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Posts from the ‘Connected Courses blog’ Category

Your musical moment … a call for contributions

What makes you tick, musically?

(2 min read) Was there a moment, an experience, perhaps a person or meeting that really inspired you – that’s what this is about.  Read more

Time to practice

Cello cello cello cello cello

That’s where my brain is at the moment. Every year I do a recital at the University and every year there is a moment when I wonder why why why?  I don’t have to. Nobody requires me to, it’s not part of my job. But somehow I need to. It is very important to me to put myself through the paces, to learn and do the same as I require the students to do, but it’s a balancing act and it’s no more easy for me than it is for them or anyone. It takes time. I’ve started waking up early, going to bed late, even waking up after everyone else has gone to bed. I think the music just creeps into your blood.

So

Practise practise practise! (or practice in ‘Americanish’ as my children used to say)

I very much enjoy the process, the sound, and having something to say – a voice – where I don’t have to have words. If you asked me what the music means, I wouldn’t have words, but it is full of meaning. I’m happy to talk about that, but maybe another time. Read more

I saw your light

When you (or I) light that candle there is no telling how far the light will extend, how many lives it will touch now or in the future, and how many other candles will be lit from it. 

This morning while still in darkness, with sounds of wind kicking up and splaying bouts of rain on the house I read something from one of those unmet friends – one of the connections from the land of the Internet. Gardner Campbell very eloquently told a story of connection, meaning, and value in his blog post from today (well last night still on his half of the world) and I kept thinking yep, hey, I know exactly what you mean. I don’t want to spoil his post by telling you all about it – you should definitely read every word of it. It is not an academic article – it relates to everyone who has ever met another human being and been affected by their words, touch, or presence and felt that sense of connection – the gratitude that gives you a resonance of warmth, and then if you let it, radiates from you.

The glow of Gardner’s post, that light from his ‘Candle in the window‘ as he called it was felt across the ocean. I have to admit it took me two goes to read it – I saw his initial tweet and Candle in the window is a children’s Christmas song in the UK and it happens to be the one you hear at school with the class half-singing to a cheesy CD backing track – and as a performing musician not quite learning things right sometimes makes me cringe. Because of that association, I didn’t click the link on his original tweet, but then it popped up again on my Twitter feed:Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 07.39.09

– and this time I clicked on it.

In this fast-paced now-land that we live in, the million instant views of a video clip on facebook (with all the autoplay on devices) is very appealing and I too find myself thinking wouldn’t it be nice it…. one day I’ll figure that all out. In the meantime I really really like the idea of the unmet friends. -and Gardner, when we do meet there’s a lot of catching up to do since we last met virtually on that last webinar of Connected Courses. Remember I improvised a bit on my cello for the first time live on air? My candle was lit then; I borrowed some of the fire from your flame.

When someone else lights their candle from mine, or I from theirs, is not diminished (we all know that Buddhist saying). Recently I’ve been reminded about the importance of telling people what they mean, what they do, thank you. In academia we call it feedback. In life we call it communication. Whatever the label, it is important and how else can we know? When tragedy does happen, there are often fantastic eulogies, and the dead person finally gets told so much, but shouldn’t living ears hear those words? The important thing is that we stoke the fire while it burns.

Keep blogging. You’ve got something to say and it’s not falling on deaf ears.

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Image CC BY-NC by Santanu Vasant

Featured image (top) by Diana CC BY-NC-ND

 

Live music + cupcakes + David Preston = my book launch!

It’s all about that #YesICan. Self-efficacy. The book. This Tuesday 5:30-6:30 GMT is the time to share and celebrate, and yes, the event will be live-streamed.

I’m not so good at celebrating or accepting compliments of any sort, and somehow I have managed to make this event into something that I am really looking forward to and am so excited to share – and, no, I am not going to stand on a soap box and talk at people. I am going to do the book –  show you what it says on the tin. The event is to celebrate and launch my book  Fostering self-efficacy in higher education students and it has also been billed as a Learning & Teaching event by the University of Chichester, where I work. I love that – it is absolutely lovely, and makes me feel valued and supported ‘at home’. I am very grateful. There is a very special guest coming to say a few words – My good friend and colleague David Preston (He founded the Open Source Learning Foundation and I am pleased to be able to say I am also one of the co-founding members of the OSLF, which is in it’s infancy yet, but international links and projects are springing up already) is on the plane at this very moment winging his way from LA to England (the land of tea and cakes that I call home). Read more

Did you hear me?

This post is about learning, and what happens when learning is visible – to the learner and to others. (2 min read)

This morning I was practising and I had one of those moments that really made me stop in my tracks and think. In a week I have a big event, it’s my book launch. The book is all about self-efficacy and fostering that positive self-belief in students. -and I have my good friend, and co-founder of the Open Source Learning Foundation, David Preston coming over from LA to speak, and then I’m going to be playing a fun duet with a recent graduate and then I sing a song (accompanied by a second year student) before a tea and cake reception. More on the singing a song later – for this story the important part is the cello/violin duet.

As I played I noticed something out of my peripheral vision. It was my husband – I could see him in the garden through the window.

IMMEDIATELY I became aware that I was very self-conscious of how I was playing and what I sounded like. I had been really going for it in my practising – playing with abandon and making a big sound, really doing all the things I should be doing, and suddenly I questioned everything and shrank. It was as if someone had seen me naked.

That made me think about the idea of body image and I thought about the attention that acceptance of different bodies and individuality is taught. Overwhelmingly there has been a move away from some perfect body image to the idea that people are individual and that’s ok, and then I thought back to musical practice and wondered about my musical identity. Am I comfortable with who I am musically? What about processes? Why would I doubt myself so much if someone saw me learning? -especially if it was my husband! Of all people, he is the most supportive and would not be passing critical judgement – certainly not as he was on his way to mow the lawn. He wasn’t focused on the few notes he heard as he passed by.

I recorded a little passage when I felt self-conscious and noticed what was happening:

I felt physically small, felt tight, was listening in a nervously critical way, my coordination was getting sloppy and it started to go out of tune… Oh my goodness! Not at all what you would want and certainly not a conducive environment for learning.

So my mind moved to the garden (stay with me, it’s a good analogy – promise). There is nothing wrong with watching someone garden. I have never known someone to get sheepish and embarrassed about planting a flower or raking leaves and having dirty hands or leaves still on the ground. We are ok with process in that pursuit. That was a revelation for me. We are ok with process in gardening. We are ok with process in cooking. We watch people do these things from start to finish. There are popular tv shows about it.

Why is it different in musical learning?

8278228668_7c12d295b0_zI don’t think it should be. Yes it is very important to know the difference between something in progress and something finished, and if a learner does not have the perceptive capabilities to know that there are still areas to improve, then that is not so good… but surely the process of learning should not be something that people are ashamed of. If someone walks in just after I’ve cracked an egg into a bowl, I don’t get worried that they have seen the breakfast crepes before I have cooked them; that would be silly. (photo CC BY-NC-ND by Rakka http://bit.ly/1lEb6tl)

So what am I going to do about it? I’m not completely sure, and would love suggestions. I had the idea to do a practising hangout. In my open music class #MUS654 we talk about all sorts of aspects of music learning from the point of view of teachers, and I think that next year I will add at least one ‘in progress’ hangout to put that process out there. I’ll be the guinea pig – as it’s not fair to ask that sort of thing of the students, certainly not if I am not willing to do it myself! – and I’ll be the fly on the wall and talk through the process. Learning to learn is so important, and I don’t think it’s something anyone should hide from.

More on the book launch soon – as for putting the cards on the table, I’m singing a song and that is a big deal for me. I’m definitely still a student there, and it’s a pop song… like with a microphone. and we’re live streaming it… It’s all about learning and living it, every day.

Featured image CC BY-SA by Hernán Piñera http://bit.ly/1Q6K8HM

Beyond the box

We’ve all heard about thinking outside the box. How about thinking outside the bucket? What about thinking outside…

Outside the discipline?

Outside the medium?

How about opening your mind beyond the box?

In couple of recent classes I asked my students to show me music. I did’t want an essay – did’t want to have words. I want them to experience music in another way, and then to be able to recognise and communicate this to others.

Why?

Because we are all unique. I will never really know you, I cannot be a spectator inside your experience, your mind. For me that means that as a teacher I will never really know my students or as a performer, my audience, but if I can learn to communicate and experience in different ways, then perhaps I will have more of a chance of connecting. –or at least of gaining and giving a window into that communication.

I suppose it stems from a constructivist approach to learning, that we do and the more different ways you do something, the more likely it is to stick and sink in:

Write it. Read it. Speak it. Hear it. Feel it. Touch it. Taste it

(ok that is going too far for most academic subjects. We would all prefer not to eat our words… unless written on rice paper and then that is a totally fun exercise).

The idea of doing those things gives a holistic experience and often opens our minds to seeing whatever ‘it’ is in a new light. Read more

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.

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

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