Thursday, June 25, 2009

Day 16 - MTECP: Details (con't)

After re-reading my last post, I felt that there was some information missing that may be useful for those of you considering joining the MTECP crew.

A. Advantages and Risks


I will say it first (and get it out of the way) - everyone participating in this project is a volunteer. This means NO financial compensation. That said, everyone who participates will be given credit in a list of contributors and collaborators.

In the process of creating the final project, you may be exposed to new ideas, you may develop an interest and insight into in a particular specialty within music therapy and finally, you may indeed be contributing to the future of music therapy education! (I am hoping that this project will serve as a model for future learning about, and teaching of, music therapy. I am also hoping that it will serve as a model for the development of/transfer of additional course materials into a digital/online format).


1. Inequity of participants/participation.

This is a collaborative effort. Not everyone will be able or willing to put in the same amount of time and commitment that you may put in. This might mean that individuals are recognized for very little contribution.

2. Personal/Professional attacks and/or insult.

I am hoping that by first ensuring that persons involved in MTECP are members of a professional music therapy association we will avoid the pitfalls of non-ethical treatment of fellow participants. If ethical concerns arise during the course of the project, you can be assured that you will "have an avenue for recourse". I will personally retain confirmation of membership (in good standing) for each member, in a encrypted and password protected file folder on my computer, which is itself password protected.

B. Openness

As mentionned previously, the final MTECP content will be made available via a Creative Commons license. I truly believe that this is the future of education, where knowledge is shared and is open to public scrutiny/criticism. The flip side - more people will know about, and may participate in, music therapy!

The use of Moodle is another attempt to open up this information to a wider public audience. We are not restricting access to those who may be financially disadvantaged, or geographically isolated. "Open source" software is capable of running on a variety of operating systems (not just Windows or Macintosh) and is, in most cases, available free of charge. It can operate on systems based on dial-up speeds through high-speed/T1 connections (although it does operate more efficiently on the later). Finally, it is not dependant on you being located in a major city, educational institution, or specific country. You will be able to access this information anywhere, at any time, in any place, as long as you have a reliable internet connection.

C. Reliability/Consistency of information?

Does the fact that information is coming from digital and online sources pose a challenge and potential for misinformation to occur? As we all know, the internet is a source of much information based on correct facts and theory, and a source of much incorrect or false information. By having groups of individuals involved in/being educated in music therapy review materials before they are shared globally (a back channel review process), we will hopefully prevent the spread of misinformation and promote the sharing of "good, quality" material.

As well, I hope that information will be updated regularly (at least annually). As a consequence, viewers will receive the latest, and most up-to-date information. This is not possible through the use of text-based materials, especially in the field of music therapy, where new editions may be many years in the making (i.e. There was a lag-time of nine years between the 2nd and 3rd editions of the textbook that we will be using as a basis for this project!).

D. Research

As stated earlier, I hope that this project will generate new way of thinking and dicussion around music therapy and music therapy practice. I also hope that it will generate some research, qualitative and quantitative. I don't want this to be a static resource but rather a dynamic and evolving resource.

Once again, I ask you to consider joining me in this exciting project!

To do so, please contact me using the information provided below.

John Lawrence MMT, MTA
Edmonton, AB CANADA
E-mail: (Put "MTECP" in the subject line)
Twitter: @JLisaMT
Ph: (780) 477-3948

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Day 15 - MTECP: The details

First, thank-you to everyone who has been following this blog and waiting patiently for details about the MTECP or Music Therapy Educational Collaborative Project. Secondly, I hope that you will begin to spread the word. As this is a collaborative project, we need lots of participants and ideas!

How did the project come about?

I teach an "Introduction to Music Therapy" course at a local college-university (an institution that began as a college and now offers both three-year certificates and four year degrees). The course is a full semester in length (approximately 13 weeks), 3 hours a week and it is offered through the continuing education/special sessions department, in conjunction with the department of music. At this point, there is no "music therapy degree track" so the course is most often used as an elective by the music and/or education students. The last two offerings of this course have used a traditional classroom format, enhanced by the use of a course management system (CMS) called Moodle. Although the use of Moodle is encouraged by the administration, support for faculty and actual use is minimal. Hence, my incorporation of Moodle has been somewhat unique and a source of constant revision and development.

During the last offering of the introductory course I received a variety of positive and negative comments from the students regarding the incorporation and usefulness of Moodle in their learning process. My own perception was that, while useful, there was much more that I could do as an educator/collaborator. This perception was further confirmed when I attended the 2009 MoodleMoot conference in Edmonton, AB, hosted by Athabasca University. It was very enlightening to see how others were using Moodle in new and unique ways, some of which I had not before considered. Following this conference, I began to consider and conceptualize MTECP.

Basic concepts behind the MTECP

Initially, the MTECP will be structured as an independent, non-credit introduction to music therapy available to anyone who is interested, anywhere in the world. It is NOT designed to certify individuals as music therapists and there is no supervision or recognition of completion of the project for any individual participant. In the future, it is possible that the course might be run as a supervised, institutionally approved and recognized course that could lead to admission into/progress towards a degree in music therapy. This, however, is not the initial aim of the project.

In order to provide a common starting point for participants, the textbook entitled, Introduction to Music Therapy: Theory and Practice (3rd ed.) by William Davis, Kate Gfeller and Michael Thaut will be used. This textbook is available from the American Music Therapy Association. As well, participants in this project will use English as a means of correspondence and online discussion/presentations.

Participants/Collaborators for this project will be drawn from interested music therapy professionals, educators, students and hopefully, the authors of the textbook themselves. (I am personally hoping that participants will come from a variety of countries, in order to provide the maximum diversity and range of experiences.) Everyone will be a volunteer, with no monetary compensation offered. Indeed, the public face of the project will be visible to the general public through a non-commercial, non-derivative Creative Commons license. Everyone will be expected to follow the ethical and professional codes of conduct of their respective music therapy association. Membership, in good standing, of an association for music therapy will be confirmed via e-mail prior to full acceptance into the project. Participants are free to leave the project at any point without penalty or consequence.

At this point, the aim of the MTECP will be to examine and explore the role that online learning can play in the enhancement of individual/student learning. Through the use of small working groups of participants, identification of digital resources, development of new activities and resources, and distribution of a final product is expected within a period of no longer than one year. Timetables for completion of expectations will vary depending on the complexity and variety of materials identified/created as well as the number of registered participants.

Finally, there will be a public face and a private face to the project. As stated earlier, the completed project will be available for any member of the public to see. However, there will also be a restricted discussion/collaborative environment where registered individuals can contribute and discuss ideas/concepts. The discussion of ideas and creativity of registered participants is essential to the progress and growth of this project. I cannot emphasize this enough!

Please join me in this exciting and dynamic project!

John Lawrence MMT, MTA
Edmonton, AB CANADA
(780) 477-3948

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Day 14 - Introducing the Music Therapy Educational Collaborative Project (MTECP)

How do you educate someone in order that they become an effective and active music therapist? What balance do you strike between research and skill-based education? Is face-to-face contact necessary in evaluating student personality and suitability for a helping profession such as music therapy? Are students "of the digital generation" being effectively and meaningfully engaged by traditional classroom teaching or would on-line training promote more effective learning? These are just some of the questions that I, and other participants, will be addressing as we explore the creation on an online "Introduction to Music Therapy" course. Entitled the Music Therapy Educational Collaborative Project (MTECP), we will work through what is possible and not possible via an on-line exchange and review of ideas, concepts and theories. I hope to have individuals from both within and without the music therapy profession, from novice beginner to long-term professional, from many areas of the world, participate in this project.

Online learning is the subject of much current debate. There are some that argue it is the "wave of the future" or "an inevitable evolution within educational teaching and training" (Horizon Report, 2008; Shea, Pickett, Li, 2005; Stoerger, 2008). Others would argue that it is an experiment that has failed and that is detrimental or too costly (Attwood, 2009; Bennet, Maton & Kervin, 2008; Thompson, 2009). I tend to believe the former, in part due to my experience with a course management system (CMS) called Moodle ( and two recent offerings of an introductory course in music therapy.

Online learning also takes place in a variety of formats. Initially, online learning was simply the addition of a few links to information on the internet, in a course that took place in a traditional institutional environment. This evolved into hybrid learning environments where students were educated in both a traditional environment, part of the time, and part of the time in an online environment. Quality and quantity on online learning was highly dependant upon the instructor motivation and institutional support. More recently, courses offered in a digital or online environment have been created. Students may never set foot in a "traditional" classroom, achieving their degree requirements through online discussions, readings, projects and presentations (i.e. Microsoft Learning - Online Course. Website available at:

This last form of online education necessitates a variety of different and unique relationships from those found in a traditional classroom setting. In an online classroom/course, the instructor is viewed more as a collaborator rather than the sole source of knowledge and expertise. Indeed, students may be part of constructing their own knowledge about a subject, assisted by their peers and the instructor/guide (AllthingsPLC website, n.d.; DuFour, 2003). Secondly, there is a new relationship in terms of how, when, and where material pertinent to a particular topic is shared. Students are no longer restricted to "office hours" or "classroom hours", but rather can participate in both dedicated and non-specific periods of time. This is exemplified by a frequently cited credo of "Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere" (Coleman, S., 2005). Indeed, students may be in an entirely different geographical and chronological location compared with their fellow students and the instructor. Finally, there is an immediacy to the education that was not possible previously. Whereas student previously had to wait for an instructor to grade, and then post, marks on a quiz or examination on-line environments allow for instantaneous and direct real-time feedback from peers and instructors alike. This can be accomplished through self-marking quizzes, and a variety of digital mediums such as wikis, blogs, and social networking sites such as Twitter.

Online environments have also brought about a significant change in the ways in that research findings, opinions, and knowledge about a particular subject are distributed to a wider public audience. The creation of "open access journals", "open courseware", "open textbooks", and projects such as Google Books has moved knowledge from a specific location, such as a university or institutional library, to a non-specific location where anyone can access this information. Traditional institutions are being encouraged to establish "digital repositories" where created materials can be reused, repurposed, and shared. Finally, the creation of flexible copyright protection, through organizations such as Creative Commons has enabled creators of new digital materials the flexibility to share information without the loss of control over ownership that a creator might see when material is plagarized or "borrowed" without permission.

How does this all relate to the Music Therapy Educational Collaborative Project? I'll continue the discussion in my next posting!

P.S. If you have a "sexier" name that MTECP, please feel free to suggest it :-)


AllthingsPLC. n.d. About PLCs: History of PLCs. Retrieved on June 17, 2009 from,

Attwood, R. (2009, June 4). Questions of cost and usefulness dog e-learning. Retrieved on June 13, 2009 from,

Bennett, S., Maton, K., & Kervin, L. (2008). The 'digital natives' debate: A critical review of the evidence. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(5), 775.-778.

Coleman, S. (2005). Why do students like online learning. WorldwideLearn. Retrieved on July 17, 2009 from,

DuFour, R. (2003, May). Building a professional learning community. American Association of School Administrators. Retrieved on June 17, 2009 from,

Horizon Report. (2008). The Horizon Report: 2008 Edition. A collaboration between The New Media Consortium and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) an EDUCAUSE program. Retrieved on June 16, 2009 from,

Shea, P., Pickett, A., & Li, C. (2005). Increasing access to higher education: A study of the diffusion of online teaching among 913 college faculty. The international review of research in open and distance learning, 6(2).

Stoerger, S. (2008, June). Book Review - Collaborative learning: Two perspectives on theory and practice. International Review on Research in Open and Distance Learning, 9(2). Retrieved on June 16, 2009 from,

Thompson, E. (2009, June 3). Dumbest Generation? Professor blames technology. USA Today [Online edition]. Retrieved on June 3, 2009 from,

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Day 13 - Brain Plasiticity and Brain Research

Right now, my brain is firing on "all neurons". I've just watched an amazing video about the growth and development of the area of brain research called Brain Plasiticity. My head is full of questions and ideas so forgive me if this post is a bit "scatterbrained" LoL!

For unknown reasons, many of the recent publications and internet based media that has caught my attention has dealt with the subject of brain plasiticity, or the ability of the brain to change and adapt to new and/or odd situations, resulting from brain damage or injury. A couple of the resources that I have come across include (in no particular order):

1. Levitin, D. J. (2007). This is your brain on music: Science of a human obsession. London, England: Plume. ISBN: 978-0-452-28852-2. 322 pgs.

There is now an accompanying 6 part video series, entitled, "The Musical Brain" staring Dr. Levitin with guests such as Sting, and Yo-Yo-Ma.

2. Lopez, S. (2008). The soloist. New York: Berkley Books. ISBN: 978-0-425-22600-I

This book has become a major motion picture available in mainstream theatres. While not necessarily about "brain plasiticity" it does reflect the power of music to transform lives.

3. Music and the brain: Are humans wired for music. [Video]. Available from:

4. The songs they can't forget. [Blog posting]. Available from:

5. The brain that changes itself. ["Nature of Things" Video documentary]. Available from:

So why discuss this topic on a blog? Music therapists have long contended that music has the ability to modify and change "neural pathways" in the brain (Davis, Gfeller & Thaut, 2008; Hummelsheim, 1999; Levitin, D. J., 2007). I have personally and professionally seen the effects of a long term relationship with a person with Alzheimer's type dementia who "can't remember what they had for lunch" but recognize that "You've been gone for a long time" or "You're going to play ME some music!". I've also seen the impact that music can make on the partial recovery of function in individuals following brain injury and stroke.

For those music therapists who wish to delve deeper, or who may wish to undertake training in "neurological music therapy (Thaut), I encourage you to look at the following websites (again in no particular order):

1. The centre for biomedical research in music (CBRM) located at:

2. McMaster institute for music and the mind (MIMM) located at:

3. Getting in tune [pdf file) located at:

4. Exploring the musical mind located at:

Finally, I would encourage you to Tweet or contact Nikki Belshe (@nikkibelshe) who has trained and become a Neurological Music Therapist.

Q: What information has tweaked your interest lately and why?

Day 12.5 - Frustrations and Rewards

When you first looked at the title of this blog, you might have thought - "He's going to be looking at behavioural modification therapy and music therapy!". Sorry to disappoint - no, I won't be looking at behavioural modification techniques today.

As readers of my blog, you will have noticed that I have not kept up with the "daily" part of my postings. I had originally conceived this blog to be updated daily, in much the same way as a photographer might complete a "365 project". The reality, I am finding, is much harder. There are a myriad of reasons that I could give for my tardiness and lack of posts however it comes down to motivation and interest. Am I really willing to put the time into the regular posting of comments? Upon reflection, I would have to say; no, not on a daily basis. That said, I remain committed to updating and posting on a regular basis a couple times a week. I must also apologize to those of you who were hoping for better.

Content quality is paramount. I remain committed to ensure that what I write is appropriately researched and documented. I don't want to post short "snippets" of information for the sake of fulfilling my posting ambitions. This means that sometimes it will take me longer than a day to post.

Content sourcing is complex. There are a myriad of sources available for searching and researching new topics and information. My browser bookmarks of "reference tools" is long and varied. However, like many people, I often use Google to search out topics (at least as a STARTing point). Many educational professionals bemone the fact that students often "Google" something and take the first couple references that they are given. The difficulty with that approach is, quite simply, that many search engines like Google post items based on "popularity" and not necessarily on "quality". Thus, a much better article might exist on page 3 of the search results. I want this post to be about the location and distribution of significant and meaningful information about a particular topic. This means that sometimes it will take me longer than a day to post.

I want to learn too! It is well and good for me to post my opinions and findings, but I would be nieve to think that I know everything that there is to know about a particular subject. That is, in part, why I try to come up with a question at the end of my posts. The are both a challenge to you, the reader, and to me, the creator. In this way, we can both benefit from the exchange of information and ideas.

To conclude - please continue to follow this blog. I can no longer say that I will be posting on a daily basis but I do commit to posting on a regular basis.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Day 12 - Recent finds

Today's post is all about resources that I have found in researching for this blog and navigating the internet. Some of them are fun, some are directly related to work that I do as a music therapist. I do not intend it to be a complete list, nor do I profess any professional training in library literacy/searching. I do, however, profess to be a life-long learner with an interest in adding to my knowledge of, and practice of, music therapy! Please note - resources are listed alphabetically with no intended inference to a ranking of preference.


Center for Lifelong Music Making


I received an e-mail that stated that a personal profile had been set up for me on this website. I'm not sure how I feel about that? The information, however, was correct and linked to activity that I undertake on the net such as this blog. The website also contains links to conferences/training that I was not aware of previously. I'll keep you posted on my opinions of this website after I've had more of a chance to explore it.

Teenager Listening Test*

*Not that teenagers listen to anything resembling music today anyways LoL

Who says music doesn't make a difference?


Music Therapy at The Hospital for Sick Children (Toronto, ON CANADA)

Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Video Portrait (Part 1)

The Music Instinct (PBS)*

*Note: Available as a 2 hr documentary on DVD (
To be released June 24, 2009). Several interesting segments are available via this website pre-distribution.

Podcasts/Mp3 Clips*

*Note: I hesitantly suggest this link because it is only available to members of the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA). Hopefully they will consider releasing some of the material via a restricted Creative Commons License. (Hint, hint!)


Of course, I recommend that you revisit previous postings to find links and resources that have been suggested or mentioned.

If you have any suggestions or resources that have been helpful to you, PLEASE comment away!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Book Review: This is your brain on music

Levitin, D. J. (2007). This is your brain on music: The science of a human obsession. London, England: Plume. ISBN: 978-0-452-28852-2. 322 pgs.

One of the advantages of travelling by train - lots of time to read, think, and generally de-stress! The book listed above was one of two books that I picked up for reading on my recent train vacation. The first, Travels with Farley, was excellent but more geared towards the "recreational reading" side of my brain. This book was the second that I read, however, I had picked it for professional, rather than recreational, reasons.

The book, quite simply, is a great read for the professional and non-professional alike. Although the concepts can be quite involved, Levitin does a great job of writing the book, "for the general reader and not for my colleagues... (p. 12)". It is easily understood and yet I found that I needed to take the book in chunks, reading a maximum of two chapters at a time before setting it aside and contemplating the deeper meanings and relationships to my work as a music therapist.

Along the way, there were a number of surprises. The first, that neuroscience divides the "Study of the mind" and "Study of the brain". He explains it this way:

I am not interested in going on a fishing expedition to try every possible musical stimulus and find out where it occurs in the brain...The point for me isn't to develop a map of the brain, but to understand how it works, how the different regions coordinate their activity together, how the simple firing of neurons and shifting around of neurotransmitters leads to thoughts, laughter, feelings of profound joy and sadness, and how all these, in turn, can lead us to create lasting, meaningful works of art (p. 96).
I had always considered neurology and neuroscience to be concerned only with how the individual parts of the brain were related to music appreciation and interpretation.

The second surprise came from evidence that suggests that memory strength, "is also a function of how much we care about the experience (p. 197)." Professionally, this was a reminder that the work that we do must be client centered, in order to help them to assimilate and consolidate the musical experiences that we/they create during a session.

Finally, there was a discussion of "the music listener" vs. "the music performer/expert". According to the author, "music making has become a somewhat reserved activity in our culture, and the rest of us listen (p. 7)". As music therapists, we encourage everyone to make music, accepting the results as skillful and a reflection of the clients' inner being. Are we simply too accepting or is their something different about how we are wired, such as a desire to see everyone succeed as a "performer of music"?

If I could criticize one aspect of the book, it would be the selection of music. As a music therapist, I use the general rule of thumb that the most significant music for most clients will be music that they experienced in their late adolesence to early adulthood. Levitin seems to fit this mold perfectly with most of the musical examples coming from the 70's and the rock and roll genre. Arguably, no one book can faithfully represent all time periods and musical genres however I would have preferred to see a wider variety of musical genres, and diversity in time periods evident in the musical examples chosen as illustrations.

Professionally, this book was a great confirmation of the meaningfulness of music therapy and the work that I do on a daily basis. I highly encourage everyone to pick up a copy and give it a read. I'll leave you with a challenge that Levitin describes being given by a friend and colleague (p. 51).

Challenge: In six songs, capture the essence of a musical genre such as rock and roll or jazz?

Good luck!