“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

This quote from the late and great Muhammed Ali has always been a personal favorite. I refer to it from time to time to reflect on my choices, my actions, my relationships or any other “life happenings.”

When I read the article Digitally Speaking / Positive Digital Footprints by William M. Ferriter, it made a profound impact – specifically when Ferriter expresses his fears for when his children grow older, they will not “. . . be Googled well.” Interesting concept, huh? And with that, I googled myself. The top hits were articles from local newspapers highlighting performances (shout out to my drum corps days with  Spirit of Atlanta in this DCI article), teacher interviews via QF Telegraph or band concerts that I’ve directed when I taught middle school band. And then there were the White Pages to get basic information, but nothing else too exciting. There was NO mention of me contributing to the world. Oh no. Muhammed, I have failed you. But perhaps I still have time . . .

Though as an educator, we already ARE giving back to the world. We are educating the world’s future. Isn’t that what they say? Surely that counts for something! In our digitally connected world, I feel that our giving back should be shared. Not for accolades per se, but because our contribution could benefit someone from a different part of the globe. Sharing could spark a domino effect of raising awareness or doing good deeds. THAT is what I want my digital footprint to become.

I had a big think about how I am supposed to musically give back to the world. I could compose a piece of music. Although with my rusty music theory knowledge, I doubt I will become the next Beethoven or John Williams. But, I suppose I could start small. I can begin with my PLNs. I can be even more active and contribute to the discussion boards. I DO have some good tricks and ideas that someone can benefit from. I can publish journal articles and share best teaching practices to new and upcoming music educators. I can create a music blog to recommend great resources and to share my words of wisdom. . . well, more like lessons learned during my teaching journey. . . now there’s an idea.

So before I heed Ferriter’s advice of teaching my students about positive digital footprints, I first need to find the courage to teach myself.

He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life. 

Another quote from Muhammed Ali. He’s one smart (and tough) cookie.

Happy weekend!

Make music, not noise

“Make music, not noise” has become a popular motto in my classroom. A simple, yet powerful incentive for demonstrating good behavior and active participation during the learning experiences has been “free music time.” A selection of unique or special instruments are displayed and students are “free” to explore for a specific duration of time. “Free music time” had to be explicitly taught – as in behaviors and norms, and we have worked tirelessly to gradually build our time from one minute to what seems like ages – ten minutes. Nonetheless, it’s a favorite incentive for my students. At times I even add iPads to the mix in which students explore music games such as Rhythm Cat or Piano Dust Buster.

The students are simply enjoying their free music time, and be that as it may, there ARE some magical moments. It all starts with hanging out with friends and playing instruments, to messing around with particular sounds and techniques, and then turns to geeking out by asking stronger musicians in the class or even me for expertise and advice. Hmm, it seems like Mizuko Ito‘s concepts are at play. . .

Which begs the question, do I dare shift the incentive of free music time into an actual structured learning experience?

Reading Greg Toppo’s article Digital library aims to expand kids’ media literacy in USA Today further ignited my curiosity. The article discusses how we should no longer view a “library as a repository [but] a community center […] where things actually happen.” Thus, YOUmedia – a Digital Library Space for Teens – was born. It houses the latest digital media – laptop computers, music keyboards, recording equipment, video cameras and gaming consoles. Then, add teenagers, invite them to consume and produce media, and watch what happens.

The digital library has become so popular and influential that the Harold Washington Library Center in Chicago plans to replicate it citywide. One thing to notice in the digital library is that it’s loud; but “[i]t’s a constructive loud,” says poet and lead mentor Mike Hawkins, a frequent visitor of the digital library. Ito speculates that the success of the digital library is due to the fact that it’s based “not on what adults think students should be doing, but on ‘what kids actually do and how they engage with media and one another.'”


I recently attending a meeting regarding the building of our new school in Al Wakra, Qatar. My school is part of a large district under the education division of Qatar Foundation. The meeting discussed the specs of the building, classrooms, play spaces, recreation center  and so on. I was immediately drawn to the library design. From what I’ve gathered, the library will be placed on the top floor where it can span across the entire elementary school. While bookshelves and thousands of books will occupy the majority of the space, the designers have considered work spaces and digital media spaces as well. Is this the beginning of a digital library that I will have access to?! Eek! I am already giddy with excitement at the notion that I, too, will have the opportunity to apply my theories into practice. Perhaps I can convince the designers to etch our motto into this new space. . ?

But alas, for now, I shall experiment with “free music time” in my classroom and record some observations and outcomes. By the time we move into our new building, I could be a “sound board” for the digital music space. Sound board. See what I did there?

Have a great week!

A picture is worth ten thousand words

Image from Pexels by Clem Onojeghuo. https://static.pexels.com/photos/375882/pexels-photo-375882.jpeg

I love pictures. I love taking pictures. I also love drawings. I love to draw. I am by no means a photographer or an artist, but I do enjoy the hobby of taking pictures and doodling.

After taking a semester long course called Teaching ESL students in mainstream classrooms: Language in learning across the curriculum, my personal hobby of picture taking and doodling merged onto my professional life. If the text can be enhanced or better understood by the use of a photo or a sketch, it will provide additional support for our English language learners. Okay, then. Google Images here I come! I became almost obsessed with adding photos to my Google Slides/Keynote for my daily lessons, in addition to, the worksheets I created for my students. A colleague also introduced me to the Noun Project – a site where I can search for simple icons to illustrate specific concepts. Module 8 of the ESL course became a particular favorite as we assessed published texts that were used in the classroom to determine whether or not the balance of text and image were appropriate for the age level they were intended for. The module sparked a drive and inspired me to create my own materials that I deemed were more appropriate for my particular clientele.

Then came the video, Everything is a Remix: Fair Use. Hold up. I may not be tech or hip enough (yet) to transform media by re-purposing or by adding new meaning or expression, but I had a funny feeling that my race to find the perfect Google image and/or meme needed to slow down. I needed time to reflect and allow the main ideas of the video to sink in.

Wikipedia defines fair use as, “a doctrine in the law of the United States that permits limited use of copyrighted material without having to first acquire permission from the copyright holder.” Examples of fair use can include, ” commentary, search engines, criticism, parody, news reporting, research, and scholarship.”

Regulations on fair use can be a bit murky; however, when you use media for criticism (making an argument) or commentary (expressing an opinion) AND you can answer “yes” to the three-step test, all is good and well (for the most part) in the land of fair use:

  1. Is the clip you are using illustrating a point? Does it provide an example that supports your argument or demonstrate what you mean? (Side note: you can’t just use it if you like it or it’s entertaining).
  2. Is this point clear to the average user?
  3. Did you use only the amount that was reasonably appropriate to make your point?

Hmm, good to know. I should post the three-step test as a reminder when creating materials and resources for my class. Thanks to sites such as the Noun Project or Pexels, just to name a few, I can still fulfill my need of using images to support my concepts. These images are mostly free for my personal use. Google Images also provides an additional “usage rights” tab to ensure that my search for the perfect image is within the realm of fair use.  This, at the very least, is my understanding. I know I have a long way to go, but this is a good start.

So, for now, instead of racing to find my perfect image, I’ll happily cruise in the slow lane so I can check my gauges (the three-step test) and enjoy the extra clicks and views that the land of fair use has to offer.