The RDS is alive with the sound of music

It’s Feis Ceoil week and I spent this afternoon listening to the under 17’s clarinet competitors as they played two very demanding pieces, Glick’s Circle Dance from Suite hébraique no. 1 and Lefèbre’s Allegro moderato from sonata no. 6 in B flat. Having only a superficial knowledge of what is required to play the clarinet, I marvelled at how each competitor interpreted each piece in their own unique way. In addition to this competition, these teenagers will also be entering for practical exams in the next month. As anyone who studies music will tell you, this time of the year is the most hectic in terms of exams, competitions and performances. It was a welcome respite from compiling my ePortfolio artefacts and writing my reflection pieces. My own students will be taking their musical theatre exams next week, and they have been compiling their own ‘artefacts’ in the form of background information on the characters and the musicals from which their songs are taken.

While reading around the topic of social media, I came across this post by Peter Timms, who addresses what he calls ‘The Curriculum of Chaos’. This is essentially about using social media as a jumping-off point for finding information and harnessing it for learning opportunities. Certainly, I have found it invaluable to have so many methods of obtaining information at my disposal, and there is an energy and immediacy to this type of learning. I will admit that I was sceptical about any benefits that would accrue to joining Twitter or Instagram, but I’ve been converted (although I still need to curate much of what is in my news feed).

As this module draws to a close, I decided to revisit a paper written by Edith Achermann, Piaget’s Constructivism, Papert’s Constructionism: What’s the difference? that I had read earlier in the term. Papert’s constructionism centred around externalising our inner feelings. He wrote that in expressing ideas and giving them form and sharing those ideas with others, we help ourselves to shape and sharpen those ideas. I think this is key to educational blogs. In my educational reflective blog, I have to say what I think or don’t think about something. I have to commit to a point of view, but I may revisit this later and readjust my position. I think I may continue to blog even after this module ends as I find the process of reflection through writing helpful in synthesising my ideas.

And in case you were wondering about those clarinet pieces, here is the YouTube link to John Moses playing Glick’s Circle Dance from Suite hébraique no. 1.






A Smorgasbord of Digital Literacies

smorgasbordWhat is the collective noun for a group of digital literacies?

Our e-tivity assignment for EL6052, due this week, consisted of evaluating our digital skills and competencies (contentious wording, this). The JISC website has helpful resources for assessing digital literacies, including a link to the University of Exeter’s iTest. This short quiz gives a personalised profile with your level of competency in each digital skill genre. I was pleasantly surprised and pleased with my results. I guess this is down to the constant practice with various media via this MA over the past 18 months.

I also found the All Aboard project website very useful for identifying different categories of digital literacies, and I especially liked their interactive digital skills metro map. Choosing which skill I would like to improve on was a challenge, as there are so many skills I’d like to get better at, or learn, but I made a pragmatic decision to choose those skills which might help me secure employment in the near term.

Editing multimedia.  While developing my learning resource last year, I had to create video and audio content. With more skill, I could have been quicker to produce these multimedia and produced more professional quality media.

Improving my social media skills. As a social media newbie, I still have a lot to learn about which media is best for each forum. This term has seen me join Twitter, create a blog, communicate with a virtual team on Facebook, collaborate using Google Drive, as well as design an instructional document in Google Slides. There are so many communication tools to choose from. From a starting point of asking what the point of social media is, I am fully converted to the idea that social and digital media can be exploited to engage learners and to encourage critical thinking, as well as promote myself and my skillset, and make connections.

I’m afraid I’ve also become addicted to constantly checking my news feeds. As a news junkie, this was already a problem for me even before joining Twitter and Facebook. Now, I have so much extra to look at, I have fallen prey to the siren song of social media. rat-in-labI am the embodiment of Skinner’s operant conditioning! The more I am deprived of a ‘stimulus’ i.e. the less frequently I see something interesting in my news stream, the more motivated I become to keep checking until I find another significant piece of information. I look back fondly now at the good old days when I had to read the financial sections of the English and US papers, Reuters and Bloomberg before markets opened so I had something to tell clients when they rang. Those were simpler times!

Collating and curating information. Since I began studying for this MA, I have been bookmarking and creating folders for relevant content. The amount of data at my disposal can be overwhelming and I need to put a better system in place. I have spent this week reading around the topic of digital media and have discovered several great blogs. These include Helen Beetham‘s, excellent blog post entitled ‘Digital Wellbeing’ (2016). Here she describes how we should manage our digital stress, workload and distraction, as well as look after our personal health, safety, relationships and work-life balance in digital settings. I do think it is important to remember that just because we are always connected, doesn’t mean we must be connected. Sometimes I need to force myself to switch off, as the information overload is suffocating.

 My background reading also led me to Harold Jarche’s Learning Network Model where he explains how work and learning need to be connected. He extends Weigel’s argument that communities need to integrate learning and working in the digital/network era.

He explains the basic tenets of social learning on this YouTube video.

Far from dismissing social learning, he contends that it is how we learn naturally. The more we connect with our peers or lecturers or supervisors, the more we can understand what is going on in our work. This really resonated with me. There exists now a genuine willingness to help others through sharing resources and offering suggestions on social media and discussion forums. Having experienced situations in the past where people were reluctant to offer information for fear of giving others a professional advantage, I find it refreshing that there is such camaraderie at present. Social media has definitely been a positive for fostering this collegiality.