Sunday, February 06, 2011

Life on the 'High Cs'

Is the system going to flatten you out and deny you your humanity, or are you going to be able to make use of the system to the attainment of human purposes?

Joseph Campbell

Welcome, dear reader. From this leaping off point, for jump is far too prosaic a word, we are going to journey together into the rapidly expanding world of technology. “Haven’t we done this before?” I hear you say. Yes, gentle reader, we have discussed this theme many times over the past ten years or so. However, in the words of the oft quoted Robert Zimmerman, “The times, they are a changin’.”

We once again stand at a crossroad. Some might argue that we are once again meeting with a stranger carrying a violin in the middle of the night. Others might say that we are being offered a chance to emerge from the restrictions of old practices and dance in the bright light of a new dawn. (Get on with it, Ed.)

The spectre of the always connected life looms on the horizon. With that comes the relatively new concept of device agnostic transfer of information. For the sake of a catch phrase, lets look at the “High Cs” of life in the modern world of technology by asking the question, ‘What do you do with your computer?’

Most answers will boil down to the two of the cornerstones of the High Cs: communication and creation. We will leave creation to our next meeting and explore some of the new ways of communicating. The twenty-first century is growing more and more dependent on constant communication. Students of today have been accused of giving up when the answers to their questions are not immediately obvious. E-mail is too slow, instant messaging is their preferred mode of communication. No doubt, our mentors and professors would say the similar things about us, as would their mentors and professors. We are now connected, for better for worse. How have you adapted your educational life to this?

How do you communicate with students, parents, peers and colleagues? Do you go looking for information or do you expect it to come to you? Connection leads to new pathways for communication. Do you distribute information via a wiki, a website or via a blog or Twitter? Do you push information to students or do you expect them to pull it from your sources? Have you built a personal learning network?

“Too many questions!” I hear you exclaim in frustration. The twenty-first century provides many avenues for communication. AMIS provides a fairly simple method of pushing information to you through the RSS feed. You can use a simple piece of software available for every device on every platform - an RSS reader. RSS is an acronym now largely expanded as Really Simple Syndication. By using a common structure, information can be abstracted and a wide range of information can be pushed, via subscription, via the Internet. By subscribing to the RSS feed at using an RSS reader you will receive a message when a new event is posted to the RSS stream. This means that you can receive notification on your smartphone, iPad, computer and netbook. Because of internet standards, information is no longer necessarily tied to one platform, device or operating system, it is known as device agnostic transfer of information.

In an earlier conversation we talked about the AMIS calendar being available online. Many of you browse to the website and look up the dates for the festivals and workshops. It is hoped that some of you have subscribed to the calendar and can see it on your device’s calendaring program and can overlay it with your personal calendar and your school calendar. If you have not done so, subscribe to the calendar at the following address:

Long term afficianados of this particular column may have already subscribed to its RSS feed. If you wish to read this online and be notified of the next instalment as soon as it is published, visit its online home,, and subscribe to “posts”.

How can you adapt this to your classroom? Create a calendar on any one of the services available or investigate if your school’s E-mail system or virtual learning platform already offers this feature. Place your rehearsal schedule online and include any special things students may need to successfully rehearse. If you go one step further and attach this to a blog, your students can then comment on your posts. Do you ask students to reflect on their performance and on group performances? How do you share these reflections? If you go one step further, you can create a wiki page or discussion forum where you create topic areas and students can create and contribute to the collective knowledge you are trying to build. Once again, your school may already provide you with such a platform.

You may have noticed another ‘High C’ appearing: collaboration. According to some definitions, authentic learning experiences are those which best enable learners to be engaged with their learning. Some of the common elements in authentic learning include facing real-world experiences and problems. We already provide plenty of real world experiences by constructing performances by a diverse group of individuals in real time. By inviting another layer of participation and collaboration with your colleagues and members of the class you foster the growth of a more authentic learning experience. You also take another step on the pathway to becoming a facilitator who encourages others to explore, grow and contribute to the end product.

By looking for ways to bend the technology into your service, you can learn more about and from your colleagues and students. The partnership you form through performance can be strengthened and expanded. You might also find that the resulting performances become better, richer and more emotionally satisfying.