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6 minutes reading time (1168 words)

Problem solved! Seeking solutions online. Part 1: Blogs

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As a pedagogy professor, I try to keep my students abreast of the latest publications and teaching approaches, maintain an up-to-date pedagogy library, and offer flexible office hours. So it was a humbling and eye-opening experience recently when a graduate student stopped by my open door and said "I was stuck on what to do with Billy, so I went online and I already have twenty-two answers! Problem solved!" Fortunately, many of the answers she received were quality responses. However, we know that anyone and everyone can share a response, and some ideas we find online are not so stellar. I started to wonder where my pedagogy students were searching online for answers and how they were filtering what they found. Thus was born a pedagogy class project to evaluate blogs and Facebook groups. 

Scope of the project

In this article, we examine blogs as well as websites containing blogs (and other resources). If it looks like a blog and acts like a blog, then we treated it as a blog for our research, whether it was within a website, a stand-alone blog, or simply a site that included interaction and dialogue. In a future article, we will examine Facebook groups.

The process

The first step was to identify a list of blogs to examine. Using input from friends, classmates, local teachers, and lists compiled by bloggers, we looked at more than fifty blogs related to piano teaching. Blogs were identified and evaluated by undergraduate and graduate pedagogy students and members of the Butler MTNA Collegiate Chapter. We offer the following disclaimers for our project:

1) We decided to exclude blogs that focused on a specific topic, such as performance anxiety. This meant that some excellent blogs such as www.bulletproofmusician. com were excluded. We made one exception. Given the current interest in and wealth of new information from the field of neuroscience, we chose to include one of many blogs related to the brain and learning in our project. 

2) We do not claim to have found every worthy blog. 

3) Blogs are constantly evolving. What we found during the fall semester of 2014 might not be what is found online today. Our second step was to create a rubric of evaluation criteria (see below). The criteria were determined by pedagogy students based on what they felt was important to their demographic at this point in their careers. For each criterion, a value rating of one to five was assessed, with one representing the least value, and five representing the most value. The ratings from all seven categories were then averaged to yield an overall rating for each blog.

The results

We divided the total list into two groups—the top twenty sites that resonated with the pedagogy students, with ratings as detailed in the chart below. We also compiled a complete list of the fifty-one sites reviewed. To download this list in .pdf format, please click on the link below: 

File Name: Reviewed_sites_CC_JA_15
File Size: b
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Here are a few of our favorites:

Wendy Stevens (www.composecreate.com/) 

Wendy Stevens has assembled a masterful blog to assist with a piano teacher's needs by providing teaching resources, games, educational blog posts, and new pedagogical research. The layout is professional and clean. The appealing blog titles and resources are offbeat and could attract teachers with all levels of experience. Readers have easy access to resources with the "Store" tab, and the "Student" and "Teacher" tabs also lead to extensive pages to use for learning, teaching, and enriching lessons and practice. New compositions by Stevens are available through the blog store, each categorized by genre, level, and season. Naoko Takao (brainypianopedagogy. wordpress.com/) In the Brainy Piano Pedagogy blog, 

Naoko Takao explores the art and science of piano teaching and performing. While the blog did not score high in interaction and dialogue, it is especially valuable for teachers who wish to understand more about their art. One post addresses the issue of memory and what goes on inside a student's brain during the process of memorization. This blog stands out from the rest because it is more performance based. Takao also focuses on dealing with societal factors that may play a role in private piano lessons, such as ways to combat the pressure students might feel from parents. 

Melody Payne (thepluckypianista.blogspot.com) An award-winning teacher, Payne establishes her extensive educational background and experiences by providing researched and practiced recommendations. In a previous webinar session, Payne recorded advice for teaching music lessons online. This is eye-catching because of the need for educating teachers on the evolving nature of music lessons. Her blog tab called "Freebies" is equally attention grabbing with its colorful and creative downloadable templates. 

Susan Paradis (www.susanparadis.com/) This blog is a wonderful resource destination. Susan Paradis has updated posts with relevant information, encouraging and helpful tips, and fun games and activities that are easy to find in her organized posts. These downloadable and printable options are also accessible on her website through a "free" tab, and are well-organized into different categories including holidays, worksheets, games, repertoire, teaching aids, and even material she created for use on an iPad. Overall, this blog is exceptionally useful and relevant, Perspectives Seeking solutions online Clavier Companion July/August 2015 62 pleasantly organized, and has a fun and modern visual appeal. Elissa Milne (elissamilne.wordpress.com/) 

Elissa Milne's blog does not present itself with flashy signs chanting "Like me, like me!" with frilly and fun games for young students; however, the educational content of Milne's blog far outweighs that of other blogs. Noteworthy are her blog topics for parents, such as "10 Things You Should Do BEFORE Your Child Begins Piano Lessons" and "15 Things You Need to Know About Supporting Your Child Learning to Play the Piano." Several posts in a series address problems that arise during practice and at home. 

Henry Flurry (www.henryflurry.com) Henry Flurry updates the homepage of his blog with creative ideas for use in lessons. His site has tabs at the top of the page that lead to his biography and a description of the Suzuki Method. The "Links" tab leads to his page about the Music Flash Class, an app for iPad or iPhone that he developed for drills during piano lessons.

Cara Haxo is a second-year graduate student in composition. She teaches piano and composition for the Butler Community Arts School, and is current president of the Butler MTNA Collegiate Chapter. 

Abigail Huston is a junior music major, with an emphasis in piano pedagogy. She teaches piano for the Butler Community Arts School and directs her own outreach choir at a nearby charter school. 

Joanna Luisi Reinhardt is a non-degree graduate student in piano pedagogy. She teaches piano for the Butler Community Arts School as well as Kindermusik classes in the community. 

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