April 22, 2008
Teaching with technology can be very rewarding. Having the students collaborate and utilize technology to deepen and expand their knowledge is at the very epicenter of education philosophy these days. Unfortunately, it also requires a heightened level of classroom management. Not so much the behavior kind, although there certainly are a different set of expectations for what is acceptable behavior when students collaborate- it is more the materials management that must be worked out carefully.
Today was a typical day in my alternative music class- students working on independent and collaborative projects with myself as their “host and guide” for the process. It is my policy that all electronics are signed out at the beginning of class. After the initial wave of handing out PocketPods, hooking up electronic drums to the keyboard lab, etc. I gave the “last call” for anyone else who needed materials. Hearing none (going once…going twice…) I began working with groups on their projects. Then it happened. The “stragglers”. The slow, random procession of students who didn’t pay attention the first time and now realize that they need something!
As educators, we need to ensure that the short time we have with our students is concentrated on instruction. In my case, I tie a portion of their grade to their ability to handle materials wisely and efficiently. Anything that has to be done as far as distribution of equipment, assembly or connections, etc. should be handled before class if at all possible- or at the very least it should occur very early in the class period utilizing a set procedure each and every time (it becomes part of the class expectations). If this is not done, in short order the class will come to a grinding halt while you “put out fires”.
Back to my student “stragglers”. After asking them to repeat what the classroom procedure is regarding equipment, I asked “where were you when I asked if anyone needed anything else?” The response? The classic shrug of the shoulders and an almost unintelligible “I dunno”. Nevertheless, the expectation was that I drop what I was doing and take care of their needs. Rather than halt all learning and switch to “caretaker mode” I had that student join in what we were doing until I was finished, then had him follow me around the room as I made my way to the equipment cabinet (helping several other groups along the way). The bottom line is: Plan, organize, explain, demonstrate, practice procedures. Then be prepared for “I dunno”.
April 11, 2008
I’ll admit it- I’m a Mac guy. Yeah, look at my picture and I look more like the PC guy in the commercial, but trust me, if you are doing music technology- there are so many reasons to use a mac. In our alternative music class we have begun our next project which involves doing a cover of a song or composing one of your own (it’s much deeper than that, but for the purposes of this post I’ll leave it at that) I have the Korg PadKontrol plugged into a HP dual-core laptop and running SampleTankXL 2.1. You can see a video of my students using the PadKontrol in the video widget in the right sidebar.
They were really going along fine, then they ran into a frustration- the loops that they were triggering were “hiccuping” intermittently. They spent about 30min. troubleshooting before they came and got me. I had my cell phone handy, so I asked another student to video. I worked on it for another 30min. and came to the conclusion that it was the sound card! How did I find that out? I decided to run the same project on my PowerBook G4 and what do you know, it worked flawlessly!
That was one whole hour of time wasted that those students could have been creating and working, but for a cheap sound card- stopped them dead in their tracks! I won’t even get into how much more difficult it was to install drivers for the PadKontrol on the PC (Windows XP)! The moral of the story is that you get what you pay for. The HP computer they are working on in the video is just fine for internet and other basic tasks. It also does fairly well with video and is a reasonably fast machine (processor) but the sound card is CHEAP, therefore NOISY and very unpleasant to work with. My older Mac however has a very fine sound output, and while it is slower than the XP machine (quite a bit actually) it is still my machine of choice (until I can get a new MacBook Pro like they have been promising me!)
Beware- just because your school tech person says that it is a fine machine that should do what you want it to, and the district loves it because it is such a “value”- do your research!! What might seem like a bargain at first could end up to be a headache.
April 9, 2008
Dr. Joe Pisano over at MusTech.net and I have begun a campaign to have 100 music education bloggers by 2009- come join the conversation and help further the cause of music education globally!
If you didn’t know you can start your very own blog completely FREE. You can go to www.blogger.com (which is run by google) or www.wordpress.com and you can set your own blog up on their sites with no cost at all.
Here is the list so far that Joseph has compiled – there are some great blogs in here full of really interesting and relvant information – so check them out!
Dr. Joseph M. Pisano- MusTech.net
Owen Bradley -The Digital Music Educator
Evan Tobias- Catalysts & Connections
Espie Estrella -About Music Education
Dr. James Frankel- Music Technology in Education
Dr. Miikka Salavuo- Music Education, Technology & Social Media
Pete Whitfield- e-Learning for Music
Chad Criswell- Music Ed. Magic
Dr. Jonathan Savage- Jonathan Savage
V. Keith Mason- Music Tech. for Me.
Travis J. Weller- Composing Like Mad
Ken Pendergrass- Music is Not for Insects
Joel- So You Want to Teach
Steve Engel- Music Ed. Lounge
Linda Granite- Bb, F#
Jason Heath- Double Bass Blog
Robert Brannan- The Music is Free
Deborah Valdivia-Zwolinski- DVZ’s Mix
Kyle Gardner- Choir Teachers
Paul Draper- Draper’s Blogspot
John Wilborn- John Wilborn’s Weblog
Leo Park- I Know…I Think
Stan Haskins- Glued to the String
Edgar Groves- Edgar Groves’ Weblog
Barbara Freedman- Music Ed. Tech.
Dr. Tom Rudolph- Make the Most of Notation Software
Dale Lewis- Teaching the “Wire Choir”
Dr. Kevin Andry-Dr. Andry’s Band Blog
Steffany Perham- Perham’s Prattlings
Alex Ruthmann- Alex Ruthmann’s Blog
Carol Broos- Be A Techie:)
Geejay Arrioloa and Jeffrey Langlois -Music Anthology
Michael Compton -Southern Iowa Music Education Network
Eric Wright- QACHS’s Band Blog
Jonathan Filbert -Sound On ~Music and Music Education
Alison Hulihan- Marching Music