I really need to get cracking with my PGCert project now that Christmas is over. As I’ve mentioned, I had a very stressful six months at the end of last year. By the time Christmas crept up on me, I visualised my GP diagnosing burnout, and made a last-minute decision to take an extra day’s annual leave before Christmas. I felt as though I was barely functioning – it was time to stop before I crumpled into a little disconsolate heap.
After Christmas, I did no intellectual work for ten days. I looked at my work emails only once (because I’m helping organise a conference outwith work, and I didn’t want to let anyone down by not completing a particular task). And I sewed, did all the domesticity stuff, and slept. That was about it.
The major stress-factor is resolved, though I still have plenty of other things requiring my attention. Unfortunately, I’m still tired. That doesn’t seem to be going away fast enough. Still, I’m still here, and it’s a new year. That’s about as good as it gets!
I was working from 1-5 today, because I was owed a few hours. So, I had planned two meetings, one in my capacity as music librarian, and the other regarding a research grant application.
What happened? Two more people came asking for help in the 15 minutes before my first meeting. I helped the first – it was a quick question – and asked the second to come back later. The first scheduled meeting happened, the second didn’t happen for unavoidable reasons, and then I had what I hope was a helpful second student consultation with the person whom I hadn’t time to help earlier.
And then I blogged some notes on my afternoon, on the library blog – Whittaker Live. Reproduced here, to avoid duplication of effort. But before I do that, I’m just going to comment that it made me realise – again – how enthusiastic our postgraduates are, and how eager to get things right. Also, I was reminded that logging into e-resources, and referencing and citation, are things we librarians just take in our stride. They’re much bigger hurdles for our students, especially if they’ve been out of education for even just a few years.
In library terms, we would refer to these incidents as queries, though ‘consultation’ is probably closer to the mark. In actual fact, it’s 1:1 teaching, though some of our RCS teachers probably assume that teaching only takes place in classrooms or studios!
This afternoon saw a quick question about our students accessing online resources from outside the Conservatoire – and a quick answer. RCS staff and students need to go to our Library web-pages, click on the appropriate e-resources link, and then pick their chosen e-resource (or e-book, or e-journal). Use Shibboleth institutional access from there – pick the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, then your usual RCS login. We don’t use Athens – so avoid anything mentioning it.
Then came two two individual consultations about Karen’s favourite things. First, a fairly in-depth discussion about saving citations, then using the Harvard referencing style, and creating a bibliography. The Whittaker Library has guidelines about Harvard referencing on our part of the RCS Portal. (Find them here. If you need more, just Google “Harvard Referencing”, and you’ll find plenty of other guides!)
If you’re referencing a lot of non-standard formats, the best advice is to find an example for something approximately close to your reference, then tweak the example to fit your purposes, making sure the author’s name and date of the source are listed first. If you’re referencing something online, then you’ll need to give a hyperlink, and also the date you accessed the item. All this is in our guide.
The next query was back to e-resources again, but this time about content rather than access. We talked about finding info about specific musical works. Naxos sleeve notes are useful. JSTOR can be useful, too. Oxford Music Online is better for facts about the works’ composition dates, opus numbers, where they stand in the composers’ output, etc, but may not necessarily give you anything in-depth about individual works.
So, having delved briefly into online resources, we also looked at CD and vinyl sleeve notes – plenty more info in that direction! And good old Cobbett’s Cyclopedic Survey of Chamber Music. It may be old, but could be a good starting place.
A week tomorrow, I’m visiting a class of third year Trad Music students to talk about their research projects, and to see if the library has any resources that might prove useful to them.
I have a conviction that “parachute lecturers” – people like me, asked to give one-off teaching sessions – need to work harder to create context for their lessons. Therefore, I’ve just sent a MailChimp message to everyone, to give advance warning of what I’ll be talking about. This way, I hope the students will be prepared to share their initial thoughts about these projects, and might come armed with questions about any resources they’ve already tried.
This is not exactly part of my PGCert project, but I’m logging it in case I need it as “evidence” later on!
I’m coming along to talk to you about your research projects – so I can see if the library can help you with any useful materials, any e-resources you might not have thought of, and maybe offer a few tips about keeping track of your research “journey” along the way.
I just thought I’d send this email to ask you each to be prepared to tell me briefly what the project is about. If there’s anything you’d like to give me advance warning about, just drop me an email: ~~~~~~~~~~~~
And if there are any online resources you’ve tried but had difficulty with, let me know, and we can have a look at them together. (Here’s the library’s webpage: https://www.rcs.ac.uk/about_us/libraryandit/)
I’m thinking about podcasts for user education. Why? Well, on several occasions, different people have suggested them. Enter a new article by Tara Brabazon:-
‘Press learning: the potential of podcasting through pause, record, play and stop’ (Knowledge Management and E-Learning 8 (3), (2006), 430-443.
I found the article on Academia.edu, which I frequent quite regularly. I follow Tara’s research outputs.
Tara is a great advocate of podcasts – audioclips that oblige people to listen closely, without visual distraction. She cites John Cage’s 4:33 and how the listener has to listen to the sounds around them. But one thing is clear. It wasn’t clear to me before, and it probably wasn’t clear to people I’ve been speaking to. Podcasts are audio. What I think is needed for user education, is videoclips (Tara calls it vodcasting) – a brief audiovisual clip. I am pretty sure people need to see how to use the catalogue, use the e-resources, and so on. It’s a bit like learning how to sew – you need to see it done. Much library user education is training in methodology, not so much challenging readers to think about a subject a certain way, but instructions on how to use new databases or resources.
What is a Podcast?, by Yaro Starak
Already, before I’ve even finished the article, I have questions! These are the three potential models, if I know which software to use:-
- Screencapture and audio would probably do for most situations.
- As for video-ing in the library, what would be the easiest technology ?
- If I were to find a situation where podcasting really WOULD be best, what would be the best technology?
- Do I need to know about RSS feeds, if I’m looking to put material on a portal which is primarily for students and staff?
I’m sure our learning technologist will be able to help me answer some of these!
Up until a couple of years ago, I don’t think it would have occurred to me to attend ISME – the big summer conference of the International Society for Music Education. However, the music librarian-turned-musicologist is currently brushing up her pedagogical skills with a PGCert in Teaching and Learning in Higher Arts Education. Attendance at ISME (which happens to be in Glasgow this year) is thus nothing if not timely!
Today, I attended presentations concerning the education of the professional musician – that’s what we spend a lot of time doing at RCS, after all. The first session was under the aegis of CEPROM (Commission of Education of the PROfessional Musician), about leadership in the education of professional musicians. There had been a CEPROM pre-conference seminar, and five people gave us summaries of different aspects of that.
- Judith Brown (Australia) spoke of developing leadership skills in musicians, of community projects in this context, workplace placements, and autonomy in student learning. In my practice, only the latter is really applicable, but it does tie in with my concern to engage students in their own learning, rather than standing and lecturing them, wherever possible.
- Pamela Pike (USA) spoke of transformative pedagogy: student-centred, flexible and explorative. She reminded us that leadership could be facilitative, directive or integrative, depending on the cohort’s place in their learning journey; and that leadership is actually an attitude. Above all, she said, we must “foster students’ ownership of their own learning.” (A theme was beginning to come through loud and clear! ) To do this, we should “shift curricular paradigms; engage students in the reflective process; [help them to] begin their professional narrative; and the process should not be separated from the product.”
- Annie Mitchell (Australia) spoke of leadership in large ensembles and community music.
- Pamela Burnard (Cambridge, UK) talked about institutional change, and of a positive welcoming of change – the “we’ll find a way” approach, and of facilitating leadership.
- Glen Carruthers (Canada) talked about the “responsive university”, and how, with declining applications to music courses in Ontario, his university started a degree in community music, in response to students’ need.
There were comments from the floor about mature students, recreational music-making, and an acknowledgement that portfolio careers are now a reality in”the real world”.
Making our way to the International Concert Hall for the main keynote of the day, we first heard Nick Elliott of ABRSM tell us how they try to support independent learning, provide resources, and seek to reconnect the performance and understanding of music. There are new forms of assessment, accreditation and resources planned.
As with the Teaching Artist and PGCert courses, the ABRSM makes a blended offer of analogue and digital platforms, and Nick alluded to the recent “Classical 100” primary digital resource.
Next, we heard a stunning presentation from Evelyn Glennie, who told us about the philosophy of her own old school, “Every child has a story to tell”, and her first percussion teacher’s openness to creativity. Delegates were urged to keep creativity and imagination alive in their pupils and themselves, at any stage in life.
As a downpour overwhelmed Glasgow, I went to the Piping Centre for a lunchtime concert which turned out to have been cancelled, then instead went to a five-piano concert, spending some time after that networking over lunch before the afternoon sessions.
Frank Abrahams spoke engagingly about musical literacy and sight-reading, pointing out that the use of folksongs for sight-reading over the years was now becoming outdated as being an idiom far-removed from students’ everyday experience. He talked about an experiment he’d run with two teachers getting students to pick repertoire for sight-reading, from pop music and hiphop, which the teachers would then grade and transcribe for them. In terms of engagement, meeting students “where they are” definitely has its benefits – though I am left wondering how I could best do this, when I introduce historic Scottish tunebooks to first/second-year students, or demonstrate databases etc. The “parachute lecturer” (dropping in to deliver single seminars) doesn’t have the opportunity to allow students to collaborate in deciding what they’d like to learn over a period of weeks.
Frank said that getting students to collaborate empowers them. Have them feel the rhythm by moving their feet and counting, and get them to brainstorm what the possible difficulties of different songs might be. There were challenges in choosing music that wasn’t too difficult rhythmically, and in teachers being willing to shift the power and responsibility to the students. It means being willing to let go, to an extent.
I attended a talk by Brit Aagot Broeske Danielson about students being involved in a collaborative student project, but unfortunately, moving between sessions meant I missed the beginning of her paper, and struggled to understand what the powerpoint slides were actually about, though the project itself sounded as though it had been highly beneficial for the students.
Karen Burland (Leeds) spoke about research projects she had done and was about to continue, regarding career information for students, what different levels of student found helpful, and how engaged they were in different kinds of training provided. It seemed as though it was just about as hard to get students to attend careers seminars as it is to get them to attend any library training that is perceived as voluntary or extra. It has to be timetabled, particularly to get first years to attend, when they are still not really thinking about future careers. The other strong message was that students welcomed the chance to speak to someone who knew them and their strengths, or alternatively was just a few years further along the same path so that they could see what was possible and achievable (“Idols in touching distance”). Alumni links are actually vital.
Karen reminded us that not all students became performers or music teachers, so students need other “employability activities”, but perhaps they don’t realise when they’re acquiring some of these – eg networking skills. Portfolio careers require entrepreneurial skills, too, but students need to be taught them or given opportunities to develop them.
The final session I attended was about programme music, specifically, Rachmaninov’s “Faust” sonata. This was probably the session I gained least from. I had expected a presentation about the benefits of understanding the ‘programme’ behind particular pieces of music. Instead, it was a blow-by-blow account of the programme behind one specific sonata. There was nothing relating to pedagogical skills or student development, and the presenter would have had an easier time had there been a colleague either running the powerpoint, and/or reading prepared excerpts from Goethe’s Faust so that he could concentrate on talking and playing musical examples. Additionally, at times I struggled with the assertion that particular musical passages were directly related to specific passages in Goethe’s text.
Tomorrow, I’ll be in the library, but I’ll attend more sessions of ISME later this week.
Yesterday, I saw on my Twitter feed that University of South Wales librarian Sue House (whom I don’t know, apart from following her on Twitter!) was attending a conference about student induction, in York, run by a company called Shared Thinking.
When I realised she was sharing lots of references to names I’d never heard of, about things that might be relevant to my teaching practice, I decided I’d need to keep a note of them. After all, she mentioned buzzwords like experiential learning, and student engagement and so on.
- My project is on student engagement in library-led training.
- I’m giving a paper at the forthcoming ISME (the International Society for Music Education) conference in Glasgow. In it, I’m mentioning experiential learning. And I shall certainly allude to student engagement, even if it’s not in the student induction sense.
I decided I needed to hoover up as many relevant tweets from that conference as possible. I don’t know if others there were tweeting, but I think I have enough information to be going on with! Bits of paper get lost, even saved Word documents can be forgotten. So this time I saved the whole thing to Storify and can go back to it relatively easily, as well as sharing with other people. (I also looked up most of Sue’s citations and posted links to them. Might save time for me or someone else later on!) Here it is:-
(I might add that this actually validates much of my social media activity, because I am often thinking about quite serious professional issues as I tweet or react to tweets!)