Interested in Band Flipcharts for ActivBoard?

April 19, 2007

This is an interactive post. I’m asking my readers to comment if and what they would like to see uploaded in the way of ActivBoard flipcharts for band. As of now, when you visit the promethean site, there are some general music and music reading flipcharts (which are excellent) but I feel there is a need for flipcharts that are geared more for the secondary level.

I’m getting pretty good at designing functional (maybe not pretty…) flipcharts dealing with band ensemble concepts. Please comment about what you feel would be helpful and I’ll get to work on it and upload them to promethean’s site as soon as I can.

If you don’t have an ActivBoard, please comment on subjects that you would like me to blog about- if you had any technology questions or would like me to look at a specific piece of software (web based or otherwise) I’d be glad to do it!

Thank you for reading!


A “Bloggable Moment”: ActiVboard and Jazz Band

April 16, 2007

I am so excited about a lesson that I (literally) just got finished teaching. My second (freshman and sophomore) jazz band was sight-reading and we were having a tough time with some very simple rhythms. The “old school” teacher in my wanted them to count and clap, skill and drill, and LEARN BY ROTE…”This is how it goes, kids”. WE DO THAT ENTIRELY TOO MUCH because it is way too easy. Think about it- do the kids REALLY learn when we count the rhythm for them and then have them say it back to us? The answer is NO, because there is no assessment.

Then I had a thought- I could use my ActivBoard to illustrate the concept that I was trying to teach. Since we are on 90 minute blocks, I instructed my students to “practice” at their seats while I prepared the lesson on the fly. In under 5 minutes I had scanned in my score, saved it to a .pdf, plugged in my laptop to my activboard and brought up the .pdf of the section we were struggling with.

Now for the cool part…

Instead of demonstrating (a la chalkboard or whiteboard) how to write in the counts, I had students volunteer to come up and use the pen to write in “what they know” or what is obvious. One student came up and put a 1 under the first quarter note- I asked him “why”? He said “because it’s at the beginning of the measure and it takes up an entire beat it HAS to be 1”. NOW WE ARE LEARNING AND ASSESSING! Several students came up and filled in the rest of the measure with the notes on the beat. We were having a tough time with notes on the “and” of the beat, SO I framed the lesson this way:

Essential Question: What is seen but not heard in the measure?

The “Hook”: What is the definition of a good child- seen but not heard (story and fun interaction with students- insert here) analogy.

The process: STUDENTS help EACH OTHER identify where the missing counts are (count 4 is seen but not heard because it is a quarter note that starts on the “and” of three) to complete the measures. The rest of the class is “coaching” the student or students that are up at the board.

Assessment: Students count out loud while keeping a steady beat. At the end we either agree that the counts are correct or investigate why it didn’t come out right.

The entire process is STUDENT DRIVEN and I am the “guide on the side”. After the process was complete, we were able to successfully perform the section of music.

This is an example of integrating technology. While it could be done using a traditional whiteboard and an overhead projector, the activboard provides the added dimension of being “endless”. That is you can keep clicking on the right arrow to add pages and never run out AND you can go back to a page in the past (try doing that with a whiteboard!).

It also takes a significant amount of TIME. I devoted 30 minutes to the “interrupted lesson” considering it an investment that would pay dividends later on. Aren’t we all way too focused on the next performance? We sacrifice learning at the for expediency!

After the lesson, I printed out what we had done and gave each student a copy with the assignment to fill in the remaining measures on their own using the concepts in the example. I plan to give them a quiz grade on this the next time I see them. After the students left, I saved the flipchart with the name of the class and the date- now it is a documented lesson plan for the day (in case my principal wants to know what we did on 4/16/07 in block 2- ACCOUNTABILITY).

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Technology to the rescue!! A SmartMusic tale…

April 7, 2007

It was 4:30am as we boarded the bus for State Jazz/Solo and Ensemble festival. Bleary-eyed, I asked my students for the last time if they had forgotten anything…little realizing the horror that awaited me…

As we entered “alligator alley” the east-west connection in south Florida between Naples and Ft. Lauderdale- it came to me. Remenicent of the scene in “Home Alone” I realized that I had forgotten to take the computer and speakers for SmartMusic, which was providing the piano accompaniment for my most advanced soloists. I panicked as I raced through my options- turn back? NO WAY! Have my administrators bring it down to me? (ha!). I had to think fast.

AHA!!! several of my students had brought their laptops with them (mostly to watch movies that they had ripped to mp4 format). After a quick consultation, the students suggested the machine that would best meet the need- decent processor speed and a good sound card. After we arrived in Miami, I located the front office of the school and asked if they had wireless. To my chagrin, the IT specialist said that the network was “locked down” and that they would have to approve the computer’s MAC address….snore….yada….yada…

He said that he simply did not know how to help me. So I asked if he had a problem with me using the internet, but not his network “No” was the answer- and before he could get the “o” finished, I was unplugging the ethernet cable from the nearest desktop machine and plugging it into my student’s laptop. From there, my bright and capable student had the “honor” of babysitting the 30-min. 1/2 gig file download that is smartmusic after I had logged into the makemusic site.

When the download was complete, I authorized the software with one of my subscriptions from school (linked to my school email) and voila! I had smartmusic! 15 minutes and the loan of the band director’s really nice klipch media speakers later, my students were earning superior ratings on their grade 5 solos (bassoon and flute). Granted, they had to follow the program rather than vice-versa because I didn’t have a foot pedal or microphone (I stood by and hit the spacebar when the music required the foot pedal), but they got to perform.

The moral of the story: This would NOT have been possible even three years ago…those students would have suffered because of my mistake and not received their educational experience at the highest level of FBA (florida bandmaster’s association). They would have been disqualified because of me…what a truly exciting time we are heading for in the near future!

As a side note, the executive director of FBA just stood by shaking his head wondering what I was doing. He is a retired band director who is an excellent executive director for our organization and keeps us here in Florida among the finest in the country as far as high standards, but he had no clue what I was doing. Perhaps when I am his age, I will look with wonder and astonishment at my students establishing a neural link with the internet (or whatever it will be called in 2025) receiving the program in a computer no bigger than a button on their shirt…

As always I welcome your comments- have you had an similar experience? (it was a first for me).