Sunday, November 27, 2016

YouTube Friday

Have you ever struggled to make your content relevant to students?  How do you connect music written hundreds of years ago with the music students listen to in their free time every day?  While there's no perfect way to do this, one of our favorite classroom traditions is YouTube Friday.

YouTube Friday is all about exposing students to the greater world of music, a well as teaching some of those "life lessons" that are so important to work into our curriculum, no matter what the subject is.  The concept is fairly simple - find a YouTube video that relates to music (usually about 2-7 minutes long), come up with 3-4 questions that relate to the video, and have students watch & answer the questions!

So what kinds of videos do we watch?  

Here are some of my favorites:
Playing for Change - great for showing how music can connect us all over the world!
Longs Peak Summit Concert - if you could perform anywhere, where would you perform?
Star Wars Minus Williams - what role does music play in movies?
Happy Birthday Variations - developing vocabulary around different techniques and composition/arranging practices
Landfill Harmonic - a bit longer, but awesome for showing how important music is and how much people give to be able to play
Carrot Clarinet - a fun twist on how to make instruments
There are many more, including some that are more specific to the pieces we are learning or what we have been doing in class.  I know there are some awesome, fun videos (Piano Guys, TwoCellos, & Lindsey Stirling come to mind), but I try to steer toward more educational videos for this assignment.  The fun ones are saved for our class parties!

I am always amazed at the responses that I get, and I learn so much about my students through these assignments!  The videos allow them to hope, dream, imagine, and expand their idea of music beyond what we usually do in class.  I get to see their personalities beyond my specific subject and encourage them to dream big!  YouTube videos also connect my students to the wider world of music-making.  They see "cool" ways of making music, something that is relatable and a nice complement to the Telemann and Bach we study in class.

This is the first year I have had students complete this assignment on Chromebooks, and it has made a huge difference in both their responses and my workflow on the grading end.  In the past, I have printed out half-sheets of paper with the questions and had students handwrite the answers.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that students give much more in-depth answers when they are typing!  In previous years, every week meant more papers for shuffle around, to grade, to (hopefully not) lose, to pass back (or pile up), etc.  On Google Classroom, everything is already organized and easy to grade!  Students do need to be 1:1 for this to be very effective.  Since our Chromebook cart only has 30 Chromebooks, and I have 42 students in one class, I have worked it out with another grade level to borrow 12 Chromebooks from them every Friday.  We only use them for the first 15-20 minutes of class, and then move on to rehearsal!

I'm always looking for new, interesting, educational videos.  Do you have fun YouTubes to share?  How do you connect your students to modern music-making?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Summit Reflections [#GAFESummit/#GSuiteSummit/#EdTechTeam]

Last weekend, I attended the Colorado EdTechTeam/GAFE/GSuite Summit (changing names = I'm not sure what to call it).  I was excited going into the weekend, but a bit cautious.  Honestly, I had never been to a professional conference that I had enjoyed.  There always seemed to be pressure to be posturing, showing that you had your act together, and going to all of the "right" sessions with the "right" people.  Now, I'm not saying that these conferences were poorly organized or run...that is just the way I felt walking out of them, which has as much to do with myself as anything that went on there!

Fast forward to the Google Summit.  It was an amazing time of growth, comradery, and learning with other educators from this state and beyond!  Despite my lack of sleep and need to catch up on grading, I am so glad I went.  Here are some of my key reflections and learnings:

Embrace Change!

It was so inspiring to be surrounded by people who were continually learning and seeking to grow in their craft.  There was an environment of continuous iteration and change, and optimism for that change!  So often, in education, the word "change" brings about eye rolls, sighs, and resistance.  Regardless of how we react, change is coming, and will continue to come.  While it is prudent to run ideas past a critical eye of what's best for students, it was refreshing to be around a community who is striving to embrace change, rather than run from it.

Connect, Share and Collaborate!

I was exposed to so many cool ideas and teaching "hacks", and was reminded of how powerful we can collectively be together!  And the best part?  Just as we talk about in our classrooms, there was no "sage on a stage" mentality.  Sharing resources, accepting feedback, and building knowledge collaboratively was the norm.  I wish that were the case everywhere!  Some of my personal favorites were BadgeU by Daniel Sharpe & all kinds of thoughts about blogging by Chris Moore.


I know I have written before about how I have really grown in confidence as a teacher and a teacher leader this past year, and this was yet another step down that path.  Often, I struggle to figure out where I fit in professionally.  I teach music, but my vision of a successful music class expands beyond the traditional performance model that is held by many of my colleagues.  I love dabbling in educational technology, but I wonder if people will really take a music teacher seriously - my classroom looks so different to begin with!  Over the weekend, I felt so validated in the way I am combining my subject area with technology, and several people encouraged me to present at a future event.  Right now, that sounds like the most nerve-wracking experience - I will stand up in front of kids all day, but speaking in front of adults is another story - but it's planted a seed in the back of my mind.  Maybe I do belong here.  Maybe there is a place for me in this edtech world.  Maybe I need to stop hiding behind my curtain of being "just" a music teacher or "just" dabbling in technology and confidently share my ideas!

The closing keynote, by Sandra Chow, was based on a song one of my favorite musicals, "Alone in the Universe" from Seussical the Musical [insert music teacher geeking out here].  As I listen to the words of this song, the need for friendship and fellow dreamers resonates so strongly with me!  But, in order to reach out and find each other, both Jojo and Horton had to take a risk and put themselves out there with some pretty big thinks.  I want to continue to think and dream about how to improve education for our students, AND to share those thoughts with my colleagues and PLN!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

#EdTechTeam #GAFESummit: Learning about Blogging with @cmoor4!

I'm sitting in a workshop at this #GAFESummit (which is now rebranded as #EdTechTeam) learning about blogging with @cmoor4.  These are some great resources and things I wish I would have had when I started blogging with my students this year!

Quick thought so far: we have talked a lot about being a good audience and how important it is to develop an authentic audience for the kids.  I'm so thankful for my #sunchatbloggers group and friends @MsVenturino, @AmyLynnRever, and @jkervs who have connected with my blog and my students' blogs to engage in this learning adventure together!

Time to click post so I can follow along with the next step!  I will post much more later, including a recap of my experience at this Summit!