Category Archives: Teaching

Posts about pedagogy and teaching and learning with technology or without.

Musicplectics: Digitally Ranking Musical Complexity for Educators

000000">Musiplectics: the study of the complexity of music

We are in the middle of a collaborative research project here at Virginia Tech (in the departments of music and computer science) and ICAT, creating a web-based software program that automatically ranks the complexity of written music (music scores). The idea is that, by scanning a music score, using a pre-existing pdf, or an xml file, users would be able to use our application to determine the skill level required for the performance of a musical work. We have developed a working prototype to explore music written for clarinet, but are planning to expand its utility to include use for all other common musical instruments.


Pedagogical Value:

I. To Increase the utility of existing digital archives. With the growing availability of digitized scores (both from historical works in the public domain and xml that is being uploaded daily to the web), musicians and music teachers are overwhelmed by the amount of musical works newly available to them at the click of a button. We feel that if there were some way to rank and categorize these works by their complexity, these vast digital resources would become less daunting and more widely used by educators.

II. For competitions and festivals. Often times, educators must make highly subjective, and time-consuming decisions regarding the difficulty levels of the music that is chosen. This ranking system could clarify and objectively facilitate these often-debated choices.


Future Research Projects:

We would like to explore collaborating with existing databases, libraries, or digital reserves to rank as many scores as possible and explore other possible applications of our technology. Further collaborations and suggestions or ideas from our colleagues would be wonderful!


– How can we use crowdsourcing, surveys, or other methods as a tool to set the parameters for judging exactly what is difficult on various instruments? Is there a way to get input from a large number of participants so that our parameters could represent a good average for what people believe?

– How can we find the most advanced OCR (optical character recognition) software that will help us to make sense of music, which is sometimes hard to decipher?

– Are there other applications of our software that might be unexplored?

– Who would like to collaborate with us?





“Do you even code, Bro?”

I would like to talk about bringing coding into humanities classes by responding to questions like these:

  • Why should we learn to code?
  • Why should we teach students to code?
  • How can we integrate coding into our classes in construcitve and beneficial ways?
  • Could we use coding to facilitate transfer of concepts from the general education humanities courses to major-specific courses and the workplace?
  • What kinds of programs can be used to help students learn enough coding to develop basic literacies?
  • How can we have time to do all-of-the-things?

I would love to hear from anyone who has done this before, but I would also like to play with some possible solutions during the session (contengient on time). If someone else has had expereience with this and would like to lead this session, that would be awesome. However, I would be happy to moderate/lead or co-lead this session if people are interested. I have a very basic understanding of HTML and CSS, so I am certainly not an expert. I am hoping to further develop those literacies through my own work, and I am very intersted to think about the ways basic work with websites, wikis, and other Web 2.0 (and beyond) applications can help students develop and practice literacies that have the potential to improve their overall communication skills for the future.


**Update** This is the Google Doc we created during the session.

Mobile Apps for Teaching Digital Humanities

This is my third THATCamp, and I’m really looking forward to some great conversations on the 10th and 11th. One topic I’ve been interested in recently is how we can make better use of mobile apps in the classroom, and I hope a few other people will want to join me for a “Talk” session on this subject.

For the past few semesters, I’ve had the good fortune of participating in Virginia Tech’s iPad project, which loans iPads to students in particular classes for a full semester. In my undergraduate Writing and Digital Media class, we tested several apps for digital storytelling on mobile devices, and in my graduate seminar on the Digital Self, we used the iPads to experiment with various tools for taking notes and organizing scholarly research. These class projects have been fascinating (and a lot of fun), but I know they can’t be replicated on all campuses (or even in all of my classes). And some of my students have grown frustrated with adding yet another device to their already heavy backpacks.

So I’ve started thinking about how I could take advantage of the devices that my students already carry with them — their own cell phones and tablets. Taking this approach adds a few new layers of complexity (finding apps that work on a variety of platforms, dealing with tech support issue for not just one but several different devices, acknowledging that not all students own or have access to such devices, etc.), and it’s those issues (and others I haven’t even considered!) I’d like to discuss at THATCamp Virginia.

If you’re interested, let me know in the comments — or just find me at the camp. I can’t wait to see everyone in Blacksburg next week!

UPDATE: Here’s the Google Doc we composed during our session.