FULT ePortfolio Blogs #2: good and bad learning experiences

The task: reflect on one good and one bad learning experience, and how you felt afterwards.

A good experience: Learning the clarinet

I started taking clarinet lessons a couple of years ago, with a clarinet teacher at a music school. The lessons were one on one, and I practised during the week. It was good because I was motivated, it was genuinely personalised, flexible and self-paced. When a piece my teacher had set turned out to be too challenging she would either find a more appropriate piece or suggest simplifications (leave out grace notes, treat a section as slurred, etc). When a piece was easy, I could move on quickly. The apprenticeship model of teaching worked well for this – task is explained, teacher demonstrates, student performs, feedback is provided until student masters the task. With lots of discussion along the way. I enjoy playing for myself, but have no interest in taking AMEB exams or joining a band. When I studied music at school (violin, clarinet, theory) I did not get anywhere near as much out of it, because I wasn’t as motivated or as self-disciplined as I am now (although I still don’t practice every day). I also have a much better understanding of learning now, so can appreciate what the teacher is trying to do when she sets particular pieces or makes me play scales or the same bar over, and over, and over again…

What does this mean for my teaching? My students need to be helped to find their motivation for their studies, and they need to understand what the purpose of each task that I set them really is. I do try to enact this in my teaching. I can’t give them the maturity that comes with age and experience in a few weeks, but I can be compassionate and understanding.

At the end of the experience I feel lucky to have had this opportunity, satisfied that I have learnt a new skill, and happy that I can enjoy playing my clarinet.

A bad experience: MOOC on online learning

I’ve done some lousy face to face courses as an undergrad, but the single worst learning experience I’ve had was a MOOC on online teaching… It was only 6 weeks long, but FutureLearn didn’t give me access until 3 weeks in. Not my fault (yes, I’m channelling Han Solo here), I registered months in advance and got daily advertising emails from them, but when I tried to login to the course, apparently I didn’t exist in their records. By the time I had access it was halfway through the MOOC and the first week of my teaching semester and I had a big teaching load of my own. I tried to get engaged, but the wall to wall videos of talking heads with camera angles switching around just didn’t work for me. It was like breakfast TV , complete with inane banter. I eventually found the transcripts, but by that stage I had become massively demotivated. It was far too inflexible, the content presentation in videos was boring and required large bandwidth so they were slow to download and watch, and the information density was very, very low.

Reflection: I truly hate being forced to watch videos. So thanks for not doing that in FULT!!! But some people like them so I try to use the odd one in my own teaching. Online learning is not really flexible for the learners when the course opening times are only a few weeks, and the content requires fast internet access. At the end of the experience I felt really angry.

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