Tech Frustrations…and Successes

I’m having a great time in my music classes using the Smartboard, and the students are as well. Much of my planning and learning time this school year has been spent experimenting with the Notebook software, looking for  resources previously created by other music teachers, and creating my own files.

Through another teacher in my school district, I learned about Blossom Learning and have been using the online course to familiarize myself with the SMART technology. It’s been extremely helpful. I’m also reminded every day to listen to my students for suggestions! My elementary level students have given me extremely valuable Smartboard tips and ideas.

I follow several wonderful educators on twitter and read their blogs. My Google Reader helps me stay up to date with them. Push Notifications on my iPhone also informs me when any of them publish a new post. Here’s a screenshot of my list of blogs.

Maybe not. I’m trying to post a screenshot of some kind using Evernote here. It’s not working!!!! That’s my frustration. Am I using the right tool??? Probably not. So my blog post remains unfinished.

Just a few minutes ago I tried to follow the example I’ve seen from Mrs. Muench and write a protected blog post where students could access the music for our musical. I couldn’t get the music to upload from my iTunes library!!!! Do I have to change the file type? Probably. I don’t remember how!

I get so many great ideas from other educators online. Often my efforts end like I’ve just described.

I’ve also been thinking about an efficient way to share resources. I spent about an hour and a half this morning watching online training videos for PB wikis. I understand the concepts of why they are great tools, but I haven’t put one together successfully yet. For instance, my available time this morning is gone. I’m feeling the pressures of getting the laundry done, running errands for my family, and other responsibilities looming after a morning sitting at the computer.

Have I mentioned grades are due next week? I also have to finish my lesson plans.

I’m frustrated.

However, there have been successes! I’ve been using Google Docs and Dropbox to create and share lesson plans, store Smartboard files, and many other types of documents. I’m becoming more efficient in those areas.

Students in my classes LOVE using the Smartboard in music! Just the other day, a class of 3rd graders were “ooohing” and “ahhing” in concert as we used some of the tools. Their engagement was SO satisfying.

Several months ago I posted on twitter about my new Smartboard. A twitter friend replied that it would “transform” my teaching. At the time, I wondered how. Now I know! Because of budget cuts, I was assigned an additional school this year. I only have one computer in that room: no Smartboard. I’m finding that I’m preparing many more paper manipulatives and having students come to the regular whiteboard much more frequently than I ever did prior to the Smartboard installation at the other school. My teaching IS in the process of being transformed!

I’m going to try one more time to include a screenshot of the educators I’m learning from before I carry on with my family responsibilities, grades, and lesson plans….

There! After googling the directions and reviewing how to do so on the Mac, I was successful with the screenshots. However, there are no direct links in the above pictures. That’s a project for another day! I should have started with the “how-to” search first. What can I say. I’m still in the process of learning!


A New Smartboard

I’ve decided to make “learning to teach with a Smartboard from the perspective a tech newbie” a main topic this year. Each step of the way has taken more time than I would have liked, but the Smartboard is now in my room, computer set up, with only the installation of the software as the last step…I hope!

I applied for a grant from my school district a year ago last spring, but didn’t receive it. Then about half way through the school year (last winter) I learned that the school PTA would provide one for the music room as well as another room in the building. The box arrived sometime in the spring, and I was so excited that I took a picture!

With the beginning of the school year starting, the equipment is now mounted on the wall where students can enjoy interacting. When I walked into the music room two weeks ago, I planned to get somewhat comfortable with the technology before school starts on the 23rd. However, this “techie” had problems throughout the week getting the phone, network, computer lines hooked up correctly. As of this morning, I understand  the wires are connected and the Smartboard is ready to use. Well, almost. I still have to install the software onto my computer. With the slowness of this whole process, I certainly hope I’m able to get that step to go smoothly!

I thought the world of technology  was moving extremely rapidly?! So far, the process, for me, is inching along. The good news is the students in my classes will be familiar with Smartboard technology from their regular classroom. I have a feeling they’ll be teaching me a lot this year!

Recorder Fingering Charts

As I was setting up my classroom, I realized again that I want to replace my recorder fingering charts. As I looked online in what little time I had last night, I didn’t immediately find any free charts in the size I wanted. I’m including a link to the files I created last night. If anyone would like to use them, feel free! I’m not completely happy with the treble clef clip art I used, so eventually I’ll change it. In the meantime, these are what I have.

Treble Clef A

Treble Clef B

Treble Clef Bb

Treble Clef E

Treble Clef F

Treble Clef F#

Treble Clef G

Treble Clef High C

Treble Clef High D

Treble Clef Low C

Treble Clef Low D

I used dropbox to save and share the files.

I hope everyone has a great start to the school year!

Learning a Few Techie Things

Summer is a great time to add techie skills. I’m able to take the extra minutes to figure out processes and how to apply them. One thing I’ve often seen used, but never took the time to learn how to do, is screenshots of a computer screen. Just a few minutes ago, I took my first screenshot after googling the topic. I’ve seen screenshots in blogposts, and just tried to paste it here from Evernote. Since that was unsuccessful, I’ll try putting the screenshot on my desktop first.

That worked. Sometimes I just need those few extra minutes to figure out how to use technology. I don’t always have those extra minutes during the school year.

One of the most helpful tools I’ve discovered in recent months is the App Push Reader for my iPhone. It allows me to select sites from my Google Reader and receive push notifications when those sites are updated. I’ve had RSS feeds in a Google Reader for a couple of years, but I rarely remembered to check it. Now the push notifications remember for me!

I have several great music and regular educator’s sites in the list as well as a couple of tech blogs included. Just last week, I discovered through one of the feeds (or possibly a tweet?) Jane’s Pick of the Day. Jane Hart is a Learning & Performance Consultant, and founder of the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies. Every day she features an item of (e-)learning interest. Since receiving push notifications from her site, I’ve discovered several tools I can use to become a more effective teacher.

One of those sites is Aviary.

I sent a request for an account this morning and used the priority code listed on Jane Hart’s site. Hopefully, I’ll have one soon.

One item that continues to frustrate me is getting my school e-mail account on my iPhone. After trying several times unsuccessfully today and yesterday, I think it’s time to contact the school’s tech department!


Yesterday, I was thinking a lot about my professional development for this summer. I posted a few comments @mrsbrownmusic  throughout the afternoon and caught up on some of the people I follow. Being on twitter reminded me of the #musedchat that happens Monday evenings at 8:00 EST.

As I joined the #musedchat about professional development for teachers over the summer, @jimfrankel of @SoundTree prop0sed an idea I hadn’t considered in the past.

@jimfrankel said: “Ideal World – compose music. EVERY teacher should. Makes it much easier to get your students composing when you do.” #musedchat about 16 hours ago via TweetDeck

Me? Compose? I’ve composed the requisite 8 measure phrases (maybe 16?) as a part of college music theory classes 20 years ago. I’ve also arranged music in both undergrad and graduate studies. I came to the realization with that tweet that if I teach my students composition, I need to compose myself: real, creative composing. It’s completely out of my comfort zone.

I decided right after the chat that if I was ever going to get started, I needed to do so right away. This summer is a perfect time! I signed into my @noteflight account and got started. About an hour and a half or so later, I’d come up with the following. It’s a start!

Hawks Win!!

When I heard the radio this morning reminding me of the Blackhawks victory last night, I thought of a nine-year-old girl I was able to greet every morning last school year. She’s a BIG hockey fan and often had comments about her team or the Blackhawks game the night before. I don’t know for certain, but I have a feeling those few moments of conversation helped her enjoy and participate more in my music class than she might have otherwise.

Who knew that hockey would help me teach music!

Do traditional ideas fit in a techie world?

How does the old fit in with the new? Does it? As a techie wanna be, the question for me is also, “How do I incorporate the good ideas from the past with new technology?”

I’ve heard ideas recently on Twitter (follow me if you’d like: @mrsbrownmusic) and at conferences about teaching music in a “new” way. Sometimes it makes perfect sense and other times I’m not sure. I’ve taught music for a total of over 16 years, general music, band, and even choir during my first three years.  Two years ago, I earned my Orff Level 1 certification. It transformed my teaching. Now I’m trying to figure out how to incorporate those ideas using Web 2.0 technology. I’m overwhelmed! Technology is moving so fast, and I’m behind the times. However, that’s not an excuse for me. I have to keep working at it.

I want to be careful not to forget that I teach music first. I want my students to become the best musicians they can, at whatever level they are capable. I’m using recorders (the old fashioned kind) in grades third through fifth grades at my current elementary job. Students learn the basic concepts of phrasing and good tone production. Third grade and the beginning of fourth grade sound pretty scary, but beginning band and orchestra do too! Does that mean I should scrap the recorders? I don’t think so? The recorder is still a good beginning for students to learn left-hand on top, eye-hand coordination, basic notation, and musicianship. Will they all continue in band and orchestra? Absolutely not. However, I still find the recorders useful in teaching musical concepts at the elementary level.

I also use Orff instruments and some Kodaly methodology (although I’m not Kodaly certified). As I’ve written in previous posts, I’m learning how to use those methods in teaching audiation, musical organization, notation, etc. Then I heard the idea recently that notation isn’t as important as we’ve made it out to be. What do music educators mean by that statement? How does the idea fit? Does it?

As you can probably tell by now, this post isn’t about giving answers. It’s about asking questions. My questions come from the basic idea that new technology is a tool, just like the Orff instruments are a tool for teaching children musical ideas and skills. What are your answers to these questions? Please share. I want to learn from you!