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!

“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?