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Anniversary Thoughts

“A professor can never better distinguish himself in his work than by encouraging a clever pupil, for the true discoverers are among them, as comets amongst the stars.” Carolus Linnaeus (1707 – 1778) – whose 300th birthday fell this Wednesday.

It’s just over a year since I started writing this blog and as it’s meant, amongst other things, to be a reflective tool, perhaps it would be appropriate to consider how things have turned out.

Original Intentions

In the beginning there were only two intentions:

  1. To “open a window on the instrumental service”
  2. To create a space where mp3s of pupil performance could be posted (although I was pretty unclear about how to do this).

Emerging Categories

As the year unfolded, more ideas occurred about useful categories and the blog became as much a kind of electronic cupboard of resources as a traditional blog:

  1. Midi files for home practice of ensemble pieces (previously, pupils would bring in floppy discs and, more recently, flash drives to take these files home).
  2. Additional parts YouTube/MySpace/Website links – the main purpose here was fun and inspiration – with the additional link to a source for easily purchased music, strings etc. for a rural population
  3. Guide To Home Practice for Parents
  4. Glosary of technical terms
  5. Any questions
  6. Dates for your diary

What Has Worked Out Well?

  1. Accessing midi files accounts for the highest pupil use of the blog. How do I know this? Pupils often mention this and, if I ask them which of the versions (at increasing speeds) they have managed, they can usually quote the metronone speed. How do I know that this kind of practice has an effect? By the increasing ambition of pieces tackled.
  2. Additional parts – I suspect that this area has been used more for reprinting lost or mangled music than for seeking out “extension” material. At least, it has saved the public purse the cost of reprinting. How do I know this? Pupils have asked me about parts which were not (yet) posted. Also, I have seen fresh printouts – occasionally on paper, the choice of colour of which can best be described as curious.
  3. YouTube etc. – pupils & parents seem to enjoy this and I find this a useful way of referring pupils to examples of any given style

What Has Had Limited Impact?

  1. Mp3 Performances – there has been nice feedback about this element in various forms – encouraging comments on the blog from parents, teachers and pupils; remarks made in person by PTs of Music, colleagues, management. However, I am amazed at how often pupils do not seek out their performance.
  2. Guide To Home Practice – it’s difficult to be clear about this. During the preparation process, I ran it past a few colleagues/managers and the feedback was positive. I have issued copies at parents evenings or various types and parents, speed-reading the page have been very positive about its content. However, I can’t really be sure of the impact of the electronic version.
  3. Any Questions – the impact of this is neglible – I simply need to push this more.
  4. Dates for your Diary – This has been useful in that, if a pupils asks a question in a busy situation, I can refer them to the blog. Whether they then make use of the resource is unclear.
  5. Glossary of technical terms – I have procrastinated on this with reason – since the idea first occurred to me, there have been advances in software causing me to rethink how this will be put together. Referring back to Linnaeus, I feel very strongly that clear thinking about the vast array of techniques and their various subsets cannot take place without unambiguous nomenclature. Unfortunately the pedagogy of classical guitar compared to, say, piano or violin, is patchy and an international vocabulary is somewhat lacking. Many names have had to be invented. Although a useful thing to do, I have to stress to pupils which terms are part of the international language of guitar technique and which are homegrown.
  6. Thoroughly Modern Midi – although, I feel, a useful guide to the uses and limits of midi in home practice, I’ve no idea whether anyone has ever read this

Lessons Learned & Future Plans

  1. Some elements simply need to be pushed/advertised more – perhaps a printed explanation of the content and uses of the blog should be given to, at least, all new pupils.
  2. Access – initially the Exc-el address seemed very long. Pupils accessed the blog via my own site ( The reasoning behind this was that, if they couldn’t remember my name, then playing in time was the least of our worries. we simply referred to the blog and its resoursed as “the website.” Perhaps some more formal notification of the exact eduBuzz address would be a good idea – perhaps a business card?
  3. Pupils Learnng Logs – I should very much like some pupils to experiment in this area to verify that clear thinking (through writing) about their practice is useful. On a practical note, I am as yet undecided whether this should be an offshoot of this blog of an area with its own address
  4. Beginners – I hope to gain permission from the authors of the books used by beginners to post midi files of accompaniments to the tunes (at various speeds). I believe that this will encourage purposeful practice and perhaps attaract pupils at an early stage to the online component of their practice.

The Wider View

In addition to the original two idea mushrooming into many more, there have been other benefits to taking part in East Lothian’s blogging community. I feel:

  1. much more connected – through reading blogs of thinkers in East Lothian and beyond (see Blogroll)
  2. that I have access to information “as it happens” as opposed to learning about it third hand or by accident (a common predicament of the itinerant)
  3. part of the shaping of developments in eduBuzz.
  4. less ephemeral – I strongly believe that the conversion of thoughts into writing has a crystalising effect. Some ideas become more focussed – others shrivel under the syntactical grill and are rightly abandonded. Through eduBuzz, I am able to revisit (and refer others to) any benefits of this process.