Your Quirky Ensemble and Classroom Tech
Streamlining Your Music Program
By NAfME Member Colleen Filush
The ever evolving world of technology is forcing us to change the way we teach. The makeup of our ensembles is also changing as music itself progresses and grows. We as teachers need to change and evolve as well, and technology is one of the things we can embrace to keep that forward motion going.
Fortunately, there are an increasing number of free websites and apps that help us to streamline our ensemble processes, parent engagement, and teaching as a whole. The apps/websites I’m currently using aren’t primarily music-based, they’re more for education as a whole. Many teachers in my school use them, which gives the students a higher degree of familiarity and proficiency across the curriculum.
Bring your own device (BYOD) can be a curse in terms of engagement, but can also be a blessing when used well. As more and more students have smartphones and tablets, why not put them to good use?
Using apps and available websites, my students have begun to use their time apart to work together on a variety of projects. My schedule is odd, and not all of the students who need to (or like to) play together end up in my room at the same time. Google Classroom and Google Apps for Education along with the assorted features of a smartphone allows students a safe forum to share ideas and “rehearse” together even if they’re not physically in the same space. They can also engage in research and sharing of music and musical ideas.
The following are some examples of how we are using Google Apps for Education:
- Collaborative projects where all students can edit in real time.
- “Rehearsals” at home using parts recorded and uploaded by other students/teachers.
- “Sectionals” can be done in class even if there isn’t a strong section leader.
- Assessments can be turned in, graded, and returned to students anytime/anywhere.
- Students can access rehearsal material at home 24/7.
- Teachers can upload specific material for students to access.
- Students can comment or ask questions.
- Document/photo/video/audio storage and sharing.
- Parents can receive an email update about your classroom.
Speaking of parents, as we all know, it’s amazing to have them on your side. Parents don’t have direct access to Google Classroom, so it’s difficult to share individual achievements. Having a way to instantly let them know that their student did something great (or not so great) in class through an app such as Class Dojo helps your ensemble with productivity and boosts relationships with parents.
Class Dojo allows you as the teacher to give immediate feedback to students and parents, as well as providing a platform for students to share their stories. Communicating general information with students and families through apps like Remind also creates a welcoming and productive feeling.
Edmodo is similar to Google Classroom in a number of ways. I think there’s more initial work for you as a teacher in terms of setup, but it’s fairly user-friendly after it gets going. Unlike Google, parents are given their own access code to “join” your group. The polling feature in Edmodo is a really useful tool that isn’t readily available in Google. So is the ability to create a quiz directly in Edmodo. Edmodo also allows for breaking into smaller groups to work on different ideas within the classroom.
Overall, these apps can all be used to help you work through some issues that come with having ensembles that aren’t your standard band or orchestra. They allow for students to interact in and out of the classroom and promote small group work or rehearsals when it’s not practical to work with the class as a whole. This technology also allows parents to become more involved and get behind the idea of their student working in a non-traditional ensemble that is just as valuable as the standard they were used to when they were in school. Join me in Grapevine on Saturday, November 12, at 1:30pm, and I’ll happily demonstrate more specifics!
About the author:
NAfME member Colleen Filush has a B.A. in Music (violin) and a M.Ed. in Special Education. During her 12 years as an educator, she has taught every subject from K-12. She currently teaches everything musical (except band) on the high school level in Bridgeport, CT. Colleen isn’t the best at Twitter, but follow her @cfilush just in case she remembers she has it!
Colleen Filush presented on her topic “Your Quirky Ensemble and Classroom Tech” at the 2016 NAfME National Conference in Grapevine, TX.
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