For the last eight years I have been meaning to rehead my broken tabla, but have avoided it out of fear of breaking my one replacement head. So when my graduate course assigned me four weeks to “learn how to do something I had always wanted to do using free online resources” I had no more excuses. John Boswell’s YouTube lesson, Buying Tabla and Tuning, helped me learn proper tuning techniques on my working tabla set to gain a better feel for the tension in the drums and determine each drum’s optimal pitch. Then I started from scratch, following Kaylan Godden’s five part YouTube lesson, How to Rehead a Tabla, transforming a dusty drum shell into a fully tuned tabla. By the end, I had learned so much more than I had set out to know. In short, I learned the how and why of the mechanics and maintenance of my tabla: alternative tuning methods, weaving patterns for the camel hide, knots for tying off the straps, etc. Here is my progress.
For this project, I was lucky to have found resources that provided everything I needed to know, however, the networked learning of a skill never really stops as long as one continues searching to improve on said skill. For instance, I already know from my resources that my new drum head will stretch significantly in the first few weeks, requiring lots of retuning. Although I now have a much better idea of how to handle this on my own, I will surely be revisiting my online resources for confirmation and possibly searching for others in case new questions arise.
Although I have yet to incorporate networked learning in my assignments at school, I do try to encourage students to see its possibilities. I use a ukulele in class from time to time and I often remind my students how I learned. Four years ago, I learned one song from a video on YouTube that made it so easy I decided to learn one song every month. I keep my thick songbook around as inspiration. But, what makes networked learning so special?
Rather than having an instructor pose questions in a prescribed order, networked learning through Youtube and Help Forums requires one to first face problems on one’s own, then formulate the right questions before venturing out to find answers. Often one comes across more than one answer, as again there is no instructor in the room guiding the discussion. Instead everyone is simultaneously a teacher and a student, advising and working through problems together. The recorded comments format of Help Forums and YouTube are a huge benefit that no instruction manual could provide. Scrolling through, one often finds the most common questions have already been asked and responded to. One must then analyze and think critically about information before acting. This kind of self directed learning can admittedly be more challenging and possibly time-consuming, yet is always rewarding in the end.