A Farewell to the Accordion

I bet you’re wondering if I am an epic Accordion player. Well first, let me answer the questions I’m sure you all have. Was it a nice break from homework? HA! Did my neighbours appreciate the beauty of the bellows? Well, they only knocked on my door twice. Did I find a lot of cool online sources? Heck ya! Does that mean I enjoyed the process? well not exactly… This project really challenged me, and I’m 100% convinced my playing ability has not improved in any such way. But what this experience has provided for me is a brand new perspective about learning online…a perspective that I believe will help my in the future.

Now don’t get me wrong, when the journey began,  I was having the time of my life:

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Look at that face…so carefree and full of excitement…

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And then somewhere along the line something went terribly wrong:

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Where Have All the Good Times Gone?

This song doesn’t even really have any relation to what I’m about to talk about. But the title in itself is indicative of the emotions that are flooding through me right now. Not because in less than a week I am done school and will be thrown out into the real world where I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do because I don’t have a job…but because I actually can’t believe where the time has gone and how I have spent it on my learning project.

As I was happily reading through past posts I have made about the joys of learning the accordion, I realized that I hadn’t been actually playing as much as I wanted. While it was fun at the beginning to grab the accordion and mess around, I ended up getting really frustrated every time I tried a new song. Not to mention it was so tough to transfer it back and forth wherever I was going for the weekend.

And while the online lessons with instructors were extremely helpful, they cost too much money for me to keep up with it..and .there ain’t no University life that can pay for that.

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Let’s Polka!

This week, I came across an amazing blog about accordions called Let’s Polka. Without going into too much detail, the blog provides a number of different tips, tricks, and everything you need to know about playing the accordion.

But instead of showcasing it on here, I tried out a new tool called Smore. Smore is a free site that helps you create amazing looking newsletters and share it with anyone around you. This is a particularly helpful tool for myself, because I loved sending out newsletters for my internship. However, I built them on Microsoft Word which was an absolute nightmare. Every time I typed one thing in, the other five would move and nothing lined up the way I wanted it to.

But with Smore, all your information is super easy to place, because the format is already built for you — not to mention there are a variety of formats to choose from depending on the look you are going for.

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While newsletters are a great way to keep in contact with the families in your class, but they can also be used for student learning as well. We all know how daunting writing an essay can be, but why does that need to be the only option? Giving the option to write a newsletter or similar opens up another door for your students to demonstrate their learning — it’s easily readable, and incorporates a sense of creativity into their writing to enhance appeal. Even better, you can showcase these newsletters around the school and even share them with their parents; with a higher guarantee they will actually be read.

How often do we actually type in essay format? Unless you are in University or have a research job, you very likely might ever do it again. But what if you are running for a campaign or wanting to sell your own product? Then, you need to develop different ways of writing separate from long essays with super formal writing (I know, I’m the one to talk.)

Anyways, to actually get anything related to my learning project, check out my Smore newsletter here: Let’s Polka!

Battle Between Accordion Communities

When I was first introduced to the learning project for this class, we were encouraged to seek out different online communities that fit the new skill we were trying to learn. I kind of scoffed at the idea that there would actually be a community online for accordion players…come on.

But man someone should come and take the foot out of my mouth, because I was so wrong!

I cannot believe how many communities there are — and they are literally every which way you turn. So like any eager and nosy learner, I decided to join every single one I came across — and there were 7 of them.

It was fun at the beginning, but then I started to feel a little guilty that I was a part of every group; specifically, because I wasn’t being a genuine member and contributing to my fullest, because there were always so many groups to stay in contact with. I also raised the question of why there are so many separate groups. Is there some kind of major braul between them..will I get banished for lurking through them all?

But I’m a rebel, and I do not regret being a part of those groups at all. In fact, it strengthened my learning experience, because I was able to compare groups and find similarities and differences among them, essentially choosing my favourite group to continue on with and become a more active member.

The two communities that made it down to the final two were:

Wonder How To Accordion

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and Accordion Club on Google + Community

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Before I get into the pros and cons of each community, I first want to discuss the benefits of joining an online group when learning a new skill, based on the experiences I have had throughout this semester:

  • You will be more at ease.
    It’s nerve wracking every single time I press the submit button to a new video on YouTube, with a fear that I will be judged harshly on my performance. But that’s not a problem in an online learning community. There is no shortage of participation by all different ability levels, and the more experienced are always willing to support you through — that’s why it’s called a community!
  • You will benefit from geography …
    Online learning communities offer the rare opportunity to learn alongside people from around the globe. As you communicate with others from different countries, you’ll benefit from both their unique viewpoints and distinct cultural perspectives.
  • … and diversity.
    Online learning communities not only give you the opportunity to engage with  other countries, you’ll learn alongside people spanning a range of ages, professional backgrounds, and life experiences—enriching your education in unexpected ways.
  • You will enjoy a sense of community.
    As you advance in your online education, you’ll see that a sense of connection and community is truly at the core of online learning communities. It’s amazing to contribute to other’s learning!

For students, taking part in online communities is an amazing way to build relationships and learn from a variety of individuals — rather than one instructor. This is something that I really want to take into consideration as a teacher. As much as I love to talk, I need to ensure that I am providing a number of different learning opportunities for my kids, especially those that involve learning from others — whether that be someone in their online community group, an elder, or anyone else right within their own community. By having an increased number of perspectives for similar learning experiences, students will be able to gain a stronger understanding of where their values lie, as well as a more holistic understanding of a certain topic or subject based on the information shared.

Evaluating My Online Communities

Taking the ideas above into consideration, I created a pros and cons list for my two main communities: How To Accordion and Accordion Club. 

Let’s start with How to Accordion:

Probably as you can tell from the title of the site, this community is all about providing how to videos for other accordionists — which is something I instantly jumped right on board with!

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Pros:

  • Group members provide “how to” videos for other accordionists
  • Difficulty level ranges anywhere from beginner (scales, bass notes) to advanced (full songs)
  •  Communities for other instruments are on the same website to enhance ‘cross-curricular’ conversation

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  • When you click to watch a video, the site provides a number of related videos — either from the same artist or same song

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Cons

  • Tough to navigate through to find a video that best suits your needs
  • contributors only seem to be those that are advanced — others don’t feel comfortable uploading a “how to” when it is “how to ruin a song in 5 seconds”
  • Videos are very poor quality, depending on the participant that uploaded it
  • Very little comments are made on videos from other participants

Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of this community, mostly because it has opened my mind to a lot of different songs that can be played on the accordion. I also like the idea of having a community that is fully based around helping out others enhance their accordion skills!

And now for the Accordion Club from Google +:

The way this community is developed is very opposite from that of How to Accordion; which is probably why both groups intrigued me so much — they brought something completely different but beneficial to my learning experience. The intentions of this group is just to share videos of yourself or others to bring some fun and light into the world pf accordionists! There is one gentleman on here (to the right) that literally posts like 5-6 times a week and I absolutely love it. He is a gem.

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Pros

  • huge range of diversity among participants in terms of age. geography, skill level, and music interest
  • relaxing and welcoming atmosphere to post videos of yourself
  • also includes videos from professionals
  • tons of opportunity to connect and follow others on Google +

Cons

  • tough to navigate through if you are looking for a specific piece of music or video
  • no “how to” videos, so simply a place to go and listen
  • because of the diversity, it’s sometimes difficult to communicate through written comments due to language barriers

Overall, I really enjoy visiting and contributing to the Google + community, because everyone is so supportive and just happy that they have a new person joining the world of accordions. I was so nervous, but I actually posted my the video of my first song on there! No one commented though — so either they were horrified and wanted to be nice, or they actually enjoyed it — I am good with either!

Because both groups are so different from one another, they both contribute to my learning project in powerful ways. At first I was hesitant about joining so many community groups, because I was unable to keep up with it all; but it is also important to recognize the diversity that can come from those different groups and understanding what each can do for you — maybe not 8 communities; but 2 is great!

Living That Accordion Life

Throughout the course of this learning project, I have started to gain a whole  new appreciation for online learning, specifically from real time sources. In my Skype session with Johnathon from Able to Play Music LLC, I explained to him the process I was going through and why my ECMP 355 class sparked my interest to learn to play the accordion. We had a great discussion on why learning something new online can be so beneficial — particularly in this case, because he is from the States; without technology we wouldn’t have been able to connect.

Because the first session was free, he asked if I was planning on continuing my lessons with the company. When I explained my money situation as a University student and that I wanted to explore different online learning platforms throughout this experience, he suggested I check out Accordion Life — named #1 in Online Accordion Education.

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Teach Me How to Accordion

My life has been full of learning experiences, there’s no doubt about that. But oh man, this week was a great one…both for the development of my accordion skills as well as with technology.

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If you don’t remember from my last post, I scheduled a Skype date with one of the instructors — Johnathon — from Able to Play Music, a company that provides online accordion and piano lessons.

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The first question that is probably coming to your mind is how my Accordion playing panned out and if you get to see me play……well, let me tell you, it became quite a daunting task for Johnathon and myself. But before I explain that fiasco, let me first take you through the journey of the lesson.

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Joining the Community of Accordionists

So this was  a BIG week for my accordionining…or whatever. You know what I mean.

Anyways, the reason it was such a big week, is because I have made online connections with different accordion players in Canada and around the world!

So needless to say I am basically famous in the accordion world now…you can ask for my autograph later.

When I saw that @AccordionBruce checked out my blog, I had to go to the website that was listed in the picture above. The Accordion Noir Society (which also has a blog – we have so much in common; insert tear) is a society that “promotes the use of free-reed areophone instruments” and the enjoyment of listening to different kinds of squeezebox music..neat huh! They have their own radio channel and hold annual festivals in Vancouver.

Once again Twitter has proven to me its amazing gift by connecting me with someone I never could have even imagined!

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Thank You YouTube!

YouTube is and always will be one of the first online resources that people go to when wanting to learn something new. With the ability to rewind, replay, or skip certain videos, it is almost a guarantee that you can find what you are looking for to improve your skill level. With the help of Tony Watterson-Marchell (I shared a video of his in my last post) I was able to learn this song in under 10 minutes!

Luckily, I have some background knowledge with piano so it was a very quick process to learn the keyboard side with my right hand. It took a few tries to work out the chords with my left hand, which I learned from part 2 of Tony’s second lesson.

I have been recording my videos on a site called Web Camera. It sets up your videoing with your Webcam and is very user friendly — maybe something that students would enjoy using if they had to record something for a project. Once recorded, the video can be downloaded and saved right to your computer, or you can transfer it to Google Drive for easy online access.

I think I am one step closer to being called by the Polkarama Producers!

What on Earth is a Bellow?

Last night I bring my accordion back home so I can show my parents that “HEY LOOK! I CAN PLAY THE ACCORDION!” And as I am jigging away, all I can see is faces of what I first misinterpreted as enjoyment, but were actually quite disturbed.

“You aren’t even holding it the right way” – mom (the apparent genius of accordion playing)

“I liked it!” – dad (as he turns up the TV just loud enough to make it a nuisance if I tried to start playing again)

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