Steel Drums have Arrived!

January 5, 2012 1 comment

So Santa brought our steel drums and they pretty much rock, mon!  We went with the Jumbie Jam Beginner Set.  Here are the first two videos to kick this project off and some of my impressions/thoughts of each.


  • Love the “MINE!” from our 3-yr-old Kenna right off the bat!
  • :37-:44 – Love how Emily jumps right into banging on it to figure out what it does- I love the approach.  So many things should be figured out by just banging away and seeing what happens.
  • 2:17 – Love how they accidentally play together, right on beat with the other
  • 2:26 – Emily recognizes the 1st note of Jingle Bells and starts to play it.
  • While I’m trying to figure out how to play Jingle Bells, I like all the mistakes I made along the way.  One thing we’re working with Emily on is how it’s ok to make mistakes.  Hopefully I can model that for her through this project, cause I’m sure I’ll be making plenty!

First Practices

  • This is a long one and I doubt anyone will watch the whole thing.  Parts of it were being recorded semi-secretly, where they didn’t know I was taping.
  • If you leave a steel drum out, your kids (and probably, anyone) will naturally want to play around with it and learn something.  I wonder how we can make school more like that.
  • Yes, we’re listening to the Grinch in the background..we almost always have music going in the house of some sort or another…
  • What a great contrast between our two girls and how they approach things.  Emily is our very structure rule-follower- she starts off playing the notes all in a row, A-G, with a set pattern to her playing.  Kenna is the opposite- she just starts hitting notes in random notes with both mallets.  Shows their personalities 100%, which is so interesting.
  • 5:30 – Kenna gets the camera and films my worldwide debut on the steel drums.  Rock on!!!  (plus I love how she whispers the words of the song into the camera while I play…so friggin cute).
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Steel Drums it is!

December 10, 2011 Leave a comment

It turned out to be a nail biter between Origami and playing the steel drums….who knew?  Nobody wanted to see me juggle..which is probably for the best.  Only 1 vote for the only non-physical skill task, which is interesting.

So I’ve gotta start shopping for steel drums.  With a budget of under $200, it’s looking like it’s going to have to be a mini/kid size drum.  But that works great for me, because I want my girls to play with it too of course.  Most seem to come with a book for beginners as well.

So far I have my eyes on these:

Jumbie Jam    ($185)
Woodstock Mini Drum   ($70)

I think I’m going to go with the first one- the reviews are much better and it looks like better quality and a better size fit.  So get ready, mon.  I’ll let you know when it comes in!

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Vote for next year’s idea open

December 2, 2011 2 comments

So I’ve whittled down the ideas you all submitted to five that I’m opening up to a vote (thanks to all for submitting ideas!!!).  The idea with the most votes will be what I learn and blog about next year.

Five Options:

  • How to juggle four objects – Sure, why not?  I can actually juggle three objects for a couple seconds, so this would be a big jump…
  • Norse Mythology – Interesting!  I picked this one because it was one of the only ones that was less of a physical task or skill.  I’ve always been interested in mythology (as a big D&D fan/player and really got into Greek mythology in high school).  Plus I collected the comic book Thor when I was a kid.  Have some light background knowledge from that of the major players but have a ton of room to learn more.
  • Origami – This would be a fun, cost effective one to try- something I could share with my girls too
  • How to throw a football – I’ve always sucked at this.  I throw them into the dirt.  I put this one in here because I think the videos of the process would be hilariously similar to Uncle Rico.  By the end of the year, I suspect I’ll be able to throw a football over a mountain.
  • Play the steel drums – this would have an upfront cost of around $200 (have looked online for some starter sets).  This would be my Xmas gift this year…  I like this idea because I’m really into music and steel drums fit my mellow tude.
So there you have it- please vote here to tell me what to try!  The voting will be open until Friday, December 9th.  I’ll then post the winner and we’ll go from there.
Random ideas that I rejected (great stuff!!!):
  • Hula Dancing – No
  • World of Warcraft – I LOVE games like this and used to play them all the time before I got married 8 years ago (Everquest, mainly).  I didn’t put this one as a choice because these types of games are dangerous to all other areas of my life…
  • Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – Awesome idea, but with another little one on the way I don’t think I’ll have the time to invest in going to classes.
  • Become a ninja – Too late.  I’m already a ninja.  Don’t tell anybody
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Crowdsource me for 2012!

November 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Hey all-

My name is Steve Johnson and welcome to a new harebrained idea I came up with.  Since this is my first post here and I want to explain what this is all about, here goes (this info will also be in the “About this Project” page):

This is a learning adventure that I plan on carrying with me until the day I croak.  Every year, around Thanksgiving time, I’m going to put out a survey asking people what they want me to learn in the following year.  Topics can be wide ranging, but may have some restrictions based on how much money I have to spend, how much time I may or may not have, etc.  Once I gather a bunch of ideas of what people want me to learn, I’ll pick 5-8, give my thoughts on each and how I might go about giving them a shot, then let folks vote.  The winner of the vote is the one I’ll start learning about in January of the following year.  I’ll learn all the way through the end of November, when I’ll be crowdsourcing the next topic!

This whole process will take place, published for all to see, on this blog.  I’ll post video, possibly audio, and will write about what I’m trying, what’s working/not working, and reflect as I go.  Depending on the topic or task, I may “pretest” and “post-test” myself at the end of the year.  I’m a big believer in being open and transparent.  All material will be backed up in several places so I never lose it.

Why am I doing this?

  • I think it’ll be a blast to see what people come up with and then give it a shot.
  • I want to model a love of learning for my girls (Emily, 5, Kenna, 3, and soon-to-be Hannah).
  • As my girls get older, I’d love to have them join me (my wifey too).
  • I think open, transparent, published learning is important.
  • It’ll make it easier for people to buy me Christmas presents for the rest of my life….just buy me something to help with the coming year’s topic!  I always used to feel bad for my Grandpa- all we ever got him were peanuts and carpenter’s glue…
  • Maybe some others will give this idea a shot- who knows?  Maybe others will try it, love it, find a subject they love and follow it, learn with their own kids
  • I believe that the more diverse your knowledge and interests, the more creative you will be…the more connections your brain can make to truly innovate.
  • Why not?  Life’s too short not to jump in.

How this came about

I’ve been interested in the idea of crowdsourcing (defined by the ultimate crowdsourced resource Wikipedia as “the act of sourcing tasks traditionally performed by specific individuals to a group of people or community (crowd) through an open call”) for several years now.  This past spring as I was floating in the pool in my Mom and Dad’s retirement community, I started thinking how cool it would be to, once I’m retired myself, take on an entirely new learning project every year.  Learning to speak Spanish, Learning about Greek Mythology, figuring out how to create things out of wood…just countless possibilities.  Since I’m always crowdsourcing my ideas over Twitter to get new perspectives and input, it was a natural link to think that it’d be cool to let people tell me what I should try, then let them vote on what I’d be learning for the year.  Then I’d document it all via video, audio, and blog posts…

So I shared the idea with my wife and she says….”Why not do it now?”  Not only is she gorgeous, but also brilliant (I married way up).

I also think that all my life I’ve been intrigued by sharing decision points and getting input.  When I was a kid I absolutely devoured a series of books called “Choose Your Own Adventure” (remember those???).  I loved not only seeing the effects of my decisions but also the effects of all the other options within the books.  When I taught 2nd grade, I bought a whole case of these old books on eBay and read them to my students- letting my class vote on which choice we’d go with.  They loved them as much as I did!

So the idea mashed together with old Choose Your Own Adventure Books, being interested in crowdsourcing, being interested in learning, and wanting to model a love of all of this stuff for my kids.  And I’m stoked to get started. :)


So here is where you all come in- I need your ideas for what I should learn.  Please submit them here and THANKS!:

Link to Survey 

….for some reason WordPress will not allow this to embed and I don’t feel like troubleshooting it (hey, maybe that could be what I learn next year…Wordpress….:P )

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