All posts by Kehri Magalad

You’ve changed… (Course 5 Final Project)

“At laaaassssst….” (in my best Etta James voice.) I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel! Much has happened in the past year and half and most had to do with my journey with Coetail. I didn’t know I was capable of communicating across timezones to educators from around the world. I’ve learned design principles that has made a positive impact in my teaching practice.  I’ve learned to embrace the available technology and make it work for me. I’ve changed!

My project with a flipped classroom was always in the background, but I never got around to sitting down, planning it and executing it. Thanks to my support group in the school, I took a risk and experimented with this concept with elementary students. A lot of time, sweat and tears (looking at you, iMovie for crashing on me) were shed just trying to get through this final phase. Thankfully, the result was worth it!

Coetail Online9 Course 5 Final Project Video

Project Goals

My goals for this project were to:

  • create a digital library of video tutorials
  • provide an opportunity to teach in small groups for students needing more support
  • challenge students needing advanced music literature
  • And personalize the learning for individual inquiry
  • provide an authentic audience (with other classes and/or schools)
  • empower students to create and spread the joy of music making
Extension

Due to the time constraints (as a specialist, I only see the students once a week), I am going to extend this unit so that the students will be able to create their very own tutorial videos. Not only does this learning experience allow them to demonstrate their music skills, but also to demonstrate their communication skills (can another student or audience understand what they are trying to teach?) and technology skills of creating a movie of their own. We would share our tutorial videos with other classes and hopefully other schools. What a great way to reach out to the community!

Video credits
  • August’s Rhapsody from the 2007 film August Rush
  • SAMR image from http://www.schrockguide.net/samr.html
  • Introduction photos courtesy of Pexels and Pixabay
Student engagement and feedback

As a whole, the students worked well during the unit and they embraced this “new” way of learning; however, not ALL students were keen to learn from a video:

Student feedback via Google Forms
"I love it [with the whole class] because in real life I can understand it more." Ibrahim
"...it's more better because the teacher help us and we can learn at the same time." Haya

Mixed reviews suggest to balance screen time and teacher time during the music class.

Read the last comment. Seriously? This kid can’t recognise MY voice in the videos? Ha!

FAQs

Q: Isn’t it a lot of prep work to create the videos BEFORE the students come?

A: Yes, lots of prep work. Because I’m a bit neurotic, I created my own videos using the same instruments/materials that the students will be using – for consistency. I’m sure there are thousands of videos out there that will be useful for your context.

Q: What platform did you use and why?

A: I used Seesaw as my platform. I initially thought about using Google Classroom; however, due to the time constraints and the fact that the students ALREADY had experience with Seesaw, it was a better choice for us.

Q: What were the cons during your project?

A: (1) Having a strong enough wifi connection for the whole class. (2) Students complained about not being able to hear themselves play because of the person next to them – it’s more of a space issue. In the future, I would probably split the group to where some students can be spread out in different areas of the room while I worked with the other half and then switch halfway through the class period.

Unit Plan 

Here is my IB PYP Music unit plan (based on the UbD framework).

ISTE Standards for Educators:

1 LEARNER: Educators continually improve their practice by learning from and with others and exploring proven and promising practices that leverage technology to improve student learning. Educators: 1a Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness.

2 LEADER: Educators seek out opportunities for leadership to support student empowerment and success and to improve teaching and learning. Educators: 2c Model for colleagues the identification, exploration, evaluation, curation and adoption of new digital resources and tools for learning.

4 COLLABORATOR: Educators dedicate time to collaborate with both colleagues and students to improve practice, discover and share resources and ideas, and solve problems. Educators: 4b Collaborate and co-learn with students to discover and use new digital resources and diagnose and troubleshoot technology issues.

5 DESIGNER: Educators design authentic, learner-driven activities and environments that recognise and accommodate learner variability. Educators: 5a Use technology to create, adapt and personalise learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.

Conclusion

Even with our limitations (time) during this project, I felt as though we made a positive shift in our learning environment. Because the students provided feedback about the flipped classroom setting, moving forward, I would like to have a happy mix of our “traditional” Orff approach and the flipped classroom approach. I DO miss being part of the musical discoveries when we learn something new. At least in the flipped setting, we can use our technology for review and/or extended activities. Uh oh. I think I’m on to something. . .

Special thanks to @Shazahmed for putting up with my antics and @YasmeenMunshi for lending an ear during carpool. And thank YOU, Coetail, for being a part of my learning journey!

Let’s Root for Each Other and Watch Each Other Grow

Building a community takes effort. A LOT of effort. Moving overseas is enough evidence of this community building. I knew no one. So, I had to start somewhere. I began with work friends – because how else were you going to meet new people besides your coworkers? Sure I could have gone to a bar (although bars were hard to come by in Doha several years ago), but that’s not my scene. Soon after, I joined a community orchestra. I met musicians near and far, we performed concerts throughout the year and even went out for the occasional meal just to “hang out”. Finally, I joined a group of music teachers in Qatar. The realisation of this community building sunk in a bit when I attended my PD a weeks ago. Short story: I arrived early to register, have coffee and say hello to my fellow colleagues. Rachel, the organiser of the workshop, handed me the agenda for the day and asked if I wanted to make a name tag. Sure. Then she says, “Well, everyone knows you here so it’s not like you need it.” Hmm…

The fact that I no longer needed a name tag was a bit surreal. But looking back, it took YEARS of effort. It meant I went to every music workshop available. I played with various ensembles through the years. I braved Doha traffic to meet and greet and be social with “my people”. I had to be an active participant. I couldn’t be a lurker. See? I’ve grown a bunch since Course 1 (insert winky face).

Now you’re asking me to create an online community? Whoa. That’s a tall order. The State of Qatar is only roughly 2.7 million people. You’re talking about online. Like, THE WORLD. Nevertheless, I accept your challenge. I already had a few groups that I follow via Facebook: I am a member of a Band Directors group, General Music Teachers, IB PYP Music Teachers, American Orff-Schulwerk Association (AOSA) and Music Teachers of Qatar. I would read people’s post and respond in my head. It’s a silly notion now that I think about it. Maybe that person was taking a poll and needed the numbers. My response could have helped them in one way or another. And so, I need to take the first step. . .

The one thing that really convinced me to take the plunge were the group norms. Huh? It seems ridiculous, but hear me out. For example, in my General Music Teachers group, rule three states,

"This is meant to be supportive group. Please keep it respectful."

In my AOSA group, the admin states,

"The purpose of this page is to encourage collegiality, collaboration, and creative thinking among AOSA members and music professionals. All posts and comments should be marked by respect, be on topic, and presume the good will of other posters."

In my Band Directors group, rule one states,

"Be respectful, civil, and professional in all postings and comments. Debate is an important part of coming to new understandings for our profession and is therefore welcomed, but please be sure your opinions are grounded in your actual teaching experiences rather than untested hypotheticals. Also remember that we are not here to point fingers at one another, but rather to put forth the best of our own teaching experiences from which we can learn. No politics."

These rules/norms gave me a level of comfort in knowing that no one was going to laugh at my questions or scoff at an idea that I wanted to share. It was a safe space. We all wanted to support each other, and we all wanted watch each other grow in our beloved profession.

And because of this, I found a sort of “mentor”. Stephanie is a member in my General Music Teachers group. Despite our distance (she’s in New York), she finds the time to share her wisdom. Interestingly, she calls it “nerding out.” I can ask her a question about a pitch sequence and she comes back with a Kodaly resource. We go back and forth about our approach to teaching recorders and her experience with a ukulele club. Now I, too, want to start a ukulele club next year!

My other groups have also been a successful space for networking and learning. My experience has been nothing but positive. People are genuine and they truly want to help. The idea of posting in these spaces isn’t so daunting after all.

And so I’ve learned so much about taking the plunge and making the effort to build my community. It really IS worth all the effort. At the end, we just want to root for each other and watch each other grow.

Before Coetail…

After Coetail 🙂

Cheers!

Under Construction

Photo by Mabel Amber from Pexels

Much like how the whole country is under construction (Qatar is preparing for the 2022 World Cup), so is my course five project. It seemed like ages ago when I had plans for utilising Google Classroom to pilot a flipped classroom in a music setting. Well, step aside, GC. Here’s comes SeeSaw!

My colleague and tech guru Shaza practically rolled her eyes at me when I told her about my course five project. She was confused as to why I would even consider Google Classroom when SeeSaw is the new rage. SeeSaw? For realz? I thought that was just for portfolios! Boy, was I wrong. I described my ideal scenario using whatever magical device or app that’s out there, and she immediately suggested SeeSaw. What’s more? The grade 4 students that I’m piloting this project with already had experience using the app, so it’s one less step – one less thing I’d have to teach them. Well, I can’t argue with that. Here’s my progress thus far:

Step 1: Geeking out (Creating videos to upload on SeeSaw)

We recently had a fall break, and I wanted to use that time to create my videos and get general work stuff done without the students. The place would be quiet, the instruments were available, and I can knock everything out in a day. Man, I had a blast! I came up with a set up where I used two music stands, a felt sheet/fabric to help with “stand noise” and my iPad to create the videos. I could have used a video camera, but I didn’t think that far ahead. Nevertheless it worked well. The set up allowed for the video to capture the entire instrument AND my hands so that the students would see the proper technique. Bonus? You didn’t have to see my face! Ha! I then put the videos together first on Keynote then iMovie.

Two music stands were set up to “hover” above the xylophone with the iPad sitting on top.

 

iPad view of the xylophone. Look, Ma! All hands!

I know, I know. It seems like too many steps, but hear me out. I was recently playing with an online based app to create videos and presentations called Powtoon. I loved it! There are animated characters, sleek designs, and I found the finished product really engaging. I thought that my students would really enjoy it. Here’s the kicker: I’m too cheap to buy a subscription. There HAD be away to get the look and feel of Powtoon, but for free; hence Keynote to iMovie (Thanks, Apple!) Maybe if REALLY wanted to up my game, I’ll consider it.

Step 2: Upload introductory video and survey on SeeSaw

Believe me, I’m still a HUGE Google fan (despite setting aside GC). I used Google Forms to create a survey because I wanted to get an idea of who had their own devices, who had access to wifi at home, and to get a general idea that if the students had access to an instrument at home, would they practice and bring back their knowledge the following week.

The first assignment: complete the survey
One result from our survey

So. Just as I planned in my first post, the students would arrive to class, organise their iPads and other materials and get started with the lesson that was waiting for them in SeeSaw. Their first task was to complete the survey. The second task was to watch a tutorial video and learn a melody. The third task was for us to come together as a class and play what we’ve learned. We didn’t quite make it to task three due to the first day hiccups, but I did get a few minutes to get feedback from the students about their first experience in a “flipped classroom”. Their exit ticket was to give me feedback – tell me your impression of a flipped classroom and what we can do to improve. I was really happy with the results. Happy that I received feedback, but not so happy because the solution was out of my control. A lot of my students wrote that they wished the wifi was stronger because the video kept stopping. That’s more of an IT issue which I hope will be remedied. Some mentioned that they couldn’t hear the video because there were people next to them. Aha. That’s a space and logistics issue. That’s something for me to sort out next week. Some said that they were able to learn at their own pace and didn’t have to wait on anyone… I hear you, Ibrahim. You’re ALWAYS the first to finish a task which tells me you need to be challenged. So many new ideas to plan! What a great first day I had!

Step 3: Create a sub plan?!

This was NOT part of my process when thinking about my project; however, a music PD was being offered and I couldn’t pass it up. At my school, we need to find our own subs for a preplanned absence. So, several emails later, my classes were covered and I can officially attend the upcoming PD. I created an easy sub plan for my grade 5 classes (per request of the teachers covering), but had the opportunity to preserve my lessons for grade 4 because everything was on SeeSaw. I emailed the teacher covering my grade 4 lessons to give them a heads up of what to expect. Needless to say, the feedback was positive. All they had to do was monitor the students and iPads. The students were actively engaged in the lesson. The “high” kids completed the tasks for the day and even had time to provide support for the other students. It’s a win-win! I don’t know why I haven’t thought of doing video lessons in case of an absence before. It’s something I would definitely consider in the future.

Giving the students instructions via SeeSaw
Step 4: Pending

So. This is where I am at the moment with my project. Despite the tiny hiccups along the way, the process has been nothing but positive. I’ve gained a new approach to differentiation in my class in a fun and engaging way. I  know that creating those videos will take time in the beginning, but the results (so far) are something I can’t deny. It’s helping my students grow beyond (like my Ibrahim) and it gives me time to focus on my students that need more support. No child left behind, right?

Until next time!

“Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” (Cue music)

Photo by Jordan Benton from Pexels

Greetings from the sandbox! Welcome back Online9! The school year started off, well, late. We moved schools – from one location to another. The new school is bigger, brighter, state of the art, etc., I could go on. Needless to say, everything is behind schedule, including our units of inquiry. Still, we begin our 2018 school year. Here we go!  

 

This year, my teaching responsibilities have been extend to the upper grades. I am now the music teacher for students from grades one through five. My teaching schedule is packed, but I welcomed the challenge with the “older” kids. I knew they were capable of so much more – musically – and I couldn’t wait to start! The first few weeks of school were all about establishing essential agreements and assessing prior knowledge. Boy, was I in for a surprise! The students weren’t quite at the level I expected, in addition, they brought more sass and drama (insert eye roll here). But despite this, we must persevere. Onward!

What do you plan to do and why?

My aim is to reevaluate my current teaching approach and experiment with a flipped classroom with my upper elementary music students. This endeavor will hopefully achieve the following:

  • To create a digital library of video tutorials of me and/or my students performing on instruments
  • To provide an opportunity to teach in small groups for students needing more support
  • To challenge students needing advanced music literature
  • To personalize the learning for individual inquiry
  • To provide an authentic audience (with other classes and/or schools)
  • To empower students to create and spread the joy of music making

In a previous blog, Confessions of a purist, I mentioned my hesitation of technology and its place in a specialized subject, i.e. the arts. As such, I want to determine whether or not a flipped classroom can be a strategy to authentically integrate technology in my classroom without sacrificing my content.

“Confessions of a purist”

I stumbled upon a blog post which introduces flipped classroom and suggests how to prepare students before coming to a flipped class. One takeaway was the notion that no two flipped classrooms look exactly the same, just as no two traditional classrooms look the same. I was relieved! I was concerned that MY version of the flipped classroom wasn’t credible. Which brings me to. . .

How do you think you might get there?

To begin, I’d like to model the flipped classroom for my students. My thought was to use a video tutorial as a provocation. The students will have access to their own iPads and headphones. The students will log onto Google Classroom and proceed with the first task – to watch a video tutorial. The video tutorial will be no longer than a minute and the students will have the opportunity to replay the video as many times as necessary for them to learn an excerpt to play on an instrument (xylophones or recorders). After some time, we will come together as a group and perform what we have learned. This moment of the lesson will determine whether or not they were able to learn the excerpt on their own or if they need more support. The students will write comments on GC regarding the video to provide feedback regarding the pros and cons of the video and how we can improve the next one. Hopefully the format of the videos will remain consistent so that the students learn the “formula” of the video, enough to create their own (insert storyboard here). As a result, not only do the students demonstrate their music skills, but they have created a product that can be used for assessment and to share with a greater audience.

"The Flipped Classroom is a pedagogy-first approach that strives to meet the needs of the learners in our individual schools and communities. It is much more an ideology than it is a specific methodology…there is no prescribed set of rules to follow or model to fit…Practitioners of the various flipped classroom models are constantly tweaking, changing, rejecting, adding to, and generally trying to improve the model through direct experience with how effective it is for kids." 

- from the blog post "How do I get my students to prepare before coming to a flipped class?"
What are you hoping to see in your students learning as you conduct the project?

My Central Idea (or Enduring Understanding for those who use the Understanding by Design a.k.a. UbD framework) is: Musicians practice and reflect to improve their skills for a successful performance. THAT is what I hope to see in my students as we conduct this project. I want them to experience the practice and discipline necessary to have a successful performance. I can already predict that this unit will be longer than expected due to the time constraints – I only see them once a week – and (fingers crossed), the students will want more time in order to have a good product to share.

In theory I’ve got some basic ideas, but in practice is a different story. The project attempts to blend what I’ve learned in our previous courses – geeking out from Course 1, design principles in Course 3 and flipped classroom in Course 4.  I’m ecstatic to get started, and I hope that moving forward, this project will positively impact not only my teaching practice, but also my budding musicians.

Catch you on the flip side! (See what I did there?)

Bop it! Twist it! Shake it! FLIP IT! (Course 4 Final Project)

Image via Pexels (Teono123 No)
Introduction

Upon hearing that I am including upper elementary to my teaching schedule next year, I immediately started thinking about the possibility of creating a unit of inquiry that incorporates elements from courses one through four. This unit combines the concepts of “Geeking Out” from Course 1, digital citizenship from Course 2, design principles (my fav!) from Course 3 and flipped classroom (as evidenced by the unit title) from Course 4.

Short story…

One of my students was injured during recess. He was rushed to the hospital for a broken arm and was house bound for quite sometime. His fellow classmates showed their concern by helping to finish his art work and sending “Get Well” notes with his older brother. One student came up and said, “Miss! He is absent for our xylophone songs! How will he learn the music while he’s at home?!”  Hmm. . . if only there was a way to show and teach him the songs that we’re learning. . .

Task: Students will create a teaching and learning video instructing their peers (and/or others) how to play (insert music title) on a variety of instruments. They will demonstrate their knowledge of the music by performing and modeling how the music should be played. They will use (tech tbd) to create their videos and upload it to Google Classroom for reflection, feedback and assessment. As a result, we will have a collection of teaching and learning videos to share with the school community.
Concerns

The assignment states, ” What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?” Well, I’m not redesigning it. I’m designing it from the ground up. I won’t have any prior knowledge or experience with this unit, but I am confident that I, along with support from my IT team, can plan and execute this project!

Shift in pedagogy

With this unit, it will be interesting to, again, let go of the reigns and have the students lead the unit and design their own teaching and learning videos. I am hoping that the students can not only create an end product that they are proud of, but also reflect upon the process of creating and sharing music with others.

Skills and attitudes

The Transdisciplinary Skills focused on this unit are:

Communication Skills – listening, speaking, viewing, presenting and nonverbal communication

Thinking Skills – acquisition of knowledge by gaining specific facts, ideas and vocabulary; analysis by taking apart their knowledge, separating into component parts, seeking relationships

Self-Management Skills – gross motor skills, fine motor skills, organization skills, and time management skills

The attitudes focused on this unit are:

Commitment demonstrating perseverance through the duration of the unit of inquiry and following through with end goals

Creativity – expression of unique ideas as evidenced by their teaching and learning video

Sharing is caring. But sometimes inconvenient…

In my last fully integrated unit of inquiry with grade 1, I decided to be brave and suggest the creation of an eBook. Communication systems convey messages was the central idea. The students were tasked with collecting their knowledge throughout the inquiry regarding different communication systems such as braille, sign language, Arabic traffic signals, body language, and of course the music notation system and create this said eBook. Little did we know, we bit off more than we can chew. . .

Our school is not yet at the 1:1 iPad ratio, and it presented a big challenge when it was time to document, take photos, record reflections and their music. There was a lot of  logistical planning involved to ensure that everyone had access to iPads at the time that was best for the team. There were times where my planning periods were utilised to track down students (maybe they were absent) just so they have the opportunity to record their rhythms. As suggested by our tech specialist, Book Creator would have been an appropriate app; however, the sharing of devices didn’t lend itself to do so. The English and Arabic department ended up using a separate app, while I used Voice Recorder Pro to take a snapshot of their notated rhythms and record the sounds while playing on drums.

After the students have finished these steps, the two saved ‘artefacts’ (if I can call it that) were merged onto ANOTHER app to create essentially a short movie. Was it a book? Kind of…? It was an book that you could press play, read the pages and hear the students’ reflections and sounds. At the end, the students had a product to share on SeeSaw and another sample to discuss during Student Led Conferences. Although the unit was only supposed to be five weeks long, it was extended due to the hiccups (sharing of devices) we encountered. Not to mention, the majority of the Grade 1 teachers were new to authentically implementing a tech for a unit of study.

Sample of rhythms using popsicle sticks
Upside down beamed eighth note, but good nonetheless!

After this year’s experience, we will try to request additional iPads in order to solve our logistics issue. Although we’re not fortune tellers, it seems that the prediction of this lone solution will solve a majority of the hiccups we encountered this year. Now. Will it happen? Eh. Wishful thinking. We’ll definitely come up with a plan B.

How would YOU approach this scenario at your school? What could be our plan B?

“Beam me up, Scotty!”

In 1999, Disney released a film called Zenon, Girl of the 21st Century (IMDB rating of 6.5 by the way; although, my pre-teen self thought it was way better than that!) I was enamoured by the concept of living and working in a space station. The year was 2049 and the film showed technology of the future such as tablets and video calling. The children went to school by entering these rooms where computer workstations were clustered together and, in the middle, a hologram of the teacher would appear. Lectured lessons would continue from the previous day and students were able to research on their computers at the same time. The protagonist, Zenon Kar, inserted an ear piece and changed her computer screen to watch and listen to music videos. And thus the movie begins. . . Hologram teachers, what?!

Fast forward to today and we have the ability to Facetime or use Google Hangouts to hear AND see the people we are speaking to – like Zenon! I love it! I use it often so I can have Facetime dates with my puppy back home! 

Will education as we know it change because of technology?

You mean changing – present tense. It is constantly changing and we have to keep pace. As a student, I loved library days because I was able to search for answers using the colorful encyclopaedias. But now, if we are curious about a topic or have a question about anything, we have Google at our fingertips. The information is instant! I have a Pinterest board dedicated to music education. There are numerous Facebook groups where we discuss pedagogy and share lessons. Twitter, although I’m still a novice, is a great space to share the latest and greatest. Curious: I find the timeline for learning a bit condensed. I sometimes wonder whether or not we truly have a deep understanding of our content because there’s so much out there, we’re always on the receiving end and there’s no time for contemplation. Do I sound crazy?

Where and how will you be teaching in 5, 10, 15 years time?

Considering my nomadic tendency as an international teacher, who knows where I will be teaching in a few years time. However, one can dream that in the future, a fine arts department would have private, soundproof practice rooms where instructors are beamed via hologram – wait. Do holograms “beam” like in Star Trek? But it’s my dream, so, yes! – and provide lessons to students who do not have access to professional instructors who already work in the building. If an ensemble were to play a piece of music, each instrument’s part, through some fantastical tech device, would then be transcribed or notated so that it’s written. I wouldn’t be surprised if the creators of Tapspace would be the first to create such tech. From my experience as a performer and using their software Virtual Drumline for composing percussion ensemble pieces, the idea doesn’t seem so far fetched. I mean, go check out the movie Drumline and watch the scene where music is written and printed by some sort of “machine” after only being played by the drummers. Someone HAS to be thinking of this tech already!

No child left behind

No, not THAT one. But think of places such as the far regions of the Amazon rainforest, where, as it stands, they have limited to no technology at their disposal. They live in what we consider an antiquated lifestyle, and yet, they seem content with their way of life. Do we have the right to impose technology? Maybe the introduction of a mobile device like a cell phone is what they are willing to embrace even though everyone else is light years ahead in terms of technology. How will we cope with this world wide technological divide?

Just some food for thought for the week. Happy April, everyone!

“I put my thing down, flip it, and reverse it!”

Of the three teaching methodologies presented in this week’s readings, I am intrigued with the idea of a flipped music room. In a hypothetical situation, if I were to teach older students, I would create video lectures on music theory (reading, writing, basic composition structure, etc.). Then, when the students returned to class, they could apply their knowledge and skills on a variety of instruments. Using Salman Khan’s Khan Academy framework, how then would I manage and monitor student progress? Since music is not yet available as one of the subjects covered in the academy, I would have to create my own via G Suite for Education (formerly known as Google Apps for Education). One scenario could be that based on the lecture, I could create a series of questions (using Google Forms) and read student responses. I would then focus on those who require more support. In addition, Noteflight Learn, a web based app on music composition, not only allows for students to compose, but for teachers to assign work, comment and assess. What’s more: it’s compatible with Google Classroom. Bonus!

Pros and cons

Even though hypothetical, I’m enjoying the idea of having the students come back to class with some knowledge base and be able to apply this knowledge on their instruments. Talk about differentiation and targeting students’ needs! However, if, for example, other subject teachers are following suit, can I justify a flipped classroom for a class that only meets once a week? Wouldn’t a student’s work load after school hours increase because of the many video lectures and not enough time for play and family time? Wouldn’t it be easier for me to say, “Hey, kid, go take your instrument home and practice!” How do we find this balance among the teaching team? How do we balance screen time for the children?

Perspective

In Ramsey Musallam’s blog, she offers her perspective on the flipped classroom. From her experience, she has found that “merging aspects of inquiry learning and video-based instruction” a successful teaching approach for her content. Flipped classrooms are not the end all, be all of methods. It happens to be an option and one that may or may not suit your style as an educator.  

My turn

I recently attended an IB workshop on the Grade 5 Exhibition. Our facilitator emailed us prior to the start of the workshop, introduced herself and gave us an assignment. We had to watch videos, read articles and answer questions based on the videos and articles. Who WAS this woman and why was she already giving me homework?! I was immediately turned off because she added another task to my already hectic workload. Nevertheless, I made time to do my homework. Workshop weekend finally came, she again introduced herself, and we immediately dove into discussion on the videos and articles. Huh. We already had something to talk about. I heard many perspectives from the other workshop attendants and there was immediate conversation and collaboration based on our homework. I see what you did there, Suzanne. Upon reflection, it made sense for us to be familiar with the material prior to coming to the workshop. We were able to participate in those discussions because we were prepared. We didn’t waste any time studying. Our workshop lasted only two to three days, and yet, we were efficient and productive. It was great!  Would I have designed my own workshop in this manner? You bet!

Which method, flipped, game-based, play-based, works well for your content? Why?

Alphabet Soup

PBL. CBL. RAFT. GRASPS. UOI. FBI. SOS. Whew! Nowadays, we educators have to navigate the alphabet soup of teaching and learning. There’s so much to keep up with! So much so, that in my music room, I’ve designed my own word wall – for me, NOT the students – so I can remember the jargon. After reading the articles on problem-based, project-based and challenged-based learning, I’ve discovered that the main tenets overlap in that they all share a similar goal of applying knowledge and skills to a real life situation, collaboration among peers, teachers serve as a mentor or facilitator, and so forth. There are slight differences, but, as we say here in the Middle East, they’re “Same, same!”

Using the RAFT summative assessment model, I recently embarked on a project with my students. I wasn’t aware at the time, but knowing what I know now, it can be categorized under project-based learning.

Task: You are an entertainment company. You are to choose a short story and perform it for the school community. As a class, you must organize yourselves as the the actors/actresses, artists and musicians. You will perform this story in [insert date here]. Good luck!

Personally, it was challenging to ‘let go’ of the reigns. I became a mentor – a facilitator. I supported by taking notes and documenting their thinking and their process; but, the majority of the work was student led. They took ownership of their roles because they were able to choose what and how to contribute to the group. Come October 2018, the enhanced PYP will be introduced where student agency is now a major component. Woohoo! Look at us being ahead of the game!

As weeks went by, I was able to sit with the students and create backdrops, props and masks. Little did I know, my quiet Abdulla* was a fantastic artist. Even the class didn’t know that we had a hidden gem! We discovered the natural leaders of the group because they ended up “directing” everyone on stage by telling them where to go and where to face. My little ensemble of musicians discussed what sounds effects and melodies would help the story come to life. Stepping back and seeing the magic happen was a real treat. The process of organizing, creating and executing the short story and seeing its success was evidence enough for me to reevaluate my teaching approach.  

After the performance, we had a moment of reflection. Could it have been better? Yes. Do the students want to embark on another project? Absolutely! The students had purpose. They wanted to share their talents for the school community. They embraced the idea of performing for their little brothers, sisters, cousins in the younger grades. They wanted to “attend meetings” with the artists or the musicians to discuss their ideas. They felt that the meetings made them feel as if they were “adults” in the real world. (Believe me, kid. You’ll regret saying that later). They gained social skills, communication skills, thinking skills, etc., ALL of the skills necessary to achieve a common goal. Maybe there IS something to this whole alphabet soup of teaching and learning…

But what about me?

Thinking back, I feel that I’ve missed out on this whole problem-based, project-based, challenge-based learning approach. It would have been fun to take part in something that my students get to experience now. If given the opportunity, training teachers using this approach would allow us (especially us as children of the late 80’s and 90’s) to participate in this learning model. If given a task and a deadline, I would seize the opportunity to take on a role that I choose, contribute by utilizing my best skills and learning alongside my peers. Who knows what I could have learned and how I could have turned out! But alas, we can glance at the past, but we must move forward to ensure our students can learn and grow so they can navigate their future.

Jack Ma said it best during his talks at the recent World Economic Forum. Take a look for yourselves. Have a great week!

YouTube Preview Image

Confessions of a purist

I am a purist when it comes to music education. Let me explain. There are numerous studies of the benefits of music education such as how music lessons make children smarter, or how playing an instrument benefits the brain, etc. So, through my Orff and Kodaly training, that is the approach I take in my lessons. We create music through our voices, our bodies and our instruments. How, then, does technology play a role?

Confession time:

Hi, my name is Kehri, and I need help authentically integrating technology in my elementary music classes. 

I prefaced my approach to teaching music – it is created through our bodies, our voices and our instruments. I believe that developmentally it starts there. Bruner thinks so too. Since this is not a psychology blog, you can read more about him here. The Orff approach (which is the basis of my teaching practice) allows students to create, experience, improvise music in, again, the most organic way which through our bodies, voices and instruments. Where is the research study that suggests that music making VIA TECHNOLOGY also has its benefits? I suppose one could argue that a pencil and paper is technology; but, you all know what I mean. Perhaps I just haven’t found THE THING that combines the best of both worlds.

When I taught MYP, I gave myself a pat on the back for “integrating” technology in music class by using Google Classroom. We would access our classroom with 1:1 Chromebooks and students uploaded their video recordings. These videos were of the students performing on instruments. Google classroom gave us a platform for submitting  assignments and providing feedback and reflection. After discovering the SAMR technology integration framework by Dr. Ruben Puentudura, much of what we were doing was only enhancing and not transforming the lesson. Ugh. I really thought we were making strides. Back to square one.

What am I missing? Perhaps I haven’t scoured the latest apps or programs. As far as I know, there are apps that offer fun games with a “learning element”. Rhythm Cat is a game that reviews and challenges you how to read music notation. GarageBand is an app that allows students to create an excerpt, a short music sample, that combines loops or prerecorded sequences.  It has many more uses, but for now I’ll stick with creating excerpts. But shouldn’t the students KNOW how to create those loops or sequences acoustically? And for those who say that students can compose, there is a web browser based app called Noteflight that does just that. You’re correct. But then again, insert pencil-paper here. Maybe I’m just old school and need to get with the program. Program. See what I did there?

I feel like I’m stuck in the enhancement phase. I’d like to get to the transformation phase. But I just don’t know HOW.

I’m just a girl, sitting in front of a computer, asking all of you, to help her with technology integration in an elementary music setting. 

Open to ALL suggestions.