Sunday, May 1, 2011

Technology in The Music Classroom

When I finally got an old blue iMac in my vocal music classroom in 2009-2010, I was so excited!  I did not have much on it but it did have iTunes.  Not being a very good pianist, this was a life saver.  I used an audio in/out cable to hook the iMac up to my stereo so I had the sound that I would need. 

I used the Get America Singing series with my 6th and 7th grade general music classes, and I had purchased the CDs that went with them.  After putting all the songs on iTunes, I made a playlist for each class.  One student would get to be my assistant and run the iTunes for me.  I used this as an incentive for behavior and participation and it worked wonders.  I had kids singing that normally would not! 

We also did daily listenings and journal work in the 6th and 7th grade class as well.  I had a playlist with all of the works from all of the different CDs that I used.  I would often misplace the CD I needed and have to hunt for it...but not now!

I also had my wonderful accompanist record the accompaniments for all of the 8th Grade Choir Songs and then imported them to iTunes.  The 8th Grade Choir playlist let us run the songs "with the accompaniments" even though she could only come once every other week.  The kids that were taking solos to contest also had the accompaniments for their songs on a playlist.

The best part of iTunes was when I had a substitute the kids could still have class!  I had students in each class that knew what needed to be done. For 45 min of the 90 min block my kids would teach class.  If it was contest season, the remaining 45 min the students with solos got on with headphones and could listen to the accompaniments and "sing" in their head. It may not have been the best rehearsal but they still got to go over what they knew and the substitutes loved it.

Google Images 

If you have a projector or an interactive white board in your room, Google Images is the best! When we would talk about instruments, I would just project the image on the board.  It was so much better than the posters that I used when I taught K-5.  I had multiple images of the instruments and we could write "on them" as we talked about them. 

 We also could look up maps and talked about where composers lived.  Lots of times I could find a map of what the country looked like then and now. I also would show the kids images of what the composer looked like. 

Google Images would also come in handy when talking about the history of a song.  The one that I remember best is when we talked about the song Erie Canal. I was able to find maps and images of the canal being built and used.  The kids enjoyed it and I think remembered a lot more than in years when I did not have the projector. 

I was lucky enough to have a projector in my room that was hooked to a iBook.  The kids and I enjoyed doing was playing the games on On this page, Ms. Garrett, a instrumental music teacher at a public elementary school in Birmingham, Alabama, has several games and quizzes.  They are a fun way to get the kids to review.  We would break up in to teams and play as a class.  She also has lesson plans and worksheets available as well.  

I know this is not the first place most music teachers would look for things to use in class.  Many times there are stories on NPR that work with what I am teaching.  When we would talk about the song MLK by U2 we listened to the story "Sanitation Workers Last Stand".  It had direct accounts of what Dr. Martin Luther King's last speech was like and the conditions the sanitation workers had to deal with.  This is first hand information that otherwise I would never be able to give the kids. There is also a great story about how life in New York City paralleled West Side Story when it opened on Broadway. Now with the music blog on NPR there are lots of resources you can use with your class. 

I would have liked to use Youtube more than I did, but it was blocked at school.  I did download lots of things and then use them.  When we talked about organs there was a news report about the Wick's Organ Company in St. Louis that we would watch. In my 8th grade choir classes,we would watch other choirs perform and critique them.

Hilary Myers is in her first year as a 3rd-5th grade Technology Instructor in Missouri.  Prior to her current position, Hilary spent eight years in the general/vocal music classroom mostly at the middle school level.  Hilary is currently working on her Masters in Education and just completed her thesis Six Elements of an Effective Technology Professional Development Program. You can follow Hilary on her blog, Tips 4 Tech, or on Twitter @musictech02

Edmodo:The Total Classroom Solution

In a digital world where we can easily "find an app for that" to help solve many problems, rarely do teachers have a one stop shopping place for all their classroom digital needs. There are many individual tools that can aid a teacher in retrieving student's digital work, polling/quizzing students or assigning work, but each of these tools usually requires a separate account. However, there is one, free, Web 2.0 app that brings everything together that you need for your classroom, including a social learning environment. The app that does all of this is called Edmodo. Here are just a few features that make Edmodo so great for teachers and students:
  • A place to assign and turn in work: The teacher can attach any file they may need for an assignment (rubric, worksheet, etc.) and students can upload any file to turn in their work. Links and embed codes can also be used to publish and share work easily.
  • A calendar to help students keep up with important dates: Assignment due dates, dates you'll be out, holidays, classroom birthdays or anything you can think of to post. Studentscan also add their own personal notes to dates that only they can see. The notes the students add to the calendar are not published to the class.
  • A digital library that will replace a student's flash drive: They can upload files into their "digital backpack" and download them when on any computer. The teacher can add necessary files to their library as well.
  • A place to post messages--urgent or not: Only teachers and students can interact with one another, student to student messages are not allowed. This feature is the most powerful and it's what makes Edmodo a "social LEARNING network." This feature looks and works a lot like a "wall" on Facebook.
  • A parent connection: every student is assigned a parent code so that parents can connect with the teacher on Edmodo, check grades and see posts to the class by the teacher and their child.
  • Groups: Teachers can create groups for classes, parents, study groups or connecting with distant classrooms. This feature keeps students safe and contains content only specific to certain groups. When students sign up for an account they don't need an email address, just the group code to join groups set up by their teachers.

Although, there are a lot more features to discuss, these are the cornerstone of what makes Edmodo so great for the classroom! Did I mention it looks a little like Facebook? Here is a screen shot of my 3rd period's Edmodo page:

If you would like to see some examples of how we've been using Edmodo in the classroom, here is our public page.

You might be asking, "where do all the great online tools I use everyday fit into using Edmodo?" Well, that's easy...any Web 2.o tool that allows your students to create a project and generate an embed code to publish it on a website, can be shared on Edmodo. Animoto, Glogster, Wallwisher, Cover it Live, Voki and many other great Web 2.0 apps can be incorporated into Edmodo, which brings it all together in the classroom. Here are some suggestions of ways to use these awesome tools within Edmodo:
  • Embed Wallwisher walls into the notes area for a brainstorming session
  • Post Animoto videos or Glogster posters into the notes area, then have students reply to at least 3 seperate posts to give peer to peer feedback on other students work
  • Embed a Cover it Live, live blogging, window to engage students in a moderated session where everyone shares their thoughts while watching a live event (presidential speech, classroom video, etc.)
  • Embed a Fotobabble in the notes area to reflect on a field trip that the whole class can hear. Each student can listen to each person's reflection to hear different experiences and perspectives of the trip.
I really do love Edmodo and my students enjoy the interaction it brings in the classroom. Whether you're a math teacher or an art teacher, Edmodo can be used effectively to accomplish your objectives. So if you haven't jumped on the Edmodo bandwagon, now is the time or your classroom is going to be left behind!

Kim Munoz is a middle school Technology teacher at Jane Long Middle School in Bryan, Tx. Jane Long is a Title 1 campus that has been apart of a 1:1 laptop program. She has presented at TCEA as well as at the EdTech Unconference, an online conference that is now called the Teacher Learning Community. You can find her sharing resources on her classroom blog as well as on Twitter (@techmunoz) and Skype (kmunoz98).

A Tale of Two Stories: Storyline Online & Storybird (Guest Post)

Richard asked me to be a guest blogger today. As a frequent reader of Free Technology for Teachers, I consider it quite an honor to contribute to this fantastic teacher resource. I'd like to share with you two free technology tools that I use, in tandem, to get my students working creatively and collaboratively, and liking it!

1. Listen to a story, get inspired
2. Brainstorm ideas
3. Create your story
4. Share your story with us

Those are the four directives I give my students before they embark on a writing activity I call the "Picture Book Challenge". The Picture Book Challenge culminates in students working together to make a well written digital picture book. When the challenge is over we embed the books on our class wiki. That way peers and family members can enjoy the fruits of their labors. I use two tools to help my students accomplish their goals. One tool is called Storyline Online, and the other is called Storybird.

Storyline Online is a free website where members of the Screen Actor's Guild read popular children's picture books. There are plenty of well loved selections: Stellaluna, A Bad Case of Stripes, Thank You, Mr. Falker, Enemy Pie, and To Be a Drum are just a few. For the purposes of the Picture Book Challenge I use Storyline Online as a way to inspire my students to come up with ideas for their own work. You could also use Storyline as a listening center to improve reading fluency. Also worth mentioning is the captioning function which can help struggling readers and students who are English Language Learners.

The second technology tool is an interactive and collaborative writing webtool called Storybird. Richard has blogged about Storybird before; which is how I first heard about this amazing tool. The user interface is simple by design so students can concentrate on the creative process (see the video below). Adding text couldn't be easier. You simply type the text and move it to where you want it go on the page. Images are added in much the same way, they are easily dragged and dropped on the page. The artwork available to students will not only inspire creative prose, but they are highly interesting and diverse enough to suit different tastes. Your students will be creating digital books in no time and enjoying themselves while they're at it.

My students' creations are embedded on our wiki site for peers and parents to enjoy. For more information on sharing and book printing details please follow this link.

I love using Storyline Online and Storybird together. Storyline inspires my students to think about how to write their own wonderful pieces. While Storybird allows students to write, and create beautiful pieces with very few barriers. My students' reactions have been overwhelmingly positive. The best thing about these tools is that even my most reluctant writers are excited to write.

It could be for that reason alone to include these educational technology tools in your teaching toolbox.

Jason Kornoely is a fourth grade teacher at Forest Hills Public Schools located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has his Master's degree in Educational Technology.  Jason's blog: InterGrade: Instant Teaching Ideas focuses on providing tips, tricks, and strategies that educators can use right away in their classrooms. You can also follow Jason on Twitter.

Storybird Quick Tour from Storybird on Vimeo.