the messy middle

Looking back at my week’s piano progress, I feel I’ve arrived to the period often described as “the messy middle”.

Yes, when I started to finally see progress, since I got to a point where I was able to play three pages from my piano book, I thought this was the time to set a goal. After I spent a fair amount of time thinking, I figured out which song I’d like to learn by the end of my EC&I 831 ed tech class. I chose an Ellie Goulding song “How long will I love you”. I first heard this song in the movie “About Time”. I felt a strong connection between the movie and my piano learning, so I printed the music sheets and shared my idea with my piano teacher.

And listening to the song, you probably already know what my piano teacher’s response was. He said it is doable, but not by this December, but next April. I know, I did not set a reasonable goal, but how could one set a reasonable goal when there is not enough knowledge in the respective area? Then I reached out and asked for my colleagues’ advice regarding choosing a beginner level song.

Thanks to my supportive colleagues, I came across “Heart and Soul” which seems to be doable.

You’re probably asking that after working on the parallel motion of the five scale and practicing the octave and three songs, how did I get to the point where I started feeling discouraged and dissatisfied? As I started learning more complex concepts, I realized that my fingers not only fly, but I am also struggling with finger independence. My fingers just won’t move separately. A friend of mine came up with a brilliant idea of getting finger extensions Hmmmmm…..

Instead, my goal is to focus on finger independence and finger dexterity by doing various finger exercises which means I am literally back at square one.

Beside building finger independence while working on the five scale and octave, as well as practicing my new Mozart song, I am constantly reminding myself not to compare myself with other piano players, stay positive and enjoy the journey. Please listen to my podcast to get a feel of what I am really going through.

Thank you! Until next time…

the power of sharing

Diving into the world of technology for the first time, I felt terribly scared. I was so stressed out from this overwhelming world that I literally felt dizzy. I got through my first ed. tech class (EC&I 834) with my head barely above water, since up till last January, I was doing things in a way I was comfortable with. All of a sudden everything, I mean everything became brand new to me. I had a hard time following the classes because I had to google almost every term. But with the help of my Prof. Alec Couros and my colleagues’ support, I was able to get through it and I learnt an enormous amount. So, I let things rest till September, when my second class (EC&I 831) started. Today, I feel a lot more comfortable and I got to a point where I am enjoying what I’m doing. I absolutely love the idea of the learning project and I get to experience on my own skin, how interest and engagement can help you get over your own barriers.

Even though I started sharing my piano learning journey in the form of a podcast embedded in my blog, I felt awkward when I had to share it on Twitter. Putting myself out there makes me feel terribly vulnerable. I also grew up in a world where it was not cool to talk about your own self or the things you did. So, I literally had to force myself to post and share through blogging and Twitter. I was hesitant regarding the value of sharing for quite a long time. But the fact that I was learning something new every time I read my colleagues’ blogs and tweets, and attending George Couros‘ sessions as part of the RTConvention2019, help me see each and every day the benefits of sharing. Beside providing a rich medium with support in ALL areas, it also builds human connections giving the feeling that you have people around you whom you can count on. The biggest question is, as Dean Shareski puts it in Sharing – the moral imperative, do we take the time to share meaningful and valuable information to teach beyond, not only the students in the classroom?

Today, I feel very thankful for people sharing. George Couros showed us the unique way Sophie’s dad chose to capture her childhood. Emailing his daughter the most memorable events of her life, made me want to go back in time to be able to do something similar for my own children. Thanks to sharing, I know about this amazing idea and I guess it is not too late yet, having an eight and ten year old. I also feel that if I share this with other people, they might still have a better chance to surprise their children or grandchildren with such a precious gift. What an amazing way to capture memories and emotions.

Kaia and Room 10 is another great example for expanding interactions among people from different parts of the world with different cultural background. Starting out in Jakarta with a dad sharing pictures taken by his daughter arranged into an iMovie, led to sharing stories worldwide.

Dean Shareski shares another remarkable story closer to home. This is a wonderful event that took place in an elementary school in Alberta, where the principal, George Couros gave his students and staff the opportunity to share one thing they were passionate about during Identity Day. Being an English as an Additional Language teacher, I see the true value of this event, giving each and every member of the school the gift of feeling unique and important. During the RTConvention 2019, George Couros also demonstrated examples of very simple ways of sharing, such as giving ideas regarding teaching different concepts, as well as communicating with parents in a fun and easy way using Twitter to share the highlights of the day or week instead of writing long newsletters.

Looking at people share, I also feel it is a form of kindness. Providing resources, advice, tools, or just simple entertainment help people move towards a growth mindset.

Alan Levine’s Amazing stories of openness also prove the power of stories and sharing by providing valuable information and support. Scrolling down the abundance of the amazing stories, I was very excited to come across my Prof. Alec Couros’ work, The Networked Teacher Diagram.

Experiencing the amazing value of sharing, I do feel that it is our ethical responsibility to take part and embrace the culture of sharing, since “the benefits of a shared idea can be golden to someone” (Dean Shareski, 2010).

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If you see power in sharing, could you describe it in one word what SHARING brings to your life?

Thank you for reading my blog!

Challenges and little successes

I made it through the first three weeks of my learning journey, and as I look back, I can definitely see progress. I started my learning project without knowing ANYTHING about pianos and today, I have already two songs that I can play. It is a very rewarding experience and I am cherishing every moment of it. This doesn’t mean that I am not facing any challenges, though.

In episode 4 of my podcast I share how I ended up buying an 88 note Yamaha keyboard. Having easy access to a piano definitely makes a difference, since I can practice whenever I feel like it, over and over again. But making this purchase was quite overwhelming.—Shopping-for-the-right-keyboard-e7rcvr

After getting my own keyboard, I started experimenting with the sustain pedal.

Since the keyboard has only one pedal, I feel quite lucky, only having to learn how to use one pedal. Modern pianos have three pedals.

In episode 5 of my podcast, I shared the five finger scales that I finally managed playing with a parallel motion. It took a lot of practicing with separate hands, till I managed to put both hands together. What I really need to work on is avoiding the “flying fingers”. When I shared my challeneges with my friend, she told me about the way her 6 year old son was taught. His teacher recommended holding his hands as he was holding a hamburger. Currently I am trying to constantly remind myself of holding my fingers correctly as well as the correct posture: sitting up with straight back, relaxed shoulders, as well as having the proper distance between the piano and the bench. They seem to be little things, but they do play an important role when it comes to playing this unique instrument.

My teacher encouraged me to try playing the five finger scale both legato and staccato. The staccato I find quite hard since it requires bouncy arms, which can cause difficulty when trying to find the right notes.

I also learnt about music dynamics and I found playing forte, mezzo forte, and piano a lot more manageable. All the above described skills I tied together and demonstrated by playing the song Backpacking in episode 5.—Challenges-and-little-successes-e7s9g9

In episode 6, I had a chance to face more challenges by taking the five finger scale to the next level and learn how to play the octave. The difficulty of the octave is that there are finger crossovers included. In order to “avoid breaking the finger” it is important to move the hand slightly at the same time of the crossover. At this point, I am trying to master it doing it with one hand at a time, so I can do the parallel motion. I am also working on a new song, called Alouette where the focus is on timing since there are quarter notes, half notes, whole notes and dotted half notes.

Although I am still far away from mastering the songs: Backpacking and Alouette, please check out my progress in my weekly podcasts.—Octave-and-timing-e7sb3l

Thank you for all your support!

Melinda 🙂

New Beginning in the World of Music

My EC&I 831 Ed. Tech class, just as the previous class I took (EC&I 834), has been given me a chance to learn about technology as well as myself. After my Prof. Alec Couros introduced the option of a learning project, I knew this was the time to finally accomplish my childhood dream and learn how to play the piano.

Growing up, I was given the option of playing the violin or nothing and I chose NOTHING. I had a violin in the house and I didn’t even want to try it. When I listen to Hungarian folk music, it breaks my heart that I missed out on this opportunity.

But I am very thankful for the opportunity to learn how to play the piano and I decided to share the challenges and successes of my journey in a podcast, a completely new medium to me. Beside feeling lost in the field of music, I also have to become familiar with podcasting. After several retakes, I finally decided to share my introductory episode with one of my friends to get some feedback. It has been challenging since, as Michael Wesch described in An anthropological introduction to YouTube, it feels like “talking to the unknown, an invisible community”, which makes me feel awkward and terribly vulnerable.

So here I am at the beginning of my journey not knowing ANYTHING about how to play the piano and if you know a little about notes and mnemonics used to remember the place of various notes, you will agree with me.

After I went for my first face-to-face piano lesson, I realized that this is actually not a song my son was given, but mnemonics that help to find the notes easily on the piano.

I can already feel that this journey will be quite the ride full of mixed emotions. Hopefully beside feeling embarrassed and vulnerable, I will enjoy the feeling of accomplishment as well.

Talking about embarrassment, after the first two weeks, I felt I needed guidance since there was no structure, nor a plan in my head. I was jumping from YouTube tutorial to YouTube tutorial without knowing what to look for. So, I went for my first piano lesson and during the lesson my teacher, Trevor Flemings was explaining the basics of piano and he was talking about the “treble clef” without writing the word on the board. As a non-native English speaker, I kept thinking why is this symbol called “trouble clef“??? I could not wrap my head around this concept. So I went home and Googled it, when I finally figured out the correct term. A couple days later my friend and I met for a visit, and I told her how awful I felt that I literally had to Google these new terms, since I was not familiar with them. Then she asked me, don’t you know the Meghan Trainor song about the “bass” and the “treble”? That’s when I realized how many things I miss out on because of English not being my first language…

The first three weeks, probably the hardest part of this learning project, I documented in three podcasts with the help of Anchor.Fm. I find this tool very user friendly providing a number of tutorials that help with getting started. In my first, second and third podcasts, I tried to share more about my experiences to give a better understanding of why I chose to learn how to play the piano and some of the resources I came across. I found a few web sites and tutorials quite helpful. Such as Treble Clef and Bass Clef – Lecture and Notes

I also downloaded the Simply Piano App. I quite like this interactive app and it has a few free tutorials. Pianote has a number of easy to follow very effective YouTube tutorials as well. They also have lesson plans as part of the membership. I came across a number of great and not so great tutorials. I find it very time consuming to find the right ones. The Philosophy of Piano podcast actually played a huge role in not loosing my interest. It served as a great example for podcasting as well as focusing on myself on this journey. The most useful tool getting started was the Regina Public Library‘s instrument borrowing program, since it gave me the opportunity to take the very first steps of my journey by having a 61 note Yamaha keyboard in my house for three weeks.

Thank you for being part of my journey! In case you come across some great resources please send them my way. Coming soon with more updates 🙂

Podcasting my piano journey

A few weeks ago, when my Prof. Alec Couros suggested to do a podcast on my learning process, all of a sudden I realized I am in for a double challenge. I decided to learn how to play the piano, having no musical background at all AND share my journey in the form of a podcast, a term I wasn’t familiar with three weeks ago.

So, when I heard of Anchor, I couldn’t wait to learn more about it, with the hope of finding the right tool to share my journey.

Anchor is a podcasting platform for making and hosting content. There are a number of things I like about Anchor. First of all it is a completely free platform without storage limit, trial period or any form of strings attached. The goal of Anchor is to enable anyone to start a podcast providing different tools and features, as well as automatic or manual distribution.

What is a podcast?

Anchor gives a great explanation of the term “podcast” and its meaning as well as several podcast tutorials that can serve as examples for people who are not familiar with podcasting. It is a tool used to tell a story alone or with a cohost in a creative way that is engaging for the listener. Some hosts invite guests and some share their own experiences. There are more polished podcasts and ones that are more like a hobby. Some podcasters like a more structured, scripted form while others like to leave room for flexibility with a semi-structured, semi-scripted version. It is recommended though, to have an outline for guidance, as well as a few questions in mind to help using the time effectively creating a recording worth of the listeners’ time. When it comes to recording, there is an option to import your already existing file created with the help of the phone microphone or create new recording using the creation tools from Anchor. Anchor gives people the opportunity to practice, experiment, and adapt throughout the process. Even after publishing, there is the option to make further changes and editing. 

What is needed in a podcast?

As a beginner podcaster, I found it very useful to know the key elements of a podcast. Anchor provides a checklist of the most important elements of a podcast, such as:

  • Podcast name that is related to the message
  • Podcast description
  • At least one episode (with a title!)
  • Episode descriptions
  • Cover art. There is also access to Unsplash, a library of high quality, free photos to help podcasters create a visually pleasing view.
  • Anchor also provides advice regarding cover art such as using high resolution photos, simple, high contrast imagery, avoiding the use of too much text and/or different colours and fonts. There is also a colour guide regarding the messages colours communicate and a guide to understanding colour theory.

Favourite Features

I really like the idea that as long as the guest or cohost has the Anchor app downloaded, they can record with you from anywhere in the world. Listeners can also phone in and leave a voice message that can be incorporated into later podcasts. Another neat feature is that in need of guests (under cohosts, after entering the topic) there is an option to post a short recording that will help with finding other users interested in the same topic. 

Anchor also provides the opportunity to track performance using the analytics dashboard as well as options for monetizing podcast. The Anchor episode builder helps you craft your episodes using a visual list of segments where no editing is required. It can be used to record, add other types of audio (like transitions or voice messages from your listeners), and rearrange the segments. It also provides a variety of sound effects to choose from and background music from Apple Music or Spotify.

Final Product

After reading and experimenting with Anchor, I decided to give it a try. Please enjoy my not so polished reality podcast: A new beginning in the world of music

Photo Credit: <a href=””>PMillera4</a> Flickr via <a href=””>Compfight</a> <a href=””>cc</a>

Teaching in a changing world

How do you take up teaching in a world where knowledge is becoming obsolete? What steps should/could we as educators take in relation to bringing social networks into the classroom? How do we balance the “moral imperative” to educate children to succeed in a rapidly changing world (see the NCTE definition of 21st century literacies) with concerns around student safety and privacy? Your response should take up one or more of the readings below (or other readings that you find on this topic).

The recommended readings and videos of this week really stirred up my thoughts and my emotions. Similar to Nancy’s experience, growing up, the education system I went through was the perfect example of one-way conversations lead by knowledgeable teachers. At that time, I could only rely on my awful notes and my textbooks. And I am saying “awful” because I could not write as fast as my teacher was talking. I felt frustrated trying to memorize things without being engaged in the majority of my subject areas. Actually, that was the reason of me becoming a teacher. I always felt there must be another way … It was when I moved to Canada, as part of my Education Program, when I started experiencing the effectiveness of participating in study groups. As Richard J. Light believes that it is a determinant of student success, I feel that through learning together, collaborating, connecting and sharing experiences and knowledge with my peers really helped me stay engaged and have a better understanding of the material I was learning. I was happy at the university and I truly felt that I was learning. But that was over ten years ago and since then things have changed. When I hear that “knowledge is becoming obsolete” I feel scared. I am working every day on transforming myself, as a teacher to become a “knowledge-able” person. I think this is a big job for the educators of today’s society to shift their worldview and depart from the knowledgeable educators towards becoming more meaningful, engaging knowledge-able educators who will teach students how to connect and collaborate with the world. Viewing our education system moving towards collaboration, I see lots of walls that need to come down, so our students can benefit from the values we all bring with ourselves. The traditional view, “my classroom, my students” mentality is something that will have to transform into a more collaborative, open environment where the existence of a network is possible. Watching Michael Wesch’s presentation and listening to Pavan Arora’s TED X, I would agree that a knowledge-able educator teaches students “creativity”, teaches them how to “access, assess and apply knowledge” (Pavan Arora) and often times learns together with the students. This is certainly the hardest, feeling vulnerable while being the facilitator while learning together with the students. It is crucial to teach students about online safety as well as giving them guidelines that will help them become self-confident individuals who do not have to fear our changing society. 

I think for my students who are English Language learners, having access to this powerful network is simply amazing. Schools or classrooms can connect online to do novel studies, share ideas, publish student work, as well as having pen pals. There are a variety of tools, such as Seesaw, Flipgrid, Kidblog that the students can use to improve their language skills as well as organize and publish their work. These opportunities are building blocks for them to become active participants of this powerful network where they can express themselves freely with the help of retakes in case they are needed. Retakes are the best friend of an EAL (English as an Additional) person. It is like having another chance, as many as needed to correct pronunciation and grammar mistakes or reform sentences to sound more native like until things are “right”. Both my students and I can relate to the individuals from An anthropological introduction to YouTube , who had a hard time talking and recording themselves in their YouTube videos feeling that “everybody is watching yet nobody is there”. Talking to the unknown, not knowing who is listening, watching and what they are thinking can make people feel very vulnerable but at the same time it gives the opportunity to show your true self. From all the readings and videos my main takeaway is to focus more on exposing students to the benefits of technology, to give them tools to connect and collaborate which will empower them to believe in themselves and be proud individuals in different kinds of environments. 

Never stop believing

The goal of my learning project is a childhood dream of mine. I loved music all my life. As a little girl, I was always dancing and singing and whenever people asked me what I would like to become when I grow up, I would tell them the Romania singer, Corina Chiriac.

Quite young, I had this dream of learning how to play the piano. At that time and place, I am guessing that would have been quite the challenge for my parents, and my only option was to play the violin, since I got a used violin from my cousin. I just couldn’t imagine myself playing the violin, so I picked nothing. Later on, my mom would tell me that the piano wasn’t a good fit for me because of my small hands and short fingers. I never even tried it later on knowing that I wouldn’t succeed anyways.

At the age of 40, I was finally able to learn how to ride a bike. Both of my children learnt before me and I just didn’t want to miss out on knowing what it feels like riding a bike. I remember going outside after dark to practice and one day the magic happened and one of my elderly neighbours started screaming inside her house “You, did it!”

It is a great feeling to learn new things. Am I proficient bike rider? Get out of the way if you see me coming! Haha…  But I did the hardest step, overcoming my fear. Fear of falling, fear of failing, and fear of being judged. Looking back, I learnt many things, and most of them I had to figure out on my own without having an instructor telling me what to do and how to do it properly. I often wonder what it would feel like to know these things proficiently. 

So here I am taking EC&I 831 at the age of 41 and I am feeling extremely happy to have the chance to learn something new. I am going to focus on learning how to play the piano. I feel so fortunate. Looking at my own life, I see this as once in a lifetime opportunity. I know it is going to be a complex journey since I have to overcome a major negative thought in the back of my mind that has been following me since my childhood but I am confident, because I am learning it together with my children. We pretty much started around the same time at the beginning of September, the only difference is that they both had played an instrument before. 

From a great podcast on learning how to play the piano, I got three very valuable pieces of advice: be patient with yourself, never compare yourself to others and trust yourself.

I am planning to use social media and face to face interaction as part of my learning process. This time I am also going to have a piano teacher by my side, since I want to feel that I am doing things the right way, by having the opportunity to get guidance and answers for my questions. I think that it is crucial to learn the basics well and correctly to be able to build on in the future.

I am very excited about my learning project. It literally brightens my days giving me something to look forward each and every day. I cannot wait to see how far I can get in the next three months as well as in a couple of years.

Thank you for being part of my journey. I will keep you posted!