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Posts tagged ‘#Online’

Connecting online: A shifting reality

I’ve been thinking and watching and experiencing as time unfolds, and the different processes and interactions in my life adapt to the new reality of physical separation.

‘Online’ has unquestionably become more and more a part of life.


Are interaction and engagement the same online?

Is it *just* that there’s a screen between us?

No. Yes. Well no, but, maybe

– it’s complicated.

Actually it is different.

Everything is different. It is a different mode of being, and unlike what we’re used to, there are different parameters being applied not only to working/playing/talking online, but to life itself and this impacts how we engage.

For example, several months ago when I chose to type something online to someone, I knew I could also go see them. It didn’t matter if they lived a continent away, the possibility existed that I could go see them (maybe not right away, but in a month or a year I could) – and that put a different sort of expectation of that mode of communication in the array of possibilities. Of course I could go see someone, that’s what people do. Physical presence was primary, even if it was a distant possibility or might not happen frequently.

Not now. That possibility as we knew it has been removed and this impacts our conception and approach to engagement. What was a supplement is now primary and we have not necessarily recognised or acknowledged, what has been removed, and certainly haven’t replaced it.

I experienced this in working with my orchestra,

who are a dedicated group of adults all eager to learn, make, and experience music together.

Over the past few weeks the orchestra has met online a couple of times, in one of these group meetings with lots of little tiles on the screen. I did warn them that we can’t all play at the same time online… but they wanted to. Nobody wanted to mute their microphones, and what resulted was like a pixelated sort of aural indigestion mixed with a touch of sea sickness. Don’t get me wrong, it was a joyous rehearsal, but definitely not anything like the traditional in-person experience. The publicly available video conferencing tools are optimised for speech not music, and in conversation, generally one person talks at a time. When everyone talks at once the software can’t cope, and when a bari sax, violin, bassoon, and oboe (amongst a dozen other instrumentalists) all compete to be heard it definitely has a hard time deciding which participant should be prioritised.  There is no real chance of amalgamating the sounds at once, and in terms of hearing what’s going on, there was also the delay factor – that is what gives it a touch of sea sickness.

Where does this leave us? Does this mean rehearsing online is a failure or has no purpose?

Not at all.


After the second rehearsal, I found myself really using every ounce of my teaching knowledge to understand the experience of all those online – the learner/rehearsal participant and me as the leader/teacher. Now I know the person in the fancy shoes (I’m avoiding saying ‘standing at the front’) in a teaching setting should not be a “leader” (yes read that with a cliche definition of ‘leader’ with all the stereotypical baggage that goes with it) but there is a WHOLE lot of unspoken perception and awareness that goes will skillful facilitation of a group to enable each person to both come to the experience and give of themselves during the experience in a way that feels free and acknowledges their individual value. That sort of leadership is needed. Maybe it should be called ‘thinkership’ or something. (answers in the post please)

I was, and am, thinking –

what is missing? what do we want? what do we need?

How are we impacted by what has been taken away and how can we recognise this and then (possibly) heal those gaps and move forward?

Can we move forward without recognising this?

I don’t think so really. We may tread water, but not move forward. Ultimately there are cracks in our reality and without seeing them, it is difficult to be able to look at what we do have – technologically as well as at our physical disposal (wherever we are) – and then figure out how to use these things.

One important thing is not to attempt a direct substitution. It goes wrong with the best algorithms… lemons become lemon cleanser or this absolute cracker from a few years ago:


sweet toy, but the family might be hungry…

One thing does not equal the other, even when it sounds the same.

We’re just having our lecture online. Um, no. not just.

I was struck by the orchestra’s last rehearsal – because they are all so open, honest, and forthright. We all TALKED on the session, and afterwards, discussing what was good, what was missing, and I am the first to admit that I do not have a solution.

Good things came out of those online sessions:

  • We saw everyone. oh that was nice to see others!
  • People’s names went with face and instruments at the same time. -sometimes in a big group that gets lost, and it brought people together
  • It was good to interact with me – I conducted with extra life-sized gestures.
  • They heard themselves individually- at home you hear your own part.

It was a different focus with a different outcome and it was definitely a different experience.

We have to have the opportunity to think in new ways. This is a challenge and I don’t really have answers yet, but at least with the orchestra, we are carving a new path – together. In the meantime we are still meeting, but the focus has shifted. It’s not the same, and these new directions are both challenging and exciting,

and yes, I’m learning too.

Featured image CC BY-SA-NC by Arts Electronica

How do you do that online thing?

This question is a tough one. (A little secret… I don’t have the answers to most of the questions I ask.) Here’s some context: In one of the classes I teach, my students make a website as their semester’s project. We discuss all sorts of things about online content, layout, purpose, accessibility, and then there’s the question about how this can all be used. In the past there were all sorts of terms that have gone in and out of fashion having to do with digital literacy or being tech savvy, and whatever buzzword there is, the important thing is that tech is a useful tool for many people in many professions.

My students are primarily musicians: performers & teachers. I’d like to think they will be future leaders in education. Part of what allows people to be successful in an ever-changing tech-infused profession, is at least dipping your toe into the river, even if there’s a lot of water flowing faster than you’d like to swim in. That’s sometimes how I feel about tech. I know a bit, and I can figure stuff out, but I am not a professional sound engineer, nor am I a professional web-designer, but I can record my cello and make a website. What then?

I know that connection is important. For me it’s a quest. A passion even. Connection through learning is just about as good as it gets – to know that someone else ‘got it’ and you might have helped give or point them to some important piece, or perspective, at the right time.

But how to connect with the wider community across the globe? Those waters are fast and I don’t like getting my face wet. I decided to phone a friend. I did literally phone a friend, and I also asked online. I got four very useful replies, and this wonderful 10 minute segment from my friend and colleague Jonathan.

“Everyone has a story, you just have to enable them to speak.” – Jonathan Worth


The online replies to my question:

I asked, ‘How do you leverage your writing and your professional profile with your networks online?’ and these replies came from around the world. (leverage was not a very good word choice, I would like to have said ‘share’) Each response adds useful insight and a valuable perspective. I am grateful to each for taking the time to write and reply.

  • From Marc Jones, an English teacher in Tokyo: “I don’t think there’s much actual intentional leverage on my part. I know I do get offered chances to do things by being enthusiastic and, if not knowledgeable, curious enough to get answers.”



  • “It’s something I rarely ever think about. I write for myself, for a way to understand, to articulate ideas, to explore new thing, to curate what I am doing (my blog, I have come to realize, is my best curation space). That said, sometimes my writing has led to offers to present/keynote conferences, and to be invited into projects/networks. Maybe for your students, consider it as a choice: is this my professional identity? or is this my writing identity?” – Kevin Hodgson, an incredibly creative 6th Grade Teacher, USA


  • ‘My networks are for sharing. That’s their full purpose. If people have questions, need advice, want to listen, whatever.. True, some good things have come to me from networks, but not as a result of me planning to use them for that purpose. It’s a Taoist approach – don’t seek power, wealth, fame, etc. – I never want to ask for any of these. … [and] networks are for sharing.’ – Stephen Downes, an educational pioneer, Canada


I had planned to link to this post by Alan Levine, ‘On Sharing, Teaching: Network Amplifying / Blog Signal‘, because of how relevant it is, but I hadn’t realised he told a story about Stephen amplifying one of his (Alan’s) posts until I re-read it. (I do highly recommend reading that post.) Funny how things connect sometimes.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. And let’s take Jonathan up on his offer. Listen, watch, and comment – here, on Twitter, Mastodon, or wherever you do your online thing.


light & morning*

I stir in my bed, hear the sound of a car engine – neighbour is off to work.

I am warm and comfortable.

Through the crack between the curtains, the sun pours light against the wall. Soon I’ll go for my morning run, but first maybe a glance at the world?

I look out into the ocean, usually only to see the vista, but today in the distance someone waved:

It was like a letter in the post. I don’t like to shout into the stream, and so don’t talk there very often. When someone waves, I notice.

#Smallstories make me smile. People, sensations (not sensationalism, but feeling), connecting a small part of my life to yours and yours to mine.

#Smallstories can look like a nothing. a blip. but if you are looking – paying attention to detail, then you might see a wonderful accomplishment, a laugh, a light in the distance, or a question that to others is mere debris in the stream. 

A bit like Poohsticks

If you don’t know this game, here’s the explanatory text taken from A.A. Milne’s A house at Pooh Corner:

‘It was an anxious moment’ by Ernest Howard Shepard (1879-1976) Image taken of a post card. Sketch published in Ch 6 of the 1928 printing of the book.

He had just come to the bridge; and not looking where he was going, he tripped over something, and the fir-cone jerked out of his paw into the river.

“Bother,” said Pooh, as it floated slowly under the bridge, and he went back to get another fir-cone which had a rhyme to it. But then he thought that he would just look at the river instead, because it was a peaceful sort of day, so he lay down and looked at it, and it slipped slowly away beneath him . . . and suddenly, there was his fir-cone slipping away too.

“That’s funny,” said Pooh. “I dropped it on the other side,” said Pooh, “and it came out on this side! I wonder if it would do it again?” And he went back for some more fir-cones.

It did. It kept on doing it. Then he dropped two in at once, and leant over the bridge to see which of them would come out first; and one of them did; but as they were both the same size, he didn’t know if it was the one which he wanted to win, or the other one. So the next time he dropped one big one and one little one, and the big one came out first, which was what he had said it would do, and the little one came out last, which was what he had said it would do, so he had won twice . . .

and when he went home for tea, he had won thirty-six and lost twenty-eight, which meant that he was– that he had–well, you take twenty-eight from thirty-six, and that’s what he was. Instead of the other way round. And that was the beginning of the game called Poohsticks, which Pooh invented, and which he and his friends used to play on the edge of the Forest. But they played with sticks instead of fir-cones, because they were easier to mark.

It is not about winning, but about noticing with others. Stopping and valuing that moment, prioritising that which might be so ordinary – but life is. The magic comes in the ordinary being alive.

for teaching?

there are dangers

Dangers in getting out of bed in the morning, and crossing the road, but online keeps changing so fast and there aren’t rule books. Well, if there are they are already out of date before being published (even online publications), because online the world never sleeps.

Crossing the road you look and see what’s coming, but not online. third parties, tracking, big data. I don’t understand, maybe can’t understand it all? At least with my space, I have some control.

Teaching involves willfull vulnerability and trust- from teacher and student – meaning moments of allowed uncertainty while exploration, connection, and *learning* take place. In the classroom, this can be (mostly) orchestrated, but in the world where anything can happen, there is more risk. It is a tricky thing as a teacher to weigh up what we can understand of the risks and then choose to ask people to be vulnerable in different settings.

Where I can’t see what’s coming, I need to tell that to the students.

So when I do post a voice in the stream, it is usually a message in a bottle pointing outward – here, to my space.

I share my stories that way, but words launched into the stream without the protection of the bottle are chosen carefully. As a result that may mean few find my story and we do rely on that tap on the shoulder, that nod across the pond, the noticing that keeps the connection alight.

Image CC BY-NC-ND by Nik Golding

*This is a post written in response to the tap on the shoulder received from Kate. Thank you, Kate.

Day 2 #MUS654 Why blogging?

This morning I woke to find everything centred around answering one question. Why? I found that during the night I became included in a larger discussion on Twitter (that discussed why) and is directly relevant to the ethos of #MUS65 and of my daily post quest. Why should I, or my students blog? We aren’t studying writing after all, we are studying music, and music teaching and performing… but it is so relevant. The Twitter conversation revolved around examples of people who are excellent online teachers and moved to blogs and how they help people learn. I was involved because I suggested Laura Gibbs as one of these gurus. She is epic. She teaches wholly online, and has boundless energy and creativity.

The teaching and learning benefits were coming fast in that conversation. Here are a few of the gems that Laura Gibbs shared in that conversation:

  • One of most powerful things is when students sees other students who LOVE to read, write.
  • It also helps when course is designed to make the learning visible; another virtue of blogs.
  • In classroom I was center of attention: it was fun, yes, but NOT good for learning. I prefer online.
  • Online takes longer, but is both broader & deeper (in the end) than what I experienced in classroom 🙂
  • Plus, it takes the students a while to get over the sheer weirdness of how the class works… but I am patient. 🙂

Those points were all individual tweets, and they have so much depth. Laura does not in any way claim that face to face is not valuable, or not good, but she has cultivated a real way of allowing students to fully engage via online platforms. SO good!

Now the conversation continued through my day…. I found myself bumping into people saying they wish more skills like communication, networking, and being able to seek information and move toward answering questions that were meaningful to them were taught in formalised education, and I thought YES!

In writing, I learn to have a voice. I need a voice to communicate to others, and if I can refine that voice so I am clear and take the time to explore methods of communication and the meaning that people might associate or take from my words, – if I look at my processes, then hopefully I become a better communicator. We learn from doing, listening, watching, reflecting, and taking the time to put thoughts about musical pursuits into words, even though music may not be directly about writing, serves as an active way to reflect on process and improve – communications, connections, knowledge. There is definitely a reason, and it may be a bit meta… but I love it!

More on meta-blog cog- nition here in a post by Peter Newbury, also shared in that same twitter conversation.

I have been thinking about the Session 1 tasks… and at some point in my day today I recorded a soundscape and took a photo of where it was. That will be a post for another day, and it will invite your participation to see if you can guess where I was and what was going on around me.

For today, there is a method in this madness, and I’m reflecting on it.

Featured image is made by Laura Gibbs, shared here, as we were talking about the value of metacognition: