Music Education Week 2010 Recaps: General Music K-12 Technology

| July 13, 2010

On Monday, June 28, 2010 I attended the last three sessions of the General Music K-12 Technology Academy. I was looking forward to getting to see some interesting uses for technology in the music classroom, especially when technology was used to facilitate the teaching of music and not to overpower it.

The first session I attended was  presented by Amy Burns and titled “Technology Integration in the Elementary Music Classroom.” For those unable to attend MEW2010 or those whose appetites for this kind of lesson planning were whetted, her book (featuring the same title) can be purchased at SoundTree. A podcast of Amy’s presentation can also be found at her podcast website.

Amy began her session with an important question: “should music teachers have to know about the latest in technology in order to teach music?” Her answer was composed of two parts:

  1. Knowing about the latest in technology isn’t an absolute necessity, since there are teachers who are very successful at their jobs without ever utilizing technology in their classrooms…
  2. But keeping up with technology and integrating it into your classrooms will add variety to your lessons, enable you to apply for a greater number of grants and funds that are technology-specific, and help you to better reach the tech-savvy youth of today.

How tech-savvy are our students? Amy informally polled her students two years ago, in 2008, and learned that 5 out of her 16 kindergarteners and 9 out of her 16 kindergarteners had an iPod!

Amy then took some time to emphasize that technology can be incorporated into your classroom regardless of whether you have 1 or 20 computers or even if you have limited funds. A one-computer classroom and projector can be all you need, and many online resources are not only quality but also free of charge (two suggestions include http://www.creatingmusic.com and http://www.nyphilkids.org; these can help you meet MENC standards 1&6 and 6, respectively). Looking to invest in some software for your classroom? Amy especially recommended Sibelius Groovy for younger students as a piece of technology that can help you meet MENC standards 4&6, and if you are in the market for equipment that will help you input music into your computer, consider a Korg/Soundtree NanoKey.

Lacking a computer? You still can use technology in your classroom to simplify your teaching life. Try using an iPod in your classroom to facilitate playing music for your students; plug a stereo system into the headphone jack and use it as you usually would.  If you have an iPod Touch Generations 2 and newer, you can even use it as a digital recorder when coupled with headphones that have a built in mic. This can simplify assessment of students (you can easily create a digital audio portfolio for each student or classroom) and you can even use the recordings to show administration or parents what you are doing in your classroom.

The next session I attended was presented by Dr. Joseph Eppink and was called “Technology to Engage Lessons.” The goal of this session was to detail some easy and effective ways that music educators can use technology in the classroom.

Some recommended resources included http://www.musictechteacher.com, http://www.jamesfrankel.com, and http://www.teachersnetwork.org/teachnet/music.cfm. All of these are sites that offer suggested lesson plans, resources, and can point you in the direction of other helpful websites as well. Of course, make sure to read through the entire resource before you use it in your classroom; adaptations might need to be made in order to suit you and your students.

Dr. Eppink also suggested using WebQuests (defined by webquest.org as “an inquiry-oriented lesson format in which most or all the information that learners work with comes from the web”) in your classroom; for example, one of his students did a WebQuest on PLORK. This can encourage higher-level thinking and involvement in your students, as they would need to be fully engaged rather than just learning material by rote. By using this technique you can also help instill in your students all the tools to be a good digital citizen and use the internet and its resources responsibly and safely.

At the end of Dr. Eppink’s session he asked the audience “So where do you fit in?” Beginning to integrate technology into your overall curriculum can be scary at first, especially if you have little familiarity with the tools and resources that are available to you. His recommendation was to start with only a few things, think carefully about how they can help you meet your goals for the 2010-2011 school year, and always try to keep in mind how you think your students would respond to the lesson plans.

After Dr. Eppink’s session, the final session of the day was a round-table conversation between attendees regarding everything they’d learned over the few days. Due to the nature of this session, I’ll just put down a quick list of things that came up in my discussion group.

  • http://www.musiclearningcommunity.com is another good resource that has recently partnered with Yamaha. Notably, though, unlike the other online resources named above, it is not free. Test it out from a student POV with the username “YamahaMIE” and password “music” free for one month. From a teacher POV use the username “MIEcomeplay” and password “teacher”.
  • http://www.musictheory.net is another great site that can really boost a one-computer classroom.
  • One suggestion takes advantage of the prevalence of iPods: designate one or a few days as a special iPod day and ask students to do a “share & tell” with a favorite song. Have them use musical vocabulary in their informal presentations. This also can help with classroom management, as bad or disruptive behavior can result in losing iPod sharing privileges.
  • Music technology can help you reach and engage students who are only taking your class for a school’s art requirement. My live-blog co-person Andy Zweibel, joining the round table from the online interface for our coverage, stressed how using blogs for listening reflections and other responses can get stronger answers and discussions from your students due to them being public. Here’s an example: http://fams.musiced.net.
  • Some other pieces of technology that were mentioned by Andy include Noteflight (notation) and Aviary (sequencing). They do have limitations but they are a great start!
  • #musedchat is a great online resource. If you can’t make it to the chat, check out http://paper.li/tag/musedchat for the latest links shared with that hashtag in the chat. The main #musedchat page also has recaps and transcripts available.
  • Getting used to the amount of information that is out there and distilling it down into what you need and what will work for you can be tricky, but learning how to navigate it will only help, not hurt! And, most important– if you come up with something effective and fun, share your idea!

My thoughts on the sessions as a whole:
I remain baffled by how tech-savvy the youth of today are. They truly are the first generation of students to have grown up with technology and the internet, and I think it’s incredibly important for teachers to remain relatable to their students and to not seem outdated. Not only do today’s students know how to use technology very well (and in some cases, they may have more knowledge than us!) but they want to, and in some cases do, own it. I personally think that through the integration of technology in our classrooms we can achieve the following goals:

  1. Facilitate our teaching, so we can spend more time doing just that – teaching.
  2. Better  connect with and engage our technology-savvy students (even the youngest ones!).
  3. Encourage our students to increase their familiarity with the internet so they can become safe and responsible users of the technology.

Technology is not going away any time soon. If you’re not familiar with what’s out there and available to you, read up on it! Keep yourself up-to-date and use online resources like the websites mentioned in this post and also the music education community for ideas and inspiration. Just make sure to not let the technology get in the way of your teaching!

Check out http://technologyacademymeww2010.wikispaces.com for all the resources discussed at MEW2010’s technology academy! Also, check out Amy Burns’ thoughts on MEW2010 here!