Stephen Bezzina writes: What is my epistemological position? Is this a Hawthorne effect? Is the observed difference between means, statistically significant? Am I a post-positivist? What is the best research design? Are there any confounding variables? What’s the confidence interval? On which philosophical assumptions are my research paradigm and methodology based on?
These are a few, yet important questions that I have asked myself during my first real meet-and-greet with the world of social science research. Not all of these questions have a definite answer, but all require extensive reading, understanding and writing.
On analysing the extant quantitative data available, I embraced Kraftwerk’s Tour de France through the sampled sporting voices and mechanical sounds, paving the way forward towards the statistical significance of the results obtained. Sven Väth and The Human League with Harlequin's Meditation and Kiss the Future respectively, set the ideal climate and mood for evaluating results and drawing conclusions. Finally, the jazzy fever surrounding the sound of the saxophone in The Man With The Red Face, put Laurent Garnier on top of the playlist during the writing-up of my own research proposal.
Stephen Bezzina was completing the Research Methods course on the MSc in Digital Education at The University of Edinburgh.
James Lamb writes: Last March, I posted an invitation on this blog for tracks that learners used to support the task of academic writing. Whilst acknowledging that the digital classroom encourages and allows for new ways of writing, my interest was in identifying music that accompanied, influenced or enhanced activities what might be described as 'essayistic composition'.
In the following weeks, more than twenty students from a broad range of disciplines suggested a wide variety of listening material. As the comments under the original blog entry show, the task of academic writing was shown to be influenced and inspired by Classical, Northern Soul, Electronica, Techno, official film soundtracks and guitar music made by thin men in hipster jeans. This is great in terms of diversity but difficult in terms of making what I wanted to be a single, cohesive and usable soundtrack. And so I decided to make two separate compilations, loosely classified as ‘Classical’ and ‘higher tempo’ (and if my use of terminology presents me as a musical amateur, that’s because I am).
Michael Sean Gallagher writes:
Human nature is like water. It takes the shape of its container
A fascination and apprehension towards water and an appreciation of how it governs our thinking is the focus of this playlist and much of the kind of media gathering and mobile learning I like to do in my spare time. Everywhere I travel or live, I instinctively find myself leaning on a railing staring into a river or an ocean or sea or a lake. I see people wading in the water or having a picnic next to it or even just socializing or walking along it in the evening and I began to think about how much of the water itself is actually governing our behavior. How much of it defines how we learn in this world?
So I began recording audio next to rivers to hear their flow and the people next to them. I kept hearing particular signatures in the water (how the Thames sounds completely different from the Seine, etc.) and I tried to make playlists that mirrored these. I assembled and edited the playlists haphazardly, looking for music that flowed, bounded, and receded, like waves on a shore. I listened to these sounds and playlists as I studied and as I walked, mostly through London along the Thames past Wapping, Limehouse, and Shadwell, out past the pubs of Whistler, Turner, and Dickens. I kept pulling from a literary past to make sense of it and so I turned to Hesse:
Flow of ideas, aspirations, dreams through the imagination; collective action as packets distributed in bursts. Learning networks become like water on pavement: they find every crack and crevice. Full saturation. We love water (out of necessity) as it is ever-changing. So are we. We love music that mirrors this flow. It is perpetually possible, always in the process of becoming.
Having your learners construct a playlist to reflect the learning or cognitive impression of a particular object or space is engaging another mode for reflection, another type of literacy. The tracks are:
And if you want to hear these different signatures in the water, listen for yourself. A few can be found below.
Michael Sean Gallagher is a Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and a Phd candidate at the Institute of Education.
Chris Millson writes: I made this mix after taking the E-learning and Digital Cultures online course (MOOC) from Edinburgh/Coursera. The peer assessed part of this course was to create a 'digital artefact' (this is what I submitted). But following the course, through finding some fellow peers who were into music via Twitter, I was motivated to create an alternative artefact, in the form of a 'reflective mix'(!). The tracklist is influenced by some of the course themes - including digital communication and assessment. It would never meet the assessment criteria, but it was fun to make, and was an interesting way to think about the course themes.
I hope you enjoy it.
Zomby: Test me for a reason: For what reasons are people taking MOOCs? Some have said that they open up learning opportunities to more people: universities are offering courses indiscriminately, and without any limits on class sizes. Some have called them elitist, in that they favour people with time, motivation and internet access. If your top priority is getting enough work to pay the rent, you're less likely to take a MOOC than someone more financially secure. I'm not sure what I think yet. Maybe both.
Tests were a topic of interest in EDC MOOC. How valuable is a score of 0, 1 or 2 on an assignment from three peers? How anonymous is this 'anonymous' feedback, when artefacts could easily include identifying information? The marker was generally anonymous, but not the person being marked. Is this a problem? I felt that EDC MOOC's decision to pass everyone who submitted the assignment, and marked three others, was a good one. That way, the score may give some indication of the degree to which an assignment met the criteria, but didn't determine pass/fail. Perhaps we could also (up/down) mark people's feedback...
Freezepop: I am not your gameboy This song suggests that we shouldn't treat people like gameboys. I agree. It also sounds a bit like a gameboy.
Chateau Flight ft. Nicola Kramer: Connected I enjoyed the short film, 'Inbox', in which two strangers are connected. The way it parallels online communication was cool. I won't spoil it for you though.
Ugly Duckling: Dumb it down I don't think that EDC MOOC represents dumbing down; I found it pretty difficult. However, in taking the course, I did consider whether certain aspects of e-Learning might be leading to 'dumbing down' of learning. For example, in my artefact, I tried to explore the extent to which 'personalising' content to users was narrowing their experience - perhaps in a bad way. Limiting what information someone might want, based on guesswork, seems bad to me. However, some limits have to be made in order to create a useful learning experience.
Aphex Twin: IZ-US The title of the video, 'The machine is us/ing us', made me think of this track (IZ-US). I also see Richard D James (Aphex Twin) as one of the pioneers of modern electronic music, so is perhaps an example of man and machine working together.
Freezepop: Emotions and Photons Emotions and photons, like Communication's lost later on, suggests to me a relationship between the mind (emotions) and physics (photons). We know that the two coexist, but emotions seem more mysterious. I also thought the lines, 'Six stories above / I watch the world creep by' reminded me of the video 'Thursday'. You should see why if you watch/have watched it.
As One: Freefall The idea of technological determinism was pretty new to me. Does technology determine society, or the other way around? I think the two both create forces and interact with each other. Just like the movement of a whale falling towards Earth is not determined by only one of the items, but a force arising from both (and more).
ELO: All over the world One of the first things I saw of EDC MOOC, before the course opened, was this Google Map, where participants could add their (or any, to be fair) location. It showed that there were participants all over the world...
Disclosure ft Sinead Harnett: Boiling I like this track. I've included it for that reason. In the same way, my original artefact was a creative experiment, not all of which was directly related to the course.
Shameboy: Attention Spam Is the current way in which we use technology and the internet - and therefore much of the way we now learn - a result and/or cause of diminished attention spans? I like this track because it evokes for me ideas of infomania (which you might call attention spam), short attention spans, but also excitement. Is having a long attention span virtuous anyway? I'm bored of this paragraph.
Cocosuma: Communication's lost I wanted to include a largely acoustic track over a largely electronic one, to represent the mix of 'digital' and 'analogue' in the world. I don't think the two can physically be delineated, but exploring the differences has been really interesting, along with similar topics such as human/machine. 'Communication's lost' seemed like an extra-appropriate song, what with communication also being a theme in 'digital cultures'.
Lamb: Small This track, to me, is about how small one person can feel when they think about everyone - and everything - else in the world. I found myself having some thoughts like this while taking EDC MOOC!
Peace Orchestra: Who am I This track, featured in the Animatrix (a series of short animated films, inspired by The Matrix, which I think all depict a technology-driven dystopia), seemed appropriate to the mix, and the title, 'Who am I?', also suggests the question of identity in a complex world.
Teebee: So high I included this for the flow of the mix. If you really want a link, it describes the vertical extent of the space lift in Thursday (above). But really, it's just a link track.
The Futureheads: Robot Could a robot write a track about how it feels to be a robot? I think so, by emulating humans imagining how it feels to be a robot. But could they mean it? I don't know. Am I a robot? No, a robot would have better mixing skills.
Chris Millson was a participant on the E-learning and Digital Cultures MOOC. He works in technology-enhanced learning for careers and employability at the University of York, and is also interested in social media. Find him here: http://www.thisischris.co.uk/
James Lamb writes: We began Elektronisches Lernen Muzik by inviting students and tutors to share personal playlists that accompanied or inspired their learning. The compiled soundtracks, and accompanying liner notes and cover artwork, provided fascinating insights into the different ways that music can influence learning.
What this first exercise lacked however was a focus on musical styles or songs that promoted specific learning activites, rather than studying in a more general sense (which of course is the sum of varied and contrasting activities). As a result, the assembled sound, words and image of each artefact offered a glimpse into the creator's learning space, without necessarily producing a soundtrack that might be synchronised with a single dedicated learning task.
In our second exercise then, it is our intention to collect music that can promote individual learning activities. We are going to be begin by inviting suggestions for music tracks that assist the task of academic writing. By academic writing we are talking about activities such as drafting an essay, report or paper, making an entry in a blog, preparing a script for a lecture or presentation, and other examples of what might be seen as 'essayistic composition' (and I acknowledge that traditional notions of the essay are problematised in digital learning spaces).
You can nominate tracks by replying to this post. Feel free to suggest as many tracks as you like, just as long as you listen to them whilst engaging in some form of academic writing. When replying, we would like you to indicate your area of academic study, research or teaching. You can also add a commentary or rationale as desired.
We will do our best to (legally) acquire the nominated tracks before compiling them within a 'music for writing' extended soundtrack which will be made available on this site to assist other learners. Depending on whether this proves to be a useful exercise and resource, this could be followed by 'music for reading', 'music for reflection' and so on.
We look forward to hearing the music that accompanies your writing.
Michael Sean Gallagher writes: I used to wonder when young and impressionable why artists that I had so admired basically drove themselves into oblivion through destructive behavior or unchecked enthusiasm. I thought that it was the peculiar lot of the artist to create (art) and then destroy (themselves) in some sort of perverse pattern of checks and balances. It seemed so common as to be normal. I only began to understand the process when I started writing myself, starting with (bad) poetry and (worse) plays and then clumsily lungeing towards longer works. Regardless of how bad it was, there was that elation of creation (yes, that rhymes) that accompanied the finishing of any work. A runner’s high of the mind. This high would invariably be followed by a low. A bottoming out. Perhaps a realization that this work was concluded and I wouldn’t be able to revisit what I had taken such comfort in for so long. As my delusions of becoming a professional writer waned, so did this process of elation/disillusion. I stuck with writing a blog and that was more than sufficient to fulfill my surplus writing energy.
And then I started working online. I dove headlong into social media and saw bizarre worlds interact. I saw these collaborative impulses take hold and I saw production on a monumental scale. Raw creation. I then started the MSc in Elearning at Edinburgh University and that enthusiasm was channeled towards scholarship. Yet it felt like art. Artistic creation with a scholastic foundation. I felt like an artist and that notion of learner, as a sort of artist/creator has taken hold. Online I am Michaelangelo. Notice the story swinging full circle with the return of these delusions of grandeur. When I would finish an assignment, and perhaps so pronounced as when the Elearning and Digital Cultures course ended in December 2010, I felt elation at what I had created and then sadness that I couldn’t revisit it. At least not formally. I revisited this elation/disillusion cycle of activity.
As I created this playlist, which was meant to represent strictly the elation part of completing an elearning work of creativity (assessed or otherwise), I noticed it beginning to bottom out. The songs became more melancholy, more a search for home (ie, my wife), of motion. I was looking for something with each and every track. It felt like it was time to get back out on the road (online) and begin again, but I still wanted to savor that which had just passed, to mourn it a bit. Luckily, there are always more projects, more papers, and more creation to be had. We just need to take time to mourn those ideas, communities, and constructions that elated us before moving on to the next context. This playlist is my attempt to do just that.
Michaelangelo Sean Gallagher is a graduate of the MSc in E-Learning and is a Phd student at the Institute of Education in London.
Dr Neil Speirs writes: Learning another language. It’s not something that native English speakers do enough of, far from it. But if we dared to try, what would soundtrack our efforts? That’s what I started to imagine while learning the conjugations of ‘chuchoter’ the other evening. Still seduced by the last few dewy drips of another romanticised summer adventure across continental Europe, I wondered. What melodies could inspire my learning and what melodies would be inspired by learning?
Of course language learning doesn’t just happen in a class room but also when you go out and employ it. So, while travelling along a Mediterranean coast breathing in the deep turquoise blue of the ocean or atop an alpine peak looking at what seems to be forever, I’m learning. I’m also living.
And living needs music.
So here it is, evidence that the English speaking world did not create the only music that matters. Maybe you listened to poor MW reception late at night to hear continental radio stations playing the latest hits. Maybe you like to join the dots to italo disco or let the sun fall to Balearic vibes or maybe you just like some deep tech house.
This is not a mix in the sense that it blends seamlessly; it’s really a compilation, a collection. All of it was inspired, written and produced in a non-English speaking country. It’s all performed by non- native English speakers. But it’s not a complete history of non-English speaking music, far from it.
What language are you going to learn?
Dr Neil Speirs est un rêveur. His days are sound tracked by 100 thousand melodies and colours.
James Lamb writes: When this project was conceived, we excitedly anticipated being introduced to artists beyond our existing sphere of listening. We looked forward to tracking down unfamiliar artists and exploring musical territories previously unknown to us. And so, for me, it has proven. As new playlists have been submitted, I’ve done the digital equivalent of flicking through record racks to find out who Cliff Martinez is and whether Themes from Vapourspace is an artist or a soundtrack (it's neither). As I read through online biographies and dragged my cursor over discographies for ‘new’ artists, I started to sense a pattern of where the music was coming from (in a geographical rather than a creative sense). UK - France - USA - Iceland – UK – Italy – France – Germany - Iceland again. I began to wonder whether there was any geographical significance to the music that accompanies our learning? I started to question whether the music coming from a particular nation might reverberate particularly loudly within our learning spaces?
A quick glance at the infographic offers some interesting ideas about our musical landscape. First of all, relatively few different countries are represented - the 40 nominated artists come from only 10 different countries. Does this suggest we have ‘tunnel listening’ when selecting music to accompany our learning? Why do some countries leave an audio imprint greatly out of proportion to their size as a nation? Is there something about the Icelandic landscape that lends itself to the type of music that we find best accompanies and inspires our learning?
Obviously, it’s too early to draw any conclusions based upon the small amount of submitted data/playlists. This exercise has simply been a gentle way of encouraging us to consider new ways in how we might view the submitted playlists. I must say however, I think we’ve established a compelling case for an MSc in E-Learning symposium in Paris next spring... [note to self – forward this entry to programme leaders]
James Lamb is a participant on the MSc in E-Learning and a listener of Gallic pop.
James Lamb writes: For the last seven weeks I’ve been teaching on a Summer School for pre-university students. We meet every Wednesday and, stepping out of the Scottish sunshine, we enter a gloomy and dusty lecture theatre to talk Harvard referencing and critical thinking. To lighten the mood, we decided to play music as a prelude to the first lecture of the day each week. The class seemed bemused by my chosen playlist so I challenged them to do better.
Using the course discussion board then, students were invited to nominate tracks that they study to. What followed was an interesting mixture of musical styles and accompanying comments. Alas, University regulations forbade me from allocating additional coursemarks to the student who nominated Ennio Morricone’s ‘The Ecstasy of Gold’.
Mariana nominated 'The Nutcracker' by Tchaikovsky: "I think classical and instrumental music are the most relaxing for studying. I really enjoy Bach, mostly, and I also like The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky."
Corinne nominated 'To build a home' by The Cinematic Orchestra: "Usually I find it hard to listen to music while studying - I get too distracted so it has to be calm and the volume has to be low. But I heard this song recently and it gets me into a studying mood - it helped me to finish my essay."
Sam nominated 'The Ecstasy of Gold' by Ennio Morricone: "The music I listen to many people would find distracting, but I find it really helps me to concentrate if I listen to soundtracks from games or movies for some reason. They are really dramatic and kind of motivate me."
Jack nominated 'Hysteria' by Muse: "Generally, I just stick the iPod on shuffle and go from there. Recently though, I've been picking out specific songs and making playlists (mostly so I don't get any songs I don't like, more than anything)."
Mariana, Corinne, Sam and Jack were participating in the Learning Skills course on the LEAPS Summer School, a pre-university programme taught across the higher education institutions in Edinburgh.