“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?

“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!