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?)

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.'”

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRG2Bf-me6k[/youtube]

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!

It’s all fun and games until. . . Course 1 Final Project

Introduction

I wanted to build upon a prior unit and focus on the process of creating a musical game by incorporating technology in the classroom. In this unit, the summative assessment task is the creation of an original musical game; however, the learning experiences leading up to it include collaboration, reflection and feedback via Google Classroom in order to introduce the concepts of “geeking out” and networks. Although it’s written in the PYP format, the unit plan shares the same principles and outcomes as UbD (Understanding by Design).

Assessment Task (using RAFTS)

You are the music teacher at Qatar Academy Al Wakra. Create an original game for your lower elementary students. Your game must include a title, form (rules of the game), skills, responsibilities and at least two musical elements of your choice. Be prepared to teach your game to the class in four week’s time. Good luck!

Technology Integration
  1.  Google Classroom will be used as a platform to provide resources (videos of games played in class and videos of children playing games from around the world).
  2. Google Classroom will be used for peer evaluation, reflection and teacher assessment. Not only will the students provide constructive feedback to each other in their own class, but to OTHER classes in the school as well . That will amount to SIXTY other students with whom they can collaborate with and enjoy each other’s games.
Reflection

I chose this particular unit because it was a UOI that my students truly enjoyed. However, I wanted to take it to the next level. I was intrigued about the concepts of “geeking out” and networking after reading about their positive impact on student learning. In my previous post, Geeking Out: A Beginner’s Guide, I was toying around with the idea of introducing  the concepts in a structured way.  The students will collaborate with each other in class, but my hope is to extend the collaboration to other students as well.  Due to my school’s class structure, the classes, for the most part, stay together. There are limited opportunities for students to work with other students in the same grade. Implementing Google Classroom will break down the classroom walls and offer a wider range of perspectives. The musical games unit will, hopefully, be enhanced by the support of Google Classroom due to its collaborating and networking capabilities.

Unit of Inquiry: Music Games