One of my biggest challenges in learning how to play jazz music has been figuring out how to practice. With classical music, my practice has always been very “prescribed” – technical warm ups and practice, followed by working on specific pieces. This might include hands separate practice, slow metronome work and focusing on small sections. In fact, it was very rare that I would do a full run through of a piece because it was not an efficient use of my practice time. With my jazz learning project, I feel like I am always jumping to the “full run through” phase without taking the time to build a solid foundation. Looks like I need to take my own advice! This week I tried slowing down and focusing on some of the fundamental aspects of crafting a solo. My recap this week highlights that I have a long way to go!
What I worked on:
Started practicing how to solo (improvise) over “Autumn Leaves”.
Scales, scales and more scales!
I found a few great resources that help me understand why you choose particular scales to create your solos. It was a nice connection to my previous scale practice from studying classical music.
I underestimated the amount of practice needed to incorporate these news scales in my soloing – I need more time.
I felt very “stiff” – afraid of playing the “wrong note”. I need to loosen up!
For the purpose of our class, we discussed activism through social media and were asked to consider the following questions:
Can online social activism be meaningful and worthwhile? Is is possible to have productive conversations about social justice online? What is our responsibility as educators to model active citizenship online?
What is social media activism?
“Social media activism is essentially using the platform of an online forum to lead or support a cause. It’s activism behind a screen.” (The Journal – Queen’s University)
“Bringing change or awareness about a cause through the use of social media, by posting or sharing ones thought about a particular event or issue.” (Life of Anna)
These definitions are very basic, but “social media activism” is somewhat self-explanatory – it is activism using social media. It could be liking or sharing a post on Facebook or using a hashtag in online posts to bring awareness to a particular issue. If you use social media, you have probably viewed or participated in hashtag activism:
You may have added a filter to your Facebook profile picture to temporarily support a cause. Or clicked the retweet button to raise awareness while drinking your morning coffee. The question we must ask ourselves is if social media activism is meaningful and worthwhile and looking at the positive and negatives is one way to explore the answer.
Pros of Social Media Activism
“Successful maneuvering of social media platforms creates significant changes in society through the impact of an individual who cultivates awareness and makes knowledge accessible to millions.” Human Rights Education Research Outreach
Allow marginalized groups to express their views freely
Using the power of networks, “online activism allows activists to organize events with high levels of engagement, focus and network strength” (The Conversation). The ability to share, like and retweet instantly allows movements and causes to gain traction very quickly and draw in a large audience. For example, when a tragic events occur, vigils are planned, shared and attended in a short time frame, all thanks to social media. Larger events are organized in locations all over the world through hashtags and social media posts.
Finally, the good, badly and ugly part of the Internet is that you can post and support whatever you want at any time. A positive example is that people all over the world can be part of Pride festivals, even if they are unable to attend in person.
“One of the greatest things about social media is the platform it can give to otherwise isolated and marginalized people. Entire communities have developed and grown together over social media, and this has exponentially strengthened many activism campaigns. Social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter allow people to organize events and communicate on a medium that is accessible to anybody who has an email address, internet, and some kind of connectable device. This vastly increases potential audience size, and ultimately increases the possible effect that these campaigns can have on policies, politics, and everyday life.” The Power of Social Media in Modern Activism
Cons of Social Media Activism
“The ease with which current social movements form often fails to signal an organizing capacity powerful enough to threaten those in authority.” Zeynep Tufekci
Unfortunately, social media activism has drawbacks:
A 2014 Maclean’s article explains that a “slacktivist is someone who believes it is more important to be seen to help than to actually help. He will wear a T-shirt to raise awareness. She will wear a wristband to demonstrate support, sign a petition to add her voice, share a video to spread the message, even pour a bucket of ice over her head.” All of this takes place instead of offering time or money which could truly help a cause.
My classmate Brooke dives into a deep discussion of #slacktivism and a few articles that explain and criticize the movement. She included this image (shared in class by Dr. Couros) that highlights the problem with #slacktivism.
“If our desire for social change extends beyond the resolution of a single issue, we need to close our laptops, turn off our phones, and spend time in the presence of others.” – The Walrus
With the ease of liking and sharing posts or adding a hashtag, it is inevitable that the wrong information will be passed along. #FakeNews is a perfect example of deliberately sharing misinformation, which was particularly problematic during the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. #Kony2012 is another example of a movement that exploded on social media without really understanding the true facts. Social media activism has the potential to raise awareness, spread a message quickly and help grow a movement. But it is important to not disregard the power of slow-growing, face-to-face, grassroots organization. Wael Ghonim (an Internet activist that helped organize the social media campaign during the #ArabSpring) discusses challenges facing social media today and how it can be used to promote real change:
Is it possible to have conversations of social justice online?
Before we can have conversations about social justice online, I think it is important to discuss the concept of a digital citizen and to understand three different ideas of citizenship as discussed by Westheimer and Kahne in the article, “What Kind of Citizen“.
Participatory – actively participates
Personally Responsible – acts responsibly in their community
“digital citizenship asks us to consider how we act as members of a network of people that includes both our next-door neighbours and individuals on the other side of the planet and requires an awareness of the ways in which technology mediates our participation in this network.”
With this knowledge, we are able to explore the possibilities of using social media to talk about social justice issues online. Below, I have shared Brooke’s (she made some excellent points in her post this week!) example of how each type of citizen may participate, using the food bank as an example:
The participatory citizen might create an online fundraiser, like a GoFundMe page, where people can donate to the food bank and use their social media page to highlight some of the issues related to perceived injustices regarding food security. They may also decide to volunteer at the food bank.
The justice-oriented citizen might use their social media page to share potentially controversial articles, and viewpoints which spark discussion about the root causes of food security, inviting others to join the discussion and organizing followers to contribute to participating in working towards social change in online and offline spaces.
The conversations about social justice can happen online, but they are more effective when they are rooted in offline organizational efforts. Another point is that online discussions should take place with the intent to promote change or raise awareness, rather than use the post for personal gratification (for example, getting lots of likes or shares). But how do we teach our students to use social media to have meaningful conversations about social justice issues online?
As educators teaching students who only know a world with social media, we should:
Teach students how to use social media for positive change
In Spring 2018, I participated in a joint Regina Public Schools/Regina Catholic Schools project called #YQRActivistArt. The project involved bringing the Landfill Harmonic Orchestra to Regina with an opportunity for our students to see the group perform live. To participate in the project, you had to commit to producing an art project in response to a social issue. Through planning and collaboration with other classes, our students chose social issues they wanted to explore and created an art piece to raise awareness about the issue. Every school did something different, and my students presented their projects in a school wide gallery opening:
The reason I share this story is because of the importance of teaching activism in schools. My students were engaged, motivated and excited to spread awareness and it allowed us to have conversations about meaningful and worthwhile ways to share information about different social issues. The guide, “Facilitating Activist Education” explains by teaching about activism, students may become “engaged citizen-activists – people who see themselves as capable of affecting positive change for social and ecological justice”.
By starting with offline activism experiences for our students, we can then move online with confidence.
Hildebrandt explains that by participating in social media activism, we take a few things for granted, like access to educational tools, computers and the Internet. With this privilege, she adds that “we have a responsibility to risk our privilege to give voice to social inequities and injustices. We have a responsibility to risk our privilege to give voice to those who have no privilege to risk.” Furthermore, as educators we have the responsibility to teach our students about this privilege. Wasting our time with #slacktivism is not an option because we have the power and ability to promote real change with our access to edtech tools and social media to support these efforts.
Finally, Yes Magazine shares four tips for using social media activism:
Take advantage of interactive activism opportunities in online communities
Make sure your activism is accessible and inclusive
Remember that small steps are critical to getting the work
Share the work that other activists are doing
To engage our students, we need to provide relevant tools and information to “speak their language” (using social media and edtech). Through conversations of digital citizenship and offline activism, we have the ability (and responsibility) to mold the next generation as informed and compassionate citizens who care about social justice issues. Let’s use social media to make the conversation relevant for our youth.
“Social media activism is great for so many reasons: It is more widely accessible, it gets conversations started, it sustains momentum, and it helps empower people who may have never thought of themselves as activists.” – Yes Magazine
As we near the end of our learning projects, I started working on my final goal piece, the jazz standard “Autumn Leaves“. This has always been one of my favourites and my earliest introduction to jazz music. After a little bit of analysis, I found that it follows the simple 2-5-1 chord progression I started working on at the beginning of my learning project.
I love that I can start transferring my new skills to different pieces! Here is my progress this week:
This week was all about rootless voicings on the piano. I carried on with my work on ‘Misty’ from last week and tried a different style of comping. I originally planned on introducing another song this week, but I found the rootless voicings to be challenging and require more time. I tried figuring out the voicings in my head at the piano, but it was too much to think about. So I decided to break it down by going back to the theory basics and writing out each chord, determining the root, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 13th. Then, I wrote out the chords transitions so that there would be nice voice leading and common tones between the chords.
A side note about voice leading: I studied a lot of Bach chorales in my first and second year of music school, with the goal of understanding proper voice leading. There are lots of “rules” with voice leading, but they help with problems like:
“smoothness, independence and integrity or melodic lines, tonal fusion (the preference for simultaneous notes to form a consonant unity), variety, motion (towards a goal)” – Open Music Theory
Open Music Theory is an open source textbook (open educational resource). Cool!
In short, good voice leading makes music sound pleasing to the human ear! I really like the end result of my progress this week:
rootless chord voicings – figuring out which notes to play and using good voice leading
Starting to incorporate good voice leading
Overlaying multiple videos in my vlog
I had to write out the chords this week (instead of figuring out the chords in my head). Although not my original plan, it allowed me to really understand the theoretical sides of rootless chords and good voice leading.
This week in EC&I 831, we were fortunate to have a guest presenter, Dr. Verena Roberts, speak to us about Open Educational Practice (OEP) and examples in a K-12 educational setting. Prior to this class, my knowledge and exposure to OEP was very limited, as well as my understanding of the concept in general. I am going to explore:
what is open educational practice?
what are the pros/cons of OEP?
what should OEP look like in an elementary (primary grades) school context?
What is Open Educational Practice?
First, let’s consider Dr. Roberts’ very thorough definition:
Open educational practices (OEP) in K-12 learning contexts can describe an intentional design that expands learning opportunities for all learners from formal to informal learning environments. Individualized open readiness can be demonstrated contextually, as a result of teachers and students co-designing for personally relevant learning pathways where learners can collaboratively and individually share their learning experiences, that encourages communication of meaning through multiliteracies, that blends curriculum and competencies and that promotes community and networked interactions with other learners and nodes of learning from multiple cultural perspectives in digital and analog contexts (Roberts, 2019).
In Dr. Roberts’ presentation, she highlighted a few key elements in her definition: intentional design; expands learning opportunities; and formal to informal learning environments. Open educational practices focus on the process over product and the idea that learning happens everywhere. Furthermore, she discussed the importance of collaborative opportunities to create meaningful learning experiences that are personally relevant. Finally, learning takes place in a community of networked learners blending curriculum and competencies.
To try and wrap my head around OEP, I did some more research to understand the goal of OEP. Luckily OER Commons provided a specific definition:
The goal of Open Educational Practice (OEP) is to build the knowledge, skills, and behaviors that support and improve teaching and learning. Using open educational resources (OER) presents unique affordances for educators, as the use of OER is an invitation to adapt, personalize, and add relevancy to materials that inspire and encourage deeper learning in the classroom and across institutions. –OER Commons
This definition highlights how OEP can support teaching (as well as learning) and allow educators to differentiate open educational resources (OER) for their diverse student needs. The key factor here is that by adapting material, teachers are able to provide relevancy that will allow for quality learning experiences.
Although this is not a review of a specific Open Educational Resource, I found OER Commons to be very useful in my perusal of OEP. In particular, there is the ‘OER Commons Virtual Academy’ with a series a modules to help “advance your open educational practice”. I recommend checking this area out if you are not sure where to start or are new to OEP.
A few pros of OEP:
ability to adapt material for relevant learning experiences
collaborative learning opportunities
high engagement among students
These are only a few of the positives of OEP, but they resonated with me as the focus is put on the learning experience of the student. This relates back to Dr. Roberts’ explaining a flipped learning environment – from formal learning to informal environments as a way to engage students and focus on the process rather than the product. Teachers are able to design learning opportunities with students using open educational resources. BC Campus Open Ed states:
When you use open pedagogy in your classroom, you are inviting your students to be part of the teaching process, participating in the co-creation of knowledge.
The idea of co-creating knowledge with your students sounds fulfilling and dreamy. But also challenging in a practical sense, which leads me to some potential drawbacks of OEP.
A few cons ofOEP:
learning curve for teachers to understand how to use OEP with students
limitations in certain classroom settings (ex. primary students vs. high school students)
In a small group class discussion, we talked about how exciting and meaningful these kinds of learning experiences would be with our students, but that the thought of using an OEP was a little daunting. It feels like it would be a lot of effort to get set up using OEP with our students, and as Loreli mentioned, teachers may not have adequate time to find good open educational resources. Teachers need to be very invested and see the potential benefits in order to take the time to learn and implement OEP. Furthermore, it appears to be difficult to find resources appropriate for primary students compared to the vast array available for middle years and higher students.
But, luckily Dr. Roberts introduced our class to her framework, Open Learning Design Interventions (OLDI) to facilitate this process.
What should OEP look like in an elementary (primary grades) school context?
OLDI (Roberts, 2019) takes place in four stages:
Co-Designing Learning Pathways
Building & Sharing Knowledge
Building Personal Learning Networks (PLNs)
Using this framework, teachers can begin the process of incorporating OEP in their classroom. Dr. Roberts also explains that younger learners (up to age 11) experience a “Teacher-Led Walled Garden of Open Exploration”. This means the teacher helps provide different experiences for their students through inquiry-based learning opportunities. Some examples that could work for primary grades include: Skype in the Classroom, LiveArts Saskatchewan broadcasts and PenPal Schools.
Amanda tweeted asking her followers this question:
Elementary Teachers- What are some ways you use Open Educational Practices in the primary classroom? I’m on the hunt to find some good examples! I’m still learning about it, so I would love to hear about your experiences and have your input! Please RT. #firstname.lastname@example.org/VdF6HhGUvf
Including the image in her tweet helped show educators that they may already be using open educational practices without realizing it! Amanda has some great ideas of how to use OEP in the primary classroom.
While this is by no means an exhaustive look at OEP, it is a start and will hopefully encourage you to learn more about how you can include open educational resources in your teaching practice. We have to remember that our roles as educators are shifting to teaching students how to access, assess and apply knowledge by allowing creative learning opportunities. OEP is great direction to move towards if we want to continue to engage our students with personal, collaborative and meaningful learning opportunities.
I think we have reached the halfway point in our learning projects! I feel like I am developing more independence in my jazz playing skills (for example, I can just sit down at the piano and experiment – get this – WITHOUT SHEET MUSIC!). Last week was all about reading a lead sheet and this week I focused on the art of comping. In a jazz group rhythm section, there is usually a bass player (responsible for the root of the chords), drums (rhythmic accompaniment) and piano/guitar to fill in the chord harmonies. Comping is essentially accompanying a soloist in an interesting way. Here is my progress with comping so far:
What I worked on:
Practicing the chords for “Misty” (focus on playing the root, 3rd and 7th notes)
Experimenting with different comping patterns for “Misty”. I learned about 3 different styles: walking bass, open voicings, rootless voicings. I chose open voicings this week.
I felt like I was able to use my creative side and experiment with different comping rhythms and voicings. It was fun!
Feeling hesitant with my chord voicing choices and concerned with playing the “wrong” notes. As soon as I relaxed, it felt a lot easier.
Next week I plan to continue experimenting with different comping styles (different rhythm patterns and rootless voicings) and try out a different jazz standard. I think am ready to start jamming with other musicians – any takers?? 🙂
This week I tackled how to read a lead sheet (or fake sheet) in jazz piano. Basically a lead sheet has a melody line and chord symbols – the musician is expected to fill out the rest (using their understanding of the style of music and the type of accompaniment required). This is where my classical background and key knowledge was very helpful, since I already know how to read chord symbols and translate this to the piano. But the challenge this week was to read a lead sheet like a real jazz musician – incorporate 3rds and 7ths in the voicings and always make sure the melody note is the played “on top” in the right hand. Hopefully my vlog this week explains my process with a jazz standard, “Misty”.
**Note – in a jazz group, there is a “rhythm section“. This usually includes piano (and guitar), drums and bass. The bass in responsible for playing the “root” of the chords, so the pianist usually omits the root of the chord when playing. Since I don’t have a rhythm section, I have included the root of the chords in my version!
What I worked on:
Analyzing and reading the lead sheet for the jazz standard, “Misty”
Used the 2-5-1 exercise and C Blues as a warm up
I felt very invested in my learning project this week because I realized how much I enjoy the analytical side of music. Figuring out the chord voicings in my head was tough but rewarding!
Stayed on track with my practice plan this week. Short and frequent sessions as suggested by my classmates.
I hope you enjoyed watching what I mean by “classical fake jazz playing” and learning to read a lead sheet. I am looking forward to pulling out my “Real Books” (massive collections of jazz standard lead sheets) and putting my new skills to work. Next week I would like to try another style of Blues (perhaps with a walking bass line) and start looking at comping patterns in the left hand.
In our EC&I 831 class this week, we began a discussion of open education and the culture of sharing. The term “open education” is something I have heard many times, but I have never taken the time to really understand the concept or what it means for educators and learners.
“The idea of free and open sharing in education is not new. In fact, sharing is probably the most basic characteristic of education: education is sharing knowledge, insights and information with others, upon which new knowledge, skills, ideas and understanding can be built.” – via OpenEducationWeek.org
The quote above suggests that sharing in education has always taken place. We share with our colleagues during breaks in the staff room, lending hard-copy books and resources, professional development sessions and more recently (in the last decade), through online platforms. My classmate Amy points to a great summary of open education through Tony Bates’ blog post, “What do we mean by ‘open’ in education?”. Furthermore, Bates’ explains that “open learning must be scalable as well as flexible” because in an ideal world, “no-one should be denied access to an open educational program”. This is the part that makes open education exciting to me as the opportunities to share and collaborate are endless.
A unique aspect of OERs is that the creators “waive some (if not all) of the copyright associated with their works, typically via legal tools like Creative Commons licenses, so others can freely access, reuse, translate, and modify them” (“What are open educational resources”). I think this is the part where I start to get a little overwhelmed and confused about what is considered fair dealing for educational purposes.
For example, in my division we have professional development groups called a “Community of Practice” (CofP), which are self-selected groups of educators with similar interests. A couple of years ago I partnered with another colleague to create a CofP specifically for arts education teachers in French immersion schools. We felt that there was a lack of resources for this particular area of arts education. We developed a shared Google folder, Pinterest page, YouTube playlist, etc. But, things started to get a little bit “icky” when people considered scanning in songs from hard copy books into our shared folder.
Was this okay? Since we were using it for “educational purposes” and not sharing it beyond our group, did it fit into the fair dealing rules? Correct me if I am wrong, but I think that because the original resource was not created as an OER, it still had traditional copyright rules. If someone created a collection of French songs through OER Commons, then we would definitely be able to share the work using the 5 R’s of Open Education.
In my own practice, I have created unit and lesson plans for arts education and shared this folder with other teachers. If the resource is an OER, I include it directly in the folder. Otherwise, I simply include a resource list to make sure I am complying with copyright guidelines. This folder was created for me as a place to store my resources, but I made it a shared folder because, why not! I think it is important that we share ideas among educators and stop reinventing the wheel. Plus, sometimes I get other resources shared back in return!
As a side note, for anyone who was in band or choir in elementary and high school, did you ever receive photocopies of music? Entire scores copied for hundreds of students? This definitely does not fall under the “short excerpt” fair dealing guideline. A conversation about musical score availability online is a whole other world, but I will say that a simple Google search with “(title) pdf free” will pull up just about any piece of music you want. That is why I rely on websites like MusicNotes to make sure I am using authorized music either personally or with students. Other sites like Scribd also have musical scores, but often they look like scans of hard copy books.
As we begin to scratch the surface with the endless possibilities of open education, we should bring the focus to “Why Open Education Matters”. I love this video from our class since it is short and sweet and highlights how open education helps remove barriers that prevent students from high quality education. Students and teachers can have access to updated resources online.
Wow. What. A. Week. I know distractions are a part of life, but this week was something else. First we had (multiple) Thanksgiving dinners, followed by a teething baby who wouldn’t nap then a stomach bug that knocked our household out flat for 3 days. My classmate Melinda talks about her challenges with learning piano, like getting her own keyboard to practice. It just goes to show that everyone has different struggles and we are all working towards our own goals!
Unfortunately I didn’t complete all my goals for practice this week. But, I managed to squeeze in short daily practice sessions and learn at least one new skill. My vlog recap will give you a snapshot into my practice attempts this week!
After getting bored with the basic blues scale practice (mostly the shuffle pattern in the left hand), I googled “blues shuffles pattern piano” and came across this video:
I was so happy to see that it was:
less than 5 minutes long
a simple lesson with an outline (and part of a series, so potential for further learning)
included music notation (sheet music)
Yes, I know my goal was to stay away from sheet music and focus on learning by ear, but I couldn’t resist. I realized that I am very much a visual learner, and I was feeling frustrated by trying to learn only by ear. But, trying to stay true to my goal, I decided to make a compromise. I used the sheet music for a brief moment to initially understand the pattern and voicings in the right hand.
LH = play the root and 5th of the chord
RH = play the 3rd and root of the chord (in that voicing)
From there, I was able to use audio only to figure out the pattern in each hand and easily put the whole lesson together. Overall, I really enjoyed this practice because it felt like I understood the pattern and form. I could easily learn this arrangement in another key, which helps explain why you can’t just rely on reading sheet music – you have to really understand what you are playing so you can transfer the skills to other keys.
What I worked on:
Reviewed C Blues scale with shuffle pattern in LH
Learned a C Blues scale lick with a new shuffle pattern in both RH and LH
I learned something new (C Blues lick) despite the chaos this week
Starting to feel very comfortable with the Blues form and scale
Found a good YouTube channel that may be helpful for future Blues practice.
Only accomplished one of my goals this week (Blues scale) and didn’t do a lot of work on the 2-5-1 progression
This week I plan to tackle the lead sheet and learn how to read it like a real jazz musician. I am also excited by the David Magyel YouTube channel, so I will try another lesson. After the half-way point in our learning project, it will be useful to evaluate our progress. Maybe it will mean changing our end goals? What are your plans to reflect on your learning so far?