Summary of Learning for EC&I 831 – Share More!!!!

I decided to look back at my very first blog post before sitting down to write about what I have learned during my time taking EC&I 831. I mentioned that I was quite comfortable with social media but always felt a step or two behind when it came to technology in general. I have always been very open to technology but have found it difficult to incorporate it into my teaching practices as a senior mathematics teacher. I still struggle to find interesting and practical ways to integrate technology into math but after taking this class I have an even deeper appreciation for the power of connected learning and open education. I have always known how powerful social media can be but my experiences in this class have only confirmed this belief and even expanded it through learning about new social media outlets and tools.

The first new experience in the class was the introduction to Blackboard Collaborate. I have to admit that I didn’t even know that such a tool existed. I was impressed with how easily video, audio, and text were integrated. It allowed people from all over the world to instantaneously interact. This was amazing to me.

The next experience was becoming a part of the EC&I 831 Google+ community. This was another very easy way to connect and interact with Alec Couros and all of the other participants in the class. We could share video’s, articles, pictures, and of course our blog posts with the google+ community. Commenting on other’s post as well as getting feedback on your own was an important part of the learning experience.

For some people in the class, Twitter was a very new and somewhat scary aspect of the class. This was not the case for me. I have been on Twitter for about 3 years now and know what a wonderful social media tool it can be, especially in the realm of education. Twitter is yet another way to connect with educators from all over the world. What an amazing resource for teachers to have to be able to share with and ask questions of educators from all disciplines and backgrounds. The world is literally at your fingertips.

After familiarizing myself with Blackboard Collaborate and the google+ community, and continuing to connect of twitter, the next phase was to create a blog. I had never blogged before in my life but was very open to the concept of blogging. Coming from a performing arts background, I have no problem sharing myself with my family, peers, and colleagues, and doing so in an entertaining way. So blogging was right up my alley and I fell in love with it almost instantly. I have always enjoyed creative writing and also sharing myself with the world. Blogging…where have you been all my life?!? But honestly, I have really enjoyed blogging each week and found myself really tuned into what was going on in education. It was like a new sense was turned on inside me and I was constantly on the look out for something to blog about and I never had trouble finding something to write about. And when Alec and Sue Waters (the Edublogger guru) instructed the class on how to spice up their blog posts and blog pages, I was even more hooked. Now I was adding widgets and adding links, pictures, and videos like nobody’s business. I now had a Twitter feed and an About.Me link. I thought I might even be giving my good friend George Couros (Alec’s brother) a run for his money in the blog world. (Just kidding George, you are still the king).

Since I started my blog on September 16th of this year I have had nearly 1500 people view my blog, from 28 different countries, representing every continent, (with the exception of Antarctica of course). I have had 103 comments on my 14 posts, many of those were from me responding to others that posted, but nonetheless, I have been quite surprised and pleased with the response that I have received from my blog. I had no idea the potential outreach blogging had. In my brief experience with blogging, it is a very inclusive and caring community. I have absolutely loved my blogging experience and plan to continue long after this class is finished.

I could go on and on about everything that I have learned in this class and detail all of the people, apps, tools, and sites that I encountered and learned from but I fear that I have gone on too long already. So why don’t you check out the song I wrote, and posted to Youtube, summarizing what I have learned in this class. I re-wrote the words to the song “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz, and then edited the video in the style of Pop Up Video. As I said at the end of the video, I hope that you enjoy the song as much as I enjoyed this class. The name of my version of this song is “Share More”. Enjoy!

 

Hard Work and Perseverence are the Keys to Success!

Hey Beatles fans! This is my final post for my Major Digital Project for EC&I 831. For this assignment I choose to do a Learning Project. The basic idea of a Learning Project is to learn something new and to document and share how you learned it and your progress along the way. For my Learning Project I choose to learn to play and sing the song “Blackbird” by the Beatles. This is not my first time singing or playing guitar but “Blackbird” is a song that I always wanted to learn and is more difficult than the songs I normally play on the guitar. So I gave myself two weeks to learn the song and filmed myself at the beginning, at the halfway point, and again at the end. Here is a look at my very first attempt after learning the song through this Youtube video and then practicing for just a couple hours. This was filmed on Monday, November 18th.

After filming this I was not sure I would be able to pull it off in two weeks but it really motivated me to practice and improve. I haven’t taken on a difficult song like this in a very long time so I was both scared and excited at the same time. The competitive side of me wanted to take on the challenge and prove I could do it, but the practical side of me wasn’t sure I could in such a short time. Regardless, I persevered and practiced my fingers to the bones, (almost literally), and began to see improvements in just a couple days. I was practicing at my school, at home, at friends houses, you name it. I was highly motivated to get better. For my second attempt, after about a week of practicing, I decided to sing as well as play. My guitar playing had improved significantly but adding the lyrics was an added challenge. Here is my second attempt with guitar and singing filmed on Tuesday, November, 26th.

Not bad for a week of practicing but I still felt that I could improve. I was comfortable with playing most of the song but there were some trouble area’s that I really wanted to get better at. However, I kind of hit a wall after practicing a lot over a short period of time. I went back to Youtube and found an another instructional video that offered a slightly different fingering pattern for the parts that I was struggling with. This was enough to renew my excitement and I instantly improved on some of those trouble spots. I certainly wasn’t playing the song perfectly, but I was making far less mistakes which made me very happy. So here is my final video which I filmed on Tuesday, December 3rd. Hope you enjoy it!

As I said, the song wasn’t perfect but I thought that I did pretty well. I made far fewer mistakes than the previous attempt and really cleaned up some of the trouble spots. Overall, I was quite pleased with the final result. And the best part about taking on this Learning Project is that now I can actually play and sing “Blackbird”!!!

Taking on this Learning Project has reminded me that not everything in life is easy and sometimes you really have to work hard at something to get better. This is true in all aspects of our lives, whether it be relationships, career, or hobbies. You must work hard and take risks to improve and grow. And the pay off is the amazing feeling you get when your hard work pays off and you are able to accomplish the thing you set out to do. Nothing feels better than setting out to do something, and accomplishing that goal through hard work and perseverance. We all have a Blackbird inside of us that wants to be set free and fly. So don’t hold back. Take on a new challenge, take a risk, work hard but be willing to fail. And if you accomplish your goal, no one can take that away from you.

Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone Can Be Good For Your Soul!

In my last blog post I introduced my Learning Project for EC&I 831. The basic idea of a Learning Project is to pick something that you would like to learn, (it could be to learn a new skill or to learn about a new topic of interest to you), and then learn said skill or topic and document the way in which you learned and of course your progress. For my Learning Project I chose to learn the song “Blackbird” by The Beatles. I have been playing guitar for about 18 years now but “Blackbird” is a song that I have always wanted to learn and never took the time to try. The difficulty of the song is definitely out of my comfort zone but I wanted to challenge myself and learn this classic guitar song.

On Monday, November 18, I watched a couple YouTube video’s and learned the basics of the song. I practiced for a couple hours and recorded my first attempt. In this first recording I only played guitar and didn’t sing. Here is my first attempt to play “Blackbird” from that first night.

Yikes! That is hard to watch! Since that night I have been practicing a lot and I also learned the lyrics so that I can both sing and play. I also watched and played along with another YouTube video that has an original recording and the lyrics. (I would share that video but apparently it was recently taken down because of copyright infringements). So after a lot of practice, and learning the lyrics, here is my latest attempt at playing “Blackbird” which I filmed last night on Tuesday, November 26th. Enjoy!

 

I have to admit that when I first decided to learn this song in such a short time, (about two weeks), I wasn’t sure that I would be able to pull it off and as a result I have been playing my guitar more in the last week or so than I have in probably the last year! Even though it has been a little scary, I am enjoying the challenge. I think that often we get very complacent in our daily lives and don’t always challenge ourselves and get out of our comfort zones. This Learning Project has reminded me that we have to challenge ourselves if we ever want to grow. This is true in all aspects of our lives, both personal and professional. Sometimes we have to push ourselves or have someone else give us a little nudge in order to see things in a different light or to simply light a fire under our butts! So don’t be afraid to try something new or take on a new challenge. You might be surprised at how rewarding it can be! And as I said in the title, getting out of your comfort zone can be good for your soul!

What have you done lately that is a little scary or out of your comfort zone? It doesn’t have to be something big like jumping out of a plane, it could be something small like trying a new technology or singing karaoke! Let me know, I would love to hear about it!

My Learning Project Begins!

As part of my EC&I 831 course with Dr. Alec Couros, we are required to do a major digital project. The project is pretty wide open as far as what we can choose to do. One of the choices is to do a “learning project”.

I found a great description of a learning project on Howard Rheingold’s Blog which just happened to be about Alec Couros and The Connected Teacher. The basic idea behind a learning project is this:

1. Learn a skill, concept or idea you know very little or nothing about but that you’re interested in learning.

2. Document the learning. Write about it, video tape, audio record, whatever.

3. Consider all the sources you use to learn. Collect those resources.

4. Take an early baseline snapshot of your understand at the beginning and another one at the end. Compare and analyze.

My learning project is not exactly to learn a new skill but to challenge one of my existing skills. I have been playing guitar for almost 19 years and I would rate my skill as a guitar player as adequate. When I started teaching myself to play, my goal was to be able to play around a campfire. I accomplished that goal and I have gone beyond the campfire and regularly sing and play my guitar on stage with The Saskatoon Soaps Improv Comedy Troupe and with the Red Hot Riot show here in Regina, Sk. I also have written and performed several parody songs that I have posted to my YouTube channel and also the Saskatoon Soaps YouTube channel.

As I said earlier, my guitar playing is adequate. I have gotten better over the years but I have plateaued long ago. My skills as a guitar player are very utilitarian. I play just well enough to get by. I can pick up most songs by ear but I would categorize myself as a “strummer” and not a “picker”. In other words, if I were in a band, I would definitely be the rhythm guitar player and not lead guitar. I can play the chords to most songs but cannot play the screaming guitar solo’s.

One of the songs that I have always wanted to learn was “Blackbird” by the Beatles. I have always been a huge Beatles fan and this summer I was able to see Sir Paul McCartney in concert. It was the thrill of a lifetime to see one of The Beatles on stage and relive my childhood and teenage years listening to The Beatles. Even the title of my blog, Live and Let Learn, is a play on the Paul McCartney song Live and Let Die.

So even though I have been playing guitar for a long time, taking on a classic like “Blackbird” is a huge challenge for me, not to mention that the song is all picking and fast chord changes. Not what I am used to playing at all. To learn how to play I went to YouTube and found several tutorial-type video’s and ended up looking at these two video’s.
I spent a couple hours learning and practicing and here is my first attempt at playing the song. WARNING: This attempt is not pretty. I apologize to The Beatles and Paul McCartney and anyone else who has ever played this song properly.
So there you go! My plan is to get much better over the next couple of weeks and post one more intermediate video and a final video. I think that my learning project is a good analogy for this course. I am taking a skill that I already have and trying to do something new with it as well as improve on that skill, very much like this class. I am taking what I already know about technology and social media and trying to do something new with it as well as improve on my knowledge base. Hopefully it all goes well on both fronts!
Stay tuned…..

 

A Trip Down Twitter-y Lane

Twitter launched in July of 2006 and I joined on Oct 4th, 2010. I have to admit that before I joined, I had my reservations about twitter. I didn’t really understand what it was all about and thought it was just about following celebrities and tweeting about the minutia of every day life. I had no idea what an amazing tool it was and how much it would shrink the world for me and connect me with so many different people. I am currently approaching 600 followers and 3000 tweets on my Twitter account, fairly modest numbers I would wager, but I thought I would take a trip down Twitter-y lane and check out my early Twitter feed! So I actually scrolled back to the beginning to see how I, and Twitter, have evolved in the 3 years I have been on.

Here is my first tweet! (Kind of funny I think.)

 
Ryan Josephson @jojo7415
 

For my first tweet I would like to say something profound so here goes…I don’t think Kevin Costner movies are that bad. There, I said it.

   
  05:34 AM – 05 Oct 10

As I read through my early tweets I noticed a few things. First of all, I used to tweet a lot more than I do now. I attribute this to the fact that at the time, Twitter and Facebook were my only social media sites, and I had way more time to tweet. Now my time is split between so many more social media sites and apps on my phone, (not to mention a 4 year old daughter and a girlfriend). I also noticed that my earlier tweets were much more whimsical and a lot less edited than they are now. I was tweeting to be funny and was not too concerned about the content. My tweets were not crude or anything, but I was a lot more free back then. At the time I was still learning how to post photo’s and video’s. I was talking about songs to listen to instead of posting the song or YouTube video. I was having a lot of fun contributing to different trending hashtags, which I rarely do anymore. I really dove in at the beginning and instantly loved Twitter. I loved connecting with people I didn’t know from all over the world.

The funny thing about reading through my tweets was that I remembered all of them, and some of them seemed like I just tweeted them yesterday. In many cases it didn’t seem like 3 years ago. It was also very cool to see the tweets of some of the milestones in my life over the past 3 years. In some ways it was like a little diary. I really enjoyed that aspect of looking back. A lot changes in 3 years and Twitter is a daily record of the things happening in our personal lives and in the world. Pretty amazing.

For all of you on Twitter, I encourage you to take a trip down Twitter-y lane. Do you remember what your very first tweet was? I would love to hear it. Feel free to share!

Daddy, Put Down Your Phone! – Part II

Thank you to everyone who viewed and posted comments to my previous post, “Daddy Put Down You Phone!”. That post seemed to resonate with a lot of people so I thought I would share a YouTube video that I just came across which is directly related to smart phone addiction…it is even in the title of the video! Check it out!

According to this video, the average smart phone user checks there phone 110 times a day! Another source, according to the video, says that it might actually be more like 150 times a day!! The most shocking of all is that some of the highest frequency users, during the peak hours of 5pm and 8pm, are checking their phones every 6 seconds!!! (That statement is three exclamation mark worthy). The rest of us “average frequency” users are only checking our phones on average 9 times an hour during peak hours.

Just like we all spend time thinking about our spending habits and often create a budget to control our spending, I wonder if we should all think about our smart phone habits and somehow budget our time to control our smart phone use.

people-texting

After watching this video I started to think about how many times an hour I check my phone. I hate to admit it, but I would guess that I probably check my phone, on average, 10 to 15 times an hour. So over the course of a day I would easily fall into the category of 150 – 200 times a day. I am a little shocked and saddened by that. How can I possibly be looking at my phone that much during the day!

As I pointed out in my last post, the time I spend on my phone is not all frivolous. I am actually doing productive and meaningful things a lot of the time. But I can’t help feeling like I am spending too much time on the phone. It looks like I may have to create a smart phone time-budget for myself! Might be time to pull on the time purse-strings and cut back!

Smart Phone chart

I’m interested to know, what is your number? How many times an hour or a day do you think you are checking your smart phone or other device? For the brave among you, I encourage you to post your number and/or your thoughts below. Thanks again for reading! (Better go check my phone!)

Daddy, Put Down Your Phone!

One of the things I am hearing more and more these days from my daughter is, “Daddy, put down your phone!”. This is also seems to be a common theme in many of the comments I have seen in the google+ community for my current Masters of Education class, EC & I 831. Many of my classmates, myself included, have noticed that time on our smart phones and other devices is taking time away from family. In my previous two blog posts I have been singing the praises of social media but thought I should explore another side of the story and try to answer a few questions. Do I spend too much time on my phone checking my various social media sites? Do I rely on social media as a distraction from other things going on in my life? Do my relationships suffer because I am spending too much time on my phone?

One of the catalysts for this blog post was a video clip I recently saw of comedian Louis C.K. on the Connan O’Brien show. In the video below Louis shares his feelings about cell phones.

Obviously this is an exaggerated commentary by a comedian on a talk show but it really got me thinking about my own personal cell phone use. I find myself on my phone more and more when I have a spare moment. Often I am texting or sending emails to people that I need to communicate with. Sometimes I am using social media in a more official manner, for example; running my schools twitter account, reading, posting and commenting for my aforementioned masters class, promoting an upcoming comedy show on Facebook or Twitter, or writing my latest blog post. However, the rest of the time I am on my phone I am is just surfing around my social media sites; Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, goggle+, Instagram, YouTube, and now my blog. I am listening to music, watching videos, listening to podcasts, reading and responding to Facebook and twitter posts, looking at peoples pictures on Instagram, and communicating with people via instant messaging and email. Sometimes I have to force myself to put my phone down, and sometimes my daughter reminds me that we are in the middle of a tea party and I need to put my phone away!

IMG_3972

I am very aware that when I am spending time with my daughter, my girlfriend, my family, or my friends, I should put my phone away and give them the attention they deserve. But what really got me thinking when I watched the Louis C.K. video was his point he made about people using cell phones to avoid feeling lonely. For those of us with smart phones, we have constant access to friends, family, celebrities, sports, music, videos, and pictures. If we so choose, we never have to be alone with our thoughts. Some may argue, “Isn’t looking at a smart phone the same as watching TV?”, and I would say that it is and it isn’t. Using cell phones acts as a distraction the same way watching TV does, but social media is much more interactive than watching TV. You are still alone with your thoughts when watching TV, and when you are on social media sites, you are communicating with people, just not face to face, so there is the allusion of human interaction. I agree with Louis C.K. when he says that people reach for their phones to avoid feeling lonely, to avoid the things they don’t want to think about, and I don’t think this is necessarily a good thing.

I love my phone and I love staying connected with people via social media, but I really do think that our real life human interactions are suffering. It is very cool to be exchanging twitter messages with a friend on the other side of the world, but how about chatting with the person beside you at the dentist office or the person beside you at your child’s swimming lesson. Or more importantly, how about spending a little more time with the people that mean the most to you like your friends and family. Check the link below for some helpful tips on how to limit your social media time and increase your human interaction.

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-10977/10-tips-to-spend-less-time-on-social-media-more-time-with-humans.html

As much as I am an advocate for the proper use of social media, I am also a fan of good, old fashioned, human interaction. So the next time you are tempted to reach for your phone to check your Facebook, or text somebody, try striking up a conversation with the person sitting next to you or maybe try just being alone with your thoughts for a little while. Disconnect from your phone for a moment, and try reconnecting with yourself. (Whoa, that was deep.)

I would love to hear what you think on this topic so please comment below! Cheers!