Category Archives: techtool

Week 8 – How to Play Jazz Piano (Improv Attempts)

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!
soloing over autumn leaves A section
Example of different scale patterns

Wins:

  • 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.

Fails:

  • 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!

Resources used:

Next week will be my final learning project post. I plan to reflect on my progress over the last two months and make a plan for future practice.  This is only the beginning of my jazz journey!

A review of Anchor – “The best way to make a podcast”

This week in EC&1 831, we were tasked to find a tool or app that we haven’t used before that could be used to make learning visible.  After a few discussions in class and Twitter about podcasts, I am eager to look at the podcasting tool Anchor. I really liked how my classmate Jessica set up her review, so I will be borrowing her format. Thanks Jessica!

Why I chose Anchor:

First, a(n unnecessary) preamble:

I have been a lover of podcasts since 2012. I was obsessed with Season 1 of  “Serial”  and loved this new distraction tool during long drives, while doing laundry or going for a run.  I dabbled in serious and educational podcasts, thinking it was important to use the time to learn something new. Then on an all-inclusive vacation in 2013, my best friend introduced me to The Pretty Good Podcast – a daily nonsense podcast that was mostly fluff.  This mindless listening was so relaxing that now my preferred podcasts are comedy and pop culture.  I enjoyed connecting with the podcasters through Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.  I then moved into the world of Adam Carolla and eventually Alison Rosen Is Your New Best Friend.  This information is probably not important, but I think that a podcast listening list says a lot about a person.  (So I should probably say I like to listen to This American Life or Revisionist History to sound more interesting.)

I always wondered how I could use podcasts in the classroom.  As a personal project, my sister, niece and I decided to start a podcast two years ago. We created an opening theme song, branded logo for Twitter and Instagram, bought a domain and even recorded a few episodes using Audacity.  But we ran into trouble when we couldn’t figure out how to easily host and distribute our podcast, especially for free.  So we gave up.

SO, why Anchor? Because:

Anchor is an all-in-one platform where you can createdistribute, and monetize your podcast from any device, for free.

  • easy to use (and nice to look at!)
  • free
  • mobile and web options

Overview of the app:

After downloading from the App store on my iPhone, I created an account with my personal e-mail and was given a quick tour about podcasting with Anchor:

Untitled presentation (1)

Untitled presentation (2)

 

 

**Login options require an email, Google, Facebook or Twitter login. In my division we would use our Google (G Suite) logins, but I’m not sure how this would work with other divisions.

 

 

The app is very intuitive and user friendly and does not require a lot of explanation – it has a “start and go” layout.  After playing around with it for about 20 minutes, I was able to record a few sections, add some musical interludes, “drops” or sound effects and transitions.  There is an option to add music if you link an Apple Music or Spotify account, but the music is only available if you listen to the podcast within the Anchor app.

The audio editing function is very straightforward and allows you to split tracks and trim the beginning and ending of each clip.  There are not a lot of audio editing options (compared to a program like Audacity – no fading, adjusting speed, pitch, etc), but the simplicity would be perfect for students.  You can also import existing audio (like from a Voice Memo, or a pre-recorded theme song) easily through the mobile app or web page.

Review:

Pros:

  • simple, easy-to-use interface
  • basic editing functions that would suit the needs of students
  • Mobile and web platforms are similar (ex. mobile app has all the same functions as web)
  • Record many clips over a long period of time before putting together an episode
  • Easy podcast distribution (and options to monetize) – step-by-step prompts that are quick to follow

Cons:

  • The ‘Discover’ option on the app allows you to explore different podcasts. This might be hard to monitor with students to make sure the use is appropriate
  • basic (limited) audio editing functions
  • everyone involved in the recording need to be in the same location (unless you use Skype or another type of audio conference, which would compromise quality). There is a ‘Record with Friends’ option, but it is only available on the mobile app.

RWF_session.png

Overall, Anchor is appealing because of it’s clean and simple interface.  There are easy functions (but limited options) with editing that would make it ideal for use in a classroom setting.  Also, once you set up an account, you can access your work from the mobile app or on a computer via the web page. The hosting, distribution and monetization options are great, but probably not necessary for working with students.

Using the tool personally:

Since creating a podcast with my sister and niece as a little “passion-project” a couple years ago, we might revisit our work and try uploading the existing audio files to Anchor and distribute our podcast. One of the requirements for distribution is that you have a podcast name and cover art, which we already have…so maybe we will try it out!

Using the tool in instruction situations:

I think there are lots of cross-curricular options with podcasting.  As an arts education teacher, maybe my focus would be more on the overall design of the podcast (cover art, theme song, use of sound effects and musical interludes). You could use podcasts in every subject, maybe with inquiry projects, interviews, book reviews… the list goes on.  The simplicity of Anchor means the focus stays on content rather than trying to figure out how to use the app.

Using the tool to document learning and growth:

Podcasts can be used as e-portfolios for students and allow for opportunities to document personal reflections.  Since you can record many clips over an extended period before putting together an ‘episode’, it allows students to keep a running documentation of their learning or projects.

Overall, I am very impressed with Anchor. It is easy to use with a simple interface, basic set up and functions.  I am excited to use it personally so I have a very strong understanding of the functions before rolling it out with students.

Does anyone have experience using Anchor with students? Did you require any division approval before using the app?