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.