Blended Learning in the Performing Classroom
By Philip Dolan, Instrumental Director, Amity High School, Woodbridge, CT
Are you looking to expand your students’ musical knowledge? Have you ever considered using an online learning management system (LMS)? Do you want to know more about blended learning and blended learning environments? Wouldn’t it be great to use an LMS to have discussions about music and give assignments? Even if you are not considering using an online tool to supplement your performing ensemble classroom, you should read through this post. You may find that a blended learning environment will be a great addition to your performing groups and make your performing groups better!
What Is Blended Learning?
First things first: what is blended learning? Blended learning describes a portion of class that is conducted in an online environment in addition to the traditional teacher-student(s) class. Teachers who use blended learning will teach in their normal day-to-day classroom environment and then use an LMS to extend that learning.
In the performing arts classroom, much of the time used in class is dedicated to rehearsal for an upcoming concert or production. A blended learning environment can allow you to have meaningful discussion about music topics of your choice. These can range from the music repertoire on which you are working to topics related to the appreciation of music. For me, the discussion about music and its importance in our culture has sparked really great conversation that may otherwise not take place because of the demanding performance schedule most high school groups keep.
Read more about blended learning in this resource from the University of Central Florida and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
Choosing a Learning Management System (LMS)
How do I know what LMS will work best for me?
Here are some criteria that you should think about before you begin your search and finally choose an LMS:
- What do you want to use an LMS for? This is important because you need to choose what you want to do. You may only want to use blended learning for discussion. You might want to use it for giving daily or weekly assignments. You might also want to give quizzes. All of these can be performed on an LMS. If you are just starting out, I would suggest using an LMS for discussion and reminders for upcoming events.
- Which LMS should I choose? There are many different LMSs out there from which to choose. Here are a few that I have looked at and used briefly:
- Google Classroom
After you have decided what you want to use an LMS for, I would suggest reviewing each one to see what they offer. Each one of these offers great features and can be used for your classroom relatively easily. There are plenty of tutorials online to help get you started in reviewing.
Canvas by Instructure
After looking what some of the other LMSs offer, I started using the LMS Canvas. This LMS is very user-friendly, and your students will have an easy time navigating. This LMS offers everything from discussion boards, daily assignments, activity logs, project submission, and much more.
My favorite part of this LMS is that students can record themselves, audio or video, playing their instruments. I have used this feature quite a bit, and it has improved my performing ensembles more than I ever expected. You can create practice logs for your students and even give individual playing tests, leaving more time for class rehearsal.
I currently have 125 performing members between three groups, and listening to each student perform can take several days. By using Canvas, students can submit their best product, forcing them to practice. This has saved me hours of in-class rehearsal, and now the groups sound better. Canvas also offers a really great App for Apple and Android devices so I can stay current with all assignments and discussions.
Stay tuned for a more detailed post on using Canvas with your students! These will include assessments, video and audio recording, and much more!
Check out Canvas by Instructure. It’s free to use!
Check out the video description and my student tutorial video below:
Canvas Student View
About the author:
Philip Dolan has been teaching since 2001 and is the Director of Instrumental Music at Amity Regional Senior High School in Woodbridge, CT. Philip currently teaches Electronic Music, Studio Recording, Guitar in American Music, Symphony Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, and Concert Band. Extracurricular ensembles include Jazz Band and Pit Orchestra for the spring musicals. The Pit Orchestra had been nominated for a Connecticut High School Music Theater award every year since entering competition in 2010 winning two times with “Les Miserables” and “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”.
Philip Dolan: www.philipdolanmusic.com
Twitter 1: @Dolandrummer
Amity Music Department: www.amityband.org
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