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.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Creativity Through Technology in the Chorus Classroom

This week’s reflection comes at an interesting time for me, as I have recently secured a new teaching position for this coming school year. Although I am coming from a general music background, my goal has been to focus professionally on choral instruction. Come September, I will be the Middle School Choral Director in my home town, where I first learned to love and appreciate music, alongside some of the teachers who helped me get to this point in my career. And I am thrilled about this! This time of transition also provides unusual opportunities for reflection on our class lectures, readings, and discussions. As I learn about implementations of technology, my inclinations are to first envision how I would use them in a familiar setting, that is my former elementary general classroom. However, I am also in the process of mentally transitioning into my new position working with older students in an entirely choral setting, where I am not as familiar with what technology will be available to me and my students.

This week’s lecture was a concise overview of some of the aspects of music notation software, which was helpful before diving into the much more in-depth readings for the week. Bauer’s (2014) discussion of MIDI technology was very technical, but I appreciated that it was presented in an accessible manner. Although I had a very basic understanding of MIDI files and have converted some in the past, this reading absolutely improved my technical understanding of how MIDI files function. Just like with any other subject, a deeper understanding is necessary as a teacher before being able to confidently instruct students in the topic.

As Bauer points out in Chapter 3, most activities in a music classroom engage with creative, performative, and responsive learning standards simultaneously. Technology in the classroom is an especially useful way to focus on creativity-centered learning objectives independently. Robinson (as cited in Bauer, 2014) argued that the development of creative skills for our students should be a priority in all areas of schooling. However opportunities are becoming more and more scarce as standardized testing continues to flourish and music and arts programs continue to be cut. In a choral classroom, collaborative creativity is commonplace. However, I believe it can sometimes be difficult to incorporate opportunities for individual creativity. Since I am unaware what technology I will have access to in my future classroom besides an interactive whiteboard, it is difficult to speculate what opportunities I will be able to incorporate that foster individual creativity, such as composition or improvisation. Even without one-to-one technology in the classroom students could complete projects at home using Noteflight that could be a later valuable tool in the classroom. For instance, once students have a basic understanding of sight singing skills, perhaps a homework assignment could be to create a tonal melody or simple two part composition at home to be used as a sight-singing exercise within the chorus rehearsal. This sort of assignment would expose students to valuable music technology, assess their understanding of melody and rhythm in a compositional form, provide a creative opportunity, and be scaffolded into a future lesson by incorporating the student work as a sight-singing exercise.


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

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Noteflight: A Valuable Tool for the Modern Music Classroom

I was first introduced to Noteflight by a private student two years ago who had used the program to create his own a cappella arrangement of a "mash-up" of several songs. At the time, I was very impressed that he had discovered the program on his own and taught himself how to use it. Now that I have more experience with it myself, I am not surprised at all. Noteflight is very intuitive to use. I found that I was fumbling a bit with note input only for the first few minutes, but adjusted very quickly to the system used. The functions of each of the "buttons" in the header and compositional tools drop down menu are all obvious and intuitive. Additionally, the search features and tutorials on the website are helpful (although sometimes outdated in the format of the website).

I could see Noteflight being a valuable tool in the classroom for many different types of assignments. Compositional assignments foster creativity among students, and Noteflight allows this to happen on any student's home computer without any specific software. I would also use Noteflight for practice dictation assignments in a music theory class. Although dictation and ear-training should ultimately be done by hand so that students cannot hear their answers, using Noteflight would be an excellent way to practice so that students could hear their mistakes and learn to adjust. I could see myself using Noteflight (or MuseScore) to create practice tracks for chorus parts that could then be put on a class website. I could also input accompaniment parts that I am not comfortable playing myself so that students could hear them during rehearsal. Overall, Noteflight could be a valuable tool in any modern music classroom.

Below, you will find my version of "A Bicycle Built for Two," by Harry Dacre.


Friday, July 8, 2016

Professional Learning Networks for the Music Teacher

When it comes to the world of technology outside of the classroom, I’ve always considered myself transitional. When I was a young kid, technology wasn’t really a part of my life. As I got a little older, we had one “family” computer that stayed in the living room and my brother and I occasionally played with our gameboys, especially during long car rides. I’ve witnessed first hand the development of technology taking on the seemingly indispensable role that it currently holds in society. And I still feel transitional. Although some of my friends are self-proclaimed social media “addicts” and don’t ever put down their cell phones, other friends the same age reject the pervasiveness of current technology, holding out on getting smartphones for as long as possible and forgoing the use of social media. I imagine that several others in this class find themselves in a similar transitional position between the digital natives and digital immigrants. I believe that this insight can be incredibly valuable when it comes to incorporating technology into our own classrooms. Although much may be new to us, we are eager to learn about the available technology and implementing it effectively. We can relate to the students who have grown up as digital natives and rely on technology in every aspect of their daily lives, but we are well enough removed from reliance ourselves that we are not out of touch with the so called luddites that we will inevitably be working with in our respective schools.
Professional Learning Networks (PLNs) are an excellent way to use technology to inform teaching, even without advanced technological skills (Bauer, 2010). Before reading Bauer’s article, I had never heard the term “PLN” before. However, after reading the article, I discovered that I have already been participating in an informal PLN of sorts without realizing it. Some of my most valuable teaching resources have been shared via Facebook groups comprised of Music Teachers which were formed to create a community of support. These groups acts as a forum to ask and answer questions from fellow educators, post valuable teaching resources, share new research in the field, and even to vent and/or share the occasional humorous tidbit.
Throughout this course, I am excited to develop my personal PLN through the use of Feedly and Twitter, which are forums that I have not explored before. I think that PLNs can be especially valuable for music educators, as many of us are often the only music teacher in our building, and therefore do not have as many opportunities to collaborate as our grade level peers. It has also been my experience that “specialist” teachers in my district are not often provided with relevant professional development in their fields. PLNs provide a means to share resources, materials, and experience in an easy and accessible forum when other face-to-face opportunities may not be available..

Bauer, W. I. (2010). Your Personal Learning Network: Professional Development on Demand. Music Educators Journal, 97(37), 37-42. doi:10.1177/0027432110386383