Reflecting for Growth

The journey

Attribution: Bob Jenkins

The road to publishing a blended Music 9 course has been a long, and fulfilling one. First, I had to choose an online or blended approach. Then, I wrote my course profile, which changed slightly over time after we had conversations in the Zoom Room on Tuesday nights, others shared new ideas on Twitter and in the Google classroom, I experimented with some tools, and researched the way others had developed blended learning classes in their schools. When I was deciding which mode of instruction to use in my lesson, I referred back to Bates’s ideas, and decided on a combination of video with audio, and text. I also had to consider how to make the course interactive and authentic. Finally, I had to publish the course, polish everything, make sure links were working and ensure that my peers could access the course easily. Even after carefully considering so many big and small picture details, there are definitely areas of improvement in my course shell, lesson, and profile.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to my EC&I 834 peers who reviewed my Music 9 module for my course prototype and gave such thorough feedback on both what they appreciated, and what could be done differently. You have provided me with an excellent opportunity for reflection, which will result in growth. Another crucial part of the journey.

Reponse to Feedback

Reviewers Appreciated:
  • the organization and simplicity of modules and instructions
  • that the course profile was well-written and explained purpose of choosing blended approach
  • that the links worked
  • opportunities for interaction with each other and me (and appropriate questions to guide interactions in discussion forum)
  • that videos were informative, clear and polished

I felt that these were my strengths, and appreciated that my reviewers noticed these things as well. However, like Elizabeth comments, the course still has a few “kinks” to work out.

Reviewers said I could have:
  •  made it easier to log in to the Canvas course

UGH! I’m so sorry! *facepalm* Would you believe it if I told you that I had my friend sign into the module using the exact instructions provided to the reviewers, and it worked perfectly? I figured out that this was the best way after I had my husband sign in another way, which didn’t work, so I eliminated that option. After investigating and responding with further instructions, I have decided that I would do a screencast showing peers/students how to sign in to the course to clarify the written instructions. (If you watched my Summary of Learning video, you’ll know that (cue the rapping) “video is great for complexity.”) This was the most frustrating part of the feedback for me because I was so confident that it would be a breeze for people to sign in to the course.

  • made the LMS more attractive (like a music classroom with posters etc…)

Unfortunately, this is a huge limitation of Canvas. I figured out how to include a music image for the “Balfour Music Program” course, but otherwise, there is no way to include pictures with assignments, other than in the instructions. 😦

  • eliminated the second set of Music 9/10/20/30 modules

Weird. Not sure how this happened, but I’ve deleted the second set of modules for Music 9, 10, 20 and 30. Thanks for pointing that out!

  • corrected assignment feed order

I wonder if this is a glitch in the student view, as I don’t see this problem from my end.

  • provided an educator profile

Although it is not easy to find, if you click on the “people” link, you can click on my name, or the name of others students in the course and find a profile for that person. Mine is up to date and discusses a little bit of my personal and professional interests. I included instructions as to how to find this profile in the welcome announcement to make it easier to find.

  • included a checklist or rubric for evaluating Sampulator examples

Good point. Although I explain the expectations in the video, that is not enough. There is a rubric for this attached to the assignment now.

  • made outcomes easier to find in the course profile, not just the syllabus

The outcomes for the lesson/artifact/module are included in the course profile, but you can find a link to the syllabus with all of the outcomes addressed in the unit in the course profile now. I felt that the course profile and syllabus had different purposes with unique elements, so I hadn’t thought of including some common elements in both places, just where they fit best. I was trying not to be redundant, but if it comes off as unclear, then that isn’t what I want either! This is the benefit of having multiple people try the course before asking students and parents to use it. Angela thinks so too.

  • Shown overall evaluation of the course

This was/is in the syllabus.

  • made a more organized way for students to submit assignments by assignment/student

This is a VERY IMPORTANT consideration for me to make before asking students to take part in this course. In Canvas, the options for students are to share GoogleDocs through “Conversations,” or by sharing links, which all students can see, to a discussion forum. What I would do to ease these limitations, is create a folder for each student within a larger folder for the whole class in GoogleDrive in which they would be taught to organize all assignments based on the title of the assignment as it appears in Canvas. It is unfortunate that Canvas doesn’t have such an option built in.

  • more thoughtful solutions to barriers of implementing blended learning

This comment surprised me, because I thought I had done this, but when I looked back at the course profile, I had only ACKNOWLEDGED the problems. I guess that in my head I had solutions for most of these concerns, but I hadn’t communicated any of these. So here is what I was thinking: Low bandwidth, poor Wi-Fi connectivity and limited devices, all require back up plans. Luckily, on the few days when students would encounter these issues, I could easily do the lesson in person using music notation paper, or they could have a practice period. Another concern I had was the time it would take to get kids using Canvas, and wondering if it would be worthwhile to have them try. Now, I think that I could get all students on Canvas within an hour, and ultimately, they would save time because they would be able to work at their own pace and outside of school. Finally, I was concerned that some students would have access to better apps and devices than others, which could be discouraging. Since I presented this concern, I think that it would be possible to use the student fees that we already collect for the music classes to go towards the purchase of apps on shared devices at school, making access more readily available to everyone. I’ve also been paying closer attention to the number of students in my classes who don’t have a device. I only have two, which means that we could easily find an iPad or ChromeBook for them to use instead.

Final thoughts

CC BY-SA 3.0 NY

I am now more prepared to tackle the creation of a blended course than I ever have been. As I’ve said before, taking on this challenging is overwhelming if you want to do it well, but the results are so worthwhile. And a big part of the reason why the results are so good, is because of the collaborative learning effort of the ECI 834 class and the constant reflection that we were asked to do throughout the semester.

I think that I will tackle another blended class in the future, but I’ll be sure not to try to do it alone!

Like Megan, I want to thank everyone for following my journey throughout the semester, and for all of your help!

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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. 

Music 9 is going to rock!

In my blog post last week, I asked readers to help me decide which platform to use for my music class prototype course by voting on a poll. I only had two responses. One was in favour of Canvas; one was for Schoology. Then, in our Zoom meeting on Tuesday night, I had a chance to see Alec walk through some different LMS platforms. After playing around with a few of them, I have decided to use Canvas as the platform for my Music 9 course prototype.

(***Tip: This post is long. If you want to skim through for the main ideas, just look for the bolded words.***)

Rationale:

iphone-music-pic
Via pixabay

I have chosen a blended learning approach using Canvas as a platform because I think the learning will be more student centred. Audrey Watters reminds us that “we like the idea that new technologies mean new practices, new affordances. But that’s not always or necessarily how technology works.” Watters also cautions teachers not to allow LMSes to take the student out of the centre of the learning experience. In this case, I really believe that the format could change the way students learn if I keep in mind ways to facilitate students’ individual needs and goals. Personal learning is more likely with a blended approach, and using Canvas as platform is especially exciting for a few reasons:

  • Blended learning increases engagement and teacher-individual student face-to-face time
    • Student choice. Music is particularly engaging when students can learn an instrument that they are passionate about, so that is what I encourage students to do. The online instructional materials available give students this freedom to choose any instrument.
    • Instruments or practice spaces are not always available to students in a period, especially if the class is large. With a blended learning approach, there is more flexibility for what students are able to do.
    • Teachers can give more valuable instruction to individuals during face-to-face class time. With a large number of instruments available to learn, it is impossible for teachers to provide students with instruction about all of them on a regular basis. If teachers can upload self-made or open instructional materials about different instruments for students to look at on their own time, students can come to class with questions and get feedback on what they have practiced.
    • Students need lessons with a teacher, but with the number of students in a class, it is hard to see each student each day. With video posts of progress on blogs, it increases the opportunities for students and teachers to interact and provide feedback.
  • Canvas’s organization options and compatibility with Google. Awesome.
    • Modules – unlike Google Classroom, I can create modules within a course for various instruments to personalize student learning.
    • Intuitive to use, which means I won’t give up on using it
    • I already use Google Apps, and it will be easy to upload my spreading existing materials to Canvas
    • I can use content developed by other Canvas users
    • Students can upload videos of themselves practicing and engage in discussions on Canvas, without needing to create blogs. This is a valuable time-saver in the Music 9 class, which is offered as part of a rotation within FineArts 9.
feel-the-music
By EuropeMusic99 via Wikimedia Commons

Target Student Population and Demographics: The target audience of this course will be grade 9 students; however, the beauty of this platform is that Music 10, 20, or 30 students who have never taken a music course before, could follow the Music 9 blended course initially to learn some basics before moving on to their grade appropriate level. (Eventually, I hope to develop courses at all levels.)

Course Format: This course will be guided by principles of blended learning with both asynchronous and synchronous components. Face-to-face interaction is a necessary component of music, but it can be enhanced tremendously with online components.

  • Online & Asynchronous:
    • instructional videos
    • theory assignments
    • share videos of progress through blogs that students and teachers, as well as community members can comment on
  • Online & Synchronous:
    • discussions on Canvas
    • guest speakers in Skype
    • live streamed concerts
  • Face-to-Face & Independent:
    • practicing  instrument at school or at home
    • recording using the recording studio at school
  • Face-to-Face & Collaborative:
    • playing with others
    • one-on-one or group lessons with the teacher present
    • performances with live audience

Course Toolset:

  • Online
  • School
    • instruments
    • sound reinforcement (mics, mic and instrument cables, mixer, amps, speakers, monitors)
    • paper copies of music (can be easier to read)
    • recording studio and GarageBand, Adobe ???
    • hand-written theory assignments

Do you know of any great tools or apps that music students should use in this course?

Course Content and Learning Objectives: 

For the first module, we will address the following outcomes from the Saskatchewan Arts Education 9 Curriculum:
  • Use voice, instruments, and technologies to express musical ideas.
  • Combine the elements of music and principles of composition to express unified musical ideas.
  • Compose and perform sound compositions to express perspectives and raise awareness about a topic of concern to youth.
  • Respond to professional dance, drama, music, and visual art works through individual or collaborative inquiry and the creation of own arts expressions.

Assessment Strategies:

  • Formative: blogs with videos, feedback in lessons, theory worksheets
  • Summative: performance, composition

Concerns/Challenges:

  • Online
    • low bandwidth
    • poor connectivity to wireless networks
    • student access to devices when working from home, and occasionally at school
    • time it will take to familiarize students with Canvas when Fine Arts 9 rotations are short
    • user friendliness of Canvas on mobile devices (I need to look into this; it might not be a concern.)
    • some students may be able to afford upgraded/superior apps, while others cannot, which could be discouraging
  • School
    • lack of space for students to practice with few distractions from other students
    • availability of instruments for students to use (esp. drums and pianos/keyboards).
    • addressing all students’ personal learning goals

What kind of challenges might you anticipate that I haven’t thought of yet?