Bye bye, Karaoke!

I couldn’t leave my #learningproject behind without a final reflection. Although I blogged about my overall experience in the Spring #ecmp355 course, as well as the process involved in my final Summary of Learning project, I felt that my actual learning of the guitar wasn’t covered adequately in either of those posts.

After all, my first video sounded like this:

I could barely strum a chord, could I?

And so to fill you in on my growth, I will review a few of the favorite resources that I used:

  1. http://www.Chordie.com: this is a great site which allows musicians to save their favorite songs to “My Songbook”. Even better, you can change the key, so that if the song was submitted in a key that is too low or difficult to play, it can be transposed to any other key. All my songs are saved in my preferred keys, and I can pull them up digitally or print them off. The downsides of this site are that a) Occasionally there are songs from other sites that cannot be transposed, and b) Sometimes the people that create the chords aren’t correct, and you may not agree with what is posted. There is a way to suggest edits, but I haven’t dove into that yet. Overall, this is a great site to use.
  2. http://www.andyguitar.co.uk: This was a great site that offered new guitar learners easy lessons that were simple to follow. Andy also provides a great variety of tunes to practice and learn. I really enjoyed this site!
  3. I do want to warn about some YouTube lessons. Not all instructional videos are created equal. If the video is going too fast for your current level, move on.

Lastly, and this applies to any site, or with any songbook: just because someone rates a song as “easy beginner” does not mean it is going to be easy, or is even FOR a beginner. “Easy” is relative, and an “Easy” Beetles song may actually take a lot of work and contain chord changes that are not easy. Know what you can play, and look through the songs, especially before spending money.

By comparison to those early beginnings, I wanted to offer you a sense of my improvement. My newest video was so focused on the singing, lyrics and video, that the guitar playing was a bit lost in the shuffle. Nonetheless, here is a behind the scenes look at the playing behind the video:

And just for fun, here is a final rendition of Brown Eyed Girl. I can’t think of a better baseline comparision, since I started with this song:

My strumming isn’t great, since everyone in my household had gone to bed, and I was trying to play quietly and not belting it out like my usual self. However, I think it demonstrates that I now feel more comfortable changing chords.

And do you know what that means?? Bye bye Karaoke, hello guitar! If you have a song that you think I should add to my playlist, please comment below!

 

 

 

HELLO {digital} WORLD!

When I was in grade 7, our Math class had one computer in the corner of the room. It mostly collected dust, but a few times a year the students would have a turn “coding” – going through a progression of instructional cards that would “teach” us how to make the computer do things. BASIC was a good word for it, because it was so directed and specific, it wasn’t even fun! Honestly, it felt like a foreign language. But, I would take my turn, follow the directions, and couldn’t care less when I successfully produced “Hello World” or this one below… (do you get it?)

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Photo Credit: nichestitch via Compfight cc

Once the digital age exploded in the 90’s and 2000’s, I was actually good at coding. In 1995 my employer asked me if I could recreate a job search app using Microsoft Access 2.0 – by copying the database architecture of a similar DOS-based program. Through lots of trial and error, I did it! In later jobs, I continued to be “computer-savvy”, and I eventually learned HTML, CSS and SQL, along with hardware, many more software programs (apps) and networking. People used to ask me how a university degree in Music had led me to be in the IT field, to which I replied that Music is very logical and mathematical. In fact, over 2000 years ago music was known as one of the areas of Science. The fascination with music and its affect on our world is still alive today:

 

So why do I digress into music, when I started by discussing coding?

I recently read the article This is Why Kids Need to Learn How to Code, and the author concludes that teaching coding develops problem solving, (digital) confidence and understanding the impact any of us can have on the world. I would speculate that developing these skills has always been important, and that they are simply repurposed skills which have evolved into the digital framework that we now need them to function within. The benefits of learning an instrument, which used to be so important in school, is perhaps evolving into coding.

Now, I may get some backlash supporting the continuation of music programs. I absolutely appreciate music and believe that it, like learning an additional language, develops different, important parts of the brain. We do need these subjects in schools. Perhaps a better way to frame my proposal is that the connections between music, languages, science and coding, offer a variety of cross-curricular opportunities that can enhance learning for students.

The benefit of coding is that students love it! There are a variety of apps available that allow for exploratory, differentiated learning that can engage everyone in the classroom. I have used Hour of Code before, so today I played around with Scratch, and found the  interface, although complex, has tutorials to help students learn how to navigate the program and their code. At the same time, it is possible to just play around and discover on your own, while building on the skills that you do have.

Staying on my music theme, I started with an alternating drumbeat on counts 1 and 3 for 8 beats. Then I selected Singer1, recorded my voice singing C, D, and E notes, and assigned them to the computer keys 1, 2, and 3. Then I threw in a backup choir singing a G note, a cowbell and if I didn’t have a lawn to mow, I could have kept going! The tutorial was interactive and gave me tips that I needed as I progressed. This definitely would appeal to the creative student, while organically teaching them coding at their own rate.

Scratch screenshot

Although this is a far cry from my first “Hello World” program, much of the logic is the same. Teaching our students to code using programs like these, in whichever capacity engages them, can develop the transferable skills they will need to confidently problem solve in the evolving digital world.

From Barbie Girl to Booty Call

As I watched the CBC documentary,”Sexted Up Kids“, I wasn’t really surprised. I’ve lived through my own daughters growing up in the last 20 years and have seen changes in young girls evolving first hand. I remember feeling a little uncomfortable when the song Barbie Girl by Aqua came out in 1997 and 4-7 year old girls were dancing and singing to this song.

Full lyrics here: Aqua – Barbie Girl Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Hearing little girls sing the lyrics, “You can brush my hair, undress me everywhere” and “Kiss me here, touch me there, hanky panky” was more than a little unnerving! However, I think most parents shrugged it off by reasoning, “they don’t understand the meaning of the lyrics, so what’s the harm?” After all, many of us had given our own parents a similar argument for listening to controversial lyrics in the 80’s (for example, by Metal Bands like  Motley Crue). Just because we sang the words, it didn’t mean we agreed with the message or professed to do those acts!  So I see this acceptance of messages like “Barbie Girl” as the beginning of the KAGOY factor in marketing. The slippery slope of “age-appropriateness” changed the offline culture of pre-adolescent girls and set the stage for an troublesome collision with the soon-to-evolve online public presence.

Amira’s blog on this same documentary (and the Amanda Todd story), also highlights the increasingly blurred lines between our public and private lives. If you have never known any difference, it is easy to accept without question that this is the world we live in, but from my perspective, there are a few subtle, and not so subtle, changes. Consider some of the societal changes over the years caused by the evolution of technology:

  • In the 70’s, we had a rotary dial home phone, with no call display, and no call waiting. If you wanted to reach someone on the phone, you had to keep calling back every 10-20 minutes to see if the line was free. Now, cell phones allow us to be available 24/7 and with texting and messaging apps, we are expected to be always connected. Kids are programmed to be online, all the time. We used to say to wait a day before you mailed a letter, just in case you might regret it. Now comments are posted instantaneously. Patience and wait-time is disappearing.
  • Technology makes it super easy to share information – with the explosion of information on the web, we are now accustomed to sharing both the mundane along with the relevant. Everything is important enough to post! Pictures of meals, duck faces and dressing room outfits need validation through likes and comments to justify self-worth. Thoughtful consideration of what is shared online isn’t always evident.

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  • Porn used to be restricted to a couple of scrambled channels on our cable box. Most of the time the channel would be completely unwatchable and annoying, but occasionally we were ‘rewarded’ with a little peek of something remotely identifiable. Now there is a plethora of stimulation available online. I know many kids are playing M rated games with high sexual content as well as violence and profanity. It’s not just girls that are impacted by the KAGOY factor – boys are exposed to these messages, too. This is what I probably fear the most when I think about my own kids or my students navigating the internet.

 Photo Credit: Do u remember via Compfight cc

So how do we help students navigate and take ownership of this online world? As a teacher, I feel it’s important to talk and provide resources that are student-friendly. Here are some ideas:

  • Teach online and digital citizenship, including ethics and etiquette. Common Sense Media has an activity called Trillion Dollar Footprint, in which “students learn that they have a digital footprint, which can be searched, shared, and seen by a large, invisible audience. Students then learn that they can take some control over their digital footprint based on what they post online.”
  • Discuss how”online is forever.” Share various dilemmas and scenarios with students and give them the opportunity to brainstorm possible responses. This can give them some strategies for making responsible choices. One possible resource is Top Secret – a game by MediaSmarts.ca that teaches “students about the benefits and drawbacks of sharing information online.” This site has lesson plans on topics for all of the above issues and more!
  • Talk with students about relationships online. That’s Not Cool uses teen-friendly language to discuss cyber relationship do’s and don’ts and provide tools for teens, who can take a quiz on what’s Cool or Not Cool, and download memes to respond to online issues.

Finally, I recommend the blog https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/talking-about-sexting since a few of the resources above are listed, but there are many more ideas discussed there, including this Sexting Handbook. I know many of my #ECMP355 classmates were rightfully disturbed by these videos this week, and the best ammunition against fear is knowledge. All of us will be more equipped to discuss these issues in the classroom if we have resources at our fingertips!

So what do you think of the evolution from Barbie Girl to Booty Call? Do you have other tools and resources that you have used in the classroom? If so, please share them in the comments below!

When to say no to Twitter, in 140 chars or less

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Photo Credit: East Georgia State College via Compfight cc

So despite being a tech-friendly individual, I decided to consider the position of why, as a teacher, I would NOT use Twitter in my classroom. For another opposing view, head over to Amira’s blog. For a pro-Twitter point of view, you can read Fadzai’s blog.

First off, I will start by saying that to emphasize my 6 points, I have made them all 140 characters or less. I figure that if I cannot make a strong enough argument with this restriction, perhaps that will also support my position:

  1. Twitter reinforces bad grammar and spelling habits. They R vital 2 learn, & if Ss R trying to be brief, these skills go out the window.
  2. Face to face time is essential for Ss to learn communication, eye contact/body lang & conflict res. Offline skills impact online skills.
  3. Distractibility & multitasking are on the rise. Many Ss are unable to single task. Teaching singular focus is critical to productivity.
  4. Twitter can be hard to follow. Ss with different learning styles may find it frustrating or difficult.
  5. Some Ss may find Twitter is a popularity contest; focus on likes, retweets and replies. Can create divides, exclusion, or bullying of Ss.
  6. My 14 yo says Twitter (like Facebook) is old news. She doesn’t tweet. She uses Instagram, Snapchat, etc. So why force this tech on Ss?

So there you have it. While I am pro-technology, I am really thinking deeply about what makes a technology both relevant and purposeful. Surely the tech world is changing daily and there are bigger and brighter apps than Twitter on the horizon. If students are not using Twitter themselves anymore, why use it in the classroom?

The tech we introduce in the classroom cannot simply be an app we like, or “the flavour of the month”. This cannot be reason enough to use it. As a teacher, I wonder if there are other apps, or (gasp!) manipulatives, experiments and games that are better suited and engaging for teaching students. So while I started out this assignment as a Twitter supporter playing devil’s advocate, I actually have convinced myself that there are many other resources I prefer over Twitter. As much as I like it personally and professionally, my students’ learning needs must be at the centre of my teaching.

I look forward to reading my classmates’ responses to this blog. If you have any apps, games, experiments, or manipulatives that you wouldn’t teach without, please share them below!

 

 

 

 

Matthew Leupold, a work in progress

So my task this week was to cyber-sleuth a classmate, the lucky guy being Matthew Leupold! A simple Google search of “Matthew Leupold” brought up his Twitter handle and his blog. My guess is that these are the pages he updates most frequently.

In addition, Facebook generalized with a link to ALL the Matthew Leupold’s on the site. Being able to eliminate the others based on location (BC and Wisconsin were both out) and occupation (I wasn’t aware of Matt’s history as a Plumber or Drywall Hanger), I was no closer to finding a link to the Matt I was looking for, since his name is different on Facebook. If I wasn’t already friends with him, I would be hard-pressed to find him on Facebook.

When I searched ‘Matthew Leupold’ without quotes, I had to sift through the tennis player in California and the weight lifter in Akron, Ohio. That seems tedious, so I added double quotation marks around his name, along with Regina. The results were MUCH more likely to be our Matt, and in fact, mostly Education-related  as well. Same thing in Bing – matthew leupold without quotes returned a billion optical scopes – for rifles, I think. Add in the quotes and Regina, and you get a much better picture of our Matt!

Matthew Leupold… without quotes.  A Leupold scope, I presume!

matt leupold scopes

 

‘ “Matthew Leupold” Regina’ search… Much better!

Matt Leupold

As far as Matt’s academic career, there were a few discoveries I was able to glean from the internet:

  • He graduated from Luther High School in 2007
  • His fall 2014 placement for ECS 100 was at St. Bernadette School
  • in 2015, Matt uploaded a cool video reflection for ECS 302 on his YouTube Channel
  • He was recognized by the Faculty of Ed on April 6, 2016 for his achievements in the program.

And I can also share a fun fact about Matt:

  • In 2011, Matt played hockey in an adult rec league for the “Keg Sparkens” team. The player stats show that Matt scored 5 goals and 1 assist that season. I am guessing that was while he was employed at The Keg.

Overall, I found that Matt’s online presence is mostly about Education – through Twitter, his blog, and I can confirm that he attended U of R. I don’t think Matt has anything to worry about if his students, or a potential employer, want to dredge up his past.

 

 

Striking a pose, and a chord

So the #learningproject I decided to tackle is playing the guitar. I decided to dress the part, because as Edith Head said:

So I am dressing for it, at least today!

I am finding that there are many other skills I need to learn in order to document my learning! Just in preparing to learn, I needed to get really familiar with the Screencastify extension for Chrome… and found out that I can do tab, desktop AND cam recordings!  I recorded the video below all at one time, but I am not sure what I will do if I want to combine bits of video together or add voice overs afterwards.

I also needed a place to upload my videos to, since I have never uploaded videos online. During my pre-internship, April Hoffman and I recorded video reflections, like this one after “Wacky Wednesday” at our school. We just used April’s channel. Therefore, step two to produce this video was creating my own YouTube channel.

Lastly, I managed to upload my video to my YouTube channel, and edit the title and description. I even changed the video thumbnail photo using YouTube Video Manager and found all kinds of other things I could edit! Despite our course title, I was not expecting to have so many types of technology to catch up on in order to learn something that’s not technological! Also, I came into this thinking I was pretty tech-savvy. Even for an online learning project, there is a lot more to it than just googling resources!

So without further ado, here is my first video. You may have seen that I can “strike a pose”, but you will have to watch the video to witness my first chord.

 

Stay ‘tuned’ for more of my learning reflections, and please comment if you have any suggestions for me on the guitar learning. Oh heck, even the wardrobe is fair game.