CEP810: Final Networked Learning Project Blog and Video

For my class Networked Learning Project, I had to learn something by using only YouTube and help forums. After consulting friends and family on Facebook, I chose to learn to play the guitar. More specifically, I planned to learn how to play “1, 2, 3, 4” by the Plain White Tees on the guitar. I purposely chose something out of my normal field of interest. I have no musical background and I am deaf in one ear, which makes anything sound based difficult. I wanted to use this task to give me a better idea what students feel like when they are trying to learn something that they too may not be able to connect to their existing knowledge. My hope was that I could use the project to also explore the frustrations of a new learner, something we often lose touch with once we are experts.

I encountered a number of difficulties along the way. I was able to use help forums and YouTube to fix most of them. I did require an app in order to tune the guitar as I was unable to do so just by listening. Help forums provided a solution to my problems with finger pain and with stretching exercises to help improve my ability to play chords. However, learning tabs, the format guitar music is written in, proved elusive to me. I tried several videos on YouTube and at least a dozen help forum sites before researching what other tools might be available to assist with the task. I ended up downloading an app called “Guitar for Dummies” to try to assist with the task. The diagrams and animated fret board proved to be far more useful in learning tabs. With the YouTube videos, I couldn’t see exactly where they were placing their fingers in most cases. The help forums typically did not have images to accompany their written descriptions. The app brought both together and I finally started to make progress.

I started the process of learning to play guitar by learning scales and basic chords. For me, it seemed important to learn the basics first before trying to learn the song. I looked at a few videos of people teaching the song, which further emphasized the necessity with starting at the beginning. I couldn’t understand anything they were saying or doing. I found a series on the Howcast channel that offered quality videos and broke the learning process into nineteen simple steps. (View the first video here) In general, they provided quality instruction on the basics. However, as the series progressed, I found it harder and harder to follow along. I definitely was not following tabs and it seemed like he started with the hardest possible chords. I grew frustrated with my lack of progress. I tried several other videos with no luck in making a break through to understanding the concepts. I downloaded the “Guitar for Dummies” app and finally started to understand. The interactive features seemed to help me with the learning process.

Unfortunately, I did not accomplish my initial goal. I tried very hard to make progress towards it, but just couldn’t get to that point in the six weeks. I also think it may have been an unrealistic goal. I talked to the guitar teacher at the college and she told me it is one of the hardest instruments to learn for some of the very reasons I encountered during my efforts. I have to say I felt a lot better after hearing that. I was able to play the beginning of “Silent Night” which you can see on the video. I’m still having issues switching between chords, but at least it resembles a song.

I don’t think YouTube and help forums are the ideal way to learn guitar. I think working with an instructor and getting feedback would be far more beneficial to the learning process. The instructor could offer tips to help with finger placement and could tell me whether or not I played a note correctly. I think there are things that both YouTube and help forums can assist with learning. I know eHow comes in handy every time I spill something. I also find help forums beneficial when I have specific question like “how do I set up the drivers for a networked printer”. However, I think this is a case where feedback is important to success and you can’t get that from watching a video or reading a post. My past experience with YouTube supports this. Students often find tutorials on YouTube and become frustrated when they can’t follow. The tutorials are often missing steps or have unclear instructions. I do use videos covering basic topics that are beneficial.  I use them as additional support to the classroom instruction. However, as with learning guitar, feedback can be far more beneficial than struggling to try to find answers. I think the success of this method depends both on the person learning and what the person is learning. Certain activities can be learned successfully this way as demonstrated by my classmates. Others really require more interactive or instructor led teaching methods for success. Likewise, some learners may be able to interpret what they see and find to learn while others may not be able to do so. Successful learning needs to be tailored to the learner and the task.

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