-regulation worksheet: ISPS 2017

I presented at the International Symposium on Performance Science in Iceland on Sept. 1. The presentation was about a research study that I carried out with Phil Kearney where 22 adults learned to play string instruments over the course of a semester. I talked about self-efficacy and self-regulation in learning and how these people managed their learning across the study.

Inspired by Stephen Downes, who shares everything he does, I live streamed the session and both the stream and the slides are embedded below:

Although you can see the slides above, and in the live video

I have a few links within the slides themselves, and also some ‘presenter notes’ that include some of the other references I mentioned that I couldn’t figure out how to make live on the embed, so have listed them footnote-style, below. Read more


Two years ago today, my daughter and I went to Banksy’s Dismaland. We were so very excited. We had waited for the moment tickets were released and fortunately got two. On the day of the event, we got up early early and booked a parking place in someone’s driveway and made the long drive to the dump of a site. The whole day was in itself an art instillation, some twisted fairy tale- that we were so excited, that the drive was 3 1/2 hours, that we were going to a dump (created intentionally that way)- it wasn’t just about the art.

Once there the experience was oh so Banksy, and looking back, in the light of the world at the moment, and especially recent events, it is so very ironic. We waited in the queue for the park to open

and as we entered we were searched, like others (with extra-effective paper tools). I was held back because I was smiling. I had to stop it. Dismaland, not happy land. Stop the smiling, they told me. Stop it. It took time, but I did, and they let me through. Read more

Sweet rejection

Yesterday I got the best email. It is slightly odd that it was so exciting and that I am sharing it because it was a rejection letter. That’s right: Not interested, no thank you, but it was not presented that way, and in turn, this letter was hugely encouraging to me.

If you have read anything from this blog you will know that over the past year I have been writing up an adventure that I had with five of my students as a book. The manuscript was finished at the end of last year, and then I did what I guess any new author does, sent it in to publishing houses. I knew many well known authors, J.K. Rowling for example, had numerous rejections before an acceptance. I got a really nice letter back from one publisher on January 11th that said…. Read more