Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Final Blog Post? Looking back, Looking Ahead

Final blog post?  I hope not...I really enjoy having a blog!  I have always liked keeping a journal, and keeping a blog is an online way to talk through thoughts and processes.  I think I would like to keep my blog and make it specific to my thoughts and experiences with Orff-Schulwerk teaching in the middle school.  Who knows?  Maybe someone would even read it and find it useful.

Looking to the end of EDU776, I feel infinitely better prepared to teach students using technology.  In fact, just recently, I was part of the pilot team representing the special area teachers for Schoology, a new learning management system for Roosevelt School.  As I sat through the day-long training, we were asked about our familiarity with terms like embedding and linking.  We were shown sites like YouTube, Quizlet, Popplet, and Prezi, and how to use all of these within the context of Schoology.  There was a time not long ago that I might have felt so overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of new information that I would have just shut down, or decided that as a music teacher, there wasn't much application for it.

Instead, I got excited as we created a trial group.  We all figured out how to embed a YouTube into a message and I embedded my Thinglink just for the heck of it.  I felt great!  Now that I have given myself permission to "mess around" with different mediums (such as Weebly, or Blogger) it just doesn't seem so mysterious.  Also, I have learned that there is usually more than one way to arrive at your desired destination.  A few years ago, I was more inclined toward rigid thinking, i.e. I'm just going to follow the directions on this piece of paper, and that's it!  If it didn't work, I would write off the whole idea.  But, after this class, trying out different avenues doesn't seem so scary.  I don't have to know how to use a site to just give it a try.

As far as my teaching curriculum goes, I am much more comfortable with the idea of integrating certain technologies into the classroom than I was previously.  I will continue to work with SMART Notebook, in order to further improve my lessons and make them more interactive.  For example, during this class, I realized, by "messing around' that there is a way to embed my favorite YouTubes right into SMART Notebook.  The first time I did it, I was working in the auditorium and I wanted to jump up and down and shout, but no one even knew what I had just learned!  I am excited about using Schoology, and about the possibilities that using QR Codes and Audioboom have to offer for parent communication.

Brenda Latzke and I set up a website on Weebly today for our WebQuest project, Blues-School.  We set up the basic structure of the site on about a half hour.  Here is our Introduction Page:

I could never have imagined doing that so easily a few months ago.  I would say I have grown from every assignment and project we have done throughout the course, and I'm actually sorry it's going to be over.  It felt like the professional development I have been missing for any number of years.

I have done lots of professional development in music teaching, to the point that it starts to feel a little redundant.  But taking this class with a variety of teachers in other disciplines through the lens of using technology in our classrooms was invaluable to me.  Maybe we can have a Level II Ed Tech course, just the way we do in Orff-Schulwerk teaching.  Until that time, I plan on continuing to improve and update my website, as well as my blog.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Tech Tac Toe #3 QR Codes

Using QR Codes is something I have wondered about since my younger son was in kindergarten and I didn't even have a smart phone to be able to scan the code and find out what what his hidden message was!  I won't tell you who his kindergarten teacher was (initials K.B., member of our class!) but I thought to myself that I had better get with the program and figure it out...

Not only do I now have a smartphone, which I love, I installed a QR Reader on it, as well as on my iPad after learning more in one of our early EDU776 class sessions.  Then, I went to QRStuff and started wondering about a follow-up activity to the Thinglink map of the themes from Peter and the Wolf that I had already made.  Within a very short time, I found it was easy to make a QR Code for each character's musical theme using the same short YouTube clips I had used previously.

I named each one on my desktop, since I didn't want to have to try to determine which was which later, and then opened SMART Notebook and made a new file.  For each character, I inserted their QR Code with the words "Who am I?"  under the code.  The example on the left is Peter, but only those students who have really listened and learned each theme would be able to recognize that.

What I imagine doing with this lesson is printing out all seven QR codes individually and placing them at seven numbered stations around the room.  Students would scan each code, and write down the name of the character and the corresponding instrument next to the number of their station.  The room might look something like this:

Then, students could use a worksheet to record their answers after scanning the code at each listening station.  For example:
I am looking forward to testing both my Thinglink introductory activity and the QR Code Follow-Up out in the spring when I often use this piece in 5th grade.  It would be a fun way to shake things up and introduce the piece in an unexpected way.  I think QR Codes are a nice way to add an element of discovery for students rather than having the teacher present material in a predictable way.

Since it is relatively easy and fast to generate QR Codes, students could use them to send their parents an audio file of their own compositions in music, for example.  It might be a nice "gift" for parents around holidays, such as Christmas, Hanukkah, or Mother's Day.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Tech Tac Toe #2 Using Thinglink

The second tech tool I chose to learn more about was Thinglink, where a person can use an image and attach links to it where ever they like.  For example, if you had a map and you wanted to show where all your favorite restaurants are on the map, you could make a Thinglink in order to do this.

I have always liked teaching the orchestral story and music of Peter and the Wolf, by Sergei Prokofiev.  So, I decided to create a Thinglink that listed each of the characters in the story next to a picture of their instrument.  I then added a link to each one so that a student could hear that particular character's musical theme when they clicked on the circle next to the text.

Importing the image and adding the links to each character was simple enough, but then I could not get the program to stop asking me to upgrade, especially when I went to fullscreen.  The "PLEASE UPGRADE" request was so large that it covered my Thinglink and made it unusable.  After much struggling, I emailed Thinglink:

They responded within a day and told me that indeed to go fullscreen, you have to upgrade.  So, I remade my background visual much bigger using SMART Notebook.  Then, by taking a screen shot of the larger, new and improved version, I was able to make a new Thinglink that was big enough not to have to be fullscreen to be used.  I then spent a good deal of time trying to figure out how to embed the Thinglink into my blog.  It was a YouTube video called Embedding Thinglink into Blogger that finally solved the problem for me!

I had the same problem embedding into my Weebly, and another YouTube video Embedding Thinglink into Weebly was what made the difference.  It turns out the size of the image relative to the size of your blog is really important.  Once I made the image size smaller, it embedded without difficulty.

 I really liked making this and feel that Thinklink is a great way to make a lesson more interactive and exciting for students.  Although I didn't feel the information provided on the site itself was adequate, their customer support was excellent for both problems I encountered.  It would be wonderful if District 90 purchased this for teachers to use throughout the school year so that we could get the fullscreen version.

Students themselves could also use Thinglink fairly easily to put together information on a musician, or piece of music.  However, since we don't have much class time, I would probably use this for an extra credit project rather than working with the whole group on it.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Tech Tac Toe #1 Using Tagul to Make Word Clouds

For our Tech Tac Toe project, we were instructed to try out three new "tech tools" we hadn't used before but were curious about.  For my first tool, I wanted to learn more about making word clouds.
To make word clouds, there are multiple websites that will create these based on the words you input.  I chose Tagul, and could not figure out how to get the program to generate the cloud once I had typed in the words I wanted.  After struggling with this for a while, and losing a few sets of words, I tried clicking, "Visualize," and voila!, a beautiful word cloud was created.  I then played around with colors, font sizes, importance of certain words, and capitalization.  In the end, I made two word clouds about Orff-Schulwerk teaching, and one about the qualities I would like to see in my music students.  As it turned out, the Music Student word cloud was my favorite.

I really enjoyed doing these, and I think kids would, too. Students could reflect on their favorite parts of music, and how it makes them feel, and create a word cloud at the end of the school year, for example.  Or, it might be a good activity to do with a sub, since most subs do not have music training, but could certainly help kids work on these as an in-class project.

I will definitely use this Tech Tool in the future, maybe even for this year's Christmas card!

The Value of Ed Tech Research?

Looking at a variety of organizations that research the use of technology in education was an interesting exercise to me.  Amazingly, this is something I haven't thought much about!  In particular, I was taken with The Beloit College Mindset List  for the concise, numbered listing of facts that people over the age of 30 might not have considered when trying to understand the context of college students' lives.

Each year that I teach, my students seem to get younger.  This is not the case, of course, especially since I now only work with 5th and 6th graders, but used to teach K-5.  In fact, my middle school students are the same age each year and I am the one who is getting older.  As the difference in age widens between myself and my students, they seem younger, and it becomes more difficult to identify with the realities of their generation.  A list like the Beloit College Mindset reminds us that these students "have never had to watch or listen to programs at a scheduled time," and also, "there has always been a digital swap meet called eBay."  When we think and talk about these students being 'entitled' it is important to remember that they did not grow up in the same world that older adults did.  It is harder to excite them, perhaps because, "Instant, tray-less ice cubes have never been a novelty."  Can you imagine instant ice to Laura Ingalls Wilder's family?  These students probably cannot!

But, blaming the students for the world in which they happened to arrive is surely not the answer.  My husband is a college professor, and recently, his students have taken to calling him, "Dad."  This is partly because at 47, he is old enough to be their dad, also because he is actually a dad, and especially because now that he has his own children, he often counsels his students NOT to smoke, NOT to drink to excess, and to think VERY hard before getting that tattoo they think will express their true individualism forever.  He sees them as very young, while they see themselves as old enough to make decisions that will having lasting impact on their adult lives.

Our job as adults is to keep abreast of research like Project Tomorrow, which shows us how quickly mindsets can change.  For example, in 2016, "55 percent of parents would like their child’s teacher or school to simply “text them” when they want to communicate information.  In 2010, text messaging was the preference of only five percent of parents." Source: Project Tomorrow Key Findings from 2016.  Using the data we have available to us, we as adults can carefully consider what to hold out for, and what to embrace in order to best reach our students.

After all, if they don't like our answer, they can always Google a better one.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Digital Tattoos: Forward We March!

I am very sorry to have missed our face-to-face class meeting for the topic of digital tattoos, because it is interesting and pertinent, if somewhat chilling to me.  The permanent trail of data we leave online is the main reason I have chosen not to have an online presence on Facebook or other social media sites up until taking this class.  Having a Twitter account for school purposes has not bothered me, because it seems to be a good professional resource, and a nice way to open the classroom up to parents, but Facebook and Instagram make me uncomfortable.  I do not like the idea of my private life being shared with lots and lots of people.

Whether I like it or not, social media and the footprint it leaves are here to stay!  I can't say I was surprised about the data that can be found online about someone.  I feel relief for the fact that I grew up before the 'digital age' truly got underway, and was therefore exempt from making all kinds of stupid (but permanent) mistakes just from being too young to know better.  I also feel great concern for my children and students.  There is no way to prevent them from making their own digital blunders, no matter how much we try to instill the importance of good digital citizenship into them.  Not that we shouldn't try, but it seems to me we will have to come up with a way to forgive digital mistakes, or we are going to run out of acceptable candidates for almost everything!

That being said, I think it is EXTREMELY important that we teach students about digital citizenship.  It seems to me that this subject is more pertinent to their lives and futures than almost anything else we teach them at school.  As many of the articles sited by Nicole on the wiki page stated, prospective college students are being weeded out due to their social media posts. Link to NY Times Article from 2013.  It doesn't end with college admissions, either.  The stakes are just as high for people seeking employment.

Just for fun, I googled myself.  There are a lot of Mona Mann's out there.  Two of these are me.  
Google Search Image
I guess I would rather know what's out there than not.  Sometimes, it kind of makes me want to go back in time to slates and chalk and hand-written letters that took months to receive.  But I do really like the new SMART board in the auditorium, and I love the camera on my ipad.  The smartphone is pretty great, too.  There's no going backward.  Maybe we just need to step carefully, and use the backspace button a lot.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Digital Stories: Telling stories with short films!

When we were given our digital story assignment, I was immediately excited.  There were no parameters -- the story could be any story we wanted to tell in two to four minutes using digital technology.  I thought of multiple stories right away: should I tell about how my family bought a 1926 bungalow in terrible condition three years ago, and show the renovations we have done with our own hands?  Should I give a window into my classroom and all the music-making projects the students do each week?  Should I make a movie about our trip to California last Spring Break to visit my sister?  Then I realized my younger son, Michael, and I had a weekend alone together, and we could turn the weekend into a story.  And that was what we did!

I mapped out our day, and explained to Michael that everything we did needed to be recorded with a video or a picture.  He was all for it.  In fact, I ended up with enough footage of him eating and saying, "YUMMMM!" that I could have made an entire film of the foods he ate.  It was easy to take the pictures and videos, but harder to sort them and decide what to keep and what to throw out.  We had 20 minutes of dolphin footage alone!

I had been planning for the movie to cover the whole weekend, but there was way too much material, and frankly, it started to get boring.  So, I narrowed it to just one day, and tried to create symmetry between the beginning and end, starting with  'Good Morning' and ending with 'Good Night.'

If you would like to see Super Saturday!, click the arrow below!

After going through the film material a number of times, I wrote a script to accompany it.  I loaded the pictures and videos into imovie, and tried to speak my script while the movie played.  I found this very tricky.  I had written a great deal, and I didn't have time to fit the words in without ruining the flow of the movie.  So, I began to edit, chopping out sentences until I had a script that was one third of the original.  I wanted the script to match the pictures, so I had to lengthen and shorten certain pictures and video within imovie, from 4 seconds to 3 seconds, for example.

I was amazed at how easy it was to use imovie.  I didn't do anything especially fancy, but I could fit in transitions, different captions, fade-outs, and titles with no trouble at all.  Fifteen years ago, I tried to use the program while student teaching, and the computer in the school computer lab would crash every five minutes!  Now, the technology has come so far that I'm able to make the movie from a lightweight wireless laptop with no crashes at all.

I don't know that I would use the technology with my students, because the time we have to make music together is so precious.  But, I would definitely use it FOR my students, and in order to promote the music program.  It would be a wonderful way to introduce general music at Open House, for example.  I also need to make a movie sequel with my older son.  He doesn't want to be left out of the family movie archives...

In the highly visual world of today, digital stories seem like an exciting format for kids to share their ideas, in addition to more traditional venues, such as written reports.  I look forward to using the program again soon and encapsulating more memories in this format.