Running my Marching Band rehearsal with Bluetooth!

September 16, 2007

It had to happen…Bluetooth meets Marching Band!  Over the summer, I went a little gadget crazy and purchased a Motorola DC800 stereo bluetooth gateway and a NaviPlay stereo bluetooth adapter.  When you clicked on the links, you probably said “Why on earth did you spend $300 on those contraptions to beat up on the marching field?” Here’s the thing- I spent a grand total of $60 for BOTH!

I have been keeping my eye on them ever since they made their debut in Radio Shack last year (at full price).  Being a technology realist (no, really…) I knew that the world of bluetooth was still at least a generation away from making it to the mainstream.  After all, look around and all you see are those little bluetooth earpieces- hardly scratching the surface of it’s potential.  With the advent of the A2DP stereo bluetooth profile, there are a whole host of great handsfree stereo options on the way.

Now for the application:

I use the setup to “run” my marching band rehearsal (actually, we have a drum and bugle corps…but that’s a long story…).  When we have learned a section of drill, I take out my ipod and click the song we are working on- either the “pro” demo recording or a recording of my group playing and voila!  We are marching to the beat of a different drummer!  Since the unit works up to a 30 foot radius (actually it’s more- I haven’t found the limit yet) I can be up on my tower broadcasting to the portable PA on the 50 yard line.

Some of you may be saying “I can do the same thing with a really long patch cord for a fraction of the price!” yes, but then I wouldn’t be the Digital Music Educator!  Besides, who wants to have a student trip over your wire?

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Technology Fear Factor in Education- Truer words were never spoken!

September 6, 2007

During my frantic, choke-it-down “lunch” today at school (I had just re-arranged my room for the 3rd time) I came across this video on teacher tube. I have been talking with my colleagues for weeks now about the dichotomy in educational philosophy regarding the use of technology.

It seems that the hot new trend is to integrate technology in the classroom (yay!), however the school districts block nearly all of the tools that we are shown. Instead, we are to use the “approved” tools that they have bought (at considerable expense) even though they may be harder to use and more limited. To be fair, I understand the HUGE legal issue we are facing. As an extension of our teaching responsibilities for keeping our students safe, we are now expected to do that for cyberspace as well. Things could potentially go horribly wrong if we are not careful.

To that end, I submit that we focus on creating a culture where we teach how to use technology appropriately. Let’s face it- a sharpened pencil is a potential weapon to a young student unless they are taught that its expected acceptable use is to write with. Isn’t it the same with blogs, podcasts, wikis and the like? Rather than spending millions of dollars on professional development and software subscriptions- why not let our passions and interests drive the change and allow our professional responsibility to naturally extend to the new frontier?

Vodpod videos no longer available.

ActivBoard in the Bandroom: Arranging and Rhythm Decoding

September 2, 2007

At the end of last school year I did a lesson “on the fly” with my ActivBoard when I realized that the music we were working on needed to be re-written so the mellophones had the melody that was written in the alto sax part. Using the board, I quickly wrote out the part. Of course, you can do that on a regular white board, but the great thing about doing it on the ActivBoard was that at the end of the lesson I printed out the new part for my students so they could practice. I also saved the flipcharts I did as my lesson plan for the day (created a file on my computer with the name of the class, the date, and what we were studying). Now if the principal asked me what I taught that day, I could show him.

I had one of my students take video with my cell phone, which I then transferred to my computer and uploaded to VodPod, an online video hosting social network. Thanks to the great features in WordPress, I can share those videos with you- just click on the videos located in the sidebar (and please don’t judge me too harshly on my teaching method!) I was very nervous putting this raw footage on the internet- I guess deep down we all have our insecurities about others watching us teach!

Oh yes- another thing that took so long for this post was getting permission from my school district and working through the legal ramifications. That is a subject for another post, perhaps on about how we are going to come to grips with the legal issues of a free and open classroom.