Final project for ECI 834

There was a lot of learning this term and I owe a lot to the help that friends and colleagues offered. As is true with any journey, the first step is often the hardest and the journey is only the beginning of a life-long transformation. I had the pleasure of working with Shelby Mackey for our final project, Please watch and hopefully enjoy our video!


Final entry for ECI 834

Seems like a long time ago when we began this class in January. This blog will go over some of the things we learned in this class. Growing up on the farm I was surrounded by old men that were always happy to teach things. One piece of advice I remember was from my great uncle Carl Anderson, he told me that knowledge is the only thing that you can collect all your life that’s not heavy to carry with you. Kind of a funny little pearl, but it does have some truth to it. I often think the most important thing I learned from childhood was to not be afraid to ask questions.

This sentiment does not exclude my current endeavour. Learning about tech. is no different than learning how to rebuild an updraft carburetor for a model A. First, you need to organize yourself to the best of your ability. Meaning, you need to set some goals, both long and short term. The amount of questions you can ask is sometimes limited.. (some people will get annoyed.. use their time as though it is a limited resource), appear as though you have done your due diligence. This little conundrum is often the first hurdle, What questions should I be asking and who do I ask?

Time and people management is a thing, you can’t ask the same question to everyone. The person I go to for mechanic advice on a flathead isn’t the same person I go to when I was setting up my own website. Rome wasn’t built in a day, take your time. Be a critical judge of information, and do your own research.. but…. rely on the people in your group. Find people with similar goals and listen to the research they have done.

Enter the geek squad.

You are surrounded by geeks. Geeks are the people getting things done. The people I relied on for help with tech stuff, you guessed it. Geek city.

Don’t go thinking that the only geek in this story was my source… Oh no… I am a geek from way back. You see, I value geeks more than the average person. I have a lot of geek friends… They go by different names like musician, mechanic, pilot, teacher… but with each of these professions or hobbyist group exists another group of people that go above and beyond. The ones that can discern the smallest details often oblivious to those around them. the geeks. I am going to shed some light on the different geeks that you are surrounded by.

It is important to note that because they are classed together does not mean they like each other. Often times with family we get lumped in and grow a certain amount of disdain for them. SO, please understand that treading between these subgroups is no idle feat. 
Image result for different kinds of motorcycles
  • Motorcycle geeks– to save time I will break these into three groups. Dirtbikes, sportbikes, and harley’s. Although you need to have subgroups of vintage and modern. Within the vintage group there would most certainly have to be a “import” category. (There could be at least 50 subgroups.. this is the reader’s digest version). It is important to note that import and sport bike motorcycle often hate Harley Davidson enthusiasts, and vice versa. With the exception of vintage bikes… most everyone can agree that vintage motorcycles are super cool regardless of the brand.
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  • Horse geeks– First of all not all horse geeks are cowboys… There are Dressage, Reining, Race horses, Thoroughbred, Arabian, Quarter Horse, steeple chasing, horse jumping, breeders, chuck wagons and cowboys within that could be another group of Farriers which I have seen connect with medieval geeks, museum geeks, and even civil war geeks. Finally there is the obvious, Cowboy geeks. (except don’t call the cowboys geeks, sometimes they can be a bit…punchy).
Image result for rat rod
  • Car geeks– There is often a lot of crossover between the motorcycle and car geeks. The largest crossover being the vintage cars/bikes. Very few vintage car/bike enthusiasts hold animosity towards each other. Then there are similar categories to the motorcyclists, you have import, muscle car, hot rods, rat rods, home built, car and truck, diesel enthusiasts, Wankel and rotary engines… you name it.

I could go on like this all day… the point is, everywhere you look there are people doing things. Those things could be anything from designing websites to training horses. Within any of those groups are countless subgroups, an entire culture of people who have devoted countless hours in researching and working on that craft. Some of them may not consider themselves geeks… but if your an “athlete” that can tell me Ted Williams batting average in 1941 you my friend are a geek.

So… what was one of the most important things I learned this semester. WHO are my tech. geeks. Who can I go to for help? When I don’t even know what questions to ask… where do I turn? This is arguably more important than my google classroom endeavour… In ten years from now, the guitar class will likely be irrelevant, but the things I learned making it set me on a road of discovery. I met people, learned where I could do my own research and who I can turn to for help. I wish I could keep in contact with some of the people in this class, there is an awful lot of knowledge here.

Image result for geek flag

I bet every one of you is a geek in one way or another. Someone, somewhere, would have you on speed dial to answer a certain question about some little random detail. You need to embrace your inner geek, more importantly you need to surround yourself with geeks. Lots of geeks, all different kinds of geeks. When they talk, you listen.

Image result for old cowboy on a fence

I would like to end this little rant with a quote from my grandfather. A particularly wise and gentle old rancher who told me “If you listen close enough you can learn something new from every person you meet”. Imagine if we listened close enough to make that true…

The process of making Guitar 90 a blended course.

When I began EC&I 834 I had already taught Guitar 90, when I learned that we would be creating an online course I thought this was a great opportunity to transition my guitar course to a blended format.

Guitar 90 is a locally developed course, although I am told that there is a curriculum being developed at the provincial level. I was asked to teach this course because there were students that voiced interest in it and somehow being a member of the third worst band in Moose Jaw (unsubstantiated), made me qualified to teach it.

Prairie South Division has a paid subscription to Google classroom and it seemed like a logical decision to use it. I have zero experience in creating online courses and minimal experience with working with any of the online tools that I see other teachers using. My course profile and the feedback I received in the peer review were very helpful in shaping this course.

What I am trying to say is that I had no idea what platform to use, or even what questions to ask. I was the poster child for blank slate, and although this class has shown me several other great options I am going to stay with google classroom (for now at least).

Because I taught the Guitar 90 course before I knew what worked well and had a good idea where I would take the course. I was going to make my own videos, but there are so many great videos on youtube that are professionally filmed and edited it just didn’t make sense to recreate them. Especially since they students were in my classroom everyday, playing guitar with me and the videos were supplemental to the learning that happened in the classroom.

I learned lots of things about googleclassroom during EC&I 834. I had no idea that I could organise things into units and was given insight and helpful hints by several of my classmates here. I feel that this class was a wonderful opportunity to challenge myself to learn something new and undoubtedly improve my course delivery. I am happy with the way the course turned out and look forward to finishing the last module soon. This course and its content may change next year when the new curriculum comes into effect, but I like the flexibility of a blended format!!

Here is a video going through the course. I found 5 minutes to be very fast, however I should have totally made a video for the first part of the assignment! I found that it worked great! Check out the video here.

If you want to take a look at module two please do! Google classroom code o7cs6ka

Thanks for being a part of my learning, and I appreciate any help you may have given me along the way.

As always Rock and or Roll… whichever you prefer.

Feedback and Comments

At the risk of repeating myself I would like to start with explaining that my course is a blended course. I use google classroom to organize and individualize lesson plans. Most of the interactions happen face to face however that being said, I comment on their video submissions that occur every Friday. The assessment piece is graded using a rubric, however the comments I leave are just as often goofy little remarks as they are meaningful.  Which I will get to shortly…

I set guidelines for their videos (taken every friday), they must include their name, date and a brief explanation of what they will be playing. The camera must clearly show both hands while playing the guitar. The name and date are a formality that is useful to me when going through their videos. The camera angle is important to me because a lot of my feedback will come from watching how they hold the guitar and make chord shapes while playing. Another side to that stipulation is I feel that students submitting videos of themselves may make some people feel nervous, so I don’t need their face to be in the video at all. (I have no idea if any of my students have ever felt this way, I just thought it may help avoid any awkward situations). 

This blog post has made me think that perhaps I should be more serious about my comments, because about half of them are serious while the other half are for comedic relief. If I see something that a student should work on improving, I will leave a remark based on that. This is a comment I left last week, “Great work! I have an idea on how to make the transition from a G to D work a little smoother, come see me on Monday. I like the part at 1:12 when it looks like you almost fall out of your chair… rock and roll!”  

As I circulate class, I will ask students (because sometimes I forget who I said what to… I used to get hit in the head a lot… ), what did I suggest you work on?

As I circulate class, I will ask students (because sometimes I forget who I said what to. I used to get hit in the head a lot… ),

What did I suggest you work on? Sometimes this is just to make sure they look at my comments and mark and other times it’s the head thing. This usually spurs a good conversation and a mini lesson for one or more students. The comedic relief is something that I think is also important. I certainly can’t tell you in good faith that I have never left the generic “good work” comment, but If there is really nothing constructive to add to their video at least a funny comment lets them know I watched it. I have never really considered setting guidelines for my comments before this blog post… which in hindsight probably warrants a funny comment of my own. 

I think it is great to reflect on your own practice, I will put more thought into how I can make my comments more meaningful.

Peer Feedback

Googleclassroom (class code o7cs6ka)

I have really enjoyed this class so far; the course content has been applicable to my everyday practice and I believe that this will shape the way I teach forever. This may seem like a bold or even unsubstantiated claim, however I set out to learn more about online teaching. I currently teach a blended course and until recently I didn’t even know what a blended course was. I have a feeling that the future of education in our province/country is going to include more and more online/blended learning environments. This has been the first step in learning how to set up and teach in this format. This class has allowed me to take my first steps into a world I avoided for lack of a better word. I didn’t avoid it because I loath technology, rather I lacked the knowledge to take my first step. I now know the questions I need to ask and am finding the people in which to ask them. Like many of you I am learning more about different teaching platforms and am not being trapped in the “paradox of choice”.

I was able to review some courses that were fantastic and set the bar high for my personal goals of what I eventually want my courses to look like. These courses were detailed, easy to navigate and very well prepared. One was an asynchronous online course, and because of the nature of the class it was very easy to see the progression from beginning to end. My own class is a blended class and as such when it is viewed as an online course there may be some gaps…

I will have begin answering some of the questions after a short overview of my class for anyone that hasn’t read my course profile.

Course Profile

I am teaching a blended online Guitar 90 course. This class is a regular 50-minute class that happens everyday. The average class size is roughly 20 students. Of these 20 students it would be fair to say that most (approximately 80%), have very limited guitar knowledge coming in and are beginners. Historically speaking it would be accurate to say that about 15% or 3 of the students would fit into the intermediate category 2 students are what I would consider advanced. These categories are not set in stone… rather a way to understand the dynamics of a typical group on the first day. It is important to know that students progress very differently, some students may start with no previous knowledge but are driven to succeed and finish the course in an advanced group.

A brief description of how I would categorize beginner/ intermediate and advanced students. (the following is how I would categorize students during the first week)

Beginner- someone that has no previous guitar playing experience, has limited knowledge of music theory.

Intermediate- Knows some chord shapes, and can possibly play a song. Has some music theory or transferable skills (several kids can play ukelele and they always progress rather quickly).

Advanced- Students in this category usually own a guitar, have taken lessons and can play at least one song. Most classes have at least one student that is in comparative terms advanced. They can play songs fluently and have at least some knowledge of musical theory. (I have had two students in my classes that are better guitarists than I am. One of these students was a working musician and played with a jazz band… wow).

It was my intent to use the online section of this class as a way to assign homework and or enrichment learning based on what we are doing during class. The diversity of this class forces me to assign different assignments for students based on their ability. (most of the time I can group students in 3 categories and assign work as a group). Googleclassroom (class code o7cs6ka) has offered a way for me to organize resources for students to practice with, and allowed me to catalog a record of their learning through weekly videos.

The Questions

  • My question would be, are students mostly working in their ability groups throughout the modules as well? Or just for certain sections?

The first few days of the course are spent learning guitar theory, the musical alphabet and some basic vocabulary. While this is going on, I am organising how many guitars need to be rented or fixing the old broken-down guitars their uncle pulled out of the closet and lent them. Once we all have a working instrument, we start down the road to learning chord shapes. These days are spent split in 15-minute mini lessons going back and forth between theory and actual playing time. The intermediate and advanced students become teachers aids in helping students with finger placement and technique.

Once we start playing the guitar the students are all in the beginner group… we strum chords and practice rhythm and different strumming techniques. This is great time to subtly assess the intermediate and advanced groups by challenging them (because they get bored quickly)… I challenge them to work with us but to do so in a more challenging way (we start learning the chords G, Cadd9, D and Em. If they get bored I ask them to play these as a barre chord). If they can play barre chords in the first weeks of the course, they will need substantially different homework than the majority of the class.

Once we start playing songs, we use a song book that I have put together (all in the key of G, but every song is picked based on it showcasing something that fits to a piece our overall learning objective. I.e.. One song is a finger picking song, different time signatures, using a capo, or an additional chord.

While we play these together as a class it is very easy for me to make adaptations to these songs for everyone in the class. We start off playing these songs in their most basic form. If a student can’t transition between chords fast enough, an adaptation for them would be to stop strumming and online strum the first beat of every bar, this will allow you three beats to transition to the next chord. If a student needs enrichment I would print of chord diagrams for alternate finger patterns for the chords we are playing (usually but not limited to barre chords). I would challenge them to add one of these alternate chords to their repertoire. During this time the students would all be working in one group with me leading the lesson. We may play 3-5 different songs working on different objectives with each song. Then typically we would break into our groups and I would circulate and work with individuals and smaller groups based on needs. This time is called free time, they work on personal goals and class objectives that are recorded every Friday.

If I sat down with them individually or as a group I may say something like, I really like the song choice you have and here are some suggestions on how to make this work better, I would ask them to share any resources they have found with me, and if there is any pertinent information on that I would give them a link to a video or other resource on google classroom so it is easily found. I also tell students that they will be working on this for the next “X” amount of time during your free time and homework, your demonstration of learning will be on “x” day and send them the links to all the resources on google classroom.

-My only question is, do students have any prior knowledge with
videotaping themselves or others and uploading the video?

Most students have previous knowledge with google classroom. However, there are always some students that need to be showed the process. There are also students that don’t have access to the technology to record or submit videos, fortunately we have access to chrome books and iPads and I always allow class time on Friday for students to record and submit their videos.

I also have language barriers with EAL students, this is not a large barrier when playing the guitar, I will get into more detail on adaptations in a moment. The music part of this class transcends language barriers, and we usually battle with theory and technology… but the pay off with debugging the video taking is always worth it in the end when we celebrate learning. We have a few check-ins during the semester where they look back at their first videos and see how far they come. I think it is very important to not lose sight of just how much successful they really are!

  • I would like to see more about what he would do if there is a student with a disability in the classroom (1-2 examples). What accomodation could be made for those students?

Like any class there needs to adaptations. My admin was sitting in on a lesson in this guitar class and commented that it was likely the most diverse class in the building. Some common adaptations are for ability, as I outlined in previous comments it is usually very easy to make accommodations for them to make sure everyone is working within their own realm of being challenged.

Other adaptions have been based on language barriers. I have had several EAL students come through my guitar class, all have left successfully playing songs. The physical nature of playing a guitar can be shown by a simple diagram or personal demonstration and once the students have made the connection with the chord shape to letter A,B,C…. the rest is very easy. The guitar theory part of the course would be another beast, we work on simple vocabulary and don’t usually try to get much further than that… because it is not a credit class, I don’t assess them on anything other than playing the guitar.

These are the common adaptations…. now for the not so common. This year I have had three physical adaptations. The first was very simple, the student was of particularly small stature and could not hold a regular size guitar properly. I simply rented a parlour guitar which has a shorter neck and smaller body to accommodate.

Next, I had a student with a physical disability that didn’t allow them to make chord shapes with their left hand, I tried several things including open tunings and using a glass slide… playing bass guitar…. both worked well but didn’t meet the students desire to play particular songs… after a conversation to assess the students will to learn, I spent some time modifying their guitar so it was left handed. Thus, making eliminating their physical disability and allowing them to make chord shapes with their right hand. She played a version of “blackbird” for her final assignment that brought a tear to my eye.

Lastly, I had an EAL student with no English language, and an almost complete hearing disability. This student wears hearing aids and can hear a little… so I outfitted his guitar with a pickup, got an amp that I could both our guitars into and he wears headphones that allows him to hear his guitar (and mine when applicable) and he is having a lot of fun. A lifetime of communicating non-verbally has allowed him to be very keen on learning by watching and he is very successful in this class.

How this will change my course.

There was some good feedback as to the resources and setup, I am lucky in the sense that I have taught this class for the past three years but am new to setting it up online. I knew what I wanted it to look like and this class will continue to change as I find better resources or teaching platforms. I set this class up on google because our division has an account with them however, I really like the format and usability of Moodle. I think the options are limited on google classroom and the layout is much easier to navigate on Moodle.

I had a great suggestion in the feedback that numbering the courses and assignments could make it more user friendly. I wish google classroom would allow me to create the course beforehand and open different assignments/resources and or quizzes as we got to it.

The feedback I got was constructive, and most of the questions asked were because I didn’t provide enough information at the start. I hope I have answered any questions you may have had about the course/students in this post.

Blended learning and Creativity.

Image result for creative

I watched a video recently about schools killing creativity.  This is a bold statement, and coming from a professor with “Sir’ in front of his name it is hard to ignore…. yet I felt like I am sure most teachers would… he must be talking about other teachers. I certainly don’t kill creativity, wait a minute while I get my high horse so I can look down on this video. There were some really interesting points that can’t be ignored. like the purpose of public education, and students that fit outside the “norm”. I have always prided myself on being a creative thinker, I see things a little differently… although I have no formal art training I believe the furniture and hotrods/motorcycles and guitars that I build are artistic. A girlfriend of mine once said its because I am an Aquarius.

I always thought that was funny and would make little wise cracks about her astrology or her meditating, I suppose because it was different…

but noooooo not me… I wouldn’t hinder a students creativity. Hmmmm.

People make fun of what they don’t understand and it isn’t often people will abandon their what they know works for something new. I have always applauded teachers that are ultra organised. Year and month plans laid out in August like a flight itinerary. It takes an incredible amount of work to accomplish and in my opinion these classrooms run efficiently, but does having every lesson pre-planned kill creativity? Is there room in that year plan to do something else? Will that teacher abandon lessons they have invested time and effort into creating to do something that students would prefer? Does your year plan or unit plan look like a road map of possibility or train track with a start and end point with predetermined stops and no hope of diversion from the intended route?

I was once hailed at being a creative teacher, letting student input lead my lesson planning. I would show them the learning outcomes and we would build unit plans that were continuously evolving and changing and every year looked different depending on what students wanted to pursue. I didn’t have the heart to tell them it was really no extra work for me, because I didn’t have anything pre-planned to begin with. It always seemed like more fun and authentic to be spontaneous. Fast forward to my current teaching assignment and I am teaching all classes based on creativity. Guitar, Theater Arts and Woodworking, what an amazing job.

Image result for high horse

So I sit atop my high horse, watching this video on how all you other teachers kill creativity. Then I start to really think… Do you know how many times I have to say no to students. NO you can’t build that, NO you can’t play that song, NO I will not fix your vape. Teaching guitar may sound really fun, and it is wonderful.. about 60 percent of the time.

What my colleagues think my job is.
What my friends think my job is.

What my actual job is like.

I like to joke around about it, but please know that I do love my job:) That being said imagine what a room with 22 teenagers holding a guitar sounds like. Then remember that only two or three of them know how to play it. You want to know how creativity is destroyed? It is destroyed by the same grip I grasp at my sanity while trying to give direction to a room full of teenagers competing to be the loudest in the room. It may sound funny, and I suppose in some respects it is. However, I had to climb down from my highhorse when I thought about how I dealt with classroom management, particularly in guitar class. I actually told a student to stop playing a little melody that they wrote because I was trying to talk to the class. Which I hope seems reasonable… but is it? Is my classroom stifling creativity?

I think they’re needs to be a balance between discipline and creativity. Without discipline students cannot have a formal lesson; however, with formal lessons students cannot be creative… So the compromise ( I think), is there must be discipline until the student is proficient enough to be creative. Very few students will learn to play the guitar without some form of lesson. whether it comes from a book, video or in person there is a lot of theory and mechanics that must be taught.


So, my question is… Will online and or blended classes encourage more flexibility in learning styles and course content? Can they be set up to maximise potential by letting students pursue what interests them? Is the classroom as we know it being phased out? Did the green power ranger really play a flute that was also a sword… with his helmet on? I think there will always be a need for educators, most students need outside motivation and direction, will that outside motivator always be a human being? I don’t know but there are still human pilots in star trek… Some things just can’t be left to an artificial intelligence.

I think the potential to be creative using an online course is limitless… but in the end I think it rests on the person creating the class. It is much less work to create a railroad track than it is a road map.

But imagine for a minute what a choose your own adventure science class would look like. A class where your met learning outcomes based on whatever you chose to learn about… different types of assessments based on student preference. This is the type of classroom where teachers are going to be closer to IT support staff and computer programmers.


Blended Learning and the FUTURE!!

This week I was having a pretty philosophical debate with some co-workers about what the future of education is going to look like. Will our children’s school experience look like ours? What about our grandchildren?

I think the probability of being replaced by a robot in the next 20 years is low, but I do think there will be drastic changes to school and education in our lifetime.

(anyone seen “the class of 1999”, its a movie about robot teachers….soooo bad, but real funny if your into B movies).

I should start by explaining how this journey started. I started googling “best platforms for online learning” a list came up and I had never heard of any of them… so I clicked on the first one, it didn’t take long to realize these were platforms set up to take online courses rather than teach online courses…. but bare with me!

” a list came up and I had never heard of any of them… so I clicked on the first one, it didn’t take long to realize these were platforms set up to take online courses rather than teach online courses…. but bare with me!

I’d like to make it clear at this point that I know very little about this site (Udemy) in particular and am using it as an example based on the philosophy for which it stands and not ALL the content it holds, as I am sure there are other sites I am unaware of that may be better…. (teachers pay teachers)?

It didn’t take long to see that there were a lot of really cool things on Udemy. From science to art you could search and download entire courses on almost anything you could think of, and all for $12.99….

So… does this mean I can use it in my classroom… without a pending lawsuit for copyright infringement? (I am sure that like me, you never photocopy books for fear of breaking copyright rules…)

Well, the answer to that is I am not sure… There was a place during checkout where I proclaimed that I am an educator and part of a school.. was that them giving me permission to use this with the 60+ guitar students I will have this term? I doubt it, but at this point it doesn’t matter. For all intents and purposes of this conversation, it’s the idea of this mass resource availability that I am interested in and not this particular course.

I purchased the guitar course for $12.00, it has 35+ hours of video that from what I have seen is very good. It has downloadable pdf files with wonderful and appropriate learning materials. The guy is literally a professional musician and has over a million subscribers… my qualifications to teach guitar are an Ed. degree (which has nothing to do with music) and a dusty bass guitar that I play in the third worst band in Moose Jaw (I reserve the 3rd worst spot because there has to be at least two bands worse than us).. Anyhow I digress, let’s answer some of the questions in this weeks blog options.

What is good about it?

It is laid out into different units of study based on ability. It starts with the very basics and builds to the advanced player. Erich Andreas, is a professional musician that did a great job of organizing a user friendly course. (Check out the picture gallery at the end), It couples instruction with what I would consider an appropriate amount of theory. The best part of this is, its available to me anywhere that has an internet signal, my instructor will follow me wherever I go. I could annoy people at the coffee shop, the library, the school, my house, the park… wherever I wanted! Think about the possibilities… Just you and your computer on top of a mountain playing a bad version of wonderwall!


What this course does… not so good

Well, this course is made to take at home, so it is not tied to any curriculum. (That being said, it handily meets all the requirements in our locally developed curriculum). It does not come with any form of assessment, because there is no accreditation that comes with this course there is no need to assess learning.

I understand that this is not a site intended to be a teaching resource, and there are sites designed to share resources for teachers… don’t leave yet, the point is in site!

Here is what it means!

Imagine for a minute that teachers didn’t have to spend hundreds of hours preparing and designing a course, that they could go to a computer, download it and boom… done. let’s get started. Before you all go crazy and start yelling things at me about diverse classrooms, modifications and learning styles.. lets just pretend that these courses were designed by professionals… and you could modify as needed however the bones of the course were all there.

Who, as a teacher has not started teaching a new course, with nothing. spending an entire summer creating a course, that you have never taught, wasting countless hours on things you never used. I have, I have also seen with my own eyes a retiring teacher spend a full day shredding their grade 8 course, because they thought the next teacher should find their own resources. wowee..

So, with the emergence of online and blended classes becoming more and more common, why would teachers reinvent the wheel. WHY wouldn’t you pay $12.00 for a course, and spend the summer familiarising, adapting personalising said course…? at the lake, with cool glass of whatever tickles your fancy. I believe these types of resource sharing and or common curriculum will shadow the growth of online classes, why wouldn’t it? I fear though that the one thing you could be sure of, is the price likely wouldn’t remain $12.00.

What does that mean for teachers?

I don’t know… there are a lot of interesting ideas with this. Will these changes occur during our careers, or lifetimes? I don’t know.. but I do know that working to be current in your field is never a bad thing.

Photo gallery of class