Friday, November 14, 2008

Tech Ideas for Elementary Music

The invitation was pure gold; the elementary music department asked for an hour of my time on the inservice day, to teach them about new technologies that they could use in their instruction. What tech coordinator would turn down an opportunity to work with the willing?

I really struggled with the agenda. It wasn't a how-to session, but I knew that getting them actively involved would be more engaging and more powerful. However I only had an hour before they had to rush off campus for an inservice in Little India.

I was tempted to show them Animoto, but it is so slow that I had to give up that idea. I also decided to steer away from good music websites since they are skilled at finding those on their own.

I started the inservice telling the music teachers, that I knew lots of tech tools that could enhance their curriculum, but I didn't know how to teach music. It was up to them to find ways to make use of these tools as they saw fit. To my delight, they did that all hour. In the end, here was my agenda. In green I'll give a quick explanation of what was discussed.

When to use tech

  • Tech As Problem Solver: work more effectively, efficiently

  • Tech As Enhancer, do things not possible without it, take lessons to next level, collaborate

Our school has Blackboard. You may have used it or something like it if you have taken an online course that required you to take part in asynchronous discussions. All our classes are automatically set up in Blackboard, thanks to a script that runs to pull data from Powerschool.
  • Discussion Boards: Allow for discussions to continue outside of class. Allow you to hear from every student. Often children who don't talk much in class are very willing participants in written
  • Voiceboards: Like discussion board forums but with sound! Teacher can upload music. Students can record themselves talking, singing, playing an instrument. Student posts can be listened to by entire class or made private so only the teacher can hear them. Already in regular use by high school language classes, the elementary music teachers saw many ways they could make use the voice boards, especially with their grade five instrumental students.


I discovered that the link you see when you have found a thread by searching, does not get you back to that thread later, so the links below may not work for you.


  • Wikis in Plain English:
  • Parent wiki: A parent has set up a wiki to make it easy for parents to sign up to bring the snacks to the boys varsity basketball games. She used Wikispaces and did not protect it with a password, so it is possible, but not likely that someone could maliciously edit it. Other than one parent accidentally adding extra cells.
  • Class wiki: http://mrcarroll.wetpaint.compage/Any+Words+of+Wisdom+for+the+New+Class%3F
  • Conference wiki: This password protected wiki is something we might use to facilitate parents signing up for optional spring conferences with specialist teachers. The music teachers cheered and immediately and saw ways to extend its usefulness.

You Tube
We didn't have time to discuss YouTube. I wanted to show them how it can be used for finding clips of ethnic music to support the diversity aspects of their curriculum. Can also find examples of instruments and their sounds, and other useful clips. If they view in Internet Explorer, the RealPlayer plugin will download the clip to their RealPlayer library so that their lesson is not sabotaged if our internet is slow or not working.

Voice Recorders

Like a thumb drive, these stick MP3 recorders are highly portable. They could be used to record a guest lecturer, to record ensembles, to let the class hear how their performance pieces are sounding.

Flip Video Camera

  • One of my music teachers has been using the Flip video camera to record voice students. For example, possibly she signs along with the student and then they burn that clip to a CD so the student can practice with it at home.
  • Another use was to have each stings player go to another room to record their performance piece. That allowed her to observe it outside of class, share the video with parents at conference time and offer suggestions for how to help the child improve their playing.

    This session flew by. The teachers were great fun, enthusiastically trying out and discussing uses for each tool. An added bonus was that instead of preparing a Powerpoint presentation, I created the agenda in their shared department One Note notebook. They were happy to see they could go back later and explore the links I'd used, such as Wikis in Plain English again on their own.

    What did I miss? If they invite me back, what other hardware and software tools should I show them? They already use
    Music Ace, Groovy Music, Finale Notepad. They already have iPods on which they create playlists for their lessons. They already have data projectors and wireless mouse and keyboard sets. What other tools would positively impact student learning?