Remembering How Lucky We Truly Are…

logofgI spent four hours yesterday at The University of Michigan Center for Vocal Health. For the last 5 years or so I have been having trouble with hoarseness and loss of range due to overuse in the classroom setting. I finally waved the white flag and just decided to have it checked out.

I met with the surgeon first, then the Voice Specialist and finally the Speech Pathologist, all specializing in teaching and singing. When I entered the room with the Voice Specialist, an instructor of voice at The University of Michigan School of Music, she asked me about my typical daily schedule. I explained that I had all 530+ students in our school for 80 minutes a week, plus 76 fifth graders for 80 minutes a week for band. She thought it was amazing that we had that kind of a program!

I then told her of our Elementary Honors Choir, which had 120 students in fourth, fifth and sixth grades. We have 8 music educators who work with this group every week for 8 weeks leading up to our Vocal Arts Concert. She asked me if this was a public school and, when I told her yes, she said she was elated that a program of this caliber still existed in the state. She told me that it made her heart happy to know that our students were receiving the music education that we know is so important to their personal growth and development.

We sometimes forget how good we actually have it. In a world of budget cuts, increasing state expectations for math, science, language arts and foreign languages, and music programs being pulled from schools, we have a true “diamond in the rough” in our district with wonderful educators and supportive staff and administrators.   I need to remember to sit back and appreciate that every once in a while, and revel in the program that we love so much!

Vimeo, PodOMatic and iTunes

Last night, I was in the mood to be “geeky” so I decided (and I use that word very loosely!) to set up a Vimeo account to upload our videos to. I then added a widget to our school website and I am very excited to see the students be able to watch themselves! I know they’ll enjoy it and we will be able to use it for evaluation purposes.
For the last year or so I have been uploading class “podcasts” to our website and just posting them as audio files. Yesterday I chose to open a podOmatic account and sync it to the iTunes store. I am very excited for our parents to be able to subscribe and listen to samples of what we have been doing in class. The 5th graders also seem pretty excited about it – they are the only ones I’ve told so far. I’m concerned that there won’t be enough room in the free version.

Does anyone use podOmatic for the classroom? Free version/Pro version? How many podcasts are you able to upload monthly before you run out of room? Do you ever need to delete any? Thanks in advance for any help you can give!!!!

Using Wordle as a Senior Remembrance

As a music teacher, I have had a tough time trying to figure out where to incorporate Wordle into my classroom.  In the elementary class it would be great to import song lyrics in to decipher meanings.  In the high school level it could be used for the same, but I had a fun idea for this year’s Senior Class and I think they enjoyed it (although probably not as much as I enjoyed making them!).

Our final exams in the vocal music classroom are really more of a self-evaluation and reflection of the past year.  The final question is always “What have you personally gained, musically and non-musically, from being a part of a vocal music class this year?”  Students reply with wonderful essays and we ask that they sign a release at the bottom so their essays could be used for justification of how our program helps students – if it were to ever come to that.

Our final exams were created in a Google Doc (click to view the exam) form this year (much easier to grade AND administer this way!) and they were taken in the computer lab.  I dragged our electric piano into the lab and played intervals for ear training and they completed the rest of the exam when they were through with intervals.

What have you personally gained, musically and non-musically, from being a part of a vocal music class this year?

When the Seniors completed their exams, I took this final essay question answer from each individual student, copied it into the Wordle template and just let it randomly choose colors and formats for me.  I printed the document to a PDF file (using CutePDF – a free PDF writing download) and printed them on colored paper.  We presented the Wordle (an individualized one for each Senior) to them with their Paper Plate awards on the Seniors’ last day of school.  They really liked them and my co-director and I had fun using the Wordles to quickly assess the key attributes each student felt they took away from this class.

Poetry Slam!

For the last two years or so, one of our 4th grade teachers has worked with our students to create a Poetry Slam.  He works with them during recess and gets them prepared for two rounds: preliminary and finals (Top Ten).  Today was the third “somewhat annual” Poetry Slam at Ashley Elementary and the kids were fantastic.  Our Slam included 20 students from 4th and 5th grades.  You can listen to the preliminary round by clicking here.

Technology in the Music Education Classroom – Resource

In one of my previous posts I spoke about the ridiculous amount of podcasts I have been downloading lately.  One of them is a group of podcasts from presentations that Amy M. Burns has done at different MENC/TI:ME conventions.  In the presentation she gave on technology in the elementary classroom she introduced her book and a few lessons from it.

I purchased this book from SoundTree as soon as I could get my hands on it and all I can say is “WOW!”  It is an absolutely amazing resource.  There are dozens of plans (all in a wonderful lesson plan format) for all different technology skill levels and student grade levels.  I have created lesson plans for every grade level for the next year and cannot wait to use them.  They can be used from Pre-K through high school and many can be adapted for grades other than what they are specified for.

I highly suggest picking up a copy of this book.  If you order it from SoundTree it will be a discounted $16.95 rate, and right now they are offering free ground shipping if you order with a credit card and live in the Continental US.  It’s practically a steal for dozens of lessons your students will LOVE (and ones that won’t take a ton of time to plan for you!)

Camp PBWorks

So, like all educators (or at least most that I know) I have decided to take the summer for Professional Development.  I have enrolled myself in a few webinars and such, but the one I am most excited about is the PBWorks Summer Camp.

The “Camp” consists of 5 weeks of webinars which take place on Tuesday afternoons from 1-2pm (EST) and then some homework that will take approximately 3-4 hours throughout the week.  I’m pretty sure that is dependent on skill level (either that or I am doing it wrong!)

This afternoon was the first webinar and I did hit some trouble signing in.  Luckily, a Twitter colleague McTeach helped me out by sending me the audio code so I could at least call in.  I’ll have to figure out what the issue was before next week’s webinar.  The audio-only call made it a little difficult to follow, but from what I understood it was a little difficult to follow anyway.  They talk really fast!!!  I have completed the homework and am ready for week 2.

I am really into the Wiki idea because I think it’s great that the students can contribute.  I’m still a little fuzzy on the bonus to either a class Wiki or a class Blog.  Our district will be subscribing to Edublogs Campus edition next year, and I’ve already been using Edublogs for a year for both my elementary and high school groups.  The ISD blocks all Wikis and, although I put in a site request to have them unblocked, there is no guarantee that may happen.

Do you have this problem at your school/district and, if so, do you have any tips for me?  Also, do you see Wikis or Blogs to be more user-friendly for the students and useful in the classroom?

Podcasts for Music Education

I have become a podcast junkie as of late, getting my hands on anything I possibly can relating to either technology in music education, administration (principalship) or leadership.  While conversing on Twitter the other day, 7th_tone thanked me for retweeting a music education tweet by Dr. Frankel from the MENC 2009 Convention podcasting the Opening Plenary Address on his blog.  I realized how fortunate we are to have such a wonderful resource in our colleagues and the podcasts they create for us.  I have compiled a list of my favorites (in alphabetical order by my iTunes library), please comment and add yours!

1.  Academic Superstore’s Music Education Resources: This fantastic website creates short podcasts based on new technology and programs that are appropriate to the music classroom.

2.  Amy M. Burns: From Music Education/Music Technology Blog, Amy has been a general music teacher for the last 12 years and is the President-Elect of TI:ME.  She shares her resources, presentations and classroom accomplishments via her podcasts.  You can learn SO much about technology and what students can do, it is definitely worth a listen!

3.  Dr. Frankel’s Podcast Page: The Managing Director for SoundTree and a former middle school instrumental and general music teacher, Dr. Frankel shares technology lessons and products from his classroom as well as presentations and clinics and conferences.

4.  EdTech Musician Podcast: Twin brothers Todd and Andy discuss all things music, education and technology.

5.  Music K-8 Music Sampler Podcast: If you don’t subscribe to the Music K8 magazines you absolutely must.  This sampler gives a fantastic listen to new and popular pieces available in the magazines and for download.

6.  Musically and Technically Speaking: Brenda Muench and Carol Broos discuss music technology and classroom music education between themselves and with various guests.

7.  MusTech.net’s Technological Music and Musings Show: Dr. Joseph Pisano is “Podcasting Excellence in Music, Education and Technology” discussing copyright, DRM, ethics, live sound mixing and all things important the educators who use the internet and music for anything!

8.  Music Tech for ME: V. Keith Mason has started this resource to “educate, inform and instruct music educators in using and implementing music technology.”