Can i learn to conduct online?

Whilst on holidays I wondered if anybody offered a diploma or certificate course focusing on conducting music ensembles, since I’ve been doing a lot of that lately, and I’m mostly self taught. I did find a few options – including a Masters level program at the Sydney Conservatorium (that the University of Sydney these days), and also a few overseas. I also found a place that offers Certificate level courses, fully online, in a huge range of music topics including arranging, orchestration, composition. And then i began to wonder, could i learn music online? I think of it as a pretty ‘hand’s on’ activity.

Today, as i read Prof. Steven Schwarz’s blog (VC of Macquarie University) posting regarding the disruptive powers of open education – i discovered Udacity – a new online university that has just started offering free courses, with many more planned. They are currently offering a course called “CS373: Programming a Robotic car” On the webpage, you can see a YouTube clip of the teacher riding in his fully robotic car – the thing was driving by itself!!! And he reckons he can teach me how to do the same in 7 weeks. Yes please! I mean, this really got my inner-nerd very excited.

But seriously, if i can learn to program a robotic car online, then i reckon i probably can learn to conduct online. And arrange compositions for orchestras.
Which one should i try first? Has anybody learnt anything fully online lately?

Oui oui! Le Skype is working!

After months of planning and testing, the Skype pilot kicked off today. With slick new high definition web cams, and the help of the “how to” login sheet, the french language students connected with other students in Noumea. And the French conversations began to flow.

While many staff members have had Skype installed and working fine in their offices on their individual managed desktop machines (ie supported centrally by ITS), up until know it has been impossible to intall and use them “en masse” for use by students in an ITS managed teaching computer lab. But, thanks to the hard work of everybody involved (especially Krstan Risteski, ITS Labs Manager and Liz Burns, ITS System team) a special ‘software package’ was developed, tested, tweaked, and re-tested. Now Skype can be remotely installed in labs by ITS Support staff, with the correct network and software settings so that it actually works within the confines of a teaching lab. The only last minute hitch was that each new web-cam purchased by Arts (they are for use in the new Bld 19 Language labs) needed to have the software drivers manually installed, but thanks to Krstan, this was achieved in time also.

Wk 6 Progress: VM Ware /open source tools pilot

Generally, we seem to have ironed out most of the hiccups (mainly linked to people having problems copying the system to Mac formatted disks or by locking the VM system by not shutting it down properly (have to throw out the lock file to restart in those circumstances). Other issues are mainly about the overall technical complexity of having to load up another operating system and then engage with complex set of programming APIs – a real challenge for many of the students.

Testing VMWare player in labs with FCA staff

Been working with Brogan Bunt and Peter Goodall to get an open-source applications pilot up and running. Brogan wants to run his classes in the ITS labs, but with open-source software. The solution has been to install VMWare player in the labs, which allows other operating systems to be used. THen the students bring in a USB specially formatted with Ubuntu (Linux) operating system and a suite of open-source or freeware applications on it. They create a range of sound/media products with them. Then they take it home and use exactly the same software to do their homework and projects. No need for them to purchase expensive proprietory software at home, nor to treck in to uni just to use software. Let’s hope the pilot works well. Cos so far, it sounds fantastic!IMG_4708IMG_4709IMG_4710

digital voice recorder

olympus dvr CC Hickey 08obviously not a ‘new’ technology, but if I had to name the one techi thing that changed life in my corner  it was the nifty usb recorder I started using five years ago…. what it means in practice is that the linguistically vulnerable student seeking advice about their writing (those using English as an additional language, for example) can instantly get a copy of the consultation (no cables, just pull it apart, stick it in their laptop) which they can listen to repeatedly at their own pace, and thereby  learn so much more than from a single exposure which they may or may not well recall when back at their desk trying to put into practice the pearls of linguistic wisdom showered upon them… their feedback assures me this was the best investment for teaching I ever made…

Ning Social networks in teaching

Currently there are 3 undergrad classes that I’m aware of that use Ning as an entire learning environment, after a trial use by one class last session.

Ning lets anybody create their own social network and you can have sub-networks or special interest groups inside each network, which usually has a theme. I explored one called “Classroom 2.0”

After navigating thorugh to this network from an “education” themed newtwork i clicked on a network called “Classroom 2.0” and then i clicked on a “visit” link to go there. Once inside (ie on the Classroom 2.0 homepage) it looked remarkably like a WordPress blog. I wondered if it was based on WordPress with some additional code to create a visual clustering and linking between the different sites.

Can anybody comment on what exactly the students like about this particular site/network? How do they use it to stay in touch? Is it particularly easy to link through to find friends’ contributions?

The Classroom 2.0 social network (Ning) homepage      Another part of the homepage, with the special interest group links.

It certainly was easy to set up a new network, see images below you just name and pick a url, theme and colour scheme, and drag and drop the items/features to set the layout.

Setting up a Ning network

And here is what it looked like after i’d set it up. Empty. But ready to roll.

45 seconds later, a new Ning network site.