Saturday, June 9, 2018

Passing the Torch

It's been a year since I taught orchestra in schools as my full-time job. While I am happy to be where I'm at, I've also struggled with missing being in the classroom. One of the coolest things, though, has been watching a friend really pick up the torch of mashing music + technology together. It is a joy to watch!

Robots + Composition

A few weeks ago, I received this text:
"I assume you've played with the Edison robots? I think it would be really neat to do a composition project with them where the objects/surfaces around it trigger the different notes/phrases...I programmed mine to play the next phrase of Twinkle when it changed to a different surface when driving."

Prior to this, I hadn't heard about these particular robots, but wow, mind blown! I think that coding any robot to respond to outside stimuli differently is an authentic way to mix composition & computer science in a music class. This would make a great #HourofCode project someday!

Video Perspective

A few summers ago, I recorded lots, and I mean LOTS of instructional videos to help my 5th & 6th graders learn their songs. I found that it had several benefits - it helped my students learn their music, but also how to practice, because I talked them through the tricky spots in the video. It also really gave them a multi-sensory way to learn, by listening, looking at my fingers in the video, and looking at their music. Finally, it was a great way for parents to know what their kids were learning and how to help them or for kids to catch up after being absent. It is so common to get an email that says, "I don't know how to help my kid in music," and this game me a great resource to point them to! I even sent them occupational therapist at my school, who was working with one of my students, and she came back knowing how to hold the cello & play our first few songs, making it much easier for her to help this student!

Disclaimer: I totally stole copied this idea from another orchestra teacher in the district...good ideas just get passed around!

My friend shared that she wanted to make her own set of videos this summer, but instead of setting up the camera in front of her, she was going to take it from a forehead mount, showing the exact perspective of the students. This way, they don't have to see what it looks like from the outside and try to make their fingers match that from their angle. How come I never thought of that?!? It shows such a great focus on thinking about the user first, and what their needs are.  I was blown away!

Individualized, Self-Paced Learning

Orchestra Karate has been around for awhile, and is actually something the two of us implemented when we team-taught together. Once again, my friend is finding ways to expand ideas to make them even better! She shared that instead of just doing our "regular" songs for Orchestra Karate, she had made two extra packets - a holiday packet & a challenge packet - that students could work on & earn belts for. This is such a great way to combat the fact that the beginning class has students moving at a variety of paces, and allows all students to be challenged at their own level!


Okay, this last one is just because I'm a nerd and I love organizing my life with spreadsheets. I love finding others who do the same! She was telling me how she had one spreadsheet per school, but IMPORTRANGEd them all into one master spreadsheet, had different tabs to sort by different reasons (like who had district instruments, etc), and used conditional formatting to mark who had turned paperwork in. She also talked about using autoCrat to create nametags (to hang on stands) from these spreadsheets, rather than our usual practice of having students write their own nametags, which often results in small, light handwriting that is impossible to read from the podium :-). These little hacks make life so much easier, and I love seeing others use them in a way that works for them!

Passing the Torch

When I decided to move into this district position, one of the hard things was feeling like I was just scratching the surface of what could be done in a music classroom, and I didn't have time to explore everything I wanted to! These interactions with my friend have been incredibly encouraging in remembering that I am not the only one who is exploring. As obvious (and self-centered) as that sounds, it has been so cool to see her not only embrace new ideas, but take them even further to create the best educational environment for kids!

My recommendation? Find "your people" and keep building on each others' ideas. Continue to push further and deeper. Collaborate & share. Together, we can create amazing educational environments for students!

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