The Socially Minded Music Classroom

The Careful Use of Social Media can Engage Students and Parents

By: Robin Giebelhausen

This article originally appeared in the April 2015 edition of Teaching Music magazine

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socially minded classroom


ROBIN GIEBELHAUSEN, who specializes in both elementary and secondary general music at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, notes that social media can offer powerful tools in the music classroom and “allow for many new possibilities, including higher levels of engagement.”

However, Giebelhausen first has some cautions—for instance, she advises music educators not to use their personal Facebook pages to connect with students. “You have a different relationship with your students, and ‘friend’ is not that relationship.” However, teachers can use Facebook Pages or Groups. “When dealing with young kids, you have to be careful that those students do not take over, and that posts stay school-focused. Pages, rather than Groups, allow a little more administrative function for the teacher.”

She also notes that if teachers invite students to join a Group, they should consider inviting parents as well. While Giebelhausen has been using sites such as Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and YouTube for years, she suggests taking things slowly and feeling comfortable with one platform before moving to the next.

“Facebook has the most diverse membership and makes sense as the first stop. It’s a great communication tool for your classroom.

Other platforms have different uses, and it has more to do with the way the platform is structured.” SoundCloud and YouTube can be great tools for the music educator, Giebelhausen notes, as they allow virtual access to the music classroom. “These two websites allow streaming media, sound, and video, allowing students and parents to engage directly with the music you wish them to listen and respond to, practice, and perhaps even create.” When she taught general music, she wanted to ensure that music was being made even when she was absent, so she created a series of YouTube videos.

“In the videos, I sang through the music, played recorder and showed a visual aid, played mallet instruments, and played ukulele. I even sang a little two- and three-part harmony. This method of writing substitute plans certainly was not faster than traditional substitute plans, but I felt more comfortable knowing that the students’ music class time would not be wasted.”

She further notes that YouTube can be a great way to showcase student compositions and arrangements as well, and that “SoundCloud is a wonderful way to show parents the creative work that students can achieve by sharing their work online.”

While social media is engaging, don’t assume that students know everything about it. As a college professor now, Giebelhausen is “often surprised when they come to me as college freshmen and don’t have the skills, or the skills are weak. Kids may not be as savvy as we think they are.”


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