Wednesday, August 17, 2016

OneNote Reflection

I was a little disappointed upon my first exploration of OneNote. I downloaded the app onto my iPad and did not find that it was user friendly. I had several technical difficulties that required me to quit and reopen the app as I was attempting to insert an image into my page. Additionally, I performed one task on my iPad that involved writing in counts underneath a vocal line, which did not transfer accurately when I opened the document on my computer. Although the counts appeared accurate on my iPad (even when using the zoom function), they shifted location when opened on my laptop.

Screenshot from my iPad:


Same document, opened on my computer:

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 9.25.20 PM.png

This flaw would make me reconsider using the drawing feature within assignments with my classes.

That being said, there are clearly some benefits of using OneNote in the classroom. Most significant is the ability to include multimedia (sound recordings, videos, photos, text) in the same document in replace of traditional worksheets for students. I could see this being useful, especially for homework assignments for music classes.

Overall, I think that the general interface was difficult for me to adapt to, most likely because I am primarily a Mac and GoogleDocs user. We have been introduced to so many wonderful new technologies throughout this course. The next step is deciding which we could best implement in our own classrooms. I personally feel that GoogleDrive, GoogleForms, and GoogleClassroom will accomplish the same things as OneNote, especially since I didn’t find the drawing feature reliable. Since I am already familiar with these resources, I think I will pass on implementing OneNote.

Technological Tools for Productivity and Organization

Reading this week’s assigned chapter was a refreshing review of familiar technology. In my experience, digital natives and digital immigrants benefit the most from the various forms of technology that are helpful in terms of productivity and organization. Although we have learned about a variety of valuable technologies throughout this course, it is those focused on productivity and organization that have reshaped how our classrooms are run and how we interact with the world around us on a daily basis. Bauer (2104) breaks these technologies aimed to improve productivity into several categories. They include organization, communication, public relations and advocacy, creating and acquiring instructional support materials, data management, travel, and financial records.
In many cases, a well-organized class website can address issues within multiple of the categories listed above. I have recently been told that I will have access to Google Classroom for my new position this school year. I have never used Google Classroom in the past, but I hope that I will be able to use the service to have a page for each section of chorus (I will have five choirs, with two sections of each). On each class page, I will include the course documents that will be sent home during the first week of school, like the class handbook. I will also upload practice tracks for our songs, concert announcements, festival information, before and after school ensemble information, and homework assignments. A class website can also be an excellent location to link other resources, such as tutorial videos, music theory resources, performances, etc. Since it is on the Google platform, my website will easily be connected to my email and Google Drive via the cloud, which is very useful for working on multiple computers.
As music teachers, we often have added responsibilities of organizing participation in festivals and out-of-school activities. There are several other websites that make organization for these events much easier than was ever possible before. For example, and are wonderful tools for scheduling meeting times with small or large groups. When I directed an a cappella group in college, we used these tools to figure out rehearsal times that would work best within our extremely busy schedules. I imagine they would work equally well to determine the best time for a before or after school ensemble to rehearse. is also wonderful for organizing volunteers within specific time slots. As the membership chair on the Board of Directors of the choir that I sing with in Boston, I have used SignUpGenius to organize our annual auditions. Before using this service, each auditionees (and there were sometimes over sixty of them) would have to email a preferred time to the membership chair individually, which would then need to be organized into an audition schedule.  SignUpGenius allows each individual to select their own available time. It also allows the organizer to easily message all participants. This would also work very well to organize parent volunteers. With my choir, I have also used to easily organize carpools for our annual retreat out of town. This could make the organization parent carpooling to festivals hassle-free! When I think back to my high school days, we didn’t have any of these tools in place to help with organization. Now, I don’t know what I’d do without them!  


Bauer, W. I. (2014). Music learning today: digital pedagogy for creating, performing, and responding to music. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

(2016) GroupCarpool. Retrieved at

(2016) Google Classroom. Retrieved at

(2016) SignUpGenius. Retrieved at

(2016) SurveyMonkey. Retrieved at

(2016) Whenisgood. Retrieved at

Friday, August 12, 2016

Week 6 Reflection

Learning how to respond to music is an important part of any music classroom. As Bauer (2014) points out, music-listening is already a large part of most of our students’ lives. Hallam (as cited in Bauer, 2014) suggests that appreciating music is a natural human experience and elicits a variety of individual  physical and emotional responses. In addition, students are far more likely to continue using music listening skills throughout their lives than they are to continue composing or making music. In my experience teaching elementary general music, there can sometimes be a difference of opinion regarding how much “music appreciation” to include music classes as opposed to active music-making.
For the last two years, I was working in an urban district with a very large music department, which included about ten elementary general music teachers. During several of our departmental in-service days, our goal was to determine some unified grade-level expectations, which had never been previously developed in a city-wide curriculum. We were left to do this entirely on our own, as our department head was a self-proclaimed “band guy” and provided little support with topics of general music. In discussing our individual approaches to our planning and teaching, it became clear that there were significant differences in our priorities. Interestingly, these differences were very divided by age, with the more senior members of the department including very little singing and active music-making in their classrooms and the newer and younger teachers leaning towards including as much music-making as possible, in addition to developing listening skills and music appreciation.
Unfortunately, I learned through these experiences and several observations of teachers in their classrooms that “music appreciation” can sometimes be a catch-all phrase to justify lazy teaching. Although Bauer (2014) suggests that students, especially in the lower elementary levels, should be exposed to a wide range of musical styles, it must be done in through a well-planned and meaningful lesson in order to be a genuine and valuable musical experience. For example, showing an age-appropriate musical to a class can be a valuable experience if the genre is discussed and students are encouraged to respond to the music, especially if the group of students is otherwise unlikely to be exposed to the material. However, frequently showing movies of different musical genres in class without providing the necessary context or guidance is doing a great disservice to the students. Unfortunately, I have encountered several music teachers for whom this is the norm. Instead, music listening assignments should be incorporated thoughtfully into the music classroom by incorporating appropriate technology, expanding musical vocabulary, using visual aids such as listening maps, and developing knowledge of music theory and differences between genres and world cultures.


Bauer, W. I. (2014). Music learning today: digital pedagogy for creating, performing, and responding to music. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Technological Tools for Assessment

Assessment is a crucial component of any classroom because it is the how teachers ensure that students are reaching the desired learning outcomes. A variety of formative assessments gather information throughout a unit of study and provide information to the teacher in order to influence instruction. Summative assessments are completed at the end of a unit of study to assess ultimate understanding of material. According to Bauer (2014), it is important to provide feedback to students and parents regarding all forms of assessment so that students can make any necessary changes to improve their learning. However, this is often very challenging for music teachers to accomplish because we often have a much larger number of students than the typical classroom teacher. For instance, an elementary music teacher may have several hundred students that he/she only sees once a week. An ensemble director may also be working with several large ensembles every day, making individual assessment challenging. Many technological tools are available for use within the classroom that can make individual assessment, collection and analysis of assessment data, and relaying of assessment data to students and families much more manageable.
Bauer (2014) presents several technologies that can aid with assessment in the music classroom. One such technology is Google Forms. I have used Google Forms frequently to create surveys, but never as a form of assessment. However, I know how easy Google Forms are to use, and I love the idea of implementing the tool in my classroom. Instead of a typical paper and pencil quiz, a similar assessment can be created by the teacher online using Google Forms. This will automatically gather student responses in one spot and provide numerical and visual data immediately to the teacher. Bauer also suggests using Flubaroo to automatically grade assessments via Google Forms. In a 1-1 classroom, students could all complete a Google Forms assessment simultaneously during music class. If a 1-1 environment is not available, the teacher may be able to have students complete the quiz one or two at a time using classroom computers while conducting a normal class or rehearsal. Students would also be able to complete Google Forms assessments at home.  
Bauer (2014) also suggests the use of “clickers” as a formative assessment tool (p. 136). This technology allows students to respond individually to a multiple choice question that is projected for the class. Answers can be projected in real time, which provides immediate feedback to students and allows the teacher to quickly address any misunderstandings. Data is also collected for teacher use and grading. There are various technologies available to implement this. One that I have heard of is Socrative, which is a free app that turns students’ cell phones into clickers and collects assessment data for the teacher. This seems like a wonderful tool, but it does require each student to have a personal device, which may not be realistic. Plickers is another assessment tool available to educators. According to their website, “Plickers is a powerfully simple tool that lets teachers collect real-time formative assessment data without the need for student devices” ( Instead, students hold up a card that looks similar to a QR code to provide their response. This visual information is then analyzed by the teacher’s app on a smartphone or tablet to provide instant assessment data. Although I have yet to use either of these tools in my own classroom, they come highly recommended to me. I absolutely plan on incorporating one or both of them into my chorus classroom this coming year.
Google Forms, Socrative, and Plickers are only a few of the many assessment tools available using classroom technology. Many school systems also now have an online gradebook that allows students and parents to log in to check their progress throughout the course of a semester. The combination of these tools makes assessment data more manageable for teachers and more accessible for families than it’s ever been before.

Bauer, W. I. (2014). Music learning today: digital pedagogy for creating, performing, and responding to music. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

(2016) Plickers. Retrieved from

(2016) Socrative. Retrieved from

Monday, August 1, 2016

Chromatik and SmartMusic Review

Chromatik and SmartMusic are both excellent examples of how technology can enhance traditional music education. I have previously worked with SmartMusic in a graduate level class, but Chromatik was new to me. Both services are incredibly easy to navigate and I imagine that students of any age would need little guidance given their natural proclivity towards technology.

Chromatik’s website is easy to navigate and well-designed. At first glance, a variety of popular music selections, as well as introductory material are available to the consumer.
music selection.png
(Image retrieved from

The student has the ability to select the instrument for which the music will be displayed. Once an instrument is selected, sheet music appears on the screen with playback functions. Although Chromatik’s collection of repertoire seems to be heavily focused on more “popular” genres of music, it does include some tutorials and introductory material. Below is an example of the “scales” function.
(Image retrieved from
Other instrument-specific tutorials are available, such as the one below, which provides introductory information about the guitar. It also explains how to tune a guitar with a video.
(Image retrieved from
Although these tutorials are helpful and provide important information for someone first learning an instrument, Chromatik does not provide any feedback to the student regarding their playing. Therefore, I believe it’s primary benefit is that it would encourage more time spent practicing for students because of the fun variety of music available. However, it could not replace time spent with an instructor.
I think that Chromatik would be most beneficial in a private studio setting. (I wish that it had existed when I was taking guitar lessons growing up!) The cost of the full service, although not entirely prohibitive, would make it difficult to incorporate into a classroom setting. In order to have more than three “plays” per day available, an upgrade to ChromatikPro is necessary, which costs $3.99 per week or $9.99 per month (per student). I think this cost would be appropriate to enhance private instrument lessons, but not in a classroom setting. I would consider using the free version for an assignment or two during the school year in a chorus, orchestra, or band class. This would give students a chance to practice a song in a more popular genre, which may not be covered as frequently in an ensemble setting. However, I would not use Chromatik as a primary component of my curriculum.

As an instructional and assessment tool, SmartMusic is well worth the cost for an ensemble classroom setting. Not only does it feature a broad variety of repertoire, but it also acts as a reliable assessment tool. In my mind, this is the greatest difference between Chromatik and SmartMusic.
When students play a piece of music using SmartMusic, they are given immediate feedback. It shows them if they’ve played a wrong note or rhythm and teaches them how to fix it (by showing fingerings, etc.) This feedback is crucial for students in order to improve their playing.
smart music 1.png
(Image retrieved from

This information is not only valuable for students, but for teachers as well. With an Educator’s subscription to SmartMusic, the service allows teachers to assign specific tasks and determine individual standards-based rubrics. It also compiles data on each student, which is a valuable assessment tool. Essentially, a practice room subscription to SmartMusic could replace the traditional “playing test,” which traditionally has used up valuable instructional time.
(Image retrieved from

The student subscription of SmartMusic is also a wonderful tool for use at home. It not only encourages practice, but also provides feedback so that students can improve. Students can play from a large selection of repertoire, as well as a variety of practice exercises, such as scales and arpeggios. Additionally, the service includes many tools that are valuable during practice, such as an on-screen keyboard, tuner, metronome, and fingering charts for all instruments.

(Image retrieved from

SmartMusic is more cost-effective for students than Chromatik at $40/year and offers far more guidance that would improve playing. In my mind, it is well worth the cost if financially possible. If purchased, the teacher could provide weekly assignments and goals, which would be valuable to improve individual practice and act as an ongoing assessment tool. However, even the combination of an educator subscription plus practice room subscription to use for classroom assessment is incredibly useful. This would allow for more instructional time while students are individually completing their formative and summative performance assessment tasks.

(Image retrieved from

Overall, both Chromatik and SmartMusic are excellent tools to enhance music instruction. In my opinion, Chromatik is more valuable in a studio setting, while SmartMusic is a fantastic tool to incorporate into a studio or classroom setting.

Chromatik- Explore Free Sheet Music Collections and Play More Music. (2016). Retrieved July 30, 2016, from

SmartMusic- Music Learning Software. (2016). Retrieved July 30, 2016, from

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Week 4 Reflection

I found this week’s readings to be the most practical so far because they provided many tangible uses for incorporating technology into the music classroom in any setting. Bauer’s (2014) narrative of Michael’s school day is a wonderful example of a day in the life of a music teacher. Aside from providing several sample uses of technology, the narrative also provides insight into the unique demands placed on music teachers, like traveling between schools, teaching varied grade levels and subjects, adjusting to instrumental limitations, etc. (Perhaps it would be useful for some of our more critical non-music colleagues to read a similar narrative about “a day in the life” to help them understand exactly what it is that we do on a daily basis… But I digress.)
Much of Michael’s technology use is similar to what I already do or plan to do in my new classroom this fall. Using a document camera to project exercises on the board is incredibly useful and often saves paper and time spent photocopying. Since I was a traveling teacher, I also found myself using music off of my smartphone with a small bluetooth speaker as well. I frequently showed videos on YouTube either to spark student interest with a particular piece of music, for students to critique, or as a modeling example of good performance practice. I have also found that providing silly or funky background tracks can make even the most simple activities more fun and engaging. For example, when first learning recorders, I played a silly background track and students echoed patterns that I played using only one or two notes. With a fun accompaniment, even one note can sound interesting! Recording performances has also always been part of my curriculum as a tool for self-assessment, but usually only as a reflection after a chorus performance. I am excited to use tools like audacity to record my choirs more frequently now that I will have five choruses that I will be teaching full time. Listening to one’s own performance and providing constructive criticism is an invaluable tool for ensemble growth.
In Chapter Four, Bauer (2014) also provides a table that gives an example of technology that could be used to accomplish each learning standard. This table is already bookmarked in my textbook, and I plan to make a photocopy to keep in my classroom. Some examples were obvious, like recording student’s singing to monitor and provide feedback regarding posture, breath support, and diction. However, the table also provided me several ideas that I had not yet considered. One such example was the use of video conferencing to provide a clinic or master class of sorts to an ensemble. What a fantastic idea! Additionally, the idea to use various forms of technology (like an iPad with a speaker) as an instrument itself within the ensemble was also intriguing to me.
Bauer (2014) also mentions various other media, such as graphics to make learning more interesting, instructional software including online tutorials and games, and internet resources like blogs and social bookmarking sites (Pinterest). I could write several more pages about how useful I have found all of these tools in the past, but instead, I would like to mention one that I did not see in the reading. I have had great success working with as an organizational tool. Especially when teaching elementary school (six different grade levels on a rotating schedule), was an easy way to manage my lesson plans and track instructional progress. It is not a free service, but I felt that it was well worth the $12 per year that I spent on it. I am very much looking forward to continuing my work with all of the forms of classroom technology mentioned above and incorporating them into my new choral classroom setting.

Bauer, W. I. (2014). Music learning today: digital pedagogy for creating, performing, and responding to music. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Composition as a Creative Outlet

This week’s focus on composition in the classroom certainly had me reflecting on my own use of compositional activities in my elementary general classroom. Bauer (2014) discussed two different types of composition. The first focuses on using traditional music notation, while the second instead focuses on experimenting with sound to “engage the student’s musical thinking” (p. 60). Most of the compositional activities that I utilized in my own classroom followed the practice of using standard musical notation. I found that informal compositional activities using manipulatives were an excellent way to assess rhythm writing and reading when students exchanged rhythmic compositions with each other. Since I did not have technology available to me in the classroom, I was never able to incorporate more compositional technology or digital audio workstations (DAW) into our classroom work on an individual level.

Since I do have an iPad of my own, I was able to create some technology-centered lessons for us to complete as a whole class, however. My favorite used a voice looping app called Loopy. I first saw this app on Jimmy Fallon’s show when he used it to perform “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” with Billy Joel. I knew immediately that it would be a hit with my kids. Unfortunately, since I only had one iPad available and I didn’t have the option of centers, the lesson only worked very successfully with my smaller classes (ELL, special needs, behavioral, etc.). For this lesson, we would learn a song as a class and compose several coordinating ostinato patterns that could accompany the song. Then we would use the voice looping app to record the class performing each ostinato, layering them together, and finally performing the entire arrangement with the app playing and students singing the song. This was one of my students’ favorite activities throughout the year because it allowed them to be creative and work as a team. They also loved being able to record their own voices and hear the results of their hard work.

I was also very impressed with the video in this week’s lecture about the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus. I was actually introduced to the concept of the Educational Tour Bus last year when I met somebody who works for the company at a wedding and was immediately interestested in the work that they do. After watching the video this week, I am impressed, but not surprised, by the amazing creative accomplishments that the students are able to achieve in such a short amount of time when given the right tools and guidance. Throughout my childhood, adolescence, and young-adulthood, I was involved with a very similar program at a rock music summer camp called DayJams. Campers in this program would take daily group lessons in their instrument, write an original song and rehearse with a band of their peers (with the guidance of a teacher), design a logo concept for a t-shirt and CD cover, and create a music video. At the end of each week, the entire camp would put on a concert for family and friends, which would be recorded onto a CD. I began as a camper, before becoming a counselor, and eventually the vocal teacher and one of the band leaders at the camp. As much as I enjoyed and appreciated my traditional music education during the school year, the creative outlet that I received at DayJams was never matched at school. Creating something original inspired teamwork, personal growth, and a great sense of pride. I am so glad to see that the Educational Tour Bus is taking similar experiences around the country and allowing students the valuable opportunity to create in such a setting. Although a Middle School Chorus classroom is not conducive for exactly this kind of work, I am certainly going to use what I saw in that video, as well as my own memories as a camper and teacher at DayJams, to inspire some creative compositional opportunities in my classroom.


Bauer, W. I. (2014). Music learning today: digital pedagogy for creating, performing, and responding to music. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.