Friday, October 17, 2008

Teaching and Learning Strategies for Audacity

For several years now I have encouraged my students to use Audacity for audio recording and editing. This year I am, once again, having my students use this great tool.

I like to have my students use Audacity to create beatbox music. This is music created by making rhythmic paralinguistic sounds. My students are all online and are mostly from rural and isolated communities where and have never been exposed to a formalized musical education. For this reason, most of my students have never sung and are reluctant to try. Beatboxing is a great first step in getting my students to the ultimate goal of singing.

More on this later...
- Andrew

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Using Video in Education: A-OK

There has been much discussion about the pedagogical uses of video in an online teaching/learning environment. Several peers have shared their strategies and tools. It is great to see so many teachers adopting this medium :)
- Andrew

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Technology at ISME 2008

This post is taken from an article published in the August edition of the Canadian Music Educator.

During the summer of 2008 Bologna, Italy hosted the 28th conference for the International Society of Music Education (ISME). I had the privilege of attending this conference and in this article I am reporting on some of the exciting presentations and discussions related to the integration of information and communication technology (ICT) in music education that took place during the conference.

As part of a symposium session Samuel Leong (Hong Kong) presented Strategies for enabling curriculum reform: Lessons from Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Using these countries as examples, Leong presented strategies for implementing change to policies related to ICT literacy to ensure students acquire an adequate level of ICT literacy during their school years. This was a practical and informative presentation from a person who has been at the centre of wide-scale educational reform for many. Leong discussed his top-down approach to educational change and his views on how policy makers can be moved to see and support issues that are truly important to education.

The establishment of ICT literacy standards was echoed in several sessions, such as the inspirational plenary session on the Music Manifesto by Marc Jaffrey (U.K.) as well as a presentation by Marina Gall (U.K.) entitled Teacher training and technology. Gall’s work investigates ICT competency levels in music education as it relates to music teacher training in the U.K. Establishing ICT literacy standards for music teachers and students was viewed by many conference participants as a critical first step in the effective integration of ICT in our music programs.

A great deal of synergy amongst international European researchers was evident at the ISME conference. As part of a symposium session entitled Developing reflective learning in a virtual world researchers from the U.K., Sweden and Greece presented The prelude project. With music teacher training as a focus, the researchers have created resources to raise teacher ICT literacy levels in the participating countries.

Issues related to online specific curriculum and content development were presented by Jennifer Nakashima (Canada). She presented her paper entitled Issues and challenges in developing experiencing music 2200 for web-based delivery: A critical case study.

I had the honor of presenting a paper entitled, Web-based music education: An exploration of learning objects as examined through the lens of the American psychological association’s learner-centered psychological principles. Much discussion and follow-up has taken place since the presentation as educators consider how online tools and strategies can be used to address the needs of all learners.

Learning Irish traditional music on the tin whistle via the Internet was the focus of a presentation given by Janice Waldron (Canada) and Kari Veblen (Canada) entitled, The medium is the message: Cyberspace, community, and music learning. The researchers have taken inventory of the numerous Internet-based opportunities for learning to play the tin whistle. These were examined and assigned a degree of ‘cool’ to ‘hot’ based on their level of interactivity. Online resources such as static web pages were deemed ‘cool’ while highly interactive ‘communities of practice’ were given the label of ‘hot.’ This is a very exciting study for it will help educators understand the numerous and varying opportunities for learning music via the Internet and how these learning opportunities can accommodate various learning preferences. Waldron and Veblin were also focused on effective pedagogical practice as well as the social dynamics inherent in these online communities of practice.

The work being done by Waldron and Veblen helps to illustrate the vastness of online educational content, but also reveals the barrier of language in this context. Non-English speaking participants were quick to point out that although there is a wealth of computer-based music education content available not all languages are represented equally.

Alex Ruthmann (U.S.) presented his work on the uses of online social networking tools in the teaching and learning of music. His presentation was entitled Strategies for supporting music learning through on-line collaborative technologies. Ruthmann gave compelling insight into how he uses online tools such as wikis, blogs and Ning to enhance his conventional music teaching. His talk was rooted in the idea that these tools should be used to empower the students to achieve the curriculum outcomes and enhance the learning process rather than just be used for the sake of using a new piece of technology.

ICT in music education was well represented at the 2008 ISME conference with far too many compelling discussions and presentations to include in this article. The creativity and innovation taking place in this field of education is inspiring. As ICT tools and strategies become more accessible we are presented with exciting opportunities to provide our students with exciting and relevant opportunities for growth and collaboration.

- Andrew Mercer

Eportfolios: A Quick Thought

I spent all this week involved in PD of some sort. I have learned a great deal from my peers this week. My good friend, Glenn Cake has inspired me to push into e-portfolios further than I have in the past. We believe we have a nice e-portfolio setup designed for both his online french students and my online music students. In a future post I will explain how we are planning to do it.
- Andrew

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A Day With Lee Willingham

I spent the day with Lee Willingham. We had a great day. Throughout the day we talked much about all that is music and technology and education. Lee sat in on two of my online classes to experience how it actually happens. We had some nice fishcakes and baked beans for lunch. We had a little hike and took some photos. I have a great time and learn MUCH.

- Andrew Mercer

Wiki as Eportfolio

Last year I used WetPaint wikis with my high school music students to serve as a place for them to keep track of the thinks they would like to do in the course. I was please at how easy the students picked up on technically how to use the wiki, but we did not take advantage of the capabilities.

This year I am planning to use the wiki as an e-portfolio for my students. I will encourage them to use the wiki as an area to place all the content they create during the course. I will have them also use as a storage area. Files uploaded to will be embeded and linked into the wiki.

Glenn Cake, an online French teacher with CDLI, is also implementing this e-portfolio for his classes.

I will keep you posted on how this plays out.

- Andrew Mercer

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Finale Notepad 2009

Finale Notepad 2009 is now $10. Previous versions were free. In my province of Newfoundland and Labrador many music teachers had Finale Notepad installed on all the computers in the school. Students were composing and learning with this great tool. Finale had a young user base that would grow up and buy what they were used to. Now the software will not be placed on all the computers in all the school and will not be used by all these students. It is sad to see this company take such a short-term view to product marketing.

- Andrew Mercer

Monday, September 29, 2008

Wiki in Education

I am about to prepare a wiki for each of my online students. These wikis will be used for students' e-portfolios. As part of these e-portfolios students will be provided with broad curriculum goals and the students will be asked to identify how they would like to meet these goals. This will be a living piece and I will encourage students to constantly massage.
- Andrew Mercer

Back Again

Well, well, well... And where have you been, Andrew? No need to worry about me. Why, I just hang out here on the web by myself, just a lowly old blog with no one to talk to. No, that's ok. I don't mind being ignored... I have become used to it. What's that? You're planning to come back more often. Hmm, well we shall see about that. Go ahead then, write something, smart-guy. I am sure people are just lining up to read your ramblings.

- Blog

Friday, February 15, 2008

Stephen Downes and Larry Lessig

'Busy' seems to have lost its impact this past couple of weeks. For my lack of input, I will make two entries today.

Through Stephen Downes' blog I recently stumbled upon EduTagger. As this site grows, it could turn into a very useful tool for finding and sharing online educational resources. I am in the middle of organizing a set of curriculum resources for a music course. All the resources come from the Internet. A site like this could be a great way to share all these types of resources with others. Share Share Share :)

A while back a watched a TED Talks video by Larry Lessig. Amongst my colleagues, this video has proved to be a great catalyst for heated discussions on artistic rights. Check out the video and join the discussion.


Thursday, January 31, 2008

Music Education Workshops

This has been a very exciting (and busy) week.

On Jan. 23rd. I attended an informative workshop on ProTools at Memorial University's MMaP dept. The session was provided by Spencer Crewe. While at the MMaP I also had a chance to speak with Dr. Bev Diamond, who is an excellent Ethnomusicologist. We talked about the Inuit, Innu, and Mi'kmaq students in my online classes and new relevant cultural resources. Bev recommended one of her excellent books, Native American Music In Eastern North America: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture.

Jan. 22nd had me on the road again, but this time to Placentia, NL. I spent the day with the music teacher Juanita Tobin. Together we explored a number of technologies that she wanted to incorporate into her practice: video production, Music Ace, wikis, YouTube, and Google tools. Four days later she informed me that she has set up a number of wikis for her students with embedded video and other goodies to help with her teaching/learning.

On Jan. 28 I took part in a k-6 music education workshop in Bay Roberts. Brenda Hunt gave a very informative presentation of the effective use of MusicAce in her centers-based music room. Deanne Hiscock also presented on issues related to inclusion in the music room as well as a session on traditional NL song and dance. We had a great time.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ambiguity Aversion

Ambiguity Aversion

Today I watched a short video on the Ellsberg Paradox. The Ellsberg Paradox tells us that when a person encounters a situation containing unknowns there is a survival reaction that takes place in the brain. Fear and avoidance are the dominate sensations experienced. This can explain why many people fear new technology tools. As I watched I thought of the learners I work with and how many times they are averse to using new technologies in their day-to-day lives. In light of the Ellsberg Paradox we must reduce the number of unknowns perceived by our learners as we introduce new concepts. This simples pretty obvious, but it is nice to see that there is a physiological reason for people's fears. If anything the Ellsberg Paradox can help me be more patient with learners that are reluctant to adopt new concepts.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Tin Whistle Videos

In high school general music course I teach all students learn to play the tin whistle. As they learn this instrument I have always provided them with recordings of the songs along with the sheet music. I have recently starting providing YouTube videos of me playing the songs on the tin whistle.

To truly be learner-centered in my teaching/learning I need to accommodate students of all learning styles/preferences. My hope is that the use of video will engage those visual learners in my class. I will keep you posted on how this turns out.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Google Calendar for You Musical Ensembles

I have recently begun using Google Calendar for some of the musical groups I am involved with. There are some sharp edges, but I think it has some great potential.

I set up a Google Calendar and shared it with all the student in the ensemble. I enter in the dates of rehearsals, concerts and other events. I include details of each event such as music we will be working on in a specific rehearsal or which pieces we will be performing at a concert. It is also possible to link to content such as YouTube recordings of important pieces of music. Students have access to this shared calendar so I envision the students taking ownership of the calendar.

As I play more with this I will keep you posted.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

ProtoPage or PageFlakes in D2L

To be truly learner-centered we must present course content in a number of different formats (video, audio, text, interactive media, etc.) Doing this gives students of all learning preferences equal opportunity to be engaged by the content. This is sometimes difficult in online courses. The web is still very much text based. (and here I am typing this entry - sigh)

I like to use multiple media types for the asynchronous content I present in my courses. At CDLI we use Desire2Learn (D2L) as our learning management system and it is oftentimes awkward to embed multimedia rich content into this LMS.

I recently watched a video made by Barry Dalh in which he talks about how he has embedded a ProtoPage into his D2L course pages. Great idea! Thanks Barry. I set this up in my courses today and here is how I did it:

I created a page in with some widgets that would be useful for my students. Next I found an iframe HTML code generator (I used this one). I placed the URL for my ProtoPage into the code generator and was provided with the iframe code I needed. Then in the D2L news widget of my course I created a new item, placed the code in the content window, checked the "In HTML" box and saved. I also tried, but found ProtoPage to be more appropriate for my students' needs.

Now I can serve up RSS feeds, YouTube, slide shows, VoiceThread, etc. easily into my D2L course pages. Sweet. Thanks Barry.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Music Ace and Google Docs

I use Harmonic Vision's Music Ace Maestro to assist my students in learning musical theory. I needed to find a way to let my students keep track which of Music Ace lessons and games they have completed. To do this I create a spreadsheet with the students' names down the side and 1-48 lessons across the top. When a student completes a lesson I add a '1' (meaning it's completed) into the appropriate cell. There is a sheet for lessons and a sheet for games. In the games sheet I record the students' scores. This provides some healthy competition amongst the students and it also allows the students to do some self-evaluation as the compare their own scores to those of their classmates.

To make this work I need to make the spreadsheet viewable to the students. Last year I put the spreadsheet directly into Web-CT, but it made the page very slow to load. This year I am using Google Docs. I use Google Docs to create the spreadsheet and I will continue to edit it there. Google provides me with a URL which I link to from inside Desire2Learn. Now whenever the students want to see how they are doing in Music Ace they can click on the link and view the spreadsheet.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Music Ed Games

Today I found two excellent music games I plan to use with my high school students. This first is called The Sound Factory. The story behind the action is that you are a worker in a tire factory. To break the monotony you start making music using the found item in the factory. As more co-workers enjoy your music you unlock new found instruments. The game lets you layer the instrument timbres and make musical choices to create new music. But watch out for the boss. If he catches you playing music while you are supposed to be working - you lose!

The second music game I found is called Break in the Road. This is a great role-play game that has the user acting as a DJ. You are given the task of using your audio recorder to collect environmental sounds from the neighborhood then create a piece of music from these sounds. Once you have collected some sounds you go to the studio and use the multitrack editor to combine the sounds into a new piece of music. When you have your piece of music created you can play it at the local club to find out if the audience likes it.

Both these games are great for having the students play with combining/layering timbres. Other musical elements such as form and harmony can also be addresses with these games as the students are given great freedom to create unique pieces of music.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Learner-Centeredness of Second Life Meetings

Over the holidays I have had an opportunity to use Second Life. If anyone would like to find me, my avatar is Bucky Flatley. The topic of virtual worlds and education is an enormous one. Over the coming weeks I will try to write about some aspects that have caught my eye.

Is there an advantage to holding virtual meetings/seminars as opposed to using a video conferencing solution?

I have had the opportunity to sit in on a few virtual face-to-face meetings/seminars in Second Life. These have been very enjoyable and useful to some degree, but I find myself missing the conversation nuances found in video/audio conferencing. For example, I sat in on a seminar on the construction of Second Life objects given by a very knowledgeable presenter recently. The twenty or so avatars (a virtual representation of yourself) sat and watched as the presenter used text dialogue and a slide show to educate us on the topic. This was not a very compelling learning environment for me. I believe that much of what this presenter had to offer the audience was lost in the communication medium.

There are excellent learner-centered communication tools available to us that can be used to make learning environment more palatable to every learner. Applications such as Skype, and Polycom products make the practice of video conferencing very practical for business and personal use. These and other communication tools can and should be used in conjunction to create a learner-centered learning environment. All learning styles and preferences must be accommodated.

I appreciate and enjoy the social interaction of Second Life, but I think that much pedagogical consideration needs to be given to make best use of the platform's assets in a leaning environment and make accommodations for the platforms current pedagogical weaknesses.