Friday, July 18, 2014

Improvisation: the new operating system

It struck me late last night that Improvisation has become my new operating system.  Just like learning a new technology, some of it is intuitive, playful and pulls me into a flow state.  Sometimes I can only react to a situation with confusion, frustration, anxiousness.  Sometimes I can initiate an idea which gets picked up by others, or which will extend on its own for a while.

I am not just talking about music anymore....improvisation is becoming more and more a way of seeing things, solving problems, finding hope, keeping on going.  It is a metaphor for moving forward,  for me to find meaning.!
(picture from a project last year, made by Melissa.)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The penultimate day: Crunch Time!

I was sound asleep when the power went out last night. When it came on at 4:15, I was jolted awake and could not go back to sleep. I have been trying to formulate the framework for my final project in my sleep I think, since I woke up as tired as when I went to bed.

Improvisation group was at a low ebb energy-wise this morning, but the gift of an extra half hour before lunch gave me a chance to return to the Power Point presentation. I had the learning ecology presentation idea set in my head, but was in panic mode about how to get Power Point to function in the way I had in mind.  Fellow cohort members to the rescue!  Content  is loaded, and uploaded, and now all that is left is a couple summary reflections. 

I am beginning to feel some sense of satisfaction with each assignment completed. I will miss the people who have put up with me in this journey.  I am really looking forward to managing my time differently, with fewer urgent deadlines and more time to explore the roads not taken......

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My classmates presentations and comparisons

I spent a great deal of time today trying not to compare myself to others. This morning, each student "sound-painted" a composition which the rest of us improvised.  Some sound painters were competent and it was easy to improvise in the manner indicated. Some were less comfortable with the gestures, and the product was confusing and awkward, both to the participant and the listeners.  A couple were brilliant, coming up with ideas in the moment and bringing the sounds they imagined into the piece.  The clock ran out before I had to get up and take my turn.  I was relieved,  because at that point I was just a few inches from blubbering. I thought it was because I really dislike sound painting, but at the root of the dislike is fear that I will do it badly.  Evidently, I don't like doing anything badly, whether it is a process or a product.  When put in that pressure cooker of performance, I would prefer to have my "act" polished and ready.  

The "place" videos this afternoon were so cool to watch; but while I know what my learning was in producing my video, I think my product fell flat in comparison with others. I was proud of it on Saturday when I got it "finished" (at least put in as much time as I could give to that one assignment), but today I felt it didn't hold a candle to the rest.  I know we all start at different places, I know we are all originals, I know I am learning.  But my ego really needs to get the heck out of my way.  

This sort of learning is extremely hard work, and I am trying to be gentle with myself.  I am not beating myself up because I am not as good as _________, but because that insistent little internal voice will never let up, and I still have not learned to manage it.  

I'm sure this is related to how my learning ecology should be designed, but I think educators have been chewing on this one for centuries.  


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Improvisation and media

It seems I am not capable of keeping my learning for these two courses in separate categories. Each experience in one class informs my perception of content and process in the other, and I am left with just a small window of time to reflect on where it might lead me after the summer session is over.

I spend the mornings in improvisation class participating in  many small games, exercises, challenges, and practice to build confidence and gradually learn to trust myself to risk bigger mistakes in front of colleagues without breaking down or being angry and defensive or blaming others for my clumsiness.  The course has a solid structure which I found hard to accept, probably because I thought I was ready to jump in a little farther along than where we began.  Probably wishful thinking and a certain impatience on my part to stick with process and not product. As well, I am more interested right now in the philosophical and global relevance of improvisation than doing it myself.

In the afternoon class, I am challenged to "improvise" with all the programs and apps to create a new paradigm for my classes.  Here, flexibility and relevance to each teacher's situation is of prime importance, and I am struggling with new technology and new ideas at the same time. I am tired, depleted and facing reinventing my teaching, at a point when I am just "retired" and going back on a term.  I just want to get something done, to complete the assignment, however I realize that this is worth the sweat, so I am trying to be my own cheerleader and plan my last few evenings to crunch through my framework.  While the ideas excite me and I am totally on board with trying these concepts with my students, I do have to wrestle with  how am I going to
  • complete the assignment using the technologies explored this week
  • implement the changes at school in the class time I have available. 
I hope the universe provides some intuitive solutions: I have the creative seeds....just not sure how to get them sprouted by Friday!

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

I passed my motorcycle test!

Ok, this has nothing (and everything) to do with creative design.  My motorcycle instructors were organized, focussed and demanding. During the course I was engaged mentally and physically virtually the whole time.  Learning a skill which has an element of "edge" to it, where you have to push yourself harder than you think possible,  and keep trying and push past less than perfect attempts at exercises......this where schools need to learn how how to engage and motivate students.

I did not have a perfect score on the test.  There was an exercise in which I got stuck in neutral and didn't complete in the time zone for full points.  I lost points here and there for other little things, but I had enough to pass, and that felt huge!  The course challenged me more than I expected, and made me respect how much I still have to learn, and how much a new world has been cracked open for me.  I think it might not be a bad idea for all teachers to take some sort of beginner course each year, to remind them of the feeling of  beginner buzz: that sense of accomplishment from doing something slightly out of the comfort zone.

In designing my course for next year, I think I will try to incorporate some opportunities for being a beginner by letting students trade instruments now and then, to see what is transferrable, and what is not.  It is something they love to fool around with when they are just hanging out in the music room.

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

My Assignment on a Sense of Place

Here is my movie Summertime Creativity Cohort. This was an assignment which I liked more and more as I messed around with the Windows Movie Maker program.  It is hard to know when to stop on something like this....but I think I need to move on to other things now.

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Reviewing the situation...looking ahead

I have spent a quiet day catching up on chores and choosing pictures for my project on  " a sense of place." This is the beach near the Blue Cottage where I stayed last year with Sandy and Melissa. It was such a magical place, and we had such a rich time learning, making art, cooking, walking on the beach, sharing books and ideas.  I am excited to share my soundscape/video with the cohort. We have come so far together, and after next week we will all head off into new directions. I hope my assignment captures a bit of the sense of belonging and place I experienced while in this course of study.

Reflection time needs to be built into the design of intensive courses. Staying out at the Blue Cottage last summer gave us time to unwind and unpack the day during the commute, and time to learn about each other so that our collaborations were adventures, and we were a band of friends who relied on each other to solve all sorts of challenges.

Staying at my daughter's apartment this summer, and being on a different schedule in the mornings has left me feeling a little isolated.  Facebook chat is there to crowd source an answer to a question, and twitter is a pretty good pressure valve, but I miss the camaraderie of the cottage experience.

My morning course is all activity based with no time to unpack any of the exercises we do.  When I leave there my head is spinning in high gear to process all that content, while changing equipment and location for the afternoon. Oh yeah, and grabbing  lunch too!

I really needed the weekend break and I know there still is the big assignment looming over me, but I honestly haven't got a clue where I am going to start on it. I am trusting in the universe to provide some insight while I am on the motorcycle course tomorrow. If that doesn't work, hopefully the cohort will steer me towards something which will capture my imagination!

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Reflection on Editing

I have been working on my soundscape project today.  Recording the wind chimes was a snap. Figuring out how to get the mp4 file converted to mp3 to import into Audacity to edit took a little while, but was not hard, (thank you ,Google!). Choosing my pictures and placing them in a storyboard was fine, and pulling the timeline around to make the images match the length of my audio clip was almost fun.  But now I am stuck on making the animated transitions between the slides.....I hope one of the creativity cohort members is familiar with Windows Movie Maker and can show me how to finish this assignment!

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Back at Acadia

      It has been a while since I posted here. Looking back at previous posts is like opening a picture album: I discover things I put in the album to save and share.

      I started this blog while in my first course, and now I am finishing my last two courses this summer. During the course of the journey, it is hard to see if I have actually made any progress. Now that I am getting to the end of the Masters program, I can see that I have come much further than I thought. The intensity of the summer courses makes me wish I was 22 again; it has been physically and mentally challenging, and even though I have committed time, money and energy to the degree program, there have been many moments I wanted to bail out of it. The value of being in a cohort is that I trust these travelling companions, and I want to finish the program with them. We have made some pretty special bonds and we have learned to collaborate in such a deep way that when we go back to our schools, the ripple effect of our increasing skills will make a difference.

       The first few days of classes were tough for me this summer. Exhaustion, heat, confusion about my expectations of the courses and getting oriented to the delivery model of instruction, the academic expectations, unknown hurdles in technology: by the third and fourth day of classes I was just hanging on by my teeth. Today was different. I got my feet under me again. I was able to get in the “flow” of the class activities, able to lose myself in the music making in the improvisation class, and in the design challenge in the afternoon. There are still pieces which I find distasteful and probably will not use much, but I think I can get through it now.

       I am reminded of my observation of students at music camps over many years: there is excitement and energy at the beginning, and on the third or fourth day, there is a real slump for most students. The slump hits as the adrenalin wears off the newness of the first few days, and the realization hits that there is still a week or more left of hard work before the final performances. After a day or so of adjusting, the energy level picks up and students ride to the end on a wave of learning and achievement which is shared and celebrated by all participants.

       It is amusing to see myself as a “camper”, and recognize my cohort as my tribe. I feel more in tune with the Creatives than the MusEd tribe this summer, although the elementary MusEd folks are almost silly enough to qualify as Creatives.

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