Blended and Online Learning

Update: I’ve made a Facebook page for our class. You don’t have to use it, but it gives you an alternative to vUWS which I haven’t had admin access to at all this year, and is probably better for online discussion because it’s somewhere many of you live already. You can join now at


Lecture 7 represents the content which is taught over the Easter break. The university only has a one-week break, but with the public holidays and other events on at this time of the year, it’s difficult to schedule all of the lectures in one week. So, for the first time, this year the university has decided to try a blended learning approach.

In many ways you can consider all of this particular course as blended learning. Blended means that part of the course is taught in person, and part is taught or at least resourced online – we’ve spent six weeks discussing strategies and learning skills for delivering blended learning, so you can consider yourself relatively expert at it already (all of your assignments that I’m currently marking are examples of blended learning). And in this particular course I refer to online resources during the lectures and tutorials that would allow you to expand your learning – given we have such a limited time to learn so much. I also write up the lecture notes freshly every week so that you have a summary of everything we did (given that it’s most unreasonable to expect it all to go in just because I said it once). I also try to vary the media, using written instructions, images and diagrams together with video.

Lecture 7, and its accompanying tutorial, is in fact entirely online. So we’ll call it – can you guess? – online learning. You may remember from lecture 1 that a high percentage of university courses around the world (and especially in the US) are taught online nowadays – check out the lecture notes for Lisa Dawley’s stats.

Wikis in Music Education

Usually when I start talking about Wikis, everyone assumes that I’m talking about Wikipedia. Wikipedia is one example of a Wiki, and it’s definitely the biggest and most famous. But a Wiki just means a website that every user can edit – this means that if you’re in a group collaborating on a project or developing new information together, a wiki is a perfect place to share ideas. Here’s the commoncraft video that explains what a wiki is, in case that explanation was too simple for you…

You can imagine that in education Wikis are great. I’ve used them to share information on topics that we’re doing. For example:

  • In year 9 we do a unit on Minimalism. I kick them off with performance and listening lessons on Reich’s Clapping Music and Terry Riley’s In C. We might also skate over some Glass film music and some John Adams orchestral pieces. They then go away to do an investigation into a composer or some repertoire within the genre which also acts as inspiration for their own minimalist work. Each student presents their research on a Wiki page – which OK, is kind of like each writing an essay. But where it gets interesting is that each student then has to read everyone else’s page: where they find some information that relates to their page, they edit it and include a link to their within the text. Similarly, if they find something which would benefit their own research, rather than copying it, they edit their own page to include a link to it. In this way the projects become an interrelated mesh of information upon an individual topic.

  • In year 8 at the moment we are experimenting with co-designing learning. I have two classes, one of which is following the regular program, and the other is co-designing their own learning. This involves giving them a broad topic, plenty of background information or sources, and then working with individuals or groups to work out what they want to learn and how they’ll achieve that. Both classes are using a single Wiki, on which students keep reflections, store their research, create new pages for group work, and I reflect on the process and how I think the traditional is going vs the new.

Making Your Own Wiki

Our Wiki
The Wiki we’ve been working on in #UWSMTeach for 3 years.

Most of the popular LMSes (if you can’t remember what an LMS is, see Lecture 5) include some kind of Wiki tool, which means that you can create private Wikis easily. Out there in the wild web, there are lots of free and paid Wiki solutions, and if you have your own server you can also very easily create a Wiki with a number of open source Wiki tools (e.g. MediaWiki, which was the free Wiki engine Wikipedia was originally built on). The one I usually use is Wikispaces – for example, the last two years this course has, during this lecture, created pages for a Wikispace wiki called Education Music Tech  which is hosted on Wikispaces and which you can look at now. It’s not the best example of a Wiki, but it’s one we made and if this lecture wasn’t going out online this year you’d be adding to it as well.

Before you start out making (or contributing to) a Wiki you need to have a little think about the structure. You’ve probably read enough now, so I’ve made you a nice little video to explain what I mean…


When the draft learning guide for this very course came to me earlier this year I was rather saddened to see the following added to it (and asked to have it removed)…

Standard text in a UWS learning guide

Apart from the fact that whoever wrote it can’t spell Wikipedia, you will know from previous rants lectures that what disappoints me about this kind of thing (and you can include the idea of APA referencing your assignments in this list of ridiculous requirements) is how dislocated it is from the real world. Not only will you never APA reference a lesson plan, program or even registered document for the Department, but I promise you that you will rarely teach a new topic, especially in your first few years, without casually referencing Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a wonderful thing, a free and open sharing of information, and often the best and quickest way to find information that you need to teach.

Wikipedia logo
Cite Wikipedia in an essay, and you may burn in hell. But by all means use it to prepare lessons.

Of course, in defence of the policy, one has to bare in mind that the information on Wikipedia will often be wrong (or more likely biased by opinion, inconsistent or slightly inaccurate on some details). But that’s where your professional judgement comes into action: since you’re not becoming an academic of music education you don’t need to worry about your citations but instead your engaging music lessons. So, if the information is new to you, double check it against Grove or something else tree-based. If you’re revising the life of J.S. Bach because you haven’t studied him since your first year uni elective on Baroque music, you’re probably going to recognise any inconsistencies with what you know, and Wikipedia alone is probably an excellent single source for your revision and lesson prep. Well, that and some scores and recordings and a little harmonic analysis, perhaps.

Naturally, you should approach personal websites, blogs, and so on in just the same way – anything unreferenced. You won’t cite Wikipedia in your PhD, just as you won’t cite an opinion piece by your university professor written on his blog. Most likely, anyway. But you’re not doing a PhD now anyway.

In Place of Tutorial – a simple task

So, you haven’t got a tutorial to attend, but instead I’m giving you a simple task. Once you’ve done this, add the URL of the page you’re going to create to the Comments below, and I will check you off as “present” for this week’s lecture and tutorial. I’m sure there will be people who will forget, so I will remind you in Lecture 8 and send the list through to the university on the day of our last lecture.

So what are you going to do?

  1. Go to the Australian Music Centre’s website at
  2. Find a lesser-known Australian composer you like the sound of.
  3. Go to Wikipedia at and search to see if there is already a page about your composer.
  4. If there is already a page for that composer, return to step 1. If there isn’t, sign up for a Wikipedia account if you haven’t already, and create one.
  5. Make sure you read the guidelines for contributors and follow them carefully. It’s not academia, but those who contribute take this stuff seriously. Make sure you link parts of your text to other pages on Wikipedia.
  6. Copy the URL (web address) of the page you created and paste it into the comments below.

Worried? Don’t worry, I made you another video. Aren’t I nice? And I look forward to reading your pages on Australian composers – make them good!

7 responses to “#UWSMTeach Lecture 7”

  1. Tim wins the award of being first person to complete a Wikipedia article! Thanks Tim, great work!

  2. I tried to create a page for Toby Wren, including a variety of sources etc, however after waiting through the submission period, the article has been denied as the sources are not considered reputable enough. It seems like there just isn’t enough info out there about this guy to actually warrant Wiki considering him “notable”! Most bits of information are in some way related to Wren’s own website, myspace or similar pages, and are not considered independant… 😦
    Any ideas?

    • Hi Rob,
      I guess that’s consistent with not being able to write an article about yourself. I would strip it back to a shorter article, then, and quote the AMC website at plus the work “published” there. I did a quick search on JStor and couldn’t find any journal articles mentioning him but it’s worth a go.
      Finally, if you can’t get it up, please blog your article and their response and link to it here – I think it’s very interesting that you’re not allowed to quote Wikipedia because the information isn’t reliable, yet it’s proving not that easy for a few of you well educated MTeach students to quickly add articles about Australian composers. It may be this which is the valuable part of the lesson!

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