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. 

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?

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?