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

Image via Pexels (Teono123 No)

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.

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?


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!


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.