Monday, February 18, 2013

Pulling a few together into one...

As as teacher it helps to have a website.  There is a lot of information that students and parents need to know or like to know and to prevent phone calls and emails galore, a website is a great resource to have.  HCPSS just started GAfE, which Sam has done a great job commenting and posting on.  In racking my brain about and searching for Web 2.0 sites I use or could use, I didn't want to post something similar to her.  Plus, she covered it all so well.  Instead I use Weebly to create my site.

I have two schools and 240 students between the two of them.  At CMS I have two classes daily, but my 10 additional sectionals rotate on a 4-week schedule.  At PRES I have 16 classes I see twice each week and they rotate on a separate 4-week schedule.  The GAfE calendar is the best way for me to help parents keep track of what is happening.  Just like me, quite a few of my CMS students, and to my knowledge just about all parents at both schools have told me they have imported the Google Calendar into their smart phones.  

Again using Google, I have created many simple forms for my students turn in practice logs, theory homework assignments, and at start of the year PRES students used one to enroll.  Once students/parents have submitted their information, I use the excel sheet that automatically is created to help with my grading.  I enter formulas and "if/than" statements to help me quickly put grades into ASPEN, our HCPSS report card and grade book site.

One of the last features that Weebly allows me to easily post are webpages that house recordings of my students, PDF's of schedules, and music for parents and students to have access to.  The music and recordings can sit on password protected webpages for only students to access.  

The Weebly site uses a WYSIWYG format for users to edit and create webpages.  I can pick different layouts, designs, click and drag elements onto pages.  The site takes care of the HTML and CSS sheets for me.  I am left to enter content and pick out the design elements I want.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Set of flashcards...

The other day made a post about a site called Flashcard Machine.  After initially seeing it and being overwhelmed with how much it could help my kids, I made a set of flashcards for my treble clef students (violinists).  Take a look:

I sent it out to parents of violinists in an email as a suggestion of a way to help their children practice some more.  I didn't expect a flood of emails saying how amazing it was or how much it helped, but I did get an email this afternoon from a parent who said it was a great way for her daughter to study in the long car ride to the ski resort!  They pulled it up on their iPad as they drove to Western Maryland and she study the 8 simple flashcards for 10 minutes and took the quiz feature on my set of cards.  Her daughter, Lizi, said it helped a little bit and could already notice improvement.

I had also not tried the quiz feature on the site, but it pulls up one side of the card and gives a 4 multiple choice options as to the definition.  If they click on a wrong answer, it turns red, and gives them another chance.  At the top the site keeps a score of how well they did getting some pretty quick feedback.  

Youtube addicts...

I have always known, but about a month ago it hit me pretty hard that my middle school students are Youtube addicts.  I guess somewhere in my brain I knew this already.  Everywhere on tv you hear about the latest viral video.  Kids in the hall going to and from classes talk about things they saw.  One day I carved out an hour of my time and decided to see what was on there.  I had been there before to take a look at a link that a friend sends in an email or on Facebook, but I had never invested time there.  To my surprise, I traveled in time that day.  Starting one night watching tv around 9pm I looked up at the clock at what I thought was 30 minutes or so later and it was midnight!

After realizing how addicting it was, I eventually created an account and started creating playlists.  These playlists were for each instrument I teach.  My goal was to find videos of great performances on each instrument.  It was pretty easy to set up.  I have done it twice so far in the past few weeks, but I have a class period where my students and I search Youtube for videos of other ensembles playing the same music we are.  We have found everything from horrible performances to ones that make us look like beginners!  It is a great experience for my students.  Living in a rather small pond of a world, they hardly get to hear other groups of their ability playing the same music.  By the end of class we make a "fix list."  This what each section of the orchestra needs to work on to improve our music.  We discover what to put on this list by critically analyzing our audio recording (done in the previous day's class) and a few other videos on Youtube.  It is not just an eye opening experience to some of my students in terms of how much work they still have to put in, but it shows them that there is another use for Youtube beyond wasting time and having fun.

Right now my channel serves as a place to go for in the event that my students are already on Youtube where they can find great performances on their instrument.  In the future I hope to add more "How-To" type videos for my students to use as a reference tool in learning a specific aspect of their technique.  My use of Youtube is pretty simple for now, but being in a school where every kid has access to the internet and a lab top/smart phone/ or tablet, I hope to find more ways to incorporate it into my program.  Youtube is obviously here to stay in the mainstream of our culture, I just need to find better ways to use it.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Diving into

After using in my class as a teaching tool, I have started using it as a homework and assessment tool.  Students are given an assignment to study, then complete an exercise on the website.  The best feature of is that it keeps track of statistics during the exercises and a progress report allows for the kids to see exactly how well they did.  I ask the students to use the "verification code generator" so that they are able to turn in the code to my Google form.

This weeks homework assignment is explained to them on my Weebly site,  It explains to them what exercise they are expected to complete, shows pictures and step-by-step instruction on how to set it up, and how to get a verification code.  On a separate page is the Google form they must use to turn it in,  Besides turning in their code for me to check their progress report, I added a comment question where they can explain any problems they have related to the content of the assignment (no technology related problems)

So far, I have assigned 4 homework assignments and 1 take home test.  In analyzing their scores, they all get A's or B's.  This isn't the truest reflection of how well they know the material because the site has lessons teaching the material to them.  If they review it or use the lessons as they complete the assignment, they can still achieve high marks.  Knowing this, I assign playing tests in school that allows me to see if they have learned the information and can actually apply it as they perform (which is ultimate test of how well they did on their homework!)

In hearing feedback from students, they seem to like the assignments.  It allows them to succeed at the assignment while relearning the materials on the same site.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Flashcard Machine

One of my greatest struggles as an elementary orchestra teacher is having students read notes fluently.  Music is like all other languages in that the more practice you have, the better you get.  Unfortunately, in today's age of increased academic demand, surge of sports and extracurricular activities, and technology students often don't practice their instrument as much as they really do need.  No matter how creative I make my instruction or fun, catchy sayings to remember notes, nothing beats an old fashion flashcard.

Flashcard Machine is an online website that allows students or teachers to create flashcards.  At its simplest, this site allows a teacher to create digital flashcards and post them for a class to visit and use.  If a student creates a login their teacher can track how often and how long they study them.  A more in depth use allows teachers to add pictures or sound to the cards that otherwise might be challenging or not even possible (for art and music classes).  This is not a groundbreaking, revolutionary Web 2.0 tool, but for me as a music teacher it allows me to create flashcards more easily.  In the past I created flashcards by printing out, cutting, and pasting music notes on the flashcards.  At times students would create them and have them be incorrect because parents would help out and they, as well as the students, don't know how to read music.  By creating them online, I can ensure that they are correct.

An added feature is that there are apps for smart phones and tablets.  This ease of access is one more way students can fit in a few minutes of practicing on the go.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Music Theory

One of the best Web 2.0 tools I have found and use that is music related, is  At first glance it can be just a review or a teaching tool.  Broken down into content specific lessons, it allows me as a teacher to step by step introduce a specific aspect of music theory.  I typically don't teach from this in the classroom, but students can use it as a review resource at home via the Internet or even the smart phone/tablet app.

My favorite part of the website are the exercises.  Students can set-up exercises that will help them practice what we have covered.  The exercises can be tailored to the student's specific needs and involve both their note reading skills and listening ability.  At any point in the exercise, a student can stop and generate a report of their accuracy statistics, time spent on the activity, and a verification code that they can email me.  This code allows me to see the report at home or at school at a later date and time.

I currently use this site every few weeks on "Theory Thursday's," but I am brainstorming ideas on how to use this as a more consistent part of my teaching.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Look, I updated this before next Tuesday's class.

And a pic for you, too.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Here it goes....

my first time blogging.  Be gentle people, I am just starting the learning curve here!  Until I get the hang of it, enjoy the pic of my awesome dog and amazing son!  When you are done admiring them, I just might post something interesting to read about!