Author Archives: Sarah Wandy

The Media Diaries: Five Short Stories of Five Good Friends

No. 1: The Wise Old Mentor

By Dplanet via Flickr

I’m a reader. My parents read to me when I was little, and before I actually could, I would pretend to read stories from the Western Producer on my dad’s knee. I played “music” from the Reader’s Digest Christmas Songbook at my mom’s piano. When letters slowly morphed into words, and words into ideas and stories, my life changed. I would stay up late reading Nancy Drew under my covers, occasionally checking my orange leather wristwatch to see how late it was. I didn’t want to be too tired for school the next day. Yep. That’s me. I think I loved school because I was a good reader and most of what I learned there came from textbooks. Big. Heavy. Books. I survived on painfully slow dial-up, and downloadable version of the Encyclopedia Britannica until I left home for university. Text remained my wise old mentor in this institution as well. Bates argues that text “is an essential medium for academic learning,” and I definitely have found this true in my experiences. It’s kind of difficult for me to imagine that it is unlikely “that books will survive in a printed format, because digital publication allows for many more features to be added, reduces the environmental footprint, and makes text much more portable and transferable.” But I suppose all wise old mentors die eventually, making room for new teachers, though their wisdom lives on.

No. 2: That friend who keeps you company while you run errands and doesn’t stop talking so you kind of stop listening once in a while

pink-jvcMusic and podcasts are comfortable pals of mine. Music has been in my life since my grandpa bought me a bright pink JVC CD player when I was 13, and I was introduced to Podcast last year by a good friend. I have a difficult time relaxing, doing hands-on-work or exercise in silence, so these two keep me company and I enjoy listening to them, even if I drift off on occasion. I don’t find that I learn anything particularly useful or interesting when we hang out. But if Pen or Video join us, then the conversations get juicy. So, I didn’t find it at all surprising when Bates said, “that students will often learn better from preprepared audio recordings combined with accompanying textual material (such as a web site with slides) than they will from a live classroom lecture.”

No. 3: The Diva

Mr. P, my former science teacher, was a huge fan of The Diva. We used to watch The Diva’s presentations on reproduction, chemical reactions, and uranium mines. The Diva thought she was so much better than Mr. Overheadprojector. One day, she was trying to show off with some fancy singing and animation on the topic of Meiosis. And the poor thing flopped. Sighs were heaved. Tears were shed. Minutes of lives were lost. But in history later that year, The Diva shared Schindler’s List. And so, rightfully found a place back at the top as a powerful, evocative celebrity. So, Bates’s thoughts that quality, free and engaging videos may not be easy for teachers to find brought this memory of The Diva’s career “lowlight” to the surface.

No. 4: The Nerd

You know that guy who is so passionate, that he scares people away? The nerd? I recently got set up with him by my EC&I 834 profs, Alec and Katia. Since then, we’ve been on a few dates. He’s pretty deep when you get to know him; he knows so much! And he can really challenge me, which I like. Sometimes he gets a little boring when he’s quizzing me and I really just want to hang out with Music and Podcast, or even The Diva. Still, he has a LONG list of strengths. He’s pretty good looking in most styles, organized, methodical, environmentally friendly, accommodating, and patient. Unfortunately, I think many of those strengths are left unappreciated because the ladies don’t take or have the time to get to know him. And once in a while he shuts you out for no apparent reason. That can definitely be a turn off.

“many teachers and instructors often have no training in or awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of computing as a teaching medium”  – Bates

No. 5: Ms. Social Butterfly

captureMs. Social Butterfly is one of my new teachers. We’ve been collaborating and constructing together for a little while now. Within the last year she encouraged me to blog and join Twitter. To be honest, I got a tad overwhelmed by Ms. Social Butterfly and we didn’t talk for almost six months. We just needed a break. We sat down for a Zoom session just over a month ago, and discussed boundaries. Now, I’m self-directing my learning, just like Bates said was possible. She will be an integral part of my ongoing professional development, and I’m glad that she’s teaching me again.

Challenge

Have you met any of these characters before? Do you have any characters to add to The Media Diaries? Would love to hear what they’ve been up to!


Making a Music Module

In my Music 9 prototype it is going to be important for students to access instructional videos on the internet. There are many great professional tutorials for learning how to play instruments, so it’s just a matter of researching and directing students to those resources and not the amateur ones. However, I haven’t found as many good instructional videos on music terminology and theory.

Photo by stevepb via pixabay
Photo by stevepb via pixabay

Like Bates says, it’s important to choose the pedagogically appropriate medium of communication for the content of the lesson. A video showing music being written with audio instructions allows students to see the complex process in action, hear examples, and visualize the concepts. In fact, this method of teaching theory could be superior to face-to-face lecture and whiteboard instruction, because the music notation would be larger, neater, and faster to write.

With this in mind, I needed to find one tool that would allow me to write music, and another tool for screencasting.

First, I checked out Educreations. It’s not great.

You have to add slides in the order you want them to appear, and can’t switch them at any point in time. The writing feature is messy when using a laptop. The eraser is skinny and can’t be made larger, so it is boring to watch the erasing happen. You can hear the clicking of  keys in the video when you press the button to stop recording. It is so simple that it doesn’t allow for much creativity, and there are not many options for editing. Without that room for error, I feel I would have to start over again and again and again. I don’t have time for that. There also wasn’t a clear save button on the presentation I was making. Then my internet disconnected, and when I reloaded the page, the three slides I made were gone. 0/5.

So, I tried Screencastify. It’s great.

I downloaded this Google extension, and found it intuitive and simple. I also like that it is easy to access on my toolbar on Chrome, and I think I will be more likely to use it more often because of this. Even better, the videos save to Google Drive, which is where I already save all of my documents. The quality of the audio and video are both good. There is an option to learn quick keys, there are lots of colors available to write in, there is a button that quickly clears the whole screen without requiring painfully slow erasing. I also like the option to have the webcam record me at the same time as my screen. 5/5.

I do have one questionscreencastify-permission about Screencastify. What does this message mean? What is it accessing? What am I agreeing to?

 

 

 

So, that is when I started searching for a music writing tool. I found an AMAZING website called musictheory.net. This website has almost every lesson I would ever use in music classes from grades 9-12. The lessons online are free AND there are online exercises that correspond with the lessons.

theory-exercise

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately, the free lessons don’t have audio. You have to pay for and download their iOS app called Tenuto for those extra features. However, I could use Screencastify to go through the pre-existing lessons and record audio for them myself. I could use Screencastify to go through a lesson, and then show students where to go next to complete the exercise, demonstrate how the exercise works, and assign a task like: Using Screencastify to document your work, complete 20 Treble Clef note identifications and then upload the video to your Google Drive and share it with me. Afterwards, I could see which notes students are struggling to name, how long it took them to name 20 notes, and how many they named correctly on the first try.

Although this site is great, I know there will be times when supplementary lessons will be needed, so I read the review The Best Music Notation Software of 2017, and tried the only free software to make the list. MuseScore 2.  I have played around with MuseScore a bit, and it’s intuitive, it will play the notes that I write with a quality piano sound, and there is a built in screen capture tool, so I could easily take images of the music I write and upload them to other lesson documents or videos. I have used the professional music writing software Sibelius before, and MuseScore has all of the features that I have used on Sibelius, but unlike Sibelius, it’s FREE!

musescore

 

I am planning on using all of these tools to create my module. Do you know of any music tools that I should look into?


Music 9 is going to rock!

In my blog post last week, I asked readers to help me decide which platform to use for my music class prototype course by voting on a poll. I only had two responses. One was in favour of Canvas; one was for Schoology. Then, in our Zoom meeting on Tuesday night, I had a chance to see Alec walk through some different LMS platforms. After playing around with a few of them, I have decided to use Canvas as the platform for my Music 9 course prototype.

(***Tip: This post is long. If you want to skim through for the main ideas, just look for the bolded words.***)

Rationale:

iphone-music-pic
Via pixabay

I have chosen a blended learning approach using Canvas as a platform because I think the learning will be more student centred. Audrey Watters reminds us that “we like the idea that new technologies mean new practices, new affordances. But that’s not always or necessarily how technology works.” Watters also cautions teachers not to allow LMSes to take the student out of the centre of the learning experience. In this case, I really believe that the format could change the way students learn if I keep in mind ways to facilitate students’ individual needs and goals. Personal learning is more likely with a blended approach, and using Canvas as platform is especially exciting for a few reasons:

  • Blended learning increases engagement and teacher-individual student face-to-face time
    • Student choice. Music is particularly engaging when students can learn an instrument that they are passionate about, so that is what I encourage students to do. The online instructional materials available give students this freedom to choose any instrument.
    • Instruments or practice spaces are not always available to students in a period, especially if the class is large. With a blended learning approach, there is more flexibility for what students are able to do.
    • Teachers can give more valuable instruction to individuals during face-to-face class time. With a large number of instruments available to learn, it is impossible for teachers to provide students with instruction about all of them on a regular basis. If teachers can upload self-made or open instructional materials about different instruments for students to look at on their own time, students can come to class with questions and get feedback on what they have practiced.
    • Students need lessons with a teacher, but with the number of students in a class, it is hard to see each student each day. With video posts of progress on blogs, it increases the opportunities for students and teachers to interact and provide feedback.
  • Canvas’s organization options and compatibility with Google. Awesome.
    • Modules – unlike Google Classroom, I can create modules within a course for various instruments to personalize student learning.
    • Intuitive to use, which means I won’t give up on using it
    • I already use Google Apps, and it will be easy to upload my spreading existing materials to Canvas
    • I can use content developed by other Canvas users
    • Students can upload videos of themselves practicing and engage in discussions on Canvas, without needing to create blogs. This is a valuable time-saver in the Music 9 class, which is offered as part of a rotation within FineArts 9.
feel-the-music
By EuropeMusic99 via Wikimedia Commons

Target Student Population and Demographics: The target audience of this course will be grade 9 students; however, the beauty of this platform is that Music 10, 20, or 30 students who have never taken a music course before, could follow the Music 9 blended course initially to learn some basics before moving on to their grade appropriate level. (Eventually, I hope to develop courses at all levels.)

Course Format: This course will be guided by principles of blended learning with both asynchronous and synchronous components. Face-to-face interaction is a necessary component of music, but it can be enhanced tremendously with online components.

  • Online & Asynchronous:
    • instructional videos
    • theory assignments
    • share videos of progress through blogs that students and teachers, as well as community members can comment on
  • Online & Synchronous:
    • discussions on Canvas
    • guest speakers in Skype
    • live streamed concerts
  • Face-to-Face & Independent:
    • practicing  instrument at school or at home
    • recording using the recording studio at school
  • Face-to-Face & Collaborative:
    • playing with others
    • one-on-one or group lessons with the teacher present
    • performances with live audience

Course Toolset:

  • Online
  • School
    • instruments
    • sound reinforcement (mics, mic and instrument cables, mixer, amps, speakers, monitors)
    • paper copies of music (can be easier to read)
    • recording studio and GarageBand, Adobe ???
    • hand-written theory assignments

Do you know of any great tools or apps that music students should use in this course?

Course Content and Learning Objectives: 

For the first module, we will address the following outcomes from the Saskatchewan Arts Education 9 Curriculum:
  • Use voice, instruments, and technologies to express musical ideas.
  • Combine the elements of music and principles of composition to express unified musical ideas.
  • Compose and perform sound compositions to express perspectives and raise awareness about a topic of concern to youth.
  • Respond to professional dance, drama, music, and visual art works through individual or collaborative inquiry and the creation of own arts expressions.

Assessment Strategies:

  • Formative: blogs with videos, feedback in lessons, theory worksheets
  • Summative: performance, composition

Concerns/Challenges:

  • Online
    • low bandwidth
    • poor connectivity to wireless networks
    • student access to devices when working from home, and occasionally at school
    • time it will take to familiarize students with Canvas when Fine Arts 9 rotations are short
    • user friendliness of Canvas on mobile devices (I need to look into this; it might not be a concern.)
    • some students may be able to afford upgraded/superior apps, while others cannot, which could be discouraging
  • School
    • lack of space for students to practice with few distractions from other students
    • availability of instruments for students to use (esp. drums and pianos/keyboards).
    • addressing all students’ personal learning goals

What kind of challenges might you anticipate that I haven’t thought of yet?

 

 

 


Transformers: The Digitizers Evolve

Wandy’s latest blockbuster hit, Transformers: The Digitizers Evolve, is set to open in theaters in April 2017. We sat down with Wandy to ask her about her inspiration for this new film.

Q: What inspired such a different direction for this film?

W: For the last 20 years, educators have been incorporating technology in their classrooms. The integration may be as simple as using the internet as a research tool, or as complex as blended learning as a means to achieve personal goals. I thought that a great Transformer character would be a “Digitizer.” An educator who is driven to use technology in transformative ways. They have many tools at their disposal like social media, apps, open education courses, and creative software, so they can constantly change shape to facilitate the learning needs of their students. It might be the best Transformer to date!

Photo Credit: cea via Flickr
The Digitizers in the film appear to be regular robot teachers, until they transform! With the help of coffee as fuel, of course. Photo Credit: cea via Flickr

Q: What evolution can we expect to see the from the Digitizers?

W: The Digitizers are faced with the challenge of thinking about the mere mortals, or students, around them as individuals capable of learning and creating independently based on passion areas if they have the skills, tools, and support to do so. This shift in mindset is difficult as the Digitizers have become so accustomed to protecting the young humans, that they fail to see their strengths.

Q: Fans of the franchise are excited to discuss these ideas on social media platforms. Have you been able to connect with them?

W: Absolutely! I love hearing from them, and they’ve really inspired me to push the limits of what I originally thought the Digitizers would be capable of. Roxanne Leung shared What is Blended Learning? on Twitter and that gave me ideas to get the ball rolling. Jennifer Stewart-Mitchell shared Will Blended Learning Fulfill its Disruptive Potential on the EC&I 834 Google+ Community,  which sparked lots of thoughtful conversation with other fans.

Q: What future projects do you have in mind?

W: Well, I’ve always had a passion for music, and with the inspiration of this latest film and its fans, I would like to create a prototype for a blended learning music class. There would be both synchronous and asynchronous components. I haven’t decided what type of platform might work best, but I’d be interested in getting some input from your readers!

Q: Do you have anyone to work on this project with?

W: So far, I haven’t encountered anyone else who is interested in a blended music class prototype, but I’d be interested in working with someone who also shares this passion. Maybe this interview will spark someone’s interest!

“I’d be interested in working with someone who also shares this passion.”

Q: Do you think that you will be able to transform this class with the help of blended learning?

W: Like the Digitizers in my film, I’m going to have to make sure that I reflect on my philosophy of education and make pedagogical choices that empower and engage students. Like Tony Bates says in Teaching in a Digital Age,

“What is the role of the classroom teacher when students can now increasingly study most things online?”

I haven’t worked through what this will look like exactly, but I want the change in platform to be meaningful to students.

Q: Thanks for doing this interview with us today.

W: Not a problem.

You can help Sarah choose an appropriate blended learning platform for her next project by completing the survey below.


Rookie Sarah Wandy is called up from the Minors

After a brief stint in the Minors, Wandy is ready to step up, once again, to the challenge of Major League Ed. Tech. Today, she told fellow bloggers, “After my last Ed. Tech. class, the focus of which was Social Media, I spent most of my free time checking Twitter and Facebook. It had become a habit from trying to stay in touch with my classmates, and turned into a bit of an obsession.” Wandy said she needed to take herself out of the game for a while to find some balance: “I deleted the apps from my phone and tried to focus on what was happening around me in the moment. I felt so much more clear headed. I traveled, finished some knitting projects, practiced guitar, tried some new cheesecake recipes and took a class.”

scotland

However, Wandy knows that she can’t hide from Social Media forever, nor does she want to. “I’m ready to tackle online and blended learning with the help of my colleagues using social media and other meeting tools. This time, I’m going to focus on balance from the beginning, and find a way to make the most of what both online and face to face interactions have to offer. I know my students and family will appreciate these efforts.”

“find a way to make the most of what both online and face to face interactions have to offer”

Some of Wandy’s ECI 834 teammates have had similar experiences. Jannae Bridgeman also had a brief hiatus from the world of blogging and Twitter, but knows that the professional benefits of these tools will be worth the extra training time. Similarly, Aimee Sipple and Kelsey Lenihan are ready to join the Twitter conversation.

Fortunately, veterans like Logan Petlak and Katherine Koskie are willing to share some of their expertise with the newbies. Koskie: “Gotta expand that PLN.”

Wandy’s 3 Goals for this Season:

  • Become familiar enough with an online learning platform that I could easily design all classes in this way
  • Learn to use a new video-making/presentation program that I can use for my summary of learning. What are your suggestions?
  • Find a meaningful balance between digital and face to face interactions

You can follow Wandy’s progress on Twitter this season @WandySarah.


My First Gig

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Photo Credit: Antti T. Nissinen via Flickr

I was going to call this final post for my learning project “The Grand Finale,” but I decided that wouldn’t be accurate. This is only just the beginning. My first gig.

Learning guitar using websites, apps and social media has been an incredibly rewarding self-directed inquiry. I’ve felt both connected and isolated, invigorated and frustrated, motivated and defeated. Looking back, I’m proud of the tools that I’ve found and used and my overall growth as both a digital learner and a guitarist.

Techniques and Lessons:

GarageBand offers a series of lessons for guitar. The tool teaches you how to hold the guitar properly, tune it, play the most commonly used chords and barre chords, and strumming patterns. You have to have access to Apple products to use this service, so that might limit some people from using it.

Guitar Tricks provides access to a series of free beginner lessons and more advanced lessons for a small monthly fee. The website asks a series of questions about your musical background, commitment to learning, and previous guitar experience and designs a path of lessons based on your responses! All of the lessons are linked to songs, so you feel more like you’re really playing guitar early on.

MunsunMusicLive’s videos are a great way to learn new songs if you already know how to play the chords in the songs that he has uploaded, but not if you are just learning.

Drue James goes a step further on his YouTube channel with lessons that are broken down into categories based on your skill level, and by providing instructional lessons. He also sends you two emails each week with tips, ideas and encouragement. Both the videos and emails are motivating.

Tuning:

get-tuned.com offers both tuners and articles that teach you how to solve tuning issues and use other tuning methods like the fifth fret method.

Guitar Tuna is a (mostly) free app that is designed to accurately tune stringed instruments. You don’t even have to remember each of the strings because the app allows you to tap an image of the string you want to tune. It plays the pitch for you so that you can match it, but even better, it shows you how flat or sharp you may be as you tighten or loosen the string! The app also has games for learning chords, chord diagrams, and ear training. To get multiple levels, you do have to pay for an upgraded version of the app.

Chords:

ultimate-guitar.com is a comprehensive website that includes guitar tabs, reviews, interviews, columns, lessons, and forums. They have a fantastic lesson on learning how to read tab. It’s clear and comprehensive.

chordbook.com is perfect if you only have a few minutes to sit down and review chords. It’s really user friendly, but you have to have wifi or use data to access the site.

Song Chords and Tabs:

Guitar Chords and Tabs is an app that curates thousands of song chords and tabs in one place. The chords and tabs are easy to read on a small phone screen, and the app even has the option of “favoriting” the songs that you are working on so that you don’t have to search them each time you use the app.

Interesting Reads:

A Neurobiological Role of Music in Social Bonding is a study by Walter J Freeman III, concludes that even though knowledge is formed in individual brains, “rhythmic behavioral activities that are induced by drum beats and music can lead to altered states of consciousness, through which mutual trust among members of societies is engendered.”  He further states that “music together with dance have co-evolved biologically and culturally to serve as a technology of social bonding.” The entire article is fascinating, and you should definitely check it out for yourself. When people make music together, it fosters trust and bonding in ways that language cannot. The social and human experience are critical to the music-making experience.

5 Tips on How to Get Your Child to Practice Piano suggests discussing practice time as “playing” time instead to foster a positive attitude toward learning to play an instrument. The difference between the connotations is substantial. Practicing is hard work. Playing is fun. Another tip that the article suggests is to create a pleasant environment for playing. This means keeping your instrument in an accessible and comfortable place.

Important Connections:

I discovered that it was possible to connect with people in a meaningful way on the internet. I didn’t believe that was possible before. This was by far the most important realization that I had throughout this learning project. I always knew that I could access information, but what I didn’t know was that I could connect with people.

Twitter – @GuitarMag, @guitarcenter, @guitar_mag, @GuitarPlayerNow, @The_Guitar_List, @ZoobieDood (Dave Eichenberger)

YouTube – I had a helpful guitar teacher post a comment to a YouTube video of myself learning guitar. That was a generous and exciting comment. I finally felt like I had connected with another person that I really didn’t know in this learning process.

Classmates/ Fellow Bloggers – Other students in the class, particularly Logan Petlak, who is also learning to play an instrument, were so encouraging throughout this learning process.

Friends – The face-to-face interactions that I had playing with friends were also incredibly important when I was feeling isolated and missing the joy of making music.

And now for my first gig! Thank you for following along and sharing with me. This song is for you!


Learning to Play Guitar… Without a Guitar

Last week, I was travelling in Europe, so I had to figure out a way to work on my learning project while I was there. I didn’t want to bring my guitar with me, so I ended up using Guitar Tuna. In addition to being a tuner, the app has games for learning chords and chord diagrams as well as ear training. (You do have to pay if you want multiple levels.)

I have to admit that it was a great change of pace, but I’m looking forward to playing again and preparing for my final learning project reflection!


Activism is a Click Away

What was the last social justice cause that you supported by liking a post, sharing an article or retweeting? Did you do so because you were passionate about the subject? Because it would increase your social status given your online network of relatively like-minded people? Because it felt good to help in some way? Because you thought it would make a difference?

slacktivism

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Activism takes many forms. A person may donate funds, volunteer their time and skills, or become informed and inform others. All of these things can be done using social media, including live streaming, and/or physical action. Although some argue that slacktivism is lazy, selfish or even harmful, ultimately all attempts to create a better world do affect change in some way. Gillian Branstetter even argues that “the Internet is more than an accessory to the real-world actions that change demands—it’s now a proven way to make it happen.” In fact, a Georgetown University study showed that “those who support movements online are actually more likely to engage in activism in real life.”

Well, that’s a relief. I can continue liking and retweeting for social justice guilt-free. But is that enough? What does it really take to affect meaningful change? I think that meaningful change happens when people become educated through disruption of dominant discourse and then change their own ideas and behavior. Language is powerful in constructing and reproducing expectations, roles, identities, and behaviors. And what is social media, if not language? So like, retweet, and share away, my friends.


Trolls

In the very first post that I wrote for this class, I said, “I’m scared of these things called “trolls.“” After completing the readings for this week, I’ve realized why I have these fears, particularly as a woman. According to an Australian study, 76% of women under the age of 30 experience harassment that ranges from “unwanted contact, trolling, and cyberbullying to sexual harassment and threats of rape and death.” It makes sense then, that one of my primary concerns of putting myself out there online, would be that I would become the target of trolls, especially if I took a stand for social justice issues. Katia Hildebrandt is one such lady who challenged white supremacy and ended up with a “troll army” threatening her. You can hear more her story by checking out her blog post #PrivilegeGate, or, How I Unwittingly Provoked a Troll Army. It’s as scary as the fairytales in which a young girl tries to pass over a bridge guarded by a troll.

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Matt Rosza suggests a variety of ways that we can change the discourse of “gendered bigotry against women [that] is widely considered to be “in bounds” by Internet commenters (whether they openly acknowledge it or not).”  The final suggestion is that comments must be done by someone who attaches his or her name to the charges and can, thus, be held accountable for them. This aligns with what I wrote about in my blog post about anonymity. Although anonymity and privacy are essential and beneficial in some circumstances, anonymity does allow some users to make comments that they would not normally make in real life. But as John Oliver says, “People say it’s (the internet is) not real life, but it is. And it always has been.

The internet and social media hold the possibility of social change. What will you do the next time you encounter a troll? Will you head home or cross the bridge?