Art of e-learning

Yes, technology can lead pedagogy.


A while back I was issued a #blideo challenge by Terese Bird. (A blideo is described like this by its initiator, Steve Wheeler: “You share a short video clip on your blog and challenge 3 people in your personal learning network to write learning related blog posts about it. When they post their response, they include another short video clip of their choice and challenge 3 other people within their network… and so on.”)

The video clip Terese chose for me was this epic scene from School of Rock:

In it, Jack Black, as the radical, disruptive impostor substitute music teacher in an American school, secretly watches his class playing a classical concert and discovers that they are very capable musicians. Overcome by excitement at the potential he has seen, he bursts into their classroom for the next class and begins by picking on the kids, one by one, to come up to the instrument most closely resembling the one they were playing in the classical concert, and follow his directions to play the first few bars of Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water. The scene is fast-paced and bristling with tension as each child attempts to do something new on an unfamiliar instrument under the urgent and energetic guidance of their teacher, and under the stunned gaze of all their classmates. Of course they end up sounding like they’ve been in a band together playing Deep Purple all their lives within five minutes – there might be some artistic licence in that, but the kids were very quickly getting the hang of their new instruments. Some of them had to make a relatively small leap from a piano to an electric keyboard, or an acoustic to an electric guitar, while others had to go from the cello to the bass guitar, or from a single percussion cymbal to a full set of drums. What made this scene work was that Jack Black didn’t start by trying to get the kids to understand, or even appreciate, the musical intentions of Deep Purple – he went straight for the instruments (the technology) and got the kids actually thumping the keyboard, plucking a string on the bass guitar and so on. And that’s what makes it plausible too – we can see that, by actually experiencing the new technology with a real song, they are truly getting the feel of what it means to play rock music.

The parallels to helping teachers learn how to teach with online technologies are obvious – I have sat in workshop sessions where lecturers have started out being avowedly anti-technology, but within an hour have become ardent users of blogs, wikis or other tools in their teaching – simply as a result of being asked to suspend their judgment and try it out in the safe space of a workshop setting. There’s plenty of time for discussion about pedagogic possibilities and rationales after folks have got the feel of what they can do with the technology – and they’re having fun with it.

So now it’s my turn to issue a #blideo challenge. Sticking with the musical theme, here is a clip from the London Symphony Orchestra’s Masterclass in conducting:

Sandra Huskinson, Brenda Padilla and Ale Armellini, it’s over to you… and anyone else who wants to take on this challenge!