Stan’s Shimmy in Honour of Newport Jazz

DS106 Not-really-an-assignment

Those clever folks at DS106 are putting sounds to their animated gifs now. And aside from that  I can hardly believe that one year ago today I was at the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island. An absolute dream and mind blowing experience, and endless list of great jazz names.

In celebration!

In celebration of the fact, and also to celebrate one of the most fantastic saxophone players of all time – Stan Getz – here is Stan in a delicious cardigan doing a delicious shimmy at the start of “The Dolphin”.

[Method – video was extracted into MPEG Streamclip and trimmed. PNG Images put into Flash. Groovy music by Barry Manilow trimmed in Garageband and imported into Flash. OK. OK. I know that I can’t really put animated gifs to music, but maybe one day).



Newport Jazz Festival 2012

 Dr John, Newport Jazz 2012. Photo by me!

For more photos, go to my Picassa gallery.



Gnational Anthem Daily Create TDC569

DS106 Video yourself singing a verse of your national anthem as fast as you can.

I was informed by reliable sources, reliably, in a reliable manner, that our English National Anthem was indeed a mediaeval tune originally played on lutes and sackbuts. After an in depth and precise programme of research I can confirm that my reliable source was unreliable, and the anthem was originally indeed based on an old English knees-up.

I can also confirm when looking up sackbut on the internet, one has to be exceeding careful.

I therefore decided to take our dear anthem back to its roots and to explore its heritage. I think you will agree that the counterpunctual electro-plated harmonies in the rhythmic sections really bring out the nuances of the tune.

This recording features:

Banjo ukelele (not any old common old uke)
B flat melody spoons
The old Joanna



Blog General comments Learning & Teaching

BIS – haven’t you missed something?

Anyone reading the BIS report “International education: global growth and prosperity” (July 2013) may welcome some of the proposals within to support international students  including mentions of – introducing an effective loan repayment scheme, clarifying the visa system, and having better quality frameworks for them. Then, as with any education document these days , the report cannot take its first gasp of breath after hatching without mentioning MOOCs (massive open online courses), and they have 15 mentions in the document:

“and their (MOOC) global reach has opened up a new door to education. We need to make sure it is a door to our universities and colleges”.

The report goes on to talk about building the UK brand reputation around the world and seizing opportunities, and….hey, slow down, wait a minute? Haven’t most UK universities and many colleges been opening their doors for some years now through open education initiatives? How come these don’t get a single mention?

The world is embracing open education – MIT started sharing lectures on OpenCourseware over 10 years ago, and 81 governments and states have policies agreed or underway supporting open education for their people, so it shouldn’t be a hard sell as a means of promoting UK education? There is a common language there already and a common goal already toward global growth and prosperity built around open education.



So I’m quite surprised that the document – talking about opening doors – strengthening the use of technology in education – fails to mention the open education activity in the UK and how open educational resources (OERs) are impacting on learners and educators globally. I think they aren’t sexy because 1) they aren’t MOOCs and part of the current hype, 2) they don’t gather fancy education analytics and 3) really, if anyone is honest, the report and MOOCs are about commerce and not auturism.

The problem with OER is they are not closed behind a software platform like so they do not gather any education analytics to support them.  Because OER are open, and sit there on the web, they don’t collect and grow user email lists, which is enough to make any markeeter lick his own eyelids in excitement. Just because you can’t directly measure their economic impact, it doesn’t mean OER have no potential or indeed have not had any indirect financial impact downstream. What you measure is not important, what you can’t measure is, blah de bla.

International links from UK OER programme 

So I just thought I’d mention some innovations from the UK OER programme (Jisc HEA 2009 – 2012) that spring to my mind that have had international impact. This will absolutely not be an exhaustive list! Some of the examples below have had demonstrable financial impact (increased number of student enrolments to university; generation of research income). [For a comprehensive analysis of the UK OER activity read the following report by McGill, Falconer, Dempster, Littlejohn and Beetham (2013)].

Enhancing the UK reputation in English language teaching and learning?

The report talks about enhancing the UK’s reputation in English language teaching and learning? Two UK initiatives spring to mind share their language expertise and educational materials openly that could provide a springboard to enhancing our international reputation? The Language Box has OER in around 50 languages, including 300 or so resources to support English teaching. The resource is led by the Universities of Southampton and Portsmouth, and have had contributions from all over the UK. LORO, from the Open University contains around 50 English teaching OER, in addition to several other languages.

UK OER reaching global audiences on iTunes

The report refers to how technology can change educational delivery, and if we want to talk about massive, open and online there are plenty of OER examples. Several UK universities (Warwick, Open University and Oxford) share podcasts on iTuneU. Oxford iTunesU, notably, has had a huge impact – massive in fact, open – truly open and not locked behind passwords and podcasts are downloadable and might help with dodgy internet connections. Just a few points:

  • The podcasts have had over 20 million downloads from iTunes U.
  • There are well over 3000 academic speakers and expert contributors.
  • The global reach is across 185 countries including US and China.

Reaching global audiences on YouTube

Many universities have open education channels on YouTube. One that springs to mind is from University of Leicester YouTube Channel housing science resources and with a focus on genetics as part of their GENIE CETL (genetics education – Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning) project. One video on bone marrow aspiration has had over 144,000 views! Is that viral? (Pun intended).

Global visitors to university websites

Talking about how technology can transform education, look no further than the University of Nottingham. They have a huge number of open education activities within their Open Nottingham programme. These include open source software (Xerte course builder; ROGO assessment and feedback platform). The School of Nursing have openly shared over 200 educational resources (reusable learning objects or RLOs –  not just simply filmed videos but carefully constructed and peer-reviewed narrated animations). These reach global healthcare audiences.

Translations of UK OER into Nigerian and Brazilian

OK so I’m promoting our own project here – SCOOTER – involving Professor Simon Dyson at De Montfort University. SCOOTER is growing and still shares educational resources to promote and support sickle cell and thalassaemia education. Professor Dyson’s “Guide to Schools” supports young people with sickle cell in education, and has been translated into four Nigerian languages, and other resources into Brazilian, Spanish and Portuguese.

What about the analytics? Well I can tell you from the Google Analytics embedded onto the SCOOTER webpages, his “Guide for Schools” has had around 1000 views, and SCOOTER receives visitors and comments from around the globe, notably Brazil as the third largest visitor after the UK and the US.

Boosting research collaborations?

Everyone involved in creating OER, and particularly when talking to public and private sector collaborators, will testify how developing mutually beneficial teaching/training materials is always a very fruitful conversation to have. OER is an excuse to talk and a vehicle for establishing collaborations, which is one of the goals of the BIS report. We had a research fellow from the Commonwealth Professional Fellowship scheme work on a sickle cell health promotion game; it has been evaluated in the UK and is currently being developed further for Nigerian audiences.

Also at De Montfort, the Midwifery Open Resources for Education, led by Jacqui Williams, has held discussions with Irish and Afghan educationalists to develop and share learning materials. Incidently, many of the 30 or so midwifery resources on the YouTube MOREOER Channel were created by students themselves as part of their university internships and the midwifery programme.

How to keep up with the global market?

“As the new global market takes shape, the UK needs to move quickly to secure a world leading position”.

The global education market is changing, but markets always change. Companies such as 3M fire products out into the market, and then run with the most successful. MOOCs are the latest innovation, and as new technology emerges, new generations of learners will want to use the next greatest thing. The essential thing here is to base opportunities around good pedagogy (our knowledge of education delivery and design), and to base direction around existing evidence and not just user data. (Do MOOCs help people learn better – who knows. Do lab skills OER help students learn and build confidence, yes!).

To grow our position we are well placed to build on our expertise in open education to support learning and teaching and build global collaborations, rather than just hitching a ride on a passing MOOCwagon.

MoocWagon“Cow Power” – Johnny & Angus Blog
(but I think it is a MOOCwagon really).

Final words (phew, you say).

“By using education to strengthen our relationships with partner countries and build a platform for many other activities to our mutual benefit”.

Those involved in open education already know this! A final example is a set of teaching materials “Fast Track Analyser” developed for undergraduate biomedical science students that double as training for scientists in the NHS. The benefits are mutual, and wide ranging.


Blog Open Education

One for my baby, and one more for the MOOC

Final weeks of Jazz MOOC
(Copy of my blog post to

This is the third blog sharing my experiences of a MOOC.

Read part 1.
Read part 2.
Read part 3.

The final 3 weeks of jazz-MOOC continued to be really interesting, providing insight into ways of improving improvisation techniques, namely using MODES, following melody and chord SEQUENCES, going for THEMES and VARIATIONS.

How did the whole thing seem to be going overall? Well alongside from my favourite quote:

“capture the moos of the piece, and develop a theme”

by now there was a nice group of people (maybe 15 or so) regularly uploading and commenting on SoundCloud. People were very nice and I wouldn’t say the comments were at all constructive or of any real benefit, but they were rather nice.

The forum continued to be comments and threads about the course rather than questioning and sharing ideas about the content, or getting help on the assignments. The forum seemed to have many more contributors that were present on SoundCloud, so I hope they felt part of a community more than I did. I still felt quite isolated, and unlike going to school or University for the first time, you don’t seem to make “buddies” online.

Peer-assignment. FAIL!

To me this is the one aspect where online assessment of the masses WILL SIMPLY NEVER WORK. The peer-assignment framework was subjective, and placed quite a high onus on “presentation” (and someone would be penalised for not having the greatest recording equipment in the world, or access to a scanner to upload music scores). You absolutely cannot review someone else’s assignment if you lack the knowledge. There is a huge assumption that the content will give us all the understanding to then go and grade each other’s work, but this really wasn’t the case.

I peer reviewed many assignments and admit that I didn’t have the experience to know if a LOCRIAN MODE always did work over a minor 7 flat 5 scale, and I certainly couldn’t evaluate whether my classmates were playing these correctly in their recordings. Maybe peer-review might work online for other more factual subjects where the answers are clear-cut, and easily obtained from the videos. But it didn’t quite cross the boundaries into the arts for me.

Also you could tell people were getting BORED. Initial assignments were getting 5 or 6 reviews, and were only getting 1 or 2 at the end. The overall grades were always marvellously generous. These grades went toward your overall assessment mark.

As with face-to-face learning, it was interesting that students got completely hung-up on the grade as being the far most important thing. Some commented they were really unhappy with their grades – that some students didn’t know what they were doing: so the peer-review wasn’t perceived as being an accurate process.

So did I pass my MOOC?

I received a final email saying goodbye and a link to a survey (the third for the entire course). I didn’t get an overall grade which suggests I failed the thing because the MOOC said:

“Those of you that score 70% or higher will receive a Statement of Accomplishment. These certificates are stored with your profile on the Coursera site and will not be automatically e-mailed out to you”.

So maybe I didn’t score 70% and I didn’t warrant a statement of accomplishment.

But I DID accomplish stuff!

And surely I’m the judge of that? Learning is not about assessment, credentials, badges, grades. Learning and the role of the traditional skilled lecturer is to inspire and motivate the individual to find out more, and that is exactly what I did. The course tutor Gary Burton was great, and I didn’t understand much of the theory, but I did get the overall idea and have tried to play differently at gigs and I think this is working.

Gary Burton, Tutor on the Jazz Improvisation MOOC.

So do MOOCs have a future?

This question is being asked almost on a daily basis at the moment. Presumably the answer is yes because of the high level of investment and marketing behind them. But ARE MOOCs IMPORTANT TO THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION?

Problem 1 – technical glitches
These were minor but clearly there were aspects that needed to be ironed out. The interface wasn’t entirely easy to navigate – I didn’t realize the quizzes were part of the assessment. So, some good old usability studies would make the MOOC more accessible to everyone. (A big factor for drop outs I recon).

Problem 2 – assessment
Collecting grades, badges, certificates from peer-review processes would be exceedingly dubious without any expert intervention. Peer-review does not work in this format. Self-marking multiple choices would be an option and this would be suitable for introductory courses and learning some basic factual information, but again, a weak option for assessing someone’s in-depth understanding or for art subjects.

Problem 3 – video content
Having a poor-broadband connection out in the countryside, there were times when I couldn’t access the content. A truly “open” resource would be downloadable and available in a range of formats. The videos should be extended to address accessibility and to reach a wider audience in terms of learning styles. These aspects are essential and a requirement in face-to-face classrooms, so why aren’t they a consideration for on-line learning?

Why not make the video content OPEN, or is their commercial potential being protected for a rainy day?

So what do I really think?

Important in the future of education? In the current state I hope not. After careful research and improvement, then maybe as introductory sessions or refreshers for some factual subjects, or some practical subjects that lend themselves to video. These aren’t proven to be pedagogically effective systems. I wouldn’t want my child’s education or any part of it replaced by a MOOC yet.

MOOCs are great for a hobby or to pursue an existing interest, but it would be a sad day when full-time learners were confined to the internet and not able to gain from the life changing opportunities and lifelong friendships that attending college and university has to offer.

MOOC providers now own databases full of millions of potential learners – customers – so are a bit of a loss leader in advance of other educational products that will surely follow. Someone somewhere will want a return on this hefty investment surely?

Read part 1 of my experience

Read part 2

Blog Open Education

Still MOOCing strong

MOOC Week 2
(Copy of my blog post on


Read part 1.
Read part 2.
Read part 3.


I suppose my inquisitive nature got the better of me, so I delved back into the Jazz MOOC for week 2. I was frustrated by the forum, peed-off by the peer-review and naffed-off by the navigation in week 1. But this is jazz and it is cool, and I’m so desperate to try and be better at playing, that I decided to persevere.

Week 1 shame!

Oh the shame of not completing any peer reviews on time and being docked 20% from my assignment. To make matters worse there was no opportunity to go forth with my best excuses. The truth is I was so demoralised by the quality of the first assignment I reviewed belonging to someone else. It was so utterly brilliant I momentarily decided to give up. And when I went back it was too late and the peer-review deadline was passed.

How about a knees-up MOOC?

The peer review is difficult and the whole assessment and personal developmental aspect of the MOOC relies strongly on it. The problem is that I don’t have the knowledge of jazz theory, so how can I review the work of others? And I think human nature as it is, even the humble comments on my own work were stupidly positive. I couldn’t have really scored 7 out of 8 for a critique that for half of it admitted I didn’t know what I was doing.

Modal mayhem!

This week was all about modes. Apparently there are 11 scales that it would be great to learn and then to pop them in on top of solos. Blimey! I don’t think my brain has that level of higher intellectual capacity to actually THINK what I’m doing when I’m playing a solo, let alone compute what would be the best mode to play over a chord progression that I wouldn’t even know what it was. But modes are beautiful and haunting and have some lovely qualities, and this week has stretched my playing and ear in some way. I might therefore be able to go from playing “all the wrong notes but not necessarily in the right order” to “some of the right notes…..” and maybe who knows one day “all of the right notes”.

Bargain of the week!

Well I got to it and when peer assessment came round got stuck into reviewing the mode recordings of 5 other MOOCees. Then for good measure I reviewed a few more. And then the bargain of the week was an email from Coursera congratulating me – “You’ve evaluated 35 submissions! Marvellous!”

Bargain! Back in the MOOC’s good books. #chuffed.

Surprise of the week!

Well again, the dust-balls blow across the forum, and although I did eventually find out how to start a thread (although I had to ask someone), I see that most of the good chat and feedback is taking place on Soundcloud where we are posting our work.

Even more surprisingly it transpires that people are looking at my other stuff on there, and clearly the MOOC users are a cultured and refined bunch since there have been 29 downloads to a recent Chas and Dave recording (Ain’t No Pleasing You).

It makes me think with such a keen global audience, that a Knees-UP MOOC must be the next thing surely? I can see lessons on spoon playing and knees-up steps already.