Digication campus and the extended music classroom

November 10, 2006

I was listening to my podcasts today and came across an excellent resource that was being discussed by The TechTeacher‘s (Brad Neason) podcast called Digication Campus. Digication Campus and it’s sister program Digication Spotlight is virtual classroom software (open source, of course!) along the lines of BlackBoard and Moodle. The biggest advantage is that it is both FREE and they host your content on their servers (unlike Moodle which you need to host on your own server). AND AS A BONUS IT IS EXTREMELY EASY TO USE!
What got me so excited about this topic was my frustration with scheduling- I have several students that did not have room in their schedule for marching band (read Drum Corps- but that is another story) and since our after school rehearsals are now over it is extremely difficult to get information to them about upcoming events. Enter Digication Campus! I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, but this would be an excellent way for them to keep in touch with what is going on- I could post topics, a calendar, new music (pdf files) all in a secure area where only my students can access it! With the threaded discussion feature, they can also comment on what is going on and give feedback, ask questions, etc.

I also thought it would be a great recruting tool with the middle school- 8th graders could enroll in the class and have access to all the pertinent information as well as any music that we are currently working on. I think that this concept for students in conjunction with a yahoo or google group for the parents (for newsletters, emails, and events) is just the “bridge” I have been looking for…BUT I must keep in mind the “digital divide” that still exists- there are a significant number of my students and parents who use the computer for little else other than e-mail and word processing. Those are the ones that prefer a phone call or letter in the mail- can’t forget that that legacy is still there- we can’t go totally digital or we risk losing some communication!


Video Gaming and the music program- Dance Dance Revolution

November 5, 2006

As I was coming into school the other day, one of my students met me at the door all excited to show me something on his computer. He made sure he was there really early and was absolutely beside himself. What he had queued up on his laptop literally stopped me in my tracks.

As I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, he proudly displayed is Dance Dance Revolution (a very popular video game these days) version of our marching band opener! Complete with an animated dancer and the ubiquitous dance moves HE created, it was choreographed beautifully to our music.

All I could say was “Amazing!”. Note to self: Never underestimate my students- because the next words out of his mouth were even more amazing…

“Mr. B- this would be a great way to train students to play rhythms! We could put our music in and have them practice hitting the moves exactly in time!”. Brilliant. What a way to engage students and teach the concept of steady beat and beat subdivision!

The site he was using was a FREE resource called StepMania. At their site you can download the free software and the translators to put any mp3 file into the game. I see a whole bunch of laptops with this on it in the future for my beginners!

On a related note and to show that I’m not all that backward thinking- I had already toyed with the idea of using “guitar hero” as a reward in our guitar class for those students patient enough to learn the lessons and traditional notation (they of course think that tab is the only way music is written…)