I am in the home stretch of my MOOC on Songwriting. The last assignment is to create a song (imagine that)! What I like about the class is has not been, "Go make a song", like it was a magic trick. The class was set-up sequentially so that every week we worked on a new skills (mostly creative writing). For example, in week one we were introduced to the concept of three boxes. Each box would reveal something about the song and box became a little bigger indicating new information that would forward the message of the song. The third box was the payoff, or the central idea of what everything was moving to (i.e. like the plot diagram moving to a climax in our digital storytelling presentation). Here is a screen shot of not only the final assignment, but a diagram of the three boxes to illustrate the idea:
As the weeks continued, we learned more detail about putting ideas together. At no time did Pat Pattison (the instructor) say, "here is how you write a chorus" or "here is how you write a bridge". It was all about generating ideas. For example, in week one we learned about your six best friends; who, what, when, where, why and how. Does this sound familiar? Good story telling is universal no matter if it is writing a song or doing a Prezi. Some of the "best" songs are musically simple, but what makes them great is the story.
As I prepare my final song (which I will eventually share along with more detail in my final presentation) I look back and see I have gained so many skills beyond becoming a better songwriter. For example, in learning the process, it has given me several ideas on how to teach storytelling to a group of students.
Pat gave the example of a bow and arrow and that by learning these skills like development of ideas, your six best friends, stable vs unstable, these skills pull the bow back further. When we eventually release the bow and shoot the arrow (ie. writing a song) the arrow will travel farther and straighter because we were prepared. Telling a story is not an act of magic. It relies on generating ideas, organizing your thoughts, thinking of ways to develop the story and interest so that when you sit down to write it should come quickly.
I remember my favourite math teacher in high school essentially saying the same thing, "math is not magic. There are formulas and strategies and your job is to learn these and find the best one to use in a given situation." Brilliant! Up until then I felt very down on myself as I was terrible at math. I was always thinking it must be easy for everyone and I clearly lacked the "magic" to be able to do it. It was in that teacher's class that I discovered I could do math and I am proud to say that he advice did help.
It is a very powerful thing we have to potential to do in our classes. Without sounding to much like Dr. Phil it is my hope that I can give kids the opportunity to have a voice. What an amazing time we live in where technology has made it possible for just about anyone of any age to connect. I believe +Jennifer Stewart-Mitchell along with others in many previous blogs spoke about their desire to empower, create access and through this give more people the opportunity to learn. As we have seen in this class we can learn from each other. I applaud the many teachers in this class who have encouraged blogging and set-up their students with how to blog. From the comments I have read it seems that the students have really enjoyed this opportunity and it shows that anyone, even young kids have something very powerful to say. By my journey into songwriting I am not only developing my skills, but wanting to show students a simple, artistic way to express themselves. I feel like I have never really been that eloquent and songwriting has given me a way to express myself, my feelings and my message in a more powerful way than I ever could in a journal or blog. I appreciate reading those that have that skill and I respect the gifts they have.
As we wrap up our class I hope everyone on their own journey is finding success. From learning to play guitar, photography, learn a new language, learn to cook, setting up digital resources and others I have enjoyed reading the progress you all have been making. Keep up the good work and enjoy your experience as we come closer to the conclusion!