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!

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!

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?

“…a ripple of change.”

Image via skitterphoto.com

Thanks to FaceTime or video calling via Facebook, I am more connected to family and friends – especially as I am living abroad. I have a friend/mentor from home with whom I like to schedule “Facetime dates” to talk about recent news or drama. Our conversations can be as exciting as, “Guess what happened to so-and-so?!” or “What did you have for dinner last night?” Nevertheless, I am thankful for technology for keeping us connected.

Last week our topic of conversation was of global news. Bombings in Syria, children suffering from starvation in Yemen, the recent California wildfires and so much more. It was too much! As usual I complained of this type of news, and my friend simply replies, “It’s not news. It’s always been there. Now it’s more evident due to the Internet.” Ugh. Thanks a lot, Internet.

As I scroll through my Facebook feed, I occasionally pause at the pages or images entitled “In case you missed it.” Generally, they post positive news. There ARE good people in the world doing good deeds. There are little games, videos or challenges to fill your Facebook with something positive. The post could be as simple as sharing a video compilation of tumbling pandas (It’s great! I promise!)

And then I wondered: How can I take this back to my classroom? How do I introduce the notion of spreading positive vibes or good deeds with my students?

Photo Credit: Danieal Longanetti

Well, to start, I utilised a strategy that my former colleague, Danieal Longanetti (@teach2learn13),  shared during her Seesaw presentation at Mini-Nesa in Doha, Qatar during the spring of 2017. It was a straightforward anchor chart that featured feedback and open-minded comments. Duh! It was so simple, yet an effective way to teach students how to write appropriate feedback and open-minded comments. She introduced this idea to her students while they were working on their Seesaw portfolios and sharing it with other students from different schools. When I started this concept in the comfort of our classroom, I realized just how much one, small, positive comment can affect my young learner’s self-esteem and passion for learning. My students were all afraid and/or embarrassed to share their songs with each other in the class, but then they realized that their peers felt the same way! They all received some sort of positive comment and gave each other suggestions to improve their work. And they wanted to! The students were inspired to improve their songs and to share it again with the group.  The idea became one, small ripple of change that made the biggest impact.

It might start within the music room walls, but soon I hope to “spread the good” in our school and hopefully beyond.  

“It takes but one person, one moment, one conviction to start a ripple of change.” – Donna Brazile

Counting down ‘til winter break! We can do this, Online9!