Google Classroom for the Large Ensemble

Google Classroom for the Large Ensemble

Using Google Classroom to Facilitate & Streamline Ensemble Instruction

By Peter J. Perry, D.M.A.


Google Classroom is a free platform offered to educators by Google to help them focus their classroom communication and streamline their Google apps to facilitate instruction. School systems and/or schools can register for the free Google Apps for Education Suite, allowing teachers and students within that school/system to access Google Classroom and the many powerful educational tools it contains. More and more districts are equipping their schools with Google Classroom, allowing their teachers and students access to its features with computers, Chromebooks, and mobile devices.



While it is easy to see how this platform can be incorporated into a traditional classroom setting, it can seem difficult to figure out the instructional value for the large ensemble. As an ensemble director, I have found that Google Classroom can help save rehearsal time and facilitate communication with students. Additionally, it allows me to present digital media, documents (with active links), and interactive assignments to students—enhancing the overall presentation of my materials, and of the instruction itself.


Google Classroom Basics

As mentioned earlier, Google Classroom is free, but requires your school or school system to register itself for use. Once registered, you can use Google Classroom through your web browser (preferably through Google Chrome). For each class that you teach, you set up a page in Google Classroom, and invite students to join the class. Once they join, you can post announcements, assignments, documents, and links that your class can access on any web-enabled device. Most importantly, with the use of the Google Classroom App, students can access the Google Classroom on their mobile devices allowing usage beyond the traditional computer-student model. Google Apps such as: Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Forms, and Google Sheets can seamlessly be incorporated into Classroom, further enhancing its instructional usefulness.


Documents and Media for Large Ensembles in Google Classroom

Since it is a digital platform, Google Classroom enables you to present documents and media content to your classes in interactive ways, and can be tailored to meet the individual learning needs of students. This is especially useful for ensemble classes where we present audio and video recordings, record ourselves, and assess performances. Documents created in Microsoft Word or in Google Docs can be posted in color, and with active links that enable students to have better interaction with the content in the document. Furthermore, Google Docs and Google Forms can directly be inserted into an assignment or announcement. Media files such as audio (e.g. MP3, WAV) or video files (e.g. MP4, AVI) can easily be uploaded and included as well.


Google Apps for the Large Ensemble

In addition to the ability to use digital documents fully, Google Apps such as Sound Cloud and Spotify provide great portals to access audio content. For example, an audio recording for a piece you are rehearsing, and want to model for students, can be inserted into a Google Classroom announcement as a Spotify link, saving time finding a physical recording or surfing for one. Google Audio applications such as Audiotool™, Beautiful™, Audiosauna™, and Soundtrap™ work like other digital audio editors and digital audio workstations (DAWs). These and can be used to edit and manipulate audio for presentation on Classroom without taking the physical disc space in your computer. Since the data is on your Google Drive, it is also accessible on multiple devices, no longer tying you down to a desktop or laptop to do audio editing.


Performance Assessments In Google Classroom

One very useful and time-saving application for Google Classroom in the large ensemble is the ability for the collective assigning, collecting, and grading of student performance assessments. Listening to each individual ensemble member can be exhausting, and VERY time consuming. The logical step to addressing this, is to use technology. Recording digitally on computers or mobile devices is a convenient way to help save class time. Collecting and managing this information, however, can be a complex task. Email can be a solution, but the collection of files, and possible communication issues (files can be too large to send or receive) can make this troublesome.

Google Classroom allows you to: assign, collect, assess, provide feedback, and return performance assessments all in one place. To do this, assign the performance assessment (with excerpts) to the students in the class stream (I always attach INSTRUCTIONS). Students record their performance using a recording app of their choice either on a mobile device or a computer, and save the file to their Google Drive. In Classroom, they attach the file from their Google Drive and TURN IN the recording, completing the assessment. Google Classroom allows you to monitor who has turned in the assignment and who has not.

To assess the file, use the Google Sheets spreadsheet application, and the add-on, Doctopus, to “ingest” all the student recordings into a single spreadsheet. Doctopus can also add a pre-created rubric (Goobric) to assess the performances. Finally, you can set up a workflow display that allows you to listen to the recordings, assess them using the Goobric, and send feedback to the students via their school Gmail accounts (Fig. 1). For detailed instructions, see HERE. Using a mobile device or Chromebook, students can easily do the assessment at home or in a practice room.


Figure 1. Doctopus Display for a Performance Assessment in Google Sheets




Google Classroom is a useful tool with many different applications for the large ensemble. Depending on your needs, you can find one that helps you streamline your workload and save time. As you become more familiar and comfortable with the applications in Google and the capabilities of Google Classroom, you will be able to add more applications, and create more interactive content for your ensemble instruction. Together, these will make your instruction more effective by saving rehearsal time, allowing you to spend more time making music, and bringing your overall instruction to a technological level that fits today’s “digital native” student.


Previous articles by Peter Perry:


About the author:

band director

NAfME member Peter Perry is a lifelong Maryland resident, and has traveled the world teaching and performing music. A NAfME member, he is currently in his twenty-first consecutive year as Instrumental Music Director at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Maryland. Here he conducts the: Chamber Orchestra, Concert Orchestra, Pit Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble, Concert Band, and Marching Band. These ensembles consistently receive critical acclaim on local, state, and national levels.

Dr. Perry is a strong advocate for music technology usage in the large ensemble. His doctoral dissertation, “The Effect of Flexible-Practice Computer-Assisted Instruction and Cognitive Style on the Development of Music Performance Skills in High School Instrumental Students,” focused on how the practice software, SmartMusic™, and the cognitive styles of field dependence and field independence affect musical performance skill development.

He holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Music Education from Shenandoah Conservatory, as well as a Master’s Degree in Music Education-Instrumental Conducting Concentration, and a Bachelor of Science Degree-Instrumental Music Education, both from the University of Maryland. While at the University of Maryland, Dr. Perry was awarded the prestigious Creative and Performing Arts Scholarship in Music.

In 2006, Dr. Perry received a Japan Fulbright fellowship and participated in the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund Teacher Program. He is an active guest conductor, clinician, adjudicator, lecturer, author, composer, and performer.

Follow Dr. Perry on Twitter: @peterperry101.

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