Sunday, July 1, 2012

One Music Class - One iPad - Now What?

This week I am away on an offline vacation. Rather than let the blog be dormant or rerunning old posts I decided to give some other people a chance to share their experiences and ideas with you. I hope you enjoy the posts.

I was one of the first teachers in my district to receive an iPad to use in my classroom. I was elated. I immediately found all kinds of apps for doing administrative tasks, but I really struggled with how to use the iPad with 25 or more students and only one iPad. It has taken a lot of trial and error, but I’ve found some free apps that work for me in a whole group situation. Here are a few of the apps I have used successfully.

Singing Fingers - This app allows the student to “paint” with sound. This is a great app to get your singers to do some vocal exploration. Project your iPad so that all students can see what is happening. Choose one student to come to the iPad and create a vocalise then have the class echo while the student either points to the projection or retraces the line on the iPad. I’ve used this app to assess K/1 students on their understanding of high and low sounds. The YouTube video makes me laugh. It has some really creative ideas for other uses of this app.

Rhythm Cat Lite HD - I just recently discovered this app, so I haven’t actually used it with a class yet, but I am excited to introduce it next fall. This game allows students to practice reading rhythms and playing them to music tracks. This will be a great way to assess rhythmic accuracy since the app will not accept rhythms that are not held for the full duration. If I can get my hands on another one or two iPads, this would be a fun one to include in a music center.

FingerStomp Lite - FingerStomp Lite gives you two scenes (a garage and a basketball court) which allow you to create rhythms à la the music group Stomp. I’ve been using this app to assess students on rhythms. Students take turns playing rhythms I’ve displayed by playing them on the app. This activity is fun because it moves quickly and gets many students to the iPad in the same lesson.

Monster Chorus - If you teach your students melodies using solfege or numbers, this app gives a fun little twist rather than using a glockespiel or xylophone. Help the students figure out how to play some of the melodies they know. I have also shown students which “monsters” are sol and mi (or mi, re, do, or whatever syllables I’m focusing on for that lesson) and have them play back the melody I sing for them.

Many elementary music teachers are aware of Mallet Madness, the fabulous resource by Artie Almeida. I often use the rotational instrument system described in Mallet Madness and I’ve recently had the brainstorm that the iPad can be put into the rotation as one of the instruments. You can download any number of free instrument apps such as Percussive Free, Conga Drums Free, or any other free app you’d like to use. You will need to connect the iPad to a set of computer speakers or an amplifier or the sound will be completely drowned out by the other instruments. I also suggest that you put the iPad on a short table or get it off the floor in some other manner so you avoid having it accidentally stepped upon during the transitional times.

Mozart Interactive - This is a great follow-up to a lesson on Mozart or Rondo Alla Turka. The students get to choose which instruments they hear in the story. Even the students who are not using the iPad will enjoy watching this. I draw names to allow students to come to the iPad and make the instrument choices. This app reminds me a little bit of the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books I used to read as a child.

My Musical Friends HD - This app is from the same developers of Mozart Interactive. I use this app much like I would a picture book, but it is better because it can be projected so the students can see well. Students are introduced to the instrument families and the individual instruments. There is a fun fact about each instrument and students can “play” each one.  I invite students to the iPad to choose the instruments and play the different instrument sounds.

VidRhythm - This app includes Flight of the Bumblebee, Maple Leaf Rag, Beethoven’s Fifth, and a couple of holiday pieces, so you can use the app as a follow-up to a listening lesson on one of those pieces. Okay, I had to stretch a bit to think of a good educational purpose for this app, but it’s so much fun I can’t leave it out. The app has you record different percussive sounds and then remixes the sounds into a video using your chosen themes. You will be surprised how hard students will work at meeting a lesson’s objectives if the carrot is spending three minutes using VidRhythm at the end of class. Invite students to the iPad one at a time to create the sounds the app requests and let the class watch the finished result. They’ll be begging for more, so you can use this as your super-duper bargaining chip to get quality work out of them.

Please be aware that some free apps have in-app purchases available. Be sure to disable the in-app purchases for apps you plan to use with students.

I know there are a lot of other free apps out there and I’d love to hear about them. Please post in the comments of this post if you have other ideas for using one ipad in a music classroom.

Beth Jahn is an elementary music teacher in the Yellow Medicine East school district in Granite Falls, Minnesota. She is also a technology coach for teachers in the district. She is in the beginning stages of creating the Music Mish Mash blog where she writes about using technology in the elementary music classroom. When she is not teaching, Beth enjoys spending time with her husband and their four-year-old twin girls. You can reach her at 

The Design Cycle in Humanities Class

This week I am away on an offline vacation. Rather than let the blog be dormant or rerunning old posts I decided to give some other people a chance to share their experiences and ideas with you. I hope you enjoy the posts. 

The first time my students used the Design Cycle, it wasn't because I told them to. My middle school student council representatives needed to create a website for the student government events. My 7th graders, trained by Kim Cofino in MYP Design and Technology class, immediately started to investigate what other student council websites looked like, designed and planned the website by hand-drawing what they wanted the site to look like, and then created the site. Periodically throughout the year, they evaluated their work, asked for student feedback and changed the layout as needed. And when I saw what they were able to accomplish, with minimal input from me, I realized the Design Cycle was something I could implement in my grade 7-9 humanities classes*.

In middle school and high school humanities, most of our summative assessments are project based. I truly believe that humanities offers students an opportunity to learn about the world and start to think about how they can be change agents in today’s world. So the Design Cycle easily fits the demands of our class*.  

In the investigation phase, student have to identify a problem, discover how it relates to their lives and figure out how to solve it. They also need to investigate different ways to to present their information. I rarely, if ever, assign a specific tool for them to use. This can mean that students have to experiment with a list of tools to see which best fits their product needs.

  • In my grade 7 humanities class, students investigated what a infographic was and then made one using analog tools (like popsicle sticks and balloons). It was a chance for them to think about how they can communicate their understanding of statistics using infographics and what tools work best.
  • In my grade 8 humanities class, students had to investigate what storytelling tool they wished to use to create a family history presentation. This took a lot of time and was often frustrating, but this is a constant struggle in project work. For this project, we also investigated characteristics stories shared. We watched short commercials, mash-ups, and excerpts from movies to think about how sound, visuals, and voiceovers could add emotional impact to a historical facts. 

For me, this part is often the most important. What I'm really looking for is if they have thought about how they will accomplish the objectives of the assignment and how they are going to present their work. And the plan and design phase often has more bearing on their final grade than their final project.

  • Grade 9 students created movies answering the unit question, “Do leaders make history or does history create the leaders?”  My students know that if they are not allowed to turn on the camera until they have created a storyboard and written a script. I want my students to take pride in these and they are posted on their websites along with their final project.
  • Nothing is worse than sitting through a bad PowerPoint presentation. So Grade 7 students, in the Story of Yokohama project, had to create a hand-draw "slides” that showed what pictures they wanted to use and the order they wanted. This ensured that they were thoughtful about what went on the slide, what order their presentation was in, and they did not use any bullet points. The Presentation Zen style was much more interesting and demonstrated that students knew the topics they were discussing and and weren't relying on the slides to prompt their speeches.

This is the fun part. Students put their plans into action. My students run around the school filming, using their storyboards as hall passes. They create awesome research projects on world religions, that demonstrate analysis and research, but are more exciting than a five paragraph essay.They create awareness campaigns for Child Labor, including Tumblr pages or Facebook groups.The plan may change, but not a lot and the changes are always justified. I try to limit the days for project means they have to have a good plan in place and they have thought about what they have to accomplish on each day. Creation days are a buzz and they do amazing things.

I must admit, this is the part my students always groan about. They have to evaluate whether they met the goals of the assignment, if they followed the plan, and if they solved the problem they investigated at the start. This is often done on blog posts, either written or included as an embedded video. And while they may not love this as much as the other phases, it has equal importance to the learning and cannot be skipped.

Final thoughts
The world my students are entering is one where they will have to create projects, whether they are creating a website, a pitch for non-profit, or an awareness campaign. My students are much more likely to do these things, once they leave school, than a write a five paragraph essay. So it is imperative that I teach them how to create a project in a thoughtful and creative way. The Design Cycle gives both me and my students a framework in which to accomplish our goals. And my students are able to do so much more than I ever imagined. 

*Just a quick point, I probably don’t implement the Design Cycle the way they do in MYP technology. I’ve adjusted it for my own needs as a humanities teacher. Also, in this post I haven’t talked about how I teach other skills like research or how I teach the content. Check out my blog to see how I do those things. 

Rebekah Madrid is a MYP Humanities Teacher at Yokohama International School, Yokohama Japan. Her professional blog can be found at and your can see what is going on in her classroom at . Follow her on Twitter @ndbekah

The Teacher-Librarian is Your Best Tech Resource

This week I am away on an offline vacation. Rather than let the blog be dormant or rerunning old posts I decided to give some other people a chance to share their experiences and ideas with you. I hope you enjoy the posts. 

The school librarian, once known for handling books, is now responsible for both print and nonprint resources. My job description has changed more in the last two decades than any other teaching position.

If you are a K12 educator, you are aware of the term "technology integration", but did you know that perhaps your greatest assistance can come from the school media specialist (
or teacher-librarian)?  Let's talk about what kind of help you can expect:

1. You have assigned your students a research paper and have given them the requirements. Now what? If your class has questions about how to evaluate a website they'd like to use, what would you tell them?
Many school librarians have set up pathfinders on the school's website to aid students with a myriad of topics. The pathfinder lists information on that topic, including the Dewey Decimal number, (books) book titles in the library, and websites, which have already been approved by the librarian. If your school subscribes to EBSCO, Facts on File or any other databases, we can give a tour and explain the best way to search for a specific topic.

One lesson that I have done for grades 7-12 
is on searching.  My students are very quick to use Google, without understanding Boolean logic.  Here is a simple explanation from
 Kent State University's libraries on the left.

This type of search can be done in databases including EBSCO, and is the way that Google's advanced search is set up.  I always offer other search engines that are best for scholarly work, because they are specific to academia.

Students will believe that Google is all they need to research their topic.  Wrong. I explain to them that Google will merely provide results it thinks they are looking for without saying whether or not the website can be trusted.  After showing them some hand-picked sites which are hoaxes, (here's one which looks like the White House website and has links which are real, except this one) and mentioning that anyone can make a website and put it on the Internet, the students begin to see why it’s important to know what they can and can’t  trust. The anatomy of a URL (web address) is also discussed so students can understand how an address is created.

Once classes have begun to research their topics, I talk to them about curation (collecting information to share later on) and various sites to assist them, such as LiveBinders, Evernote or Zotero

Since today's kids are digital learners, I will also suggest apps for their phones, which will make the research process easier on the go.  EBSCO, LiveBinders, Evernote and Follett Destiny have mobile apps available. Students can check the card catalog for books remotely. (Boy, so much easier than when I was in school!)  Even the citation process is easy for them, with BibMe, and EasyBib creating the bibliography for the student.  There is an app for only EasyBib right now.

2. Information Literacy: Are your students information literate?
With budgets being cut across the nation, many school librarians have lost their jobs. This mapdepicts how bad the situation is.  Students in elementary school enter middle and high school without the proper skills and are then are lost when they need to attach a file to their email account.  I make it a point to create posters on how to do various things in the computer lab, such as checking the spelling and grammar in Word for a Spanish document, things students should know about EBSCO, HP smart printing made easy, finding images on the web with high resolution for inserting into Word documents, and how to search for a job online.  When I worked in another school, I actually taught a class in Information Literacy. In my opinion, this class should be mandatory for every student, now that the 21st century has arrived.

3.  Looking to make presentations easier for your students and yourself?
It's no secret around my school that I dislike PowerPoint.  With the PC version much easier to use than the Macintosh version, (and students still finding it difficult to locate where things can be found in the interface) I have introduced SlideRocket to quite a few classes with great success. You will never have to worry about lost presentations, because they reside in the cloud on SlideRocket's server. The interface is clean, and adding images, video and audio are a snap. No more excuses from students about forgetting their USB drive. Compare SlideRocket's interface to PowerPoint:

4.  Trying to keep up-to-date on all things related to technology in education?
It's a daunting task for anyone, especially when lesson plans, quizzes, teaching duties and more fill up your schedule.  Your librarian can find resources that are best for you to try.  Many of us have blogs or websites where we post thoughts, ideas, and information on tech tools and apps.  Edmodo is loved by our students because the interface emulates Facebook.  I demonstrated this program and many others, including Pixton, (Spanish classes created comics using their vocabulary words) and took the students through the registration process.  I posted the winning cartoon on our school's website. (Only 2 frames shown here)

I have only touched on a few of the  many things that your teacher-librarian can offer you and your students. Use us. Take time to visit your library-media center. Make it  the focal point of your school.

Julie Greller is a Media Specialist at Ridgefield Park Junior-Senior High School  in N.J. and  has been teaching for 22 years. Her blog, "A Media Specialist's Guide to the Internet", has won numerous awards.  You can find her original CD, "Welcome to the World: A Musical Collection for the Nursery" on iTunes, and CD Baby.