Monday, September 21, 2009

Fun with chord progressions

So at last I have something on Scratch that actually works. I came up with the idea after surfing the web for online music tools that seem to be pretty popular in some music classrooms. After looking at some of them, i thought, "hey, i should be able to make something in Scratch!"

So here is what I have so far. Right now it's a movie taken from my computer, so you'll have to watch it. Basically i'm typing the corresponding numbers under each piano picture. Each number is in reference to the chord progression in the key of C Major (e.g. 1 = C, E, G, 2 = D, F, A, and so on).


video

My initial plan was to have it play chords (e.g. all at the same time) instead of arpeggios (e.g. separate). But I didn't find a way to do that, so I adjusted a bit. But actually, what I found, is that you can come up with pretty interesting layers as you type away.

The most interesting thing I took away from doing this is that i was in the Flow. For those of you unsure of what i'm talking about, Flow is basically loosing track of time cause your so engrossed in what your doing--the challenges of the task are neither to hard or to easy to accomplish. Plus, this was meaningful to me in ways that reflect my interest in learning and in music.

I can just hear it now...a Scratch Symphony. No, seriously, think about it my P650 friends. Each of you assigned a number/numbers on your keyboard, and when I (the conductor of course) point to you, you type that particular number.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Legitimate digital participation

So i've read a few blogs and heard some discussion about Mark Prensky's metaphor of digital immigrants and digital natives. I thought I would present my view on this issue and a way that I perceive what Prensky is talking about. You'll get the play on words later.

First, I must state that his terminology of immigrants and natives is, at best, a way to simply convey a meaning to the 'general public' and at worst a poor choice of words overall. I don't really like the terms as they present a stigma on the old and the young. As a fellow student pointed out on her blog (sleeping alone and starting out early):

"We need to consider how this metaphor--taken up so widely in our cultural conversations--continues to reify a divide in participation based on gender, class, and ethnicity. Even those who subscribe to the Prensky metaphor have to concede that not all young people can be considered "natives" by his definition, and not all old people can be considered "immigrants." When we make the sweeping proclamation that kids these days are digital natives, what we're really doing is identifying the type of kid whose practices and ways of being in the world have gone mainstream."

I couldn't agree more and this is the problem with the terminology he uses to describe the divide between those savvy in the new media landscape and those not so savvy. What got me thinking about Prensky's premise was when he noted in the first paragraph of his paper was
"[t]oday’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach."


When I think about that deeper, the radical change is that now students (youths or natives in Prensky's term) are in the center and the educators (older folks) are now the incoming--on the periphery--of the 'new media' culture.

Thats right all you LS students. If you haven't seen this book yet, you will? But it's actually a quick and interesting read. Ok, enough of the stellar review.

Lets rethink what Prensky is saying. The advent of new technologies and media has advanced faster than anything in our history. Think about how long it took for the radio to catch on and once it did, the television came along, but again, it took years and years for it to be a common houshold item.

Now, computers, cell phones, internet access, and whatever other advancement you can think of is now out there for anyone to engage (I won't get into the issue of the Participation Gap that Henry Jenkins brings up). So what has happened is educators (adults) have now become the 'new-commers' and the youth have become the 'old-timers'.

So what has happened is that the 'old-timers' do not know how apprentice the 'new-comers'. Then the divide happens. "Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach." And i say, of course they're not, the people our educational system was designed to teach were on the periphery of the community and now they are in the center.
So how can new media/technologies be designed to scaffold the 'new-commers'? Or is that even the issue? I seem to always go back to the engagement (participatory/motivational) issue when it comes to new media/technologies. Is it possible that the 'new-comers' have not found a reason to engage with these new media landscapes?

Additional comments:
So I've been asked to elaborate on my thinking on situated learning and any differences to constructionism. First, I must say that when I made the legitimate peripheral participation metaphor I did so to combat Prensky's Native's vs. Immigrants comparison and make sense of what Prensky was saying. It also didn't hurt to try and think of it in terms of a learning theory that is prevelant in LS.

So, I'm not an expert on any one learning theory. I have also not alligned myself with any camp exclusively. I feel each has their unique view and i like to "remix" or "creatively borrow" from each. With that said, lets first look at the basic tenants of Situated learning and Constructionism.

Situated learning: Basically learning takes place in a community of practice in which there are experts (old-timers) and novices (new-comers). Old-timers apprentice the new-comers into the community through scaffolding. Essentially learning occurs in the same place in which it is applied. An example from the Lave and Wenger book is tailors and how the expert tailors apprentice the incoming tailors.

Constructionism: While you can't really define constructionism (cause we all construct the artifact differently), I'll just say that learning in constructionism takes place when the learner is constructing an artifact that is meaningful to the community or culture to which they belong.

These are over-simplified definitions of both. So, what are the differences between the two? I think the big difference is the focus of constructing some sort of artifact in constructionism, where situated learning is concerned with participation and apprenticeship within a community.

However, i think both share some common qualities that are sociocultural in nature. The one common theme being community (or culture). Constructionism is not simply about 'discovery learning' or that learning is an individual construct. And, situated isn't just concerned with apprenticeship with no concern for artifacts.

This is something I hope to continue to write about, but right now, my duties as a dad are calling. I knew i shouldn't have started this so early in the morning.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

How do we learn (in new media).

It's a question posed, but as I think about it and linking the question to the Scratch activity today in class, I wonder if the term learning is the right one to use. More on this in a second.

But what did I learn today? I was not joking when I said I learned that Scratch doesn't seem to like it when you import other files not originally done in Scratch. I also learned that my previous experience with audio (and some video) production tools does not translate well to Scratch. As Jeff brought up in class, when your used to a linear way of making things happen, it's hard to construct something in which the parts are working in parallel. But was that the objective? My end 'product' was less than stellar (after getting frustrated that I lost my first project---remember COMMAND+S!) and was not personally or epistemologically meaningful. So, once i lost my original project, which had personal meaning, I just disengaged from Scratch.

So that brings me back to the term learning. Learning can carry a weight that seems outcome oriented. By that I mean we or our kids are always tested on what they learn, or asked "what did you learn today?" I'm not skirting around the question, but simply suggesting that before any learning can take place, the learner(s) have to be engaged (motivated) in the process.

There are 2 ways that I have fought with this issue--2 differing theories: the social-cognitive way and the sociocultural way.

The social-cognitive way of thinking about it is through self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is basically the belief in your ability to succeed at a task (thats a very broad, sweeping definition...but just go with it). So think about it. Your asked to paint a picture, play an instrument, write a novel...what ever it is, but you just don't think you will be very good at it, so what do you do? In the case of students that are just learning musical instruments for the first time, if they do bad, or feel they will do bad, they simply disengage with the activity.

The sociocultural view would argue that motivation is not an individual construct, but that act of participating in an activity makes it motivating and hence learning can take place.

While I will not expand on this anymore , I've rambled long enough--but i do have some papers i've written on both self-efficacy and sociocultural views of motivation with regards to music learning and Rock Band. I will say that we learn in new media by engaging in it. However, if it the personal meaningfulness is lacking, the participation in an activity might decline...yes?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A short introduction...

This is mainly for the P650 (Learning in New Media class), but feel free to read away.

As I mentioned in class, I'm beginning my 3rd year in the Learning Sciences program. My interest involves how people (not just kids) learn music through technological means (i.e. GarageBand, Pro-Tools, Band-in-a-Box, etc.). With the advent of new technologies, anyone can write a song. But is it harmful or helpful with which these types of programs make it so easy to create a piece of music? And, can a learning tool be developed to foster music learning using popular technolgies I previously mentioned?

Previous work I have done involved the game Rock Band and what (if anything) players learn about musical concepts when they play the game. Preliminary analysis seems that , yes, indeed they do learn about rhythm. Future projects include "Creative Paths to Peace" where youths here in Bloomington will connect with youths in Tel-Aviv Israel and learn about music while developing cross-cultural understanding. You can read about these, plus other musings at MichaelDownton.com. I may end up posting some of the things from there over to here as well.

Thats it for now. This past week my family and I have been moving out of a house that we lived in for 10 years to a place here in Bloomington. Needless to say we're not completely moved in yet, but it's getting there.