I am not exactly sure why I haven’t written about this before as I absolutely love this project, but here you have it. I have been participating in a project that formed as a result of the Edinspace: New Geographies in Elearning project I am officially engaged with at the University of Edinburgh. This ancillary project, like a spin-off sitcom, resulted from some good exchanges with fellow colleagues and former and current students on the MSc in Elearning programme at the University of Edinburgh, as well as from Edinspace. It is an informal project and a labor of love. Yet all of us on the project believe it has some real potential for exploring the role of the auditory context for elearning.

That is the longest introduction of a project’s origins without ever referring to what the project actually is.

What is Elektroniches-Lernen-Muzik?

This new project is entitled Elektroniches-Lernen-Muzik, and it is a sound project that explores the role of music (and audio in general) for elearning. How it affects the elearner, how it inspires the elearner, how the elearner uses it for academic exploration. This project grew out of a desire for members of the MSc E-Learning community to share playlists. And a mutual love of the curators of Brian Eno’s Music for Airports. That is what got us to this point.

In this project we explore, in an informal way, the influence that music and sound have upon our learning spaces. The idea grew out of a conversation that originally took place in autumn 2010 between participants on the E-Learning and Digital Cultures course, part of the MSc in E-Learning at The University of Edinburgh.

Elearners, we believe, all establish context wherever they interface with elearning, whether it be a formal institution like the University of Edinburgh, or informally through open courses or professional courses. We believe sound has a big role to play there. It establishes context for the learner. ‘Settles’ their elearning space. Some listen to music, some like silence, some prefer vocals, some can’t have them for fear of distraction (me). Certain pieces of music are task-driven, some float in the ether allowing our minds and creative impulses to follow.

So, in this project we explore the music that elearners learn by.

What Participation Looks Like

So what we have participants do is to create a playlist of music that they use for their elearning, upload that playlist to Mixcloud(we attempted to use Soundcloud, but there were concerns over copyright), write a post (what we refer to as liner notes) about the significance of these tracks to their elearning, and post that to the site. Then everyone is free to comment, discuss, share, and listen to at their leisure. Essentially we have a running commentary on the role of music in elearning for creating learning context.

My playlist is predictably (if you know me) heavy on the ambient stuff, heavy on that ethereal floating Eno-inspired music that I perpetually work by. I have used all of this music ad nauseum (ask my wife) to research, write essays, refine, discuss, and collaborate, all those hallmarks of elearning. I have proof. Perhaps I should be bashful about some of the stuff on here, but I am not. The play counts should also firmly establish that I am a Repeat One kind of guy.

I find this to be an act of courage to post this. How personal and intimate a space the iTunes service is.

So, we create these playlists from music that matters to us for our elearning and we make that available for discussion.We write about what it means to us and how we use it for our elearning. For example, my playlist is used when I am doing some of the following activities (this text is taken from my Liner Notes):

  • Reflective activities: blogging, commenting, discussing. I find the stress in elearning on reflection is very pronounced and I often find myself reflecting in places without sanctuary (silence), such as airports, train stations, commutes, hotels, etc. This music induces the calm and focus necessary to reflect with clarity.  
  • Conceptual heavy lifting: I use this music to inspire me in the early stages of a large ambiguous project, such as a multimodal essay or a group project. It helps me focus on the agents at work in whatever I am about to do. The music lets my creativity and inspiration trump the pragmatism and practicality that will emerge as the project becomes more concrete. My music changes once it has reached this pragmatic stage. In these early stages, I like my music to soar so my thoughts can.
  • Multimedia work: whether I am editing, uploading, arranging, or curating my images, videos, or audio, I listen to these types of tracks to focus my concentration. However, sometimes this multimedia work can be less cognitively intensive (manually intensive, just not intellectually so) so I will often come off this music in favor of something more upbeat with a faster pace. My mind is then allowed to get lost in music as my reflexive/ process-oriented work is being performed. But in the early stages of multimedia editing, when the whole of the thing has yet to take shape, I rely on this type of music to let me conceptually explore the space.

It is starting to strike a chord in our circles (not sure if the pun is intended or not, but it is there) and we are enjoying watching it grow. We have ideas on where it might go from here, but for the time being, we encourage you to come on over and give a listen to some of the playlists. If you are an elearner and want to participate, contact us (elernenmuzik@gmail.com). We would love to hear your take on how music is involved in your elearning.

By Michael Gallagher

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

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