Through four grants, I headed Sharing Music Sharing Culture (SMSC), a Wichita State University (WSU) initiative exploring how global learning can integrate with the current WSU music curriculum to transform both what and how we learn about music and culture.
During the fall 2003 semester, two WSU string improvisation classes interacted with students and professors at the University of Limerick's Irish World Music Center using videoconferencing and a web portal called BlackBoard. Students at the Irish World Music Center taught WSU students how to play Irish Fiddle music. Conversely, students at WSU taught their colleagues at the Irish World Music Center how to play jazz and blues.
The premise behind SMSC was that videoconferencing might be a poor substitute for one-to-one contact on the individual level but could provide insight otherwise not possible on the community level. For example, students at WSU could have perhaps more successfully learned Irish Fiddle from a specialist who could visit the school personally. What they would miss, however, is the community interaction of that expert in his or her naturally expressed environment such as the Irish World Music Center.
On the other hand, videoconferencing made it possible for WSU students to peek into the Irish World Music Center itself and witness how the students and faculty express themselves both to us and to each other. The students at the Irish World Music Center had the same opportunities to witness the Wichita State University students.
As is the case with many of my projects, SMSC was based on a community learning model. Students were responsible for working together to design the curriculum, create instructional videos, and run the videoconferences. Moreover, SMSC had the added dimension of offering perspective into another culture.