Blended Music LMS = Significant Difference

When asked to choose any topic of interest this week, I immediately revisited the idea of Myth of No Significant Difference. Not shockingly, these thoughts surfaced around the same time as my feelings of overwhelmedness about the amount of work that I am going to have to do shortly to finish my blended Music 9 course prototype. It had me thinking about what the benefits of blended learning really are.

So, at the suggestion of Kara, I decided to see what others have done to create Music LMSs, and learn from their experiences, rather than assuming that I am the first to have tried it. I’m definitely not the first. And I found out that music teachers and institutions around the world are doing amazing things with blended LMSs in music, but one pair of music educators has a website that sucked me in for a couple of hours and lifted me out inspired and armed with a few new tools.

freebern

Freebern Music has designed a LMS for music courses at Burr and Burton Academy in Vermont to accommodate lower enrollment and still offer multiple courses. They say,

“We were  teaching students HOW to learn, leaving the WHAT to the digital tools we created. As a result, we found that content knowledge and retention was improving.”

They also built courses that addressed various outcomes around students’ interests WITH those students. In future years, other students used the courses and expanded on them as well.

One of the main concerns that they had after moving all of their music classes to blended environments was that some students still desired to be spoon-fed, and they needed to spend more time helping students develop skills to work autonomously. (Dre and Logan also discussed the importance of scaffolding in their blogs and with me this week.) Unlike in a traditional face-to-face classroom, the Freeberns couldn’t ignore this skill building. Without it, students could not be successful. They came up with three areas of focus: “These three components, a desire for autonomy, the instinctive need for mastery and a purpose for study,  motivate our students to learn in this type of educational structure; a structure that will help them become lifelong learners.” And as we all know, this is the ultimate goal. It’s a key component of Saskatchewan Curricula.

By FotoshopTofs Via Pixaby

Not all of their courses are open, but some course resources are open as well as links to music technology apps and resources. I had so much fun looking through them. It was clear that these educators have done a lot of work already to make this LMS and it was much more useful to spend time looking through their courses, tools, and statements rather than trying to figure it all out myself. One of the tools is sampulator.com. It’s a fun intuitive tool that allows people to create simple beats using pre-programmed sounds. I made one, and I think that I’m going to use this tool as the activity for my Music 9 module.

sampulator

I emailed the developers, Neil and Julie Freebern a note of thanks for sharing their concept, challenges and model and requested temporary access to the modules to see how they have laid them out. Hopefully, they will get back to me! Once again, the results of building a professional learning network have gone beyond my expectations.

The whole website appears to be mind-blowingly professional and comprehensive. Seeing this, has really inspired me. As a teacher who has to promote an elective class in a school with a declining population, I can see how LMS could provide administration with the flexibility needed to give students many opportunities to take music classes.

And that is a SIGNIFICANT difference. 

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The Media Diaries: Five Short Stories of Five Good Friends

No. 1: The Wise Old Mentor

By Dplanet via Flickr

I’m a reader. My parents read to me when I was little, and before I actually could, I would pretend to read stories from the Western Producer on my dad’s knee. I played “music” from the Reader’s Digest Christmas Songbook at my mom’s piano. When letters slowly morphed into words, and words into ideas and stories, my life changed. I would stay up late reading Nancy Drew under my covers, occasionally checking my orange leather wristwatch to see how late it was. I didn’t want to be too tired for school the next day. Yep. That’s me. I think I loved school because I was a good reader and most of what I learned there came from textbooks. Big. Heavy. Books. I survived on painfully slow dial-up, and downloadable version of the Encyclopedia Britannica until I left home for university. Text remained my wise old mentor in this institution as well. Bates argues that text “is an essential medium for academic learning,” and I definitely have found this true in my experiences. It’s kind of difficult for me to imagine that it is unlikely “that books will survive in a printed format, because digital publication allows for many more features to be added, reduces the environmental footprint, and makes text much more portable and transferable.” But I suppose all wise old mentors die eventually, making room for new teachers, though their wisdom lives on.

No. 2: That friend who keeps you company while you run errands and doesn’t stop talking so you kind of stop listening once in a while

pink-jvcMusic and podcasts are comfortable pals of mine. Music has been in my life since my grandpa bought me a bright pink JVC CD player when I was 13, and I was introduced to Podcast last year by a good friend. I have a difficult time relaxing, doing hands-on-work or exercise in silence, so these two keep me company and I enjoy listening to them, even if I drift off on occasion. I don’t find that I learn anything particularly useful or interesting when we hang out. But if Pen or Video join us, then the conversations get juicy. So, I didn’t find it at all surprising when Bates said, “that students will often learn better from preprepared audio recordings combined with accompanying textual material (such as a web site with slides) than they will from a live classroom lecture.”

No. 3: The Diva

Mr. P, my former science teacher, was a huge fan of The Diva. We used to watch The Diva’s presentations on reproduction, chemical reactions, and uranium mines. The Diva thought she was so much better than Mr. Overheadprojector. One day, she was trying to show off with some fancy singing and animation on the topic of Meiosis. And the poor thing flopped. Sighs were heaved. Tears were shed. Minutes of lives were lost. But in history later that year, The Diva shared Schindler’s List. And so, rightfully found a place back at the top as a powerful, evocative celebrity. So, Bates’s thoughts that quality, free and engaging videos may not be easy for teachers to find brought this memory of The Diva’s career “lowlight” to the surface.

No. 4: The Nerd

You know that guy who is so passionate, that he scares people away? The nerd? I recently got set up with him by my EC&I 834 profs, Alec and Katia. Since then, we’ve been on a few dates. He’s pretty deep when you get to know him; he knows so much! And he can really challenge me, which I like. Sometimes he gets a little boring when he’s quizzing me and I really just want to hang out with Music and Podcast, or even The Diva. Still, he has a LONG list of strengths. He’s pretty good looking in most styles, organized, methodical, environmentally friendly, accommodating, and patient. Unfortunately, I think many of those strengths are left unappreciated because the ladies don’t take or have the time to get to know him. And once in a while he shuts you out for no apparent reason. That can definitely be a turn off.

“many teachers and instructors often have no training in or awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of computing as a teaching medium”  – Bates

No. 5: Ms. Social Butterfly

captureMs. Social Butterfly is one of my new teachers. We’ve been collaborating and constructing together for a little while now. Within the last year she encouraged me to blog and join Twitter. To be honest, I got a tad overwhelmed by Ms. Social Butterfly and we didn’t talk for almost six months. We just needed a break. We sat down for a Zoom session just over a month ago, and discussed boundaries. Now, I’m self-directing my learning, just like Bates said was possible. She will be an integral part of my ongoing professional development, and I’m glad that she’s teaching me again.

Challenge

Have you met any of these characters before? Do you have any characters to add to The Media Diaries? Would love to hear what they’ve been up to!

Making a Music Module

In my Music 9 prototype it is going to be important for students to access instructional videos on the internet. There are many great professional tutorials for learning how to play instruments, so it’s just a matter of researching and directing students to those resources and not the amateur ones. However, I haven’t found as many good instructional videos on music terminology and theory.

Photo by stevepb via pixabay
Photo by stevepb via pixabay

Like Bates says, it’s important to choose the pedagogically appropriate medium of communication for the content of the lesson. A video showing music being written with audio instructions allows students to see the complex process in action, hear examples, and visualize the concepts. In fact, this method of teaching theory could be superior to face-to-face lecture and whiteboard instruction, because the music notation would be larger, neater, and faster to write.

With this in mind, I needed to find one tool that would allow me to write music, and another tool for screencasting.

First, I checked out Educreations. It’s not great.

You have to add slides in the order you want them to appear, and can’t switch them at any point in time. The writing feature is messy when using a laptop. The eraser is skinny and can’t be made larger, so it is boring to watch the erasing happen. You can hear the clicking of  keys in the video when you press the button to stop recording. It is so simple that it doesn’t allow for much creativity, and there are not many options for editing. Without that room for error, I feel I would have to start over again and again and again. I don’t have time for that. There also wasn’t a clear save button on the presentation I was making. Then my internet disconnected, and when I reloaded the page, the three slides I made were gone. 0/5.

So, I tried Screencastify. It’s great.

I downloaded this Google extension, and found it intuitive and simple. I also like that it is easy to access on my toolbar on Chrome, and I think I will be more likely to use it more often because of this. Even better, the videos save to Google Drive, which is where I already save all of my documents. The quality of the audio and video are both good. There is an option to learn quick keys, there are lots of colors available to write in, there is a button that quickly clears the whole screen without requiring painfully slow erasing. I also like the option to have the webcam record me at the same time as my screen. 5/5.

I do have one questionscreencastify-permission about Screencastify. What does this message mean? What is it accessing? What am I agreeing to?

 

 

 

So, that is when I started searching for a music writing tool. I found an AMAZING website called musictheory.net. This website has almost every lesson I would ever use in music classes from grades 9-12. The lessons online are free AND there are online exercises that correspond with the lessons.

theory-exercise

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately, the free lessons don’t have audio. You have to pay for and download their iOS app called Tenuto for those extra features. However, I could use Screencastify to go through the pre-existing lessons and record audio for them myself. I could use Screencastify to go through a lesson, and then show students where to go next to complete the exercise, demonstrate how the exercise works, and assign a task like: Using Screencastify to document your work, complete 20 Treble Clef note identifications and then upload the video to your Google Drive and share it with me. Afterwards, I could see which notes students are struggling to name, how long it took them to name 20 notes, and how many they named correctly on the first try.

Although this site is great, I know there will be times when supplementary lessons will be needed, so I read the review The Best Music Notation Software of 2017, and tried the only free software to make the list. MuseScore 2.  I have played around with MuseScore a bit, and it’s intuitive, it will play the notes that I write with a quality piano sound, and there is a built in screen capture tool, so I could easily take images of the music I write and upload them to other lesson documents or videos. I have used the professional music writing software Sibelius before, and MuseScore has all of the features that I have used on Sibelius, but unlike Sibelius, it’s FREE!

musescore

 

I am planning on using all of these tools to create my module. Do you know of any music tools that I should look into?