Made to be a Maker

Me in the studio (2013)

Me in the studio (2013)

I’ll never forget the day my brother, Cameron, and I came home with our all black, spruce top, acoustic guitar. Truth be told, it was his idea to split the cost and share the guitar; yet, it would end up spending its tenure in my room. We chose the color not because we were huge Johnny Cash fans but because, simply put, it looked cool. I was 15 years old and only a few years removed from my parents purchasing me my own electric guitar beginner kit which, after taking a few lessons and not practicing (I expected to be able to learn songs and skip the fundamentals — oops), my fleeting career ended. This was my chance at redemption, and I made the best of it.

I skipped the formal lessons and explored a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach, immersing myself in the online world of guitar tablature (or tabs for short) — a simple number and line method to teach guitar playing to individuals who can’t/don’t want to read sheet music. The idea was quite revolutionary to me and, although it was still just as difficult to learn the basics, I remember thinking to myself, “This time, I’m going to get it.”

Fast forward and I’ve written over 100 songs, performed at various venues in and out of my home state of New Jersey, and have had the good fortune of recording with top industry session musicians. Songwriting has become a significant part of my life, and it all began with the urge to create.

My second graduate course, CEP 811 - Adapting Innovative Technologies in Education, kicked off this past week with exploring Maker Culture, the idea that we are all fundamentally born to be makers, some of us tinkering with small projects and others creating the next groundbreaking technology. Yet, our innovative spirit relies on one another and, as filmmaker, Kirby Ferguson mentions in part one of his four-part web-series, Everything is a Remix, “Creation requires influence. Everything we make is a remix of existing creations, our lives and the lives of others” (2012). My urge to pick up the guitar, learn to play, and later write my own songs, was only possible due to inspiration from existing musicians. Further, it’s listening to other artists that fosters my desire to continue writing.

For my initial assignment, I was tasked with creating a remix video, using images and videos in the public domain only, that showcase Maker Culture in some way. What better way to do so than to explore the evolution of guitar making? I strongly recommend trying this activity for yourself as, although it was challenging, it certainly releases creativity and admiration for the maker spirit. The production process helped remind me to be grateful for all the time I’ve spent developing my craft. Of note, I used iMovie to produce the video, however there are free online video-production apps, such as WeVideo and Adobe Spark that are simple and easy to use.

Please enjoy the video below and feel free to comment with any feedback you may have! Lastly, if interested, you can listen to my music here.

Bech, M. (2017, October 16). Gibson Les Paul Goldtop (Photograph). Retrieved from

Centron Corporation (Producer). (ca. 1970). Fences and Gates (Documentary). Retrieved from

Ferguson, K. (2012, September 10) Everything is a Remix Part 1 (Documentary). Retrieved from

Gurrola, G. (2016, August 17) Acoustic guitar player in pale light (Photograph). Retrieved from

Henman, K. (2017, September 26) Untitled (Photograph). Retrieved from

Henry, M. (2017, May 6) Guitar player gear looking (Photograph). Retrieved from

Montgomery, K. (2016, May 9) Fender Jazzmaster headstock (Photograph). Retrieved from

Shea, K. (2017, January 24) Pure white electric guitar (Photograph). Retrieved from

Sundalic, M. (2016, March 2) Untitled (Photograph). Retrieved from

Taalbi, B., & Taalbi, P. (2009, September 17) Breaking Bad Season Finale - Freestyle by Taalbi Brothers: teen brothers shred flamenco rock guitar! (Musical Performance). Retrieved from

Tsiorba, Peter. (2015, February 23) Luthier's Art of Guitar Making (Video). Retrieved from

Wohl, J. (2013, September 2) Untitled (Photograph). Retrieved from

Wohl, J. (2017, October 27) Untitled (Audio Recording).

Seeing is Believing: Puppy Training Part Three

What did the internet do to my puppy?! Is it possible that in less than one month Lucy has transformed from being unruly to well-behaved? For those just learning of my endeavor, as part of my CEP 810 graduate course, I recently began training Lucy to sit, stay and stop mouthing. I’m pleased to report that, not only did I reach my goal, but I exceeded it and moved on to more advanced training exercises due to committing ample time, practicing patience and maintaining a growth-mindset. Through this process I learned that puppy training takes dedication and repetition and, while it doesn’t come without setbacks and unpredictability, consistency and the implementation of positive rewards ultimately gives way to regularity in performance. I’d be lying if I said the experience was stress-free, but my efforts still paid off. Have a look for yourself!

Per my second update, after evaluating a multitude of online forums dedicated to all things dog-related, I found YouTube to be the most thorough and effective resource. It was incredibly helpful to watch trainers conduct exercises I could emulate with Lucy. Additionally, it motivated me to see puppies as energetic and disobedient as Lucy quickly learn when the appropriate training methods were implemented. Although at times I found myself falling into the YouTube rabbit hole, going from one video to the next without knowing what I would find, I always wound up back on Zak George’s channel. His friendly demeanor and informative and digestible step-by-step tutorials were the most helpful as I learned to properly train Lucy. As noted, I wasn’t originally planning on training Lucy to leash walk as part of this project, but after reaching my goal, this video inspired me to take on the challenge.

A great deal of this week’s learning in CEP 810 focused on Renee Hobbs’ five core competencies as fundamental literacy practices, which can be explored further in her white paper, Digital and Media Literacy: A Plan of Action (2010). Hobbs explains, “These five competencies [access, analyze, create, reflect and act] work together in a spiral of empowerment, supporting people’s active participation in lifelong learning through the processes of both consuming and creating messages” (p. 18). This project helped me encompass all of these practices, as I actively sought and analyzed helpful information on puppy training, took part in meaningful activities by implementing methods that resonated, assessed my progress (and Lucy’s for that matter), and shared my experience. I hope that my journey will inspire others to take on new endeavors grounded in a plan of action.

Similar to the competencies outlined by Hobbs, Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century (Jenkins, Purushotma, Clinton, Weigel, & Robison, 2006) discusses new media literacies, which “include the traditional literacy that evolved with print culture as well as the newer forms of literacy within mass and digital media” (p.19), and participatory culture, where individuals possess these necessary literacy skills, accessibility, support, and willingness to share learning experiences. This project helped me become part of this culture and expand my personal learning network.

I will continue using online forums and YouTube to form new learning experiences for myself and my students, as the skills I learned from this project are invaluable and reach far beyond the evident (i.e., I also learned multimedia skills, including video editing and screen-recording). I believe that by providing students the opportunity to choose their own projects/topics, it will further contribute to the iterative process of learning and sharing, benefiting us all. For now, it looks like I need to research separation-anxiety remedies!

George, Z. (2017). How to train your dog not to pull on the leash. Retrieved from

Hobbs, R. (2010). Digital and media literacy: A plan of action. Washington, DC: The Aspen Institute. Retrieved from

Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Clinton, K., Weigel, M., Robison, A. (2006). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Retrieved from

Who Said I Could Only Teach Technology?

A couple of months ago, my fiancé, Samantha, and I had the bright idea - OK, it was mostly my idea - of adopting a puppy. You know, so it could give us some practice for when we are ready to have children. Taking matters into my own hands, I filed the adoption papers unbeknownst to her and before we knew it, we were holding Lucy, our soon-to-be daughter. Fun fact: Truth be told, her shelter name was “Rihanna Lonestar” and was part of a litter, all given pop star names. Let’s be real, how could Samantha say no? Look at that face! It was love at first sight and so the story goes, the rest was history.

Although Lucy seems quite intelligent, she is a bit spiteful. It’s not that she doesn’t understand, it’s that she may or may not want to actually listen when being told to sit, stop jumping, or stop nipping us. We love her dearly, but the time has come to start her training regimen. What better way to learn proven techniques then to dive into the online world of puppy training? Luckily, for my latest assignment in CEP 810, the graduate course I’m taking, I was tasked with choosing something to learn, solely utilizing help forums and YouTube. Therefore, over the next few weeks I’ll be tapping into videos and discussions on how we can get Lucy to finally mind her manners. More specifically, my goal is to teach Lucy bite inhibition, sitting and staying.

To provide some context, adopting a dog as opposed to purchasing one from a breeder can pose certain challenges. Puppies are oftentimes removed from their litter too soon, before they have the opportunity to learn bite inhibition. As Debra Horwitz, DVM, states, “Puppies start to learn bite inhibition with their littermates. If Puppy A bites on Puppy B too hard, Puppy B will yelp. If that doesn’t work, Puppy B will leave. This sends the message to Puppy A that its bites were too hard and if wishes to continue to play, it needs to be gentle” (p. 4). As Lucy was only eight weeks old when we adopted her, it leads us to believe that her mouthiness is a result of being removed from her litter too soon paired with our lack of knowledge and initial training.

Besides the fact that I’m eager to attain the necessary skill-set to train Lucy effectively, I’m also looking forward to sharing my experience, becoming part of the participatory culture mentioned in “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century” (Jenkins H., Purushotma, R., Clinton, K., Weigel, M., Robison, A., 2006), which was part of my weekly readings for CEP 810. The text states, “Students should discover what it is like to contribute their own expertise to a process that involves many intelligences, a process they encounter readily in their participation in fan discussion lists or blogging” (p. 21). For many years, I have been a consumer of content via help forums, however I’ve rarely contributed. Don’t get me wrong, as a singer songwriter and organ donation advocate, I’ve produced and published creative works in hopes to inspire others, but when it comes to providing advice, I can’t say that I’ve been part of this so-called culture. As learning is an iterative process where we all must give back to keep it ongoing, I must do my part. In James Paul Gee’s essay, “Digital Media and Learning: A Prospective Retrospective,” another insightful read from my graduate class this week, he mentions, “As newcomers advance, they are encouraged to contribute back to the group (family, community, social group, institution, or culture), based on their learning” (2013, p. 6). My puppy training endeavor will challenge me to be a consumer and creator, hopefully serving as inspiration for others to share their own experiences.

Certainly, this will be challenging, but by taking on a growth-mindset and with the help of online communities of dog trainers, I’m confident I’ll reach my goals. Wish me luck!

Gee, J. P. (2013). Digital Media and Learning: A Prospective Retrospective. Retrieved from

George, Z. (2014). How to train a puppy not to bite. Retrieved from

Horwitz, D. (1999). Counseling pet owners on puppy socialization and establishing leadership. Veterinary Medicine, 94, 149-156.

Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Clinton, K., Weigel, M., Robison, A. (2006). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Retrieved from