Our learning project and class assignments encouraged the use of OER and the Creative Commons which led us to be more inclined to share our work with others.
And as nebulous as OE and connectivist practices can be, much of what we learned about this practice can be found in the way this course was taught (participatory tech, contextually-based, formal/informal learning, co-designing learning, collaboration, sharing, reflection).
My professor demonstrated ways in which he participates in social justice actions using social media mainly using Twitter as a means to approach controversial topics.
Our assessment asked us to reflect on our learning, connecting and collaborating in true OEP fashion.
Finally, my opinion about face-to-face learning has changed a lot. Nearly all of the benefits of face-to-face learning can be achieved in the online learning space of #eci831. This is something I didn’t previously believe to be true.
At first I attempted to make my Summary of Learning using WeVideo and this project exposed the limitations of both WeVideo and iMovie. Ultimately, I decided to go with iMovie because it allowed me to customize the speed of my video which was important for this particular project.
Here is my in-home set up for filming the video. I later added precautionary pillows on and around the table in case my precariously perched iPad took a tumble. Thankfully, it didn’t!
Of all of the Summary of Learning’s (ECI830, ECI832, ECI833) I have completed, this one took the most planning, preparation, execution time and editing time.
Course-Related Blog Posts
*These posts can also be accessed using the EC&I 831 category.
It feels a bit odd to title this post “a summary” of my guitar project because it is only a summary of what I have accomplished so far. This learning project has been an on-going process and one I intend to carry on with after this course. In the third week of my project, I began exploring the YouTube channel of Marty Music. In my post that week, I commented on some thoughts that stood out for me after watching his first beginner video:
He says that it is important not to give up until you get over the first hump of guitar playing which he quantifies as the first two months. In those first two months, he recommends giving yourself 5 minutes a day and not deciding that it’s too hard. He proposes that your 5 minutes of practice can often become 20 minutes or an hour if you have a breakthrough in your skills.
Week 3 of The Guitar Project
I am now at that two month mark. Marty was right. The first two months are tricky. There is a steep learning curve but practicing each day is important. On days I was really busy, I got in a 15-20 minute practice session but most days would start out with a plan for practice for about 30 minutes and often this 30 minutes turned into an hour and on several occasions, even longer.
I often keep in mind what my classmate Matteo said in one of his comments on a previous blog post. He said that guitar is easy to learn but difficult to become good at, difficult to perfect.
Luckily, I had several great resources to help me along the way. For my learning project, I used:
Face-to-Face instruction at a music school in the city
Encouraging comments and resources suggestions made by my fellow EC&I classmates.
Several other how-to / instructional videos to supplement my learning.
With these resources, I have only explored the tip of the iceberg. I have worked through a lot of the beginner work and continue to classify myself as a beginner. There are several levels in all of these resources that I won’t make it to for many months. I still have a lot to learn which is a great feeling!
For this reason, I don’t have a final product to present, but rather this post and my final vlog are a continuation of the next steps in my journey.
I stumbled across this video this week where a young man has documented his progress over one year of learning to play the guitar through online lessons. One thing I noticed is that it isn’t until 5 months of playing that he comments “this is the first I have ever played that really sounded like music to me” so that makes me hopeful! When I play, I feel like I am making music and although I am playing the chords to the songs, it doesn’t sound like the song itself yet as I am mostly playing the rhythm. So, maybe in 3 months time I will play something that sounds like music to me!
Here is my vlog update for Week 7:
Successes & Challenges this week:
This week I decided to group the “successes” and “challenges” sections together (I typically keep them separate). I grouped them together because this week was an interesting one… So far I have been playing 6-8 chords that I have become fairly confident in over the past several weeks. The strings are ringing more clearly, I have less muted strings, I am finding the chords more quickly, transitioning from one chord to the next has been smoother and I feel as if I am developing some muscle memory for these chords. However, my guitar instructor gave me a list of 21 chords to practice which included all of the major, minor and seventh chords. Once this happened, I felt as if I was transported back to the first week of my learning project where I was spending most of my practice time finding the chords and finger placements. When I finally achieved this, I would often play a chord with muted strings which was my struggle in the earlier weeks.
The F major and minor chord has been particularly tricky but as I have learned in many of my online and in-person resources, it is an important and often used chord.
I have been practicing shifting between the major, minor and seventh chords and practicing how the hand shape and finger placements are similar or different to try and note patterns and begin to develop muscle memory for these newer chords.
I tried out a new strumming pattern this week.
I learned the 12 bar blues this week and practiced first using all major chords, then substituted in the A7 and G7 chord which were new to me.
Essentially, I grouped my successes and challenges together this week because the new skills I was working on were challenging but I was finding some success with them as the week went on.
As always, thanks for watching my vlog. Comments welcome.
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?
The first 30 seconds or so of this video portrays the often-referenced parable of the “babies in the river”. In the first part of the parable, villagers scramble to “save” the babies who are coming downstream which is known as downstream thinking. While, in the latter part of the parable, some of the wise villagers head to the top of the stream to figure out how and why the babies are in the stream in the first place. By heading to the top of the stream, they are seeking to solve the problem at the root rather than trying to do damage control at the bottom. This can be considered upstream or proactive thinking.
Another parable I often reference in regard to proactive (upstream) versus reactive (downstream) thinking is found in the 1895 poem The Ambulance Down in the Valley (Malins) in which people keep slipping over the edge of a dangerous cliff while admiring it’s beauty. The townspeople “said something would have to be done, / But their projects did not at all tally; / Some said, “Put a fence ’round the edge of the cliff,” / Some, “An ambulance down in the valley.” The poem alternates between discussing the differing viewpoints but concludes with this message: “To rescue the fallen is good, but ’tis best / To prevent other people from falling / …Better put a strong fence ’round the top of the cliff / Than an ambulance down in the valley”.
When I think about activism, I think it is important to consider how activism can be proactive or reactive in nature and how citizen choices and actions can either support social change or support the status quo. In Westheimer & Kahne’s (2004) article What Kind of Citizen: The Politics of Educating for Democracy the authors define three types of citizens:
“The personally responsible citizen acts responsibly in his or her community by, for example, picking up litter, giving blood, recycling, obeying laws, and staying out of debt. The personally responsible citizen contributes to food or clothing drives when asked and volunteers to help those less fortunate” (Westheimer & Kahne, 2004, p. 241).
The participatory citizenactively participates “in the civic affairs and the social life of the community at the local, state or national level…Whereas the personally responsible citizen would contribute cans of food for the homeless, the participatory citizen might organize the food drive” (Westheimer & Kahne, 2004, p. 241-2).
The justice-oriented citizenis “the perspective that is least commonly pursued…[justice-oriented citizens] use rhetoric and analysis that calls explicit attention to matters of injustice and to the importance of pursuing social justice…[with] focus on responding to social problems and structural critique” (Westheimer & Kahne, 2004, p. 242). Westheimer & Kahne (2004) argue that “If participatory citizens are organizing the food drive and personally responisible citizens are donating food, justice-oriented citizens are asking why people are hungry and acting on what they discover” (p. 242).
I first read Westheimer & Kahne’s (2004) article in one of Dr. Marc Spooner‘s courses. Dr. Spooner suggested that we (society) need people to donate food and we need people to run the food bank because there are hungry people. We need personally responsible and participatory citizens who are doing the charity-type work. But we also need people to rise to the justice-oriented level, ask why the people are hungry in the first place and take action as a result. Any single person can work in and out of each of the citizen types simultaneously and also at different points in their lives.
Westheimer & Kahne (2004) were not specifically discussing citizens of the digital realm, but as our digital identity is becoming an extension of or (perhaps) synonymous with our personal and social identity IRL, then Westheimer & Kahne’s types of citizens and their applications can be extended to digital society. While taking Dr. Couros’ EC&I 832 class in Fall 2018, I created a vlog about the intersection of digital identity and social media activism where I examine a few examples of how Westheimer & Kahne’s (2004) types of citizens come to fruition in digital spaces. Consider watching for a more detailed explanation.
In thinking about whether social activism can be meaningful and worthwhile, I decided to take a look at one of the biggest hashtag movements from the past few years, #BlackLivesMatter, which gives us evidence that social media activism can be meaningful and worthwhile, as well as show possibility in having productive conversations about social media online.
#BlackLivesMatter began six years ago as a hashtag and has evolved into a movement as a result of the death of black men at the hands of white police officers, according to this source. This CNN article states “while there is no way to know exactly how large the movement has become, the organization has branched out with chapters in 31 cities and held rallies, boycotts and other actions across the United States”. #BlackLivesMatter has evolved into an organization with strong leadership including others who have emerged as social media leaders. Many of their actions, including plans for What Matters 2020, can be found at their website: BlackLivesMatter.com. Many involved in the movement cite that it’s power comes from the number of leaders, “many people doing important work and leading in different ways”, “[social media] activists…use the platform as a bullhorn to share their message with the public and inspire others to take part” (Source). The discussions online often lead to real-life actions, demonstrations, and political pressure in a new wave of civil-rights activism. Reading 2 on this page indicates further examples of policy change directly related to the movement. Additionally, #BlackLivesMatter has created opportunities for intersectional discussions of other vulnerable communities, for example, #SayHerName and BYP100.
According to a 2018 Report, this hashtag has been used on average of 17,000 times per day since its emergence which points to its ability to stand the test of time. While it is common for many hashtags to fade away quickly, it is difficult not to reference #BlackLivesMatter when discussing police interactions with racial bodies. Further, the hashtag often resurfaces in the face of new events or new stories related to this topic (source).
I spent a considerable amount of time examining some of the results of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and one thing I can say for certain is that this hashtag has done more than spark conversation. It has been a mobilizing effort, both on- and offline. While there is still much work to be done on the topic of black liberation movements, #BlackLivesMatter has and continues to spark political and social change.
(For further reading about how far the movement has come — especially in a political sense — and where there are opportunities for the movement to improve and grow, consider Five Years Later, Do Black Lives Matter?)
Social media has brought about new ways to navigate the political sphere, but with it comes several challenges. Some may question the authenticity of a social media movement, and whether or not the support as a result can bring about real change. It has been shown that it can happen, with very evident successes. However, there are also movements that don’t result in the same kind of change and fade away from the collective consciousness soon after making its appearance. Source
While the #BlackLivesMatter (and other significant hashtags such as #MeToo, #MarchForOurLives) movement presents an inspiring and hopeful example for social media activism, there is much to be desired.
In class on Tuesday, Dr. Couros shared the image to the right. It captures perfectly, the flip side of the social media activism debate. A few of the articles I read this week expand on the issue of social activism (or #slacktivism) being regarded as meaningless. I will highlight a few of these points from two articles.
“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. The one thing slacktivists don’t do is help by, for example, giving money or time to those who are truly making the world a better place”.
Anyone can “support six causes before getting out of bed, just with the flick of a thumb”.
“A recent study…demonstrated that people who ‘liked’ a cause on Facebook were less likely to donate to that cause. Why? Because, in their minds, they’d already contributed”.
“If you want to help, just give money or time. Anything else is only about you”.
“We mistake social media for work and hashtags for activism. They [politicians, lawmakers, people in power] know that whenever a new flood of passion rises and trends, they need only wait it out, let the words swell and crash loudly through our newsfeeds and timelines—until they soon disappear”
“There are people here today who can marry and vote and live in the country, because someone gave enough of a damn to resist, not with words but with their bodies and their presence and their lives”.
The author argues that “hashtags won’t save us”, and requests physical presence as a very significant piece to social activism.
Platforms like Twitter and Facebook have become the new grounds where important discourse concerning political and civic affairs take place. Whether it is a viral hashtag, or a 30 second video that garners worldwide attention, it is safe to say that many social media users of today have participated in some form of internet activism, such as by “liking,” commenting, or sharing related posts. This then poses the question: could this new form of activism ever be as effective as storming the streets of your city? Source
“A recent study …found that online engagement is key to turning a protest into a social movement and in prolonging its lifespan”.
“A 2012 study by researchers at Georgetown University, who found that those who support movements online are actually more likely to engage in activism in real life”.
These articles reiterate some of the main arguments against social activism. Namely, that social media allows for a false perception of social justice participation and as a result, deeper levels of public action such as organizing or participating in demonstrations, as an example, are hindered. Recent research highlights the mixed perceptions about the impact of social media activism. The Pew Research Centre (2018) conducted a study on Activism in the Social Media Age in the US. Their findings support what I am claiming in this blog post, that although social media has provided a platform to give voice to vulnerable populations, it can also give people a false sense of altruism. The report documents other popular hashtags such as #MeToo, #LoveWins and #MAGA as well as notes differences in responses from participants based on age, gender, demographics, political lean and other defining factors.
In my discussion on #BlackLivesMatter which highlights some of the positive aspects of social media activism, and in my discussion of #Slacktivism, the flip side of this debate, highlighting the ways in which social media activism lacks depth and substance, it is fairly easy compare to Westheimer & Kahne’s (2004) ideas about different types of citizens and relate general social activism to social media activism. Dr. Couros helped us bridge the offline and online realm in class this week. If I return to the food bank example I presented above, we can compare. These types of citizens may do the following in the digital realm:
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.
Our society needs all of these citizens and we all have the responsibility to occupy each of these types at various points in our lives.
Which side of the debate do I fall on? Activism or slacktivism? While I can relate to many of the points made by slacktivist supporters, large scale movements such as #BlackLivesMatter allows me to have hope that social media offers a platform for improving social injustices and inciting social change. In my own life, connecting with hashtags that represent large scale social movements has allowed me to learn more about the issues being discussed, bring the issues to discussions with family, family, and colleagues, and think deeply about how I can be part of the change. This article suggests “the very openness of social media platforms makes it possible for voices…to find an audience and shift our understanding of events”. I think at the most basic level, social media gives us the space to do just that . Even if people choose not to participate in these discussions on social change, the hashtags, news articles, videos, that they find on their social media platforms make it difficult to ignore. Someone may not choose to participate in a demonstration or call-out politicians but a “like” on an article they read which lead them to think differently about a particular topic has the power to change the collective understanding of the population. This shift in thinking is the first step to becoming justice-oriented.
As classroom teachers, we have a responsibility to present social justice issues to our students. If we chose not to participate, our silence indicates a clear message, that these are not issues we care to address and therefore, do not value (Source). If we choose to remain silent on these issues, we risk allowing our students to become passive citizens rather than justice- and action-oriented. For the sake of social change, discussions of social justice matter deeply in online and offline spaces. Let us, as teachers, be part of the upstream thinking, let’s start asking why there are babies in the river in the first place, and let’s put up a fence to prevent further damage to our communities instead of an ambulance down in the valley.
We as educators have a serious responsibility to address social justice issues in online spaces – even if the resulting discussions are uncomfortable or controversial. – Dr. Couros, Social Justice in a Post-Truth World
This past week has been a busy one! I completed my training to become a Professional Birth Doula (yay!) This has been a goal of mine for the past several years and was something I was initially considering to explore for my learning project. I am giving you this update because many of you were interested in me pursuing this topic for the course project. If you don’t know what a doula is or have other doula questions, you can check out this article, written by my training instructor.
Last week I gave you a sneak preview of the work I was doing on “Under the Boardwalk” by John Mellencamp. This is the song I chose to focus on most this week. However, I did complete some other work in my Udemy course and spent time on Yousician. In my Udemy course this week, I worked on Beginner – CORE – Module 4 (~1 hour of lesson time, not including practice) which focused on rhythm and chords, and Beginner – CORE – Module 5 (~50 min of lesson time, not including practice) which focused on strumming, strumming techniques and practicing support. In the Mod 4 section, there was a mini lesson called “Advice and Encouragement” where the instructor, Erich, articulates that by this point in the course, students are probably feeling a bit of frustration with their level of progress. This echoes how I have been feeling the last couple of weeks. I haven’t felt overly frustrated but rather that I have less to report for my weekly updates because instead of working on new skills, I am improving upon skills already learned. Refining, if you will, and getting a bit more creative with strumming patterns to make the songs I already know more interesting to listen to. Erich advises that all great guitarists started in the same place I am in and that we cannot avoid the things in life that require our time. He says, if he didn’t have to sleep, eat, work, etc., he’d be a much better guitarist too! It was nice to hear some encouragement from my online instructor which validated my feelings and left me with a sense of being understood at this point in my learning journey.
Successes this week:
Check out my vlog update below. If you’ve been following with my learning project you will be able to hear the improvement! (I hope!)
Challenges this week:
Finding time to practice! I found some time, but not as much as I would have liked.
This week I figured out how to add the picture-in-picture feature and transitions to WeVideo. I was able to do this easily while using iMovie but the steps for picture-in-picture are a bit different in WeVideo and the transitions are a bit finicky if you try to copy the way it’s done in iMovie. Thanks to these two videos, I was able to add picture-in-picture and transitions easily:
This week I also added Bitmoji images to my vlog. I’ve tried to do this before but was annoyed by the white background that would show up when I saved the Bitmoji to my phone or computer. I decided to spend some time figuring out how to remove the white background because I have seen it done before! I ended up using Photoshop which I have a paid subscription to and this video, How to Remove a White Background on Photoshop, to figure it out. I am really happy with what I was able to accomplish and hope to use this skill more creatively in the future.
I hope you enjoy my weekly vlog update! Contents include:
Chord Workouts (I could only get one silver star on level one at the beginning of the semester, now I can get 3 gold stars on level 3).
Sequential Chord Switches using a different strumming pattern.
Chords for “Under the Boardwalk”
Sporadic baby sounds, squeals, yells, cheers and rattle noises throughout.
This week’s assignment options encouraged the evaluation of open education resources (OER) and the consideration of open education practice (OEP). This course has been an introduction to both OER and OEP so I decided to “remix” our assignment approaches to make a blog post that was useful for me. A post where I could dive into my research on OER and OEP and take a reflective look at if I am using these practices and how I can improve. In this post, I am going to discuss:
What is an OER?
What is an OEP?
Highlight some of my classmate’s blog posts and discussions of the pros and cons of OER and OEP.
Examine OEP (and the use of OER) and my teaching practice.
What is an (OER)?
I found a few different definitions including:
“OERs are any type of educational material freely available for teachers and students to use, adapt, share and reuse” (University of Pittsburg, 2019). Further, OERs save time and money, improve access and democratize learning. The BC OpenEd Campus provides a similar definition and examples of OER.
“OERs are teaching, learning or research materials that are in the public domain or released with an intellectual property license that allows for free use, adaptation, and distribution” (Hatzipanagos & Gregson, 2015). Hatzipanagos & Gregson (2015) also identify that OERs as useful, specific/contextualized and practical.
And lastly, this following video description below:
What is OEP?
7 Things You Should Know About…Open Education: Practices describes OEP as “the use/reuse/creation of OER and collaborative, pedagogical practices employing social and participants technologies for interaction, peer-learning, knowledge creating and sharing, and empowerment of learners”.
Our guest presenter from last class, Dr. Verena Roberts describes OEP in the following way: “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).
Further, two infographics helped me to think more about OEP. Roberts & Blomgren (2017) propose the following indicators of OEP in K-12 teaching practice:
My classmate, Amanda, tweeted this infographic which highlights some key elements of OEP:
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. #email@example.com/VdF6HhGUvf
Highlight: Primary Grade Relevancy, Pros and Cons of OER and OEP
This week Dr. Couros asked us to consider the benefits and drawbacks of OEP. After reading some of my classmate’s blog posts — instead of repeating what has already been said — I’d like to highlight their great work. Dean did a really nice job of highlighting some of the benefits and drawbacks of OEP here. A number of people discussed the issue of OER being relevant to primary students including Catherine and Daina. Catherine provides a succinct discussion on the pros and cons of OEP while Daina dives into MERLOT, an OER resource and explores how this site, like many others, pose a barrier for primary teachers/classrooms/students in that the audience of the site seems to be directed towards high-school and post-secondary students. I explored MERLOT in our group discussions during last class with Daina and can relate, as a primary teacher, with her concerns. Daina questions the relevance of sites like MERLOT which require a lot of digging for good resources when, as teachers know all too well, that time is always a big concern. Riley expresses similar sentiments in his blog post and says what I think many of us are thinking, that “most teachers probably agree with the principles of OEP” but that often time constraints of planning often lead people to use resources that they can quickly and easily access. Commenting on Daina‘s blog, Dean questions whether we (the education system) will overcome the challenges we currently face in terms of relevancy for the primary grades. Brad and Amanda provide a message of hope for OER/OEP in their blog posts this week as they discuss how they have incorporated open resources and practices into their classrooms. My hope is that in having these discussions in our EC&I 831 class, individual blogging on this topic and the discussions that result in the comment section will lead to a change in the relevancy of OER for primary grade students and allow myself and my classmates to be reflective of our own practices as we dive into incorporating the principles of OEP in our teaching.
Now that I know a bit more about OER, OEP, let’s dive into how this relates to my personal journey as an educator.
OER, OEP and My Teaching Practice
In our class discussions over the past few weeks, I have been thinking a lot about how OER and OEP fit into my work as a primary teaching especially since much of our discussion has focused on content for high-school and post-secondary students. But, as I have discussed in past posts (here and here), I think much of what we do in primary classrooms sets the foundation for the amazing work — the “passion projects” (like the home construction project Dr. Roberts discussed in class last week) — we see happening in the older grades.
Building Relationships – (I discuss the importance of this in my blog post with the example of a STEM project in my classroom). This is also a great jumping off point for diving into OEP as I think this is something that all teachers consider an important aspect of teaching. OEP calls for a deeper look at building a community of learners and challenges the traditional role of the teacher as the disseminator of information.
Find Your Yoda – This stage focuses on interactions, collaborations and connections between learners and informal learning environments and experiences. One way my students participate in this stage is through our classroom garden project, Little Green Thumbs, where my students plant, grow and harvest produce year round. Last year we also collaborated in an inter-school project which allowed Gr. 3 and Gr. 11 students to meet their learning outcomes!
Be A Yoda – This stage focuses on learner reflection, sharing, and the creation of personal learning networks. In my classroom, this (so far) looks like the work we are doing using Seesaw via sharing our work with our families and classmates and becoming connected to other learners through students commenting on one another’s work.
I have provided a few examples of how OLDI / OEP has looked in my classroom in the past. There are other examples of course, but I have lots of work to do, now that I know more about OER and OEP. As the saying goes, “when you know better, you do better”!
How can I improve my teaching practice to reflect some of the principles of OEP?
What is lacking in my practice as it relates to OEP is moving our learning outside the four walls of our classroom. Part of the reason this isn’t currently happening is because my relationship with social media. Stepping out of my comfort zone in this regard will help me work towards teaching with participatory culture and networked learning in mind.
My classmate Daniel discusses the transition from formal to informal learning in OEP. This is where many teachers struggle, often out of fear and lack of resources, to seek change in their practices. Trying something new is always tricky! In my teaching practice, I seek to include collaborative and cross-curricular projects when I am able. The pressure of meeting outcomes can, at times, get in the way of other possibilities.
As I mention previously, I am often using resources with copyright. As I learn more about OER and dive into some of the resources like the ones that OER Commons has to offer, I hope to find more open resources that are applicable in my primary setting.
When I think back to the two OEP infographics above, I have a lot of work to do in order to move towards the OEP practices that I know are important to teaching 21st century learners. I feel like I have only dipped a toe into the waters of OER and OEP but I am happy that this course has allowed me to explore something new and provide me with an ideal to work towards.
However, this week was more about refining my work so far.
Successes this week:
I have been using a basic ↑↓↑↓↑↓↑↓ strumming pattern. This week I was able to work on 3 new strumming patterns (1. ↓↑↓↑ ↑↓↑ 2. ↓ ↓↑↓↑↓↑ 3. ↓ ↓ ↑↑ ↓↑) which made the songs sound more interesting especially when a note would repeat several times which is the case, for example, in “Stand by Me” where 4 G chords are played in a row several times throughout the song. The different strumming patterns help to differentiate where one G chord ends and the next one begins.
In addition to the four songs above, I have been working on learning the chords to play “Good Riddance” by Green Day thanks to the recommendation of Brad on the Google Classroom he created for his students. The song is broken down for beginners in this video by McCormick Guitar Lessons.
I tried out a new video editing program, WeVideo, thanks to some help from Catherine. I have really enjoyed getting to know a new program this week. It seems to me that there are quite a few more options for creativity that I found lacking with iMovie.
I continued to work on some some next steps in Yousician, my Udemy course and Youtube lessons with Marty Music but as I mentioned before, my focus was to improve on the songs I have already been working on.
Challenges this week:
I tried to create some musical scores to show you my strumming patterns using a program called Noteflight which allows you to create your own sheet music. If anyone has suggestions for other websites that do this, please let me know. Noteflight was the first one that popped up which is why I ended up using it. It wasn’t very user friendly right off the bat and I am having some trouble getting the scores to look how I want. I will continue working at it but any suggestions would be helpful.
In my face-to-face lessons this week, I received a few new things to work on. First, I worked on some rhythm counting in a few different strumming patterns using eighth notes, quarter notes, and whole notes. This allowed for some diversity rather than basic up-down strumming on repeat. More to come on this in the following weeks. My instructor also gave me two new songs to work on, “Baby It’s You” by the Beatles, and “Sloop John B” by the Beach Boys. In the Beach Boys song, I had to learn about using a capo which is a tool that is placed on the neck of the guitar to shorten the pitch of the strings allowing the musician to play in a different key while using the same chord fingering as they would without the capo. For example, “Sloop John B” is written in A minor but I don’t know all of the A minor chords yet so using the capo allowed me to play the song in the key of G major of which I know the chords. My instructor said that many musicians use a capo in order to play more difficult songs using easier chords. I didn’t include this in my vlog post because I got my capo late in the week so I will include it in the next update.
A few weeks ago, my classmate Brad suggested some resources for me to use including allowing me access to his Google Classroom for teaching high school level guitar. I worked through some of the warm up songs and instructional videos in his beginner module.
Udemy – This week I worked on a lesson called Staccato vs. Legato Technique which is important for my playing of “Baby It’s You” by the Beatle which includes both staccato (short, sharp) and legato (smooth) notes. I also continued to work on the dexterity exercises from last week using the legato technique.
I worked on the next lesson on Marty Music’s Youtube channel: Beginner Acoustic Guitar Lesson 2 – The A Major Chord. In this lesson, he combines Eminor (from lesson one) and the A chord and encourages chord switching with a variety of strumming patterns and rhythms. Further, he encourages using the Asus2 chord (from lesson one) to embellish your improvisation with Eminor and A chords. Marty says that there are 5 basic chords to learn in the beginning and “they make up over a million songs and a lot of them are the biggest hits you’ve ever heard”. This is encouraging and also daunting! My classmate Matteo, a guitar player and teacher, commented that guitar is an easy instrument to learn but a difficult instrument to master.
In Yousician this week I worked on completing Level 2 of each section: Lead, Knowledge and Rhythm which nicely compliment the lessons I am doing face-to-face, on Google classroom, Udemy and Marty Music. I was able to move on to some Level 3 work. Now, when I got back to perfect songs from Level 1, they seem so easy!
Successes this week:
I improvised/played the music for my vlog intro/transitions! I didn’t need to use royalty free music this week because I simply created my own!
Yousician is really sticky with playing chords correctly and last week I felt stuck because no matter how much I slowed down the tempo of the songs, I was struggling to play all of the chords correctly or enough so I felt successful. One of the downsides with Yousician is that it cannot see your form but only listen to the notes you play and therefore cannot provide correction. So even though it told me I was playing the note or chord incorrectly, it couldn’t help me improve which is where the other resources, particularly the Udemy course came in really handy. This week, I felt a lot more confident in making chords and having less muted notes due to my thumb/finger positioning. I was able to progress further in Yousician because I improved in making the chords correctly.
I am improving with chord switching and strumming but this continues to be a work in progress!
Feels great to be able to play along with some of the songs at their intended tempo.
I was able to use some new features in iMovie this week but there are some things it cannot do that I’ve been wanting to add to my updates so I might need to look at a more advanced video editor if possible.
Challenges this week:
Working on smoothing other transitions between chords but there has been a big improvement since week one and week two.
Working on speeding up the tempo in the songs I play.
Although I have improved in making chords, I still struggle at times, as is expected. Especially when switching to C and D chords. These seem to be the toughest for me!
My face-to-face instructor showed me how to adjust the tempo of a YouTube song so I can slow it down while learning it. If anyone is interested, I can make a short tutorial. He also has a neat program called the “Amazing Slower Downer” which allows for further customization of the tempo but this is a paid program so I just stuck with the YouTube option.
Challenges this week:
Still need to one perfecting my chords and becoming faster at finding and then switching between chords. This one is going to be an ongoing goal.
The previous goal will allow me to improve my tempo in the two songs I am working on.
Tech Challenges this week:
I wanted to add some creative image overlays to iMovie but the overlay option wouldn’t allow me to rotate my image or make my image the size I wanted. I’m wondering if there is another video editing program that allows for more creativity.
I’m learning two songs, but due to COPYRIGHT I am unable to play the backtrack for you in my iMovie which (is so lame!) is why you’ll hear me doing some humming in “Stand by Me” just so you can better hear how the song goes with me just playing the basic chords. I use the backtracks every time I practice so it is unfortunate that I can’t do the same on my vlog.
Keep working on the skills I am currently working on. There is lots that needs more work and perfecting.
I will continue to work on my Udemy course, Yousician lessons and Marty Music lessons in addition to my face-to-face lesson on the weekend.
This week my face-to-face guitar instructor introduced up-down strumming to my practice. These are supposed to be natural feeling but so far I have felt awkward doing them. He asked me to work on strumming down the whole chord but only strumming up the first three or four strings.
He also gave me chords to practice two different songs, “Stand by Me” by Tracy Chapman and “Helpless” by Neil Young as these songs chords which I’ve learned in previous weeks.
Our lesson is only 30 minutes long so by the time we review the homework from the previous week and do a few run-throughs of the coming week’s practice, it’s time to pack up and go!
I’ve been working on reaching level two in all three of the sections: Lead, Knowledge and Rhythm. I hoped to be moving on but I was feeling some frustration in the Rhythm section where I was working on chords and continuing to have difficulty playing the chords without hitting a mute or dead note.
Starting with Something New...
“The real key is not natural music ability, its the desire”
This week I started using some new resources. The first resource was instructional acoustic guitar videos from Marty Music. I began working on his Beginner Lesson Videos Playlist with my first video being the one below, Your Very First Guitar Lesson – Eminor and A sus2. He starts out with an encouraging message. He says that it is important not to give up until you get over the first hump of guitar playing which he quantifies as the first two months. In those first two months, he recommends giving yourself 5 minutes a day and not deciding that it’s too hard. He proposes that your 5 minutes of practice can often become 20 minutes or an hour if you have a breakthrough in your skills.
A lot of this was review since from the beginner lessons I have taken on Yousician and Udemy. However, I learned a few new things from Marty in this video to apply to my practice:
Marty describes strumming as painting on the strings. I have taken many art classes and so this painting stroke is something that feels natural to me. I am going to work on the “painting stroke” to help me with my strumming this coming week.
In his first lesson, he teaches two chords: Eminor and Asus2. I already know the Em chord but Asus2 was new to me. The end of the lesson was Marty instructing to practice the Em chord and Asus2 chord in a variety of combinations using strumming prior to watching the next lesson. See my weekly update for beginning progress on this.
The second resource I used was a Udemy course – Complete Guitar System – Beginner to Advanced which was recommended to me by my classmate Brad Raes who is also working on a guitar learning project however he is much further advanced than I. He offered to meet up with me in our Zoom room two weeks ago to offer some resources and advice.
The Udemy course is taught by Erich Andreas. This particular course has been taken by 123,298 students with a total of 34.5 hours of instruction separated into 47 sections. Each module is then broken down into a series of lessons and each lesson has an attached PDF(s) that reviews the content of the lesson, provides music to play along to, background information and other important tips. The beginning modules and lessons included a lot of listening time (95 minutes to be exact), which included lessons to set yourself up for success and several lessons on musical theory, prior to any playing.
This week I worked on the following modules/lessons and have included some of the highlights:
Section 2: Beginner – THE CORE – Module 1
Lesson: Definitions You’ll Need to Know
half and whole steps, sharp (raise a note a half step), flat (lower a note a half step)
distance between 2 musical notes (or pitches) is called an interval
chord – 3 or more notes played at a time – we like them to sound pleasant but it doesn’t have to, mostly commonly chords are major or minor (happier vs. sadder)
arpeggio – break up a chord in any order
Lesson: Proper Posture and How to Hold the Pick – Erich describes the lesson on posture on of the most important lessons in the series.
Section 3: Beginner – THE CORE – Module 2
Lesson: Introduction to the Physics of Sound
Lesson: Basic Picking Techniques and Basic Fretting Techniques – In this lesson, Erich suggested using a sharpie to put dots on your finger tips to make sure you are playing on the correct spot. If you can see the dots, you are playing incorrectly. Playing on your fingertips stops the musician from playing muted notes in a chord which is a problem I have been struggling with a lot. Erich gave the following tips to work on which I also believe will help me to not mute any strings in my chords. First, the thumb position should be loose and behind the neck of the guitar (I have been playing a lot with my thumb on top of the neck). By keeping your thumb on the back of the guitar neck and playing on your fingertips, your hand is then in a C position with space between your hand and the neck of the guitar. Additionally the top knuckles should be curled instead of flat. I tested out these tips while watching the lesson and I immediately noticed a difference in the quality of my chords.
Lesson: Naming the Notes on the Fretboard and How to Read Tablature – I learned the names of the strings and how to know which note you are playing on each fret. I hadn’t learned this in my face-to-face course, or in any of my other online resources.
Section 4: Beginner – THE CORE – Module 3
Dexterity Exercise 1 – This was an interesting exercise where the musician is required to play finger 1-4 on each string starting with the e string (thinnest) to E string (thickest). Once you are able to play this quickly and confidently. Then you switch up the fingering to any variation of 1, 2, 3, 4 for example you could play 1, 2, 4, 3 on each string or 2, 1, 3, 4. There are 24 variations of this exercise. Erich asks for you to spend a minimum of 2 hours on this exercise before moving on to the next lesson so this is where I ended for this week because I wanted to start practicing this dexterity exercise.