Category Archives: music

RL? SL? Isn’t It All L?

One of the themes that came out of last week’s online course discussion about Web 2.0 was a sense that if you had an active online life, you didn’t have such an active offline life. Some students indicated that they didn’t spend much time online as they did other things and had other hobbies. They are the kinds of comments that I am already familiar with from others who seem to feel like there is a stark dividing line between the online and offline worlds and also seem to feel a little sorry sometimes for those of us who are online a lot.

I find that to be an artificial division, probably because I am online a lot and I don’t like the idea of being judged for that choice. I assure folks that I also have quite an active offline life that includes singing in a choir and playing in a recorder ensemble, making crafts, cooking, exercising, and reading lots and lots of analog books. And, in almost all cases, the online world informs those offline hobbies. Just last night, I looked on the web for a recording of a Medieval French song that I will be singing with the group to help me with both my pronunciation and rhythm. I belong to a Ning for recorder players that includes members from all over the world. The pattern for the baby sweater I’m crocheting came from the Web and I’ll be sending it to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation whose real life need was advertised on the Web. The digital books I listen to when I exercise come from a variety of sources online and are often chosen based on the recommendations of other readers. I share and discuss my digital and analog reading with both a face to face book group and several at LibraryThing. And Monday evening last I met with a group of educators in Second Life–at the Jamestown Fort meeting house on VSTE Island–to hear from author Elisa Carbone about her real life writing.

My conclusion: My offline life would simply not be as rich without my online life. They complement each other and are inextricably woven together into one life. Perhaps I should feel sorry for those who haven’t found that connection. Or perhaps we can recognize that we all have different ways of living, both online and off, and just leave it at that.

A Little Freedom and Personal Space, Is That So Bad?

I finally got a free minute to look at my “unread” list in Diigo and found this article from a 9th grade teacher in which she describes experimenting with allowing her students to listen to their PEDs* during independent work time. I’ll admit to some qualms about it as I imagined each kid in her own little world, pacified by music, while she works.  But, the writer made a good argument for how it helped some of her students focus in a way they had trouble with otherwise.  She was also using it as an incentive for the students and has developed some classroom management rules around the practice:

Only one ear bud allowed, during independent work only, as a privilege that could easily be revoked if I decided a student wasn’t working diligently enough. I thought it would be a one-time incidence of rule tweaking, but it worked so effectively that it became a Friday ritual that we all looked forward to. I appreciated the tranquil environment and productivity of my students during a time that could easily be lost to early weekend syndrome; my students simply enjoyed listening to their music.

Of course, you can probably  guess the end of the story.  When she went to a veteran teacher for advice about her Friday experiment, she was told that it was against the rules, mostly out of concern about what they might be listening to.  So, she stopped the practice and lost something in her classroom:

The death of iPod Fridays saddens me. I’ve had to return to the old management standbys: cajoling and threatening. I’ve tried other rewards (granola bar, anyone?), but none hold the same allure that just thirty minutes of the freedom to listen to the music of one’s choice did. And ironically, without this music, Fridays haven’t been as quiet since.

It was her comment about the allure of the thirty minutes of freedom that really hit home for me.  This was a simple way to give kids some personal space and allow them to make some choices about how they learn best.  She did not require that they listen to PEDs but allowed them to if they wished.

The comments to the piece are interesting.  They range from supportive to dismissive. One commenter provides links to research related to using music.  Another describes using PEDs successfully in an alternative setting.  Yet another gets at my original qualms, calling PEDs “pacifiers.”  Finally, another makes what I think is an essential comment:  “Unfortunately the administration felt it more important to enforce the ‘no electronic device’ policy rather than encourage success in the classroom.”  While I know that it’s hard to make any definitive statements about education, it seems to me that we are coming to recognize that everyone works and learn differently. So, zero tolerance policies, especially about something that might impact instruction, just don’t make any sense to me.    If I reflect on my own use of media, I know that I enjoy listening to music when I am working but not always.  Sometimes, especially when I am doing academic writing, I like the silence. But when I’m doing flash programming, I prefer watching videos as they seem to entertain some part of my brain that otherwise might distract me.  Being able to choose is important to me and it seems an easy compromise to make with our students as well.

A little freedom and personal space, is that so bad?

*Personal Electronic Devices

Dropping Acid and Rolling in the Mud

So, I can’t get that image from my mind.  I listened to most of Tom Brokaw’s book about the sixties and he conveyed the sense of the world changing, of new freedom and power for people who hadn’t had them before.  Is that what the snow day video is all about: young people asserting new freedom and power, this time through a technology that allows them to bypass the “usual channels.”  I would argue this might be a healthier version of dropping acid and rolling in the mud.

Saturday is get organized and clean something day at my house so I’m going to make this short.  I finished the outline for my 21st Century Assessment presentation.   I’m going to start with the whole snow day thing.  Maybe I’m making too big a deal out of it, but it just seems to hint at what we really mean when we talk about 21st century skills.  This is more than manipulating the technology: there’s a creativity there, enhanced by access to the tech.  In the outline, I embedded one of the video responses that is a suggested reading list for the woman.  It’s very funny: again, it’s about the creativity rather than the technology.

As we worked in the office this morning, we listened to Alan Parsons Project.  Started with Eye in the Sky and then moved to Tales of Mystery and Imagination, which is based on the stories of Edgar Allan Poe.  One of my favorites.  And it occurred to me that Parsons’ take on Poe represents a great example of what I would think of as a 21st century assessment.  He interpreted the stories both lyrically and musically, demonstrating his understanding of the stories but also using them to build his own knowledge.