Contributing to the Weave (in our own little way)

I just finished watching my APMuTh students slog through an exam. I spent most of the period sweating along with them while wanting to wag my finger at them for being less prepared than they should have been. Since starting to work with these particular learners, I’ve come to a greater appreciation of how different the process of learning has become, especially for Gen-Z’ers. I’ve totally gotten on the Google Classroom bus, and am so appreciative of the ability to post resources in a variety of forms. These days, my students can readily access materials ranging from pdf’s to YouTube links, and they regularly interact with Google Docs (“gold” for teachers who depend upon collaborative learning experiences). These tools contribute to our immediate network.

During a conversation with a coach, thoughts were shared on what we considered to be the end results of what we were supposed to be teaching. I’ve kept his words with me for many years…coaches should be teaching more than “x’s” and “o’s.” Of course, this made sense to me. While I’d love to imagine that the majority of my students will go on to major in music at a world-class conservatory, the fact is that very few of them will continue making music, even in a co-curricular setting, when they leave this school. They will take with them the music that is always inside of them (and that’s a great thing, don’t get me wrong), but what I really want them to carry away after commencement are the strategies they will have developed to live and learn.

“To learn.” These days, that is a rather heady phrase. For this generation of learners, it isn’t enough to process information in the confines of their desks or a carrel in the library. These learners are expected to discover and hone their skills in the accessing of content with the assistance of the internet as their teachers do their best to move them through Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning.

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning…just as effective in corporate settings!

With the degree of connectivity currently available in the majority our schools, the concept of “learning environment” has surpassed the confines of a classroom, or even a physical campus. With that evolution, learners (and teachers) are called upon to join a far richer community of peers. Kelly (2016, p. 272) attributes changes in the ways our organizations (of which I include classrooms) have evolved to our arrival at a “new level of organization.” When I considered my students and the differences in the way they are preparing for the APMuTh exam compared to previous generations, it wasn’t difficult for me to recognize the similarities.

Currently, my students are provided with free access to a wide variety of online resources. Most of these are quite valid. As I shared earlier, I regularly post sites and materials on our Google Classroom that we incorporate into our daily work, and are required for the completion homework assignments. In an earlier post on this blog, I shared the fact that we have access to tools offered to us by the College Board on AP Central. We include other open source resources including Teoria -an online tutorial program inclusive of ear training, harmonic analyses, rhythm drills, and more; Tonal Centre – great for aural exercises (at least 50% of the APMuTh exam); Émile – an additional, interactive site for rhythm drills (hosted by Ohio State University). Ohio State isn’t alone in its sharing of open source resources. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology provided us with an absolute wealth of free (and valid) materials. Fortunately for us, they are just two of many colleges and universities offering such resources. Although I post these sites and others like them on our Google Classroom, my students have free access to the internet on our campus to supplement the connectivity available to them at home. My students are used to searching for recorded music in iTunes, Spotify, and the like. Until now, they have not included resources relating to music theory in their searches. They’ve broken new ground for themselves. I’ll take this as a brave step outside of their comfort zones (you are invited to visit my post from November 7, 2019).

I don’t want you to picture teaching/learning APMuTh with the help of connectivity as an entirely positive one. Perhaps the most glaring downside (IMHO) comes when my students lean towards depending completely on the technology that is available to them. I agree with Jarche’s advice for us to actively seek ways to develop creative thinking and creativity in our students. That should be a given in an APMuTh classroom, don’t you think? Actually, it isn’t…at least not in 2019. I want my students to benefit from the richness provided to them by connectivity and technology. I don’t want them to become reliant on those resources to the point that any innate creativity is diminished. Perhaps the smallest indication that their creative juices are alive and well…actually using pencil and paper to notate music. I know. “We’re nearly a full decade into the not-so-new millennium, Nan.” In Smith and Anderson ‘s discussion of robotics, AI, and the view of jobs on the horizon, I recognized the mixed blessings found within my classroom’s technology. Personally, I’m a fan of Finale. For the non-musicians in my readership, this is equivalent to any software programming used for word processing. It is a practical tool for those of us who compose, arrange, work in musical theatre and, yes, teach. With that said, those of us engaging in those activities have already gained more than enough experience putting pencil to paper before moving on to notation software. We understand why we’re altering pitches…why we’re using expressive markings…how to transpose. Because of that time well spent, we’ve physically engaged ourselves in the creative processes that frame our art form. I will dare to pose this comparison. Learning how to write music (as a rank beginner) with the help of notation software = Learning how to write (as a kindergartner) with a laptop. My students are more than welcome to explore the notation software available to them but, while doing so, they are also being required to go through the processes included in the study of APMuTh by hand…showing me their work…explaining how they arrived at their answers. Shortcuts are great. In our discipline, there is definitely a place for patiently moving through the process.

Learn to walk…
before you run!

Unfortunately, my students and I haven’t discovered any ways for them to network with peers studying APMuTh from other schools. Instead, we have established a message group that the 5 of us regularly use. This allows them to work together outside of the school day, and to contact me with questions that pop up while doing homework, studying, doing research, etc. We have all found this to be very useful. I suppose we needed to find the connectivity that works best for us despite all of the other tools at our disposal. I have to admit that it does my heart good to hear that ping after school hours. I wouldn’t mind establishing a network for students like mine. I can’t help but wonder how challenging this would be (both positively and negatively).

I have a theory (pardon the pun) that all of us contribute our own unique threads to a master weave. Some weaves have more variety and cover more than others, but the contribution we make…regardless of how large or small…makes a difference. If one thread is removed, the weave is weakened. My students and I are contributing to the weave of APMuTh in our own way. While the fabric might not be as large as the “screen of all knowledge” described by Kelly (2016, p. 279), it contributes to a portion of our corner of the world. While they are definitely growing in their knowledge of APMuTh (today’s exam, notwithstanding), I believe they are also developing skills (research, coping, general creativity) that will benefit them after they leave my class. I agree with the coach…we must teach them more than “x’s” and “o’s.”

Since the wailers and teeth-gnashers left my classroom, I’ve been trying to figure out why they were having so much difficulty recalling material that had been carefully and thoughtfully laid out for them, not to mention the fact that all of the information had been backed up by multiple online resources. Is it possible that menu and its options had been too rich?

A place in APMuTh there is for patience, Padawan.

References Kelly, K. (2016). The inevitable: understanding the 12 technological forces that will shape our future. NY, NY: Penguin Books.

Published by Just call me Nan.

A musician/educator who is sustained by the love of a great family and wonderful friends. Lover of peace and animals.

13 thoughts on “Contributing to the Weave (in our own little way)

  1. I really appreciate the application of weaving, education, interconnectivity, and access to networking and knowledge. Strengths when considering application of technology and a specific course, like music theory, can vary between students. The most profound statements that altered my mindset where that, even if the contribution is small, it still adds to the overall fabric of work. The nursing field could learn a great deal from that mindset, as we tend to tear our fabric apart.

    Is this something you garnered from your educational training, mentorship, or this class? Are there any other circumstances that you have applied this process? How was it received by your network?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m a huge fan of Yoda-isms, so it was really difficult to resist using one here. Honestly, my theory of the weave is just a result of life experiences. Those, in themselves, comprise my personal weave. We all have one of our own, don’t we? Your comments about the nursing field are all too familiar. It is too easy to discount the importance played by those around us, especially if we perceive others as “less than.”

    Here’s a weave on a much larger scale than the one we are developing in our classroom. Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center opened a new surgical facility back in 2010. One of the most significant additions (as if MSKCC wasn’t already at the forefront of care) was the Wall of Knowledge. When you have time, check out this link for more information on how MSKCC is making the most of the sharing of knowledge in real-time.

    Thanks for your reply…have a wonderful weekend!


  3. I appreciate your insights of using technology in the classroom to connect students. A comment resonated with me about providing the students a wealth of knowledge. With the increase in technology and the about to filter information, do you believe your students come to expect “instant answers” rather than the ability to research and discern information? In today’s instant google the answer society, is there a new perception that educators are to provide the easy answers rather than the ability to critically think?


    1. Interesting comment to a nice post by Nan (love the idea of the weave of knowledge!). Kelvin’s comment brought to mind that having access is never enough … students also need to know how to frame all that knowledge. In his book SMALL TEACHING, Jim Lang noted the work of Susan Ambrose towards detailing the differences between novices and experts in understanding, with experts tapping in to deeper knowledge connections than novices. The novice does not have the ability to form connections between points of data; their data is organized like separate facts floating around (Ambrose et al., 2010). This makes applying the information very difficult and can harm the learning process. See for more on this topic…and check out Susan Ambrose’s book HOW LEARNING WORKS.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for the reply, Dr. Watwood, and I’ll be checking out Lang’s book. As for my students (and others like them), all the tools in the world won’t give them the chance to “learn deeply” (that’s a Nan-ism) if they don’t start working from the foundation upward. I can see the difference in understanding when too many short-cuts have been taken. Love the graphics re the Ambrose post. I can see the relationship between that content and Bloom’s Taxonomy. Connecting the dots on a Sunday morning…yes!


  4. Kelvin…you stated my concerns for my students very well. There are just some things in life that don’t necessarily come to us instantly. I believe that is an accurate perception…that we should just go for the easy answers instead of doing the legwork to find them. As I said, I enjoy technology. I come from a generation of music majors listening to vinyl recordings. When we were tested in Music History, our professors literally played “drop the needle” on our exams. I appreciate the ability to spend less time seeking a sound sample for specific measures in a score. Aside from that, there is much to be said for having to listen to a full movement to find those measures, especially when that gives us the opportunity to hear the transitions leading up to them and moving past them.

    Thanks for the reply, Kelvin. Have a great weekend!


  5. I found it interesting that you and your students had such technology to connect and collaborate as a team, but didn’t have the forum to use these same tools with another school. It really goes to show how empowering and limiting technology can be, but you and your students still found a way to connect through messaging groups. Thank you for sharing Bloom’s Taxonomy. I’ve seen the theory before but your visual has added another wrinkle to my understanding of it. The acquisition and storage of human memories is an ambiguous science, but there certainly does seem to be something to repetition and mentally working yourself through the information that leads to longer lasting impressions. I read a recent article about how neural science is now able to visually construct our thoughts through brain waves:

    Simply fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I really enjoy reading your posts. As you and Kelvin mentioned earlier, there is a lack of patience and understanding of learning and the reason it is important. The narrative seems to be: Why should I have to learn something when I can find it easily on my smartphone?

    I think this has created a false arrogance in people who now dismiss education and especially higher education. But this arrogance to an extent extends to trade jobs as well. I developed a great appreciation for flooring when I put my own floors in, something which I had not done before. I had to make quite a few cuts sometimes because I was measuring incorrectly or not fully considering the angles needed. I’ll say this, I told the wife that the next time we decide to put in new floors, I’m going to pay a professional!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Amen to this, Frank! This is why I want my students to understand the PROCESS before they take advantage of the info via technology. BTW thanks for the reminder about the flooring. We’re considering the same for our family room
    My gut tells me this is a job for the pros. Enjoy what’s left of the weekend!


  8. Lots of good information and discussion on the thread this week. I think there is a common thread (trying to fit into the theme you’re weaving here) throughout many of the blog posts I’m reading: the enormous volume of information does not necessarily translate into comprehension and understanding. However, when reading this post and comments, I was thinking that one of the positives technology provides is the access to so many sources of inspiration. Kelly (2016) in his discussion of the technological forces that are changing our world, made a comment about sharing and the idea that things most shared stir emotion or strong feelings in the sharer. There is so much information out there and so much sharing going on, that eventually, according to Kelly, it will be the most awesome and emotional things that will be shared. As it relates to music and other art forms, technology allows more people to see and hear more inspirational and amazing things. And while it takes more than simply watching a video to be inspired to create something new, access does create more sparks that have the potential to catch fire in the form of new inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for jumping into this thread (sorry…couldn’t resist). I’m very grateful for this week’s replies,. I’m especially appreciative of the reminders that it isn’t so much the number of resources we provide our organizations as much as how we encourage them to be used. In my mind, that use equates to promoting our creativity…stirring our emotions. Enjoy what’s left of the weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

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