Friday, April 17, 2015

Connecting through Technology

I've been thinking a lot about how technology fits into the music room, especially a Kodály classroom. There is such a rich history and tradition to the Kodály curriculum and bringing in iPads and computers doesn't automatically seem to fit into that ideal. I'm always careful to point out that my classroom is not a totally digital fact, there are times when I'm teaching and it occurs to me that maybe I'm misrepresenting my claims of tech integration in the classroom because most of the time we are still "unplugged." You still find us playing a fun round of Lucy Locket with a cloth purse or Apple Tree with a wax apple from Hobby Lobby. I feel very strongly that these activities belong in a Kodály classroom and I don't see myself giving them up anytime soon.

However, I use technology in a lot of places during my day (and night) as a teacher to help strengthen my teaching in whatever way possible. Sometimes it's behind the scenes for lesson planning or file organization. (I'm not a naturally organized person, so THANK YOU, TECHNOLOGY!) I use my class iPad to make playlists for the day's listening selections....goodbye, CDs! (If you're a music teacher still messing with CDs, please ask your PTA or principal or someone in your community to help buy you an iPod or iPad of some sort!! You deserve it!) I also love having an iPad handy for those times when my kids have asked, "Ms. Parrish, what does a weevil look like?" I've just grabbed my iPad to do an image search. (This is much safer than doing one on the computer while the image is projected on the screen! And if you do this, just be sure to put your screen on blank first.) Or when that one student isn't matching pitch and they just don't hear it? I use the iPad or my iPhone in my pocket and do a quick voice record to play back to them.

As far as more planned integration, it is difficult to do as much as I want because there is so little time. There has to be balance between the "old" and the new. However, one thing I've learned from technology is that, if nothing else, it allows us to form connections. In the past, I've tried our district website to try to connect with students at home but it just hasn't been very successful. This year, I opened a class Twitter to share our thoughts and successes, but I also connected with the students on Edmodo.

I know to many of you, this will not be a big deal at all. To me, it's everything. It just is.

You see, by 5th grade, many of my students start becoming very social and music class at school isn't always a priority for all....they get busy with homework, sports and other activities. Communicating with your music teacher after school doesn't exactly sound like something most kids would do, right? Not necessarily. Technology made this happen this year. And many actually want to do this. I actually feel bad about not keeping up with some of their conversations on Edmodo! We chatted over the snow days, over the winter break a bit and over weekends. I posted videos for fun, I posted their work from class....we've discussed our favorite music and singers. I fell behind and they would actually ask me where I went!

In class recently, I assigned them to improvise variations á la Mozart after hearing his 12 variations on "Ah Vous Dirai-je Maman" or basically, "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." This was being done on xylophones in class. I posted the theme on Edmodo and recommended a virtual xylophone website and app just in case they wanted to practice and play around at home. I figured some might look at my post and play the theme once or twice, but I didn't expect to get these:


Both students took their own personal time at home to practice a variation and set up their device to record it. They uploaded it to Edmodo and shared it with me and the rest of their classmates. I was floored. I have never had this type of connection with my students before! I simply can't imagine how this would have happened in the past before devices were so readily available. I'm incredibly proud of the time they took to show their creative side and I appreciate that technology could help bring it to my attention.

So you might not be ready to bring devices into your music classroom or you might not think there is time in the curriculum. Maybe you're not sure how to integrate them. After all, we are given so little time to begin with.

But just keep in mind that using technology in the music classroom is not just about apps and tapping screens. It's about sharing, creating, collaborating and connecting. I always think of the graphic to the right.

They have these devices already. Use them to your advantage and make a positive connection with them. Allow them (maybe even challenge them!) to create and find inspiration and capture those moments with their devices or with your devices (if you have them). They have so much to share and our short class time is just not enough!!

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