Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Devaluing Education Closes the Book on Progress, LITERALLY!

By Mark T. Burke

Near a small town in PA, in fact, the ONLY Town in PA, "progress" has once again demonstrated its cruelty.  A few days ago, the RR. Donnelley company announced the factory outside of Bloomsburg PA was closing.  300+ people will loose their jobs.  Does RR Donnelley sound familiar?  For those of us who enjoy reading, it should.  RR Donnelley prints books including one of the Harry Potter series.  Seven million books per month rolled off the presses during the boom years at the local plant according to the Press Enterprise (our local newspaper).  But, progress, the invention of the eReader and online media has killed the business.

I did some quick math to get a picture of what a closure like this means to our community in terms of numbers.  If each job impacts a typical family of a mother, father and 1.5 kids, that results in 1050 people's lives being turned upside down. Looking at that from a school class size perspective, it's easy to see the widespread impact in our area.  1050 people is equivalent to the graduation classes of all our schools combined (I just averaged the sizes and combined a few to be as accurate as possible).  It's also equal to 50% of the freshman class of Bloomsburg University. (Stats from School Digger and Higher Ed Jobs).  When we look at the impact from a different perspective, we clearly see how many people are negatively impacted.  Can we even imagine doing something to harm the future of every graduating senior in the class of 2012 or 50% of the entering class at Bloomsburg University?    

In many ways, I believe we can.  More and more conversations are popping up online concerning the value of education.  Within our local community, endless bickering over allowing student housing to be built (sometimes even trying to keep students out with court orders), fills our news.  More globally, the other day Entrepreneur Magazine posted to Facebook, "Do you need a college degree to be an entrepreneur."  (jump over to!/EntMagazine).  There are some interesting comments for sure.  Regardless of the tilt toward entrepreneurship, many comments seem to focus on the value of college degrees all together.  In PA at least, we can point to the huge budget cuts at the K-12 level, cuts to professional development and the 2 year hold on Act 48 requirements as signs that education is being devalued and thus, de-emphasized.  So, in theory, we are really facing the students (in the numbers I've posted above and beyond), and kicking them to the curb.

The net result is what WILL be scary, scarier than some seem to be able to envision.  I used RR Donnelley as example because it is clear that empire-like products and services DO fall.  New visions, new products, new services, change....they all create new opportunities, new jobs, new companies, new ways of making a living.  Where do those visions come from?  From people who are connected, people who have been challenged to THINK and defend those thoughts.  Where do people gain those experiences?  Schools, colleges, and universities!  Trainings and quick classes are important to our professional lives, but school is where we have sustained opportunities to BUILD knowledge through THINKING, sustained, THINKING. Without schools and a valued educational system, the future is scary.  No new factories, no new jobs, fewer realized dreams.

Like few times in the past, now is not the time to throw our hands up in the air regarding the value of education.

Mark is the founder and CEO of viaEdTechnologies, LLC. viaEd operates one of the nation's first fully online Music Academies and teams with LEA's to build and deliver innovative, online educational solutions for their students and staff.    

Friday, August 5, 2011

vAPM Podcast #7: How Online Courses Help with Your Program Goals

By Mark T. Burke

Today's post is a podcast post.  In this podcast, I discuss my responses to the question, "Why should our school integrate online music courses?" 

This is just the beginning of the conversation.  What do you think?  How can online music courses help your program goals become reality? 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

RMM Philosophies for Teachers and Schools

By Mark T. Burke

RMM, or Recreational Music Making is not a new concept for me although RMM is a new term for me.  I think it's a great term, focusing many types of programs and the overall philosophies that the movement attempts to exemplify into a single, communicable phrase. I'm not shocked that I really haven't paid much attention to RMM.  As a past public school music teacher, I viewed RMM efforts with little value.  "Real music is taught in schools, by certified teachers" had certainly been my tightly held belief. Today, as a MAE (Music and Arts Entrepreneur), I recognize the significant restrictions my narrow vision imposed on me and my students.

Yesterday, I attended a webinar organized by NAMM on RMM.  There were several MAE's who presented their services and discussed how they are recharging their communities through their RMM endeavors.  They presented an incredible testament to the power of music with HUGE numbers symbolizing the people who've taken part in their programs.  By demonstrating how each of us has "the music within," and showcasing opportunities to set that music free, we can create better communities.  Better communities come from happier, healthier, more communicative, cooperative, adaptive and creative people.  Through RMM, those characteristics, or the skills that exude those characteristics within us, have opportunities to bubble to the surface.  The more those traits live on the surface of our expressiveness, the more comfortable we feel about them.  As you can imagine, this cycle is perpetual.

What can we learn from RMM?  How can teachers and school program benefit from learning about the RMM philosophies?  My thoughts are...

1.)  Music does not have to be about perfecting skills.
2.)  Music does not have to be focused on performance.
3.)  We all have music inside.
4.)  We are not all comfortable with letting our own "music" come out.
5.)  The making of music is what music is all about.
6.)  The quality of the outcome of making music is overemphasized.
7.)  90% of the population has access to a private music stores and services.
8.)  Most people say they would not go into a music store...they don't feel they have a need to.
9.)  Unlocking a person's inner music happens when the teacher loves to do what they do (ie...they love to make music).
10.) We spend 13-18 years in school but another 55-65 outside of school.

A few of these come directly from the RMM philosophy:  "Recreational Music Making refers to playing musical instruments alone or in a group without the goals of mastery or performance."

A few of the points above represent positive outcomes of RMM efforts.  Others represent challenges for us all, MAE's, teachers and schools.  For example, why don't people enter music stores?  For that matter, why don't teachers enter music stores?  (Side note...I visit stores often and I rarely run into school teachers).  When I'm at local music stores, moms, dads, kids, older folks, garage banders, strays :-)....are the common patrons.  Why should we care about getting more people into stores?  The answer is simple really.  When we love to do something and find benefit in doing it, we have wants and needs for equipment to help us participate in that activity.  We also want to surround ourselves with a bed of knowledge from the community, not just from academia.  We want to run into people who like doing what we do.  We want to talk to practitioners.  We want to share, even if we just share "that's my instrument."  Where can we do this?  Music stores.  This is just one of the points above and certainly not meant to suggest RMM is all about selling gear. I believe those who read this will see the bigger context to what I am saying.

How can we harness the power of RMM within schools?  I would love to hear your thoughts.