My First Experiences in Second Life

A while back, I posted a tweet on my Twitter after reading some posts by other educators who use Second Life. I immediately heard back from @msgregson

…I was convinced right away. I really didn’t need that much convincing anyway, but it was just the push that I needed to give it a try. I had been seeing lots of folks in my PLN talking about SL and their educational experiences with it, and it sounded really interesting to me. So, I downloaded the software, created my avatar and started exploring.

So far, every person that I have met in SL has been incredibly helpful, encouraging, and kind. I am grateful to @msgregson for encouraging me to do it, and especially grateful to @ejulez for basically being my SL mentor!

I have only been on SL for a few weeks now, and every day I am pleasantly surprised with all of the opportunities that exist there. I know there is probably even more that I do

Me in Second Life as Cosmo Lanley

n’t even know about. I am excited about the possibilities for learning!

I think the most exciting part for me is that I get to meet new people almost every day. And, most of those people are other educators from around the world. It is so wonderful to sit in the comfort of my pj’s and slippers and have great conversations about education, attend a virtual conference or presentation, or just hang out and have fun playing games, or even dancing (something I rarely do in real life)!

A while back I wrote a post about how I thought Twitter was helping me to become a more social person. Second Life has fostered that growth even more. I have to admit that I was even a little shy about interacting with folks in Second Life at first, but now I say hello to everyone I meet without hesitation. And, part of the reason that I am so comfortable with that is because of the genuine kindness of everyone that I’ve met.

My SL mentor, Julie Sugarplum has written a great post about her experiences with Second Life, and I couldn’t agree more with her. Julie sums up one of the best things about SL to me, “The networking alone is something no one should want to pass up and in my opinion is a more effective method of networking than the real world (inexpensive, less time consuming and you can do it in your jammies and fuzzy slippers).”  If you are an educator using Second Life in any way, or if you are interested in getting into it, please share your thoughts and comments! And, if you are already a SLer, please look me up!

A Student’s Thoughts on Wikipedia

wikipedia-logoWhat follows is an article a student of mine wrote in the school newspaper. This echoes my feelings on Wikipedia and how it is viewed in education.

This school is giving Wikipedia a bad name. As a small child in ninth grade, I was convinced that the online self-edit encyclopedia was a bad website for information, because my research paper teacher told us so. For two years after, I had it worked out in my head that Wikipedia was the center of all lies. As it turns out, this is not true. That’s right, every teacher’s nightmare is about to come true because the truth is about to be exposed. Go onto any Wikipedia page and look near the bottom, you may notice the links citing information. Now call me crazy, but I don’t think if people were lying they would go so far as to make up a link with more false information. The biggest discovery happened over the summer. I was with my older sister and our neighbor changing around some Wikipedia pages for fun, because there was nothing else to do. For example, the best change was my sister taking the biography from Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara and pasting it into a new political beliefs section on the page for the popular television family, The Brady Bunch. After looking at the page again, the change was taken down within less than a minute. You see, the people at Wikipedia are really on top of their game, they know what they’re doing. Stop blocking that site and block stuff Amazon.com, as site where people can buy stuff from the computer lab.

Fostering Musicality and Creativity in Rehearsal

150301737_3776586bbc_oEver since I started teaching music, I have wanted to teach my students how to play musically and creatively. I have always wanted my students to play with emotion and feeling. However, these are pretty advanced concepts that I think are pretty difficult for many young students to grasp, even in senior high. I think a lot of this stems from years and years of directors telling students how to play musically and expressively and dictating emotions to them. They have not been encouraged to make musical choices on their own.  I don’t think this is something that you can explain. Anyway, I came up with an interesting idea “on the fly” today during my senior high concert band rehearsal, and the results were exciting!

First, I had put the students in a circle (we only have about 15 winds) in order to work on our listening skills for a previous piece. Then we began rehearsing Grainger’s “Ye Banks and Braes ‘O Bonnie Doon”. The students actually did a really good job with ensemble pulse and I didn’t conduct time, just phrases. But, what I really wanted them to do was play expressively. What inevitably happens is that while they play in time together, in tune, and with a really nice blend, it is almost always the same dynamic level with little or no expression.

So I told them that they were going to go out of their comfort zone a little. I told them that in the next section, I wanted them to play with expression wherever they thought it was appropriate. I told them that no matter what they did, it couldn’t be wrong, and that they should do whatever they felt was right. I stepped out of the circle, because I didn’t want my conducting or gestures or anything from me to influence the way they played at all. I sat outside the circle and just listened.

Then, really exciting things started to happen. I heard a little dynamic change…I could tell a few of the students were really trying to play with some expression and dynamics. So then I asked them to do it again, except this time to make what they were doing more obvious to the audience, which was me. As I have told them many times, in order for dynamic contrast to be evident to the listener, it must sound almost extreme to the player. So, they played it again…and I about fell out of my chair!!

Here were a group of students that I have been trying for years to get to play expressively doing it right in front of me! The best part was that they were making these decisions completely on their own! I had absolutely nothing to do with it. I sat and listened as my students played more maturely than I have ever heard them.  They were making musical decisions on their own that were not only appropriate, but beautiful as well! I could even tell that as some students made some musical choices, it influenced the rest of the group, too! It was so exciting!

When we got to the final fermatta, I told the student to fade into nothing, after holding the chord for at least 8 counts. Guess what? It was probably the best release they have ever played!!

Why did they play so well today? I took my conducting and gesturing out of the equation. I allowed them to make musical choices on their own without my influence. I think that if I want my students to make appropriate musical choices, then I have to allow them to do it on their own, without my influence. How exciting!!