As I work on revisions to my thesis, here at my daughter’s dance studio, I’m thinking back to all the places I’ve written in this document. Until this Spring, I would have always written at a desk, or table at a coffee shop. When I participated in the Dissertation Success Program through UofT, I learned that if I’m sitting in a chair, I can write anywhere!  Here is a word cloud of the list of places I can remember writing.

Word cloud listening the many places I've written, i.e. plane, train, car, coffee shop, library

New Publication, Technical exercise practice: Can piano students be motivated through gamification?

Abstract: Gamification is a process whereby game design and game mechanics are applied in non-game contexts to influence behaviour. This research study explores the effects of gamification on young piano students’ practice of technical elements such as scales, chords and arpeggios in the context of independent practice between private lessons. A control and a treatment group of ten piano students each were formed across two different private piano studios. A game-like environment was introduced for the treatment group, in which the players experienced game elements such as avatars and rewards, including points, badges and level achievements. Gamification was found to have a positive effect on the number of technical elements students mastered and a modest effect on their attitude towards practicing technical elements. The educational implications for these findings are discussed.

Link to Request Full-Text of Article


Selfie with Larry

Last week we were discussing Drama pedagogy in class, so I intended to show the students the DramaThemes resources. In many schools, I have seen at least one DramaThemes book somewhere, and I have found them extremely useful when teaching drama myself. While I was holding the stack of various editions of the books and waiting for the elevator, I noticed another person also waiting. It slowly dawned on me that the other person was the author, Dr. Larry Swartz! Just as I realized this, he noticed my handful and said, “Hey I wrote those books!” I got the chance to tell him what I was using the books for and he encouraged me, saying that new teachers usually find a lot of useful material within. That day I was too shy to ask him to take a selfie with me, but when I ran into him in the same place again later, I did ask and he was happy to pose with me. Thanks Larry!

Play Store

PracticeCactus has been published to the Google Play store. The app has 3 main features to support piano learners: sharing, listening, and self-tracking. Additional features which can be enabled by the piano teacher include a digital dictation book, and embedded technical exercises, by grade level. Create a teacher account at

Download PracticeCactus for Android

Purchase PracticeCactus merchandise

EDIT:  The app is not currently working. If you are interested in using PracticeCactus, as a teacher, parent, or student, please fill out the following form. You will receive an email when your version of PracticeCactus is up and running. Thank-you for your interest!

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