In our first class, I was surprised to learn that we would not be exploring music technology this term. Rather, we would be examining the intersection of social justice and culturally responsive teaching through the lens of the performing arts in the educational technology space. Although we went in a different direction than expected, I'm so glad we did. Through our discussions, my practice has grown in substantive ways beyond music teaching. My awareness of the ed tech field has expanded tremendously; I understand better how access to and use of technology in the classroom is directly related to social justice; and I've learned how to be more sensitive to cultural experiences as I present and work with technology in my classroom.
The main resource I'm grateful for is the Adobe Spark Creative Suite. Arguably the most important part of my experience is that I had so much fun building my Post, Page, and Video. I found the software easy to use and engaging, and I appreciated that it required very little prior experience in order to use effectively. The Video component in particular was outstanding because I've long felt that tools like iMovie, Final Cut, and Adobe Premiere were far too complicated for casual use. In Spark Video I was able to create a professional, smooth video with free images, clear voiceovers, and timing appropriate for a brief featurette. I also found the Spark Post extremely useful for creating things like classroom posters or signs. Also, I used Post to create the Table of Contents gallery for my Processfolio - a great extension! I certainly plan on continuing to use Spark for my future lessons.
I'm also grateful to my colleagues for using so many different tools in their lessons. Although the class didn't intend to focus on music teaching, it was beneficial having all music ed students as colleagues. In these last two weeks during our final presentations, we were able to explore a host of apps and web-based software that covered topics like composition, improvisation, and theory. In my experience, I've found these three topics in particular to be intimidating for most students; yet the tech we explored made these lessons accessible and fun. The class exposed me to many tools I hadn't used before and I hope to spend more time working with them over the summer before I enter the classroom. All that said, I have wondered how different the class might be if we had students from other disciplines. It might be interesting to see how ed theatre and dance might have used technology in their lessons. I sense that there are a wealth of opportunities for interdisciplinary work using technology, and it would be useful to explore this more in a future context.
The least valuable part of the experience has been the Tech Events. Generally, these were difficult to schedule and frequently the topics were so far afield as to be useless. I tried to make the most of the events I could attend, but overall these didn't move the needle on my teaching. I would have much preferred to have guests come to class to introduce us to new tech, or do more field trips as a class like we did to Global Nomads Group. I see the value in wanting to broaden our experience with ed tech; however, I think there was probably a more effective way of going about it.
As I've continued with my job search, the issue of technology access has moved to the forefront of my mind. I've become acutely aware of how the various schools I'm considering do or do not integrate technology into their curricula. I've had to think carefully about cell phone use in the classroom and the pros and cons of allowing or prohibiting it. As with most issues, the more deeply you consider ed tech, the more aware you become of the complexities surrounding it. I've grown more sensitive to the myriad issues parents and administrators face when educating young people who are digital natives. In tandem, I've become more sensitive to how young people today expect to engage with technology most hours of the day. Most adults are not as fluent in technology as our young people; this in turn makes many teachers and administrators resistant to using it in class. But I believe that this is an opportunity ripe for exploitation. The digital world can reach our learners multimodally and bring our lessons to life in a space only limited by our imagination. Through technology, we can teach music at scale that would sometimes be cost-prohibitive if we used conventional methods. Students can explore color, sound, and virtual texture in new and exciting ways through technology, and I think the ideal lesson involves a meaningful blend of tactile, kinesthetic, visual, and aural experiences (i.e., tech plus non-virtual tools and materials). Our class conversations have helped me use technology more purposefully and to be more open to the different ways it can be leveraged in my classroom.
My initial goals for the course included: (1) to explore arts-related software and teaching and learning platforms that can support my lessons, and (2) to learn about assistive technology that can make my lessons more accessible to students with learning differences. I'm glad to say that I think both goals have been accomplished, albeit not quite in the way I expected. Specific to the second goal, although we didn't investigate assistive technology, the multimodal nature of the tools we learned about in class essentially serve a similar purpose. Much of the software we used approaches music visually, aurally, and tactilely, which is excellent for students with processing issues in one or more of the modalities. Indirectly, these tools have inspired my thinking around ways to make my lessons even more accessible to a wider range of students.
In terms of grading, I would give myself an A for this course. I feel that I participated consistently and meaningful each class, and completed all of the required assignments at or above expectations.
The description of this Meetup group immediately hooked me: "This is a group for anyone interested in the application of music as a tool for communication, leadership, social and physiological change, education....and general human betterment and awesomeness. Not only for musicians and educators, but entrepreneurs, futurologists and technologists etc. All nerd-levels welcome!" I was fortunate to be part of the group's very first meeting and although it was a bit freeform in terms of organization, I nonetheless gained some insight into some perspectives on music-oriented technology in NYC public schools.
It was a small group - only 8 attendees - but as such we were able to get to know each other reasonably well during the two-hour meeting. Three members (including me) were educators, two were electronic composer-musicians, and three were music and tech enthusiasts but not using either vocationally. The composers were primarily interested in hearing from others how they could better leverage music technology to reach audiences who cared about similar issues or causes. For example, one composer was especially interested in portraying the American feminine experience in her work, so she was curious how she could better market and unpack that compositional technique for non-formally trained listeners. Gradually, the educators started sharing their experiences of using music tech in their classrooms. The other teachers were in public schools and were also parents - I was actually the only attendee who didn't have children - so it was insightful to hear their experiences as both teacher and parent. Most attendees agreed that the music experiences in their kids' schools was lacking. Either there were limited offerings or the only offering was after school. One attendee had two children who were in chorus because music was required and that was the only offering at the school. Neither child enjoying singing and were typically miserable in class. This reminds me of my current student teaching experience where band is compulsory for all three years of middle school. Another attendee shared how difficult it was to keep their child engaged in their rock band because it was only offered after school and thus competed with sports and other activities. As someone without children, I found this discussion highly engaging. It expanded my understanding of the dilemma faced by many parents in the city.
We also discussed some of the software we used in our lessons. The most common by far was GarageBand - all but one attendee was familiar with it. Every attendee had a computer in the home and several had purchased computers specifically for use by their kids. Most reported that their kids spent a few hours of week noodling around in GarageBand or some other tech-based composition software. Some had heard of Musical.ly but the general consensus was that it was a musical version of Snapchat - in other words, something more social than educational. I shared my perspective on how it could be used as an educational tool but the group wasn't really in a place to receive that info. I asked what types of projects their kids usually created in the various software, and only one person shared that they felt their kid's work had any coherent structure (one of the composer's children). In general, they felt that their kids beat on the drum pads randomly or played with the world instruments just for the sonic variety; they didn't feel like the kids were engaged in some form of meaningful play. I tried to push back on this issue as well, suggesting that improvisation and free composition were a form of learning and meaningful play. Most attendees laughed and said that I should listen to some of the products. I gently pushed back again and said that often times the process is more important than the product. If the child is enjoying the process of composing and exploring different soundscapes, I believe that could be meaningful to them. The two educators were somewhat swayed by this, but the other attendees seemed more product-oriented. If the child wasn't creating something the parent could reasonably interpret as coherent and beautiful, it wasn't meaningful. This was extremely frustrating for me, but again, it was helpful to hear this point of view.
We closed the discussion by spending a bit of time talking about a few social issues and how music technology might be used to raise awareness or provide solutions. Most interesting to me was the discussion on sanctuary cities, Dreamers, and the immigrant experience in the current political climate. One attendee was a first-gen, so his thoughts were informed by direct experience - an invaluable perspective in the conversation. He was excited to hear from all three of the music educators that we were committed to incorporating diverse musics into our classrooms. We agreed that using non-Western musics in the classroom and bringing more world music into the curriculum was a powerful way teachers could positively impact students' perceptions of diversity. We acknowledged that many teachers' curricula is still based on the conservatory model in the European tradition; however, many teachers are also shifting towards a more global, balanced approach to exemplar repertoire. I also added that music education and music therapy continue to be cornerstones of special education in NYC. I shared some of the research around music and exceptional learners, which the other attendees were glad to learn about. I appreciated that on this topic they were very open to hearing more. As we were leaving, one attendee (a teacher) asked to stay in touch about music and special education. He was struggling to implement differentiated strategies in his classroom and his administration was not being supportive in terms of providing special education pedagogy to general education teachers. I was glad to make this connection and I hope we can help each other grow our practice.
Although this was the smallest and most loosely organized event of the three I've attended, I was still able to glean some useful information from it. I intend to stay connected with this group and continue to meet with them going forward. Hopefully I can gain some traction on the topics that were a bit difficult and further my own understanding of the perspectives held by these parent-musicians.
Unfortunately, I wasn't in class last week so I missed the discussion of Stop Motion, Personification, and Blippar. I did, however, do a quick read into Blippar and I was amazed at the concept of augmented reality. I have never worked with AR before but the sample videos I found on YouTube were incredible. I immediately thought of how any museum - art, history, aquariums - could benefit from an AR-linked tour of their space. This tech elevates immersion to a new level and creates a sensory experience that could completely transform how we experience museums. I'm sure there are other contexts (e.g., flight simulations, corporate training) that could also benefit, but I confess I spent a good hour talking with my partner about all the cool and interesting ways AR could impact the museum space. I look forward to seeing how this technology evolves in time.
This week, we took a class field trip to Global Nomads Group and were given a tour of the organization's offerings by Afiya Williams. A important component of GNG's mission is that "young people lack the opportunities to meaningfully and productively engage with difference in a world that is undergoing vast social, cultural, technological…change." The organization attempts to close this opportunity gap by using synchronous and asynchronous tech-based learning modules to develop students' empathy, awareness, and action. For example, in Project Campfire classrooms from different parts of the world (e.g., US, Jordan, Europe, South Africa) connect virtually over a semester-long program. I was particularly intrigued by how each module can be seamlessly embedded within an existing ELA, social studies, or homeroom learning context. Another program Afiya discussed is Pulse, which are live-streamed, virtual events that take 2-3 class periods to complete. The two programs can also be combined through the Youth Voices project, where students mix real-time and asynchronous work over the course of several weeks. It's clear that GNG has worked hard to diversify their offerings and meet a wide range of needs. I also appreciated that Afiya confirmed the curricula and discussion guides align with the NYC/NYS standards, and that every module is designed to plug into existing content - not something that has to be taught separately as a one-off. This minimizes the demand placed on teachers and paves the way for ease-of-use in the classroom.
To help make the experience more vivid, Afiya provided each of us with a DODOcase VR kit, which is akin to Google Cardboard. We assembled the viewers and watched a few of the VR clips created by GNG for their modules. It was a mind-blowing experience. The immersive, 360-degree perspective heightens the sensory game unlike anything I've ever experienced. It's like a personalized IMAX theatre for each student. The content is authentic and student-centered, and carefully designed to resonate with young people. As with Blippar and AR, my mind was spinning with all of the possibilities.
As a sidenote, Afiya's work in South Africa reminded me of our doctoral student, Janelize van der Merwe. I believe that Janelize's work in the community music space and marimba bands might inspire some music-based modules for GNG. I will be sure to connect her with Afiya following our visit. I must also remember to check out a related partner organization: StudentsRebuild.org. Afiya mentioned that they do complementary work in the social justice space and leverage the resources of the Bezos Family Foundation to effect real change in the lives of young people around the world.
Overall, our visit to GNG was a wonderful experience. It was a great way to see how VR intersects with the ed tech world, and I know most if not all of my students would love this kind of content. I truly hope GNG and other companies like them develop music-based modules in the near future. I'll be among the first to pilot them in my classroom!
The range of topics covered by this batch of resources is even more diverse than the first. It drives home the point we've discussed in class that ed tech is a pervasive and ubiquitous aspect of K-20 education in the 21st century. Here are the topics from this round that resonated most with me:
What are the obstacles to successful implementation of developmental education tech, VR, and AR on the college campus?
These articles all a common theme that technology, when not implemented purposefully and with clear pedagogical intent, will not be the silver bullet many administrators are searching for. We've discussed many times in class that technology should be a vehicle to deliver instruction, not the instruction itself. These resources share stories of administrators who are possibly avoiding or missing this critical piece of the puzzle. As with any educational trend - be it Common Core, project-based learning, or technology - one cannot simply throw it in the classroom and expect students to be successful as they grapple with it themselves. As music teachers, we can continue to teach important musical skills that will enrich students' lifelong musical learning citizen-scholarship: composition, improvisation, performance, and listening. But we have wonderful opportunity at this junction to leverage technology and make these learning objectives more salient, accessible, and scaffolded. Especially for students that require remediation upon matriculation to college, technological literacy must be considered as a skill that needs to be nurtured and developed in a structured, logical manner as we would mathematics or literacy. High-quality MOOCs, mentioned in another article, can indeed be a powerful solution for many learners. If designed and implemented well, students can reduce tuition costs, ease the transition from home to independent living, and bridge the remediation gap without disrupting many familiar elements all at once. Provided that the students, teachers, and administrators approach implementation collaboratively and carefully, I see MOOCs, developmental ed tech, and other similar solutions as part of the new model for creating a college-educated society in the US.
How can Canada's example inform how we teach our SIFE students in the US?
In recent years, global violence has dramatically increased the number of students entering the US with interrupted formal education (also known as SIFE students). Not only are these often English Language Learners, they have typically suffered trauma, relocated transnationally, and may be living in homes without their complete family unit. With so much to navigate at once, technology presents a tremendous opportunity to bridge the learning and cultural gap for these students. Canada is one example of how schools are rising to meet the unique needs of these students, and the US can certainly learn from the models presented. It is unclear if they are scalable in large urban centers like NYC, but I can certainly see these systems thriving in smaller, more close-knit communities. It remains to be seen if these models are sustainable and efficacious in the long-term but examples discussed in the article seem promising.
Is DIY education a new millennial trend, or is it just a 21st century face of homeschooling?
For a number of complicated reasons, I would guess that most Americans of my generation have a negative perception of homeschooling students and the process as a whole. The media typically portrays homeschooled children as socially maladjusted, deeply conservative, and often religious - characteristics frequently at odds with the mainstream school communities they eventually join. Personally I think that homeschooling gets a bad rap - there are many reasons, including health issues, that a family might choose to homeschool their children. I've known several peers who, when they entered the mainstream school for the first time, were well-adjusted, kind, and open-minded individuals. In fact, most were often more advanced in their studies than the average public school child. The article discusses how millennial parents who aren't working traditional 9-5 jobs are increasingly turning to DIY education as an approach that fits the lifestyle and value system of the modern American family. These models feel similar to me in terms of their goals and motivations, and I wonder if perhaps it's not just a branding issue given the negative connotation often associated with homeschooling. DIY sounds empowering, self-driven, and resolute. By contrast, homeschooling may sound to some as restrictive, alien, and closed-off. I'm not sure how the DIY trend will evolve, but certainly the dramatic increase in school-based gun violence is giving many parents throughout the US pause to consider an alternative to mainstream schooling.
How can Scratch and other block-based coding systems be used effectively outside the computer science classroom?
Prior to coming to NYU, I worked for seven years for The College Board. During that time, I was part of the team that created a new AP course and exam, AP Computer Science Principles. The primary genesis for the course was to increase representation of girls and young people of color in the field of computer science. Educators had long told us that AP Computer Science A was often a barrier to these students in terms of its design and prerequisites. Passionate educators and parents challenged us to create a class that developed students computational thinking practices, including coding, but in a dynamic way that allowed for multiple, diverse points of entry. The result was a course and exam that allows teachers and students to use one of five coding languages or systems to create artifacts for assessment. One of those system is Scratch, which eliminates the need for students' first experience in computer science to be dependent upon their skills in Python, C++, HTML, or another traditional language-based coding protocol. Especially for our students who are ELLs or struggle with language processing, block-based coding open the door to computer science for visual learners, creative thinkers, and students who otherwise preferred this style of working with code. This experience illustrated for me how multiple points of entry into technology is not only more engaging for a broader range of students, it's actually more inclusive and supportive of learners with diverse learning capabilities. To that end, I would welcome coding-based music technology in my classroom any day. I appreciated the projects that Armando shared with us and they seem akin to the type of work we were doing in AP CSP. In the coming years, I hope to expand my knowledge of coding in the context of music education. Perhaps in time I can bring these exciting tools into my composition and performance classes!
The purpose of this workshop was to explore the "Invent to Learn" approach to teaching and learning developed by Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager. The approach combines the tenets of constructivism and the maker movement to create lessons in which students learn through direct experience. The movement is primarily used in STEM subjects; however, the overarching theory could be applied to other subjects with some creative thinking. I chose to attend this workshop because it focused on how technology could be used purposefully in the classroom to solve real-world problems. As an arts teacher, I hoped it would inspire ideas for how I could leverage composition, performance, and other musical activities in similar ways.
After initial introductions, the presenter gave us a brief overview the book and the tenets of the maker movement espoused by the authors. She then led us through four lessons, having us role-play as students in order to experience the learning process ourselves. The four lessons covered robotics, civil engineering, biomechanics, and ecology respectively; and all four were geared primarily towards middle- and high school-aged students. Before each activity began, the presenter shared what prior knowledge and skills the students would need to be successful, and also the targets of assessment for each task. Rubrics were provided before the task and images or videos of prior student work was shared after the task for reflection and discussion.
During the robotics lesson, we were first taught as a full class how to operate three mechanical devices (an electric switch, lightweight pulley system, and rotating gears). We then formed small groups and were given a box full of raw materials including wheels, metal sheets that snapped together, swivel arms, and various clamps. The task was to include all three devices somehow into a robot that we would build using the raw materials. The end product had to serve one of three purposes provided by the teacher. We had 20 minutes to complete the task and then share our robot with the group. While we worked, the presenter-as-teacher would observe each group and guide our inquiry with questions, assist with construction, and address any issues that arose. I found this activity delightful and enjoyed collaborating with my group. It reminded me of erector sets and Lego projects I worked on as a child, and sparked that joy of creativity and problem-solving that came with engineering-based play. I feel that we were given adequate preparation for success and just enough structure to get us started before our imaginations were allowed to carry us forward. It many ways, it reminded me of composition units that I experienced in college music classes, and the lesson inspired several ideas for future music-related activities.
The next lesson on civil engineering required that we solve one of three real-world problems using straightforward equations and small-scale models. The teacher briefed us on the math and demonstrated how each model worked and could be manipulated. In different small groups, we then had to choose which problem we would solve and demonstrate how the equation and model addressed it. We had just 10 minutes for this task, but all groups were able to do it successfully. Of the four activities, this one felt the least maker-based, as we didn't actually create any artifacts; however, the real-world applications were engaging. Feeling and discussing replicas of crumbling bridges, weak building foundations, and poorly designed highway exchanges really got us thinking about practical applications of algebra and trigonometry. I appreciated the relevant context each problem represented.
Next we moved on to biomechanics, which was essentially a lesson on prosthetics. Within reasonable parameters, we had to 3-D print a small component of a prosthetic device that would address a challenge described in a case study. For example, our group's case study involved a user with a prosthetic index finger who needed additional range of motion in the two bendable joints of the finger (we learned, distal interphalangeal and metacarpophalangeal). We watched a brief video on the device and were then shown three 3-D blueprints of components that might address the issue, each with pros and cons. Based on the dossier, we had to select one to print, attach it to the model provided, and then demonstrate it to the class while explaining how our choice best addressed the issue. Like the second lesson, this wasn't didn't involve as much manual construction as the first lesson; however, it required reasoning skills and prompted discussions of bioethics in our group. Overall, it was another fascinating look at how having students create objects in real-time can be an effective, engaging vehicle to teach a host of topics.
The final lesson on ecology involved the entire class being presented with a water treatment issue from the imaginary nearby town. This was a time-sensitive problem as it affected the town's main water source; therefore, each group was given only five minutes to perform their part of the task. One group played the role of engineers and had to select one set of design schematics from several options (each with unique advantages and costs) to another group who would ultimately fabricate the solution. After handing off the design, the builders could fabricate or 3-D print the design, making any changes they saw fit as long as it was completed within the timeframe. They then handed it off to the testers who were tasked to recommend one meaningful change back to the design team. The product then went back to the first group who could approve, revise, or reject the proposed changes. The builders would then implement any changes per the revised spec, and finally the fourth group had to present the model to the class, demonstrate how it worked, and describe how it solved the problem. Ultimately as a class we were not successful - we took too long and the water supply was contaminated! I enjoyed the timing aspect of this - it reminds of a "get the product to market!" scenario. Students were encouraged to fail quickly in the first trial run, but it was clear that our revisions had to be the correct solution. Throughout the project, some team members were volunteering to move across teams in an effort to get it done on time and it was great fun. I could envision this project being done in a setup where a group consists of four students, each who is responsible for one of the roles (engineer, builder, tester, presenter). This might help develop students' skills in weaker areas or leverage skills they have to be most successful in the work.
Overall, the workshop was a lot of fun and I can understand how a maker-based lesson could be highly engaging for a range of students. Experiencing the lessons with your tactile and kinesthetic senses was invigorating and elicited creativity, imagination, critical thinking, and inquiry all in one lesson. In addition, we had to collaborate and negotiate with team members, exercising those important soft skills. Although I need more time to consider how to adapt this approach to the music classroom, I sense that it's possible and I look forward to exploring it further.
Due to SXSW, Spring Break, and the blizzard, it's been a month since we last had class. As such, I was thankful for Zander's "Zip! Zap! Zop!" game - this really helped energize us and get the class back into motion.
After we discussed the updates to the syllabus, we began to share our Spark Videos. Unfortunately, only mine was working so that was the only video we could discuss. Although I was glad to share this, I was disappointed that I couldn't see how others had used the technology. Hopefully we'll have a chance to circle back on these in a future class.
A portion of our discussion today was on the first batch of articles (Content Questions #1). In all honesty, I wish students had shared a bit more of their reflections here. Zander and I had a good conversation with Armando; however, I think we dominated the discussion. I found several of these articles provocative - especially on the topics of race, culturally sensitive pedagogy, and the American black experience. In our class, however, we have four international students and three American students (all of whom are white). I sensed that our international colleagues were not comfortable discussing these topics - perhaps because they hadn't experienced them for as long or as acutely as the American students. Still, I would have liked to hear an international perspective on these topics. In fact, I think it would be helpful to hear the perspective of students who had less direct experience with these issues; or hear about issues in their countries of origin they felt were similar. Sadly, this share felt like a missed opportunity.
The last portion of class was spent on collaborative composition in Launchpad. I thoroughly enjoyed this new software and I think as a class we had a great time working together. This felt very much like something I could bring into my classroom with relatively low lift and I think most of my students who enjoy it. I loved hearing each team's work and it was interesting to see how each of us gravitated towards different sonic features of the tool.
The key with all of the technology we learn about in class is that the school must be supportive of students using tech in my classroom. As I've shared, my current student teaching assignment doesn't allow students to use tech of any kind in music class. In fact, most NYC public schools either severely restrict student use of technology in the classroom through policy or lack the resources to provide it to students. By contrast, the two schools I'm currently considering for employment are both very tech-friendly. Both of these schools provide students either with a personal Chromebook to take home or have Chromebook carts in every classroom. An interesting point is that neither are public schools. The NYC DOE strictly prohibits the use of phones in schools, and other technology such as tablets or laptops are highly dependent upon resources. My job search has shown me that private and charter schools are much further ahead of the tech curve than most public schools. My first inclination was that this was due to funding; however, the charter school pointed out that they only fundraise to pay teacher and staff salaries - all supplies, student resources, infrastructure, etc. are supported by public funds through the DOE. I realize that the conversation around charter schools is complicated, with many of my friends on opposite sides of the aisle. Nonetheless, it has been useful for me to see how technology is used in a variety of educational contexts this year, and to see what ed tech is available to our students. I can only hope that I find myself in a school that supports purposeful and responsible use of technology in my classroom so that my students and I can avail ourselves of the engaging, vivid ed tech out there that can make our lessons come to life in the digital space.
Although the articles for this portion of the course run the gamut in terms of issues (e.g., gaming, Secretary DeVos, The Black Panther), there are some common threads that emerged when I considered them in concert. Here are my key questions:
How can I use gaming as a pathway to learning?
One of the most significant expansions in graduate education in the last decade has been in the field of digital learning. Increasing numbers of institutions are offering advanced degrees in educational technology to address the growing need for skilled developers of learning management systems, teaching and learning interfaces, and MOOC platforms. In parallel, gaming in education - which I remember using in the early 1980s - has expanded as a field while educators leverage the fun, creative aspect of gaming in a variety of learning environments. Designer-educators who can blend these two fields together are in high demand, and their creative work both inspires and challenges us to open our lessons to educational technology. When I consider how gaming can be educational, my mind immediately goes to games such as Minecraft EDU, Big Brain Academy, and Portal. I admit that I love these games myself and it's inspiring to see how many young people find the learning process more fun and engaging as a result of these games. But when I consider how gaming can be used in the music classroom, I confess that I can only think of skill-drill type games that focus on music literacy and aural skills (e.g., Tenuto, Counterpointer, Practica Musica). I imagine there are games that address activities like composition and improvisation, but I feel we've been underexposed to tools like these during our coursework. In my doctoral studies, I hope to take a class or two from Dr. Ruthmann, who I trust can introduce me to games that will be useful beyond a performance-based class, such as a general music or music history class.
Will technology ultimately replace tactile-kinesthetic music-making?
I appreciate that technology enables students to create and manipulate artifacts in a two- or three-dimensional virtual space. Digital environments provide so much to students on a cheaper, broader scale that would otherwise be cost prohibitive or logistically impossible in a real-life environment. I am a decided fan of incorporating technology purposefully into my lessons; however, I have what is perhaps an irrational fear of students losing the experience of musicking in the hands and in the body. I think it's important to feel music in the skin, and I worry that students who spend more time creating music digitally than non-digitally will be missing out on something. Unfortunately, I can't quite pinpoint what that loss is - I'm not sure yet how to articulate it. I need to think more critically about what specifically is gained or lost in the digital vs. non-digital experience.
How can I minimize the impacts of my implicit biases on my culturally responsive pedagogy?
I was glad to read an article that made clear distinctions among culturally responsive teaching, social justice education, and multicultural education. I believe that many well-intentioned educators want to reach the full diversity of their students but sometimes lack the knowledge or tools to address their myriad backgrounds, cultures, and learning needs. I certainly include myself in that boat. But I also think that continuous learning is part of our journey as educators and that we can - especially in New York City - find the resources we need if we invest the energy in seeking them out. Even in my brief experience of student teaching I've seen how the pace and stress of a class period are many. Behavior management, teaching and learning, content mastery, music making...the list of plates we have to keep spinning is seemingly endless. I'm encouraged though by idea that culturally responsive pedagogy doesn't have to be yet another plate - it's the scaffolding on which all the other plates spin. In this age, I can leverage the Internet to connect my students with authentic performances across the musical spectrum, and educate myself on the traditions and practices of the cultures represented in my classroom. I need to have the courage to acknowledge that my own performance of a tradition may not be authentic - but that doesn't mean my lack of authenticity or knowledge should prevent my class (including me) from learning about different musical traditions. I can do my best to create authentic performance opportunities for my students and engage local artists, digitally or in person, to supplement our learning.
How will online and blended learning, including MOOCs, change music teaching and learning in the near- and long-term?
Many careers require post-secondary education, and as a result, for decades young people have matriculated to higher education to obtain the knowledge and skills they need to be competitive in the job market. In lucrative fields, higher education is an investment that eventually pays for itself. But what of those students who enter traditionally low-paying fields like service, education, and non-profit advocacy? The cost of their education is no less than students pursuing STEM fields, but they typically lack the long-term financial rewards that make an investment in higher education attractive and feasible. To illustrate this point, recent research suggests that the current model of higher education in the United States has reached a crisis point of sustainability. Students, regardless of their ultimate career goal, want the highest quality education - and it's not unreasonable for them to hope for a future that isn't saddled with student loan debt for 25 or 30 years. But this is the exact crisis. More than ever students in low-paying jobs are crushed for years under the weight of higher education loan debt, compromising their ability to pursue goals such as home ownership, raising a family, or saving for retirement. Although most would agree we need educated and experienced professionals in high- and low-paying fields alike, not everyone can agree on how to provide affordable, high quality education to all regardless of field. Higher education is thus increasingly under scrutiny to justify the high cost of tuition against the actual benefits realized from the degrees they confer. For the first time in history, research is suggesting that institutional brand is becoming less important than affordability. Should those who are economically-disadvantaged - or those who choose not to take on the debt required for such an education - be systematically prevented from obtaining a high-quality post-secondary education? Should the best education only be reserved for those who are able or willing to pay for it?
Research also suggests that more students today are attending cheaper two-year institutions to complete their introductory-level or liberal arts coursework before transferring to finish their higher-level specialized courses elsewhere. These students are actively pressing the question: how substantively different is introductory chemistry at MIT versus BMCC if we follow the same curriculum? MOOCs have also recently emerged as a cost-effective alternative to many classroom-based introductory-level courses. Whether students avail themselves of MOOCs or the community college system, the impact on four-year institutions is significant. I understand the challenge of affordability - this is my third post-baccalaureate degree. But I also understand the pushback from higher education. Affordability is a complex conversation with a host of metrics, slippery scales of measurement, and squishy data on the long-term impacts of higher education on people's lives. Higher education is a culture and industry in its own right that supports a community of scholars, researchers, and teachers who rely on tuition dollars to fund their work. If, for example, critics attack the cost/benefit of introductory-level courses, higher education argues that these courses are a long-standing training ground for graduate students - it's where many of us first learn how to teach and begin to build our teaching CV. These courses help train the next generation of professors and enable more seasoned professors to focus on research and teaching that best leverages their deep expertise. But this argument seems to carry less weight with students-as-consumers today than it did previously. There is a growing trend of sentiment that students only want to pay for the professors of the present - they are not willing to invest in the professors of tomorrow who will educate students decades later. This complicated mix of variables makes MOOCs and other digital forms of higher education attractive in the short-term. But will we reap benefits as a society in the long-term if we don't sufficiently train higher ed teachers of tomorrow? What other models of training post-secondary educators will emerge as a result of this crisis?
Why isn't music valued as a unique way of knowing on par with STEM subjects?
Throughout my studies, I feel as though I've read hundreds of articles that try to support the value of music education by saying it improves math skills, reading comprehension skills, skills of scientific inquiry, or some other skill that's valued by a different content area. I can't recall a single article that explains why math, ELA, or science are valuable to music education. Don't get me wrong - I think all of these skills are valuable, and the more we create opportunities for students to exercise them across domains the better. But I feel the tone of these articles is to hang the efficacy, importance, or value of music education on the value of a STEM field. I am not sure why so many music educators and advocates feel compelled to do this. I do not accept that it's because arts education is being cut in many schools. I do not accept that it's because STEM fields typically lead to more lucrative careers. I haven't integrated calculus, conducted a chemical experiment, or written a five-paragraph essay since college...and I turned out fine. I use many of the STEM skills I acquired in secondary and post-secondary education in my daily life because they bring me joy and they help me engage more deeply in my profession as a music educator. The argument that "Not everyone will be a professional _______" could be made for every content area, so using it as an excuse to devalue area one versus another is a logical fallacy. We don't teach our children ELA, mathematics, and science because they are going to be experts and professionals in all of these subjects. We teach them a certain level of fluency in several areas to introduce to the richness of human knowledge and to equip them with the knowledge and skills we hope they use to live productive, meaningful lives that bring them joy and fulfillment. Music is no different. Music is a unique way of knowing and engaging with the world, and every child has the right to a quality music education just as they have a right to a quality math, science, language, etc. education. One of the articles also discussed music as a way for students to exercise soft skills like collaboration, self-confidence, and informed risk-taking that are essential to the 21st century workforce. As educators, we cannot tolerate arguments that attempt to justify the value of one content area against or because of another. We are not in a competition where one content area somehow wins over others at the end of a race.
When it comes to telling the stories of our black students, is Wakanda the best we can do?
I was thrilled that one of our articles addressed the James Baldwin essay. I first read this work during undergrad, and it's stayed with me ever since. Incidentally, I was drawn to the James Baldwin Outward Bound school when I first began my teaching job search. I appreciated that the school tried to embody the values and passion of Mr. Baldwin in its mission, and I admire how the school's students are encouraged to question, probe, and resist. Over the years, the essay has continued to inspire me to do the same. As I reread the essay in the context of the articles, I thought it served as a wonderful counterpoint to the piece on Secretary DeVos, whose qualifications and fitness for her position were painfully dismantled in a vivid, systematic way. The spirit of resistance was vibrant in this article, and Baldwin's words resonated with me again as I read the critique of DeVos. Then I read the article on the Wakanda curriculum, and I confess that I felt like the wind was taken out of my sails. On the one hand, I appreciate that a teacher was willing to mine the rich history of Wakanda from the comic books for meaningful learning objectives that had relevance for her students. On the other, I was disappointed that this teacher felt like reaching into a fictional universe was a necessary pathway for her black students to connect with the concepts of pride, dignity, and regality. I'll emphasize again that I applaud any learning activities that are (1) based on evidence- or research-based standards, (2) accessible to all learners, and (3) resonant with the students in a personal way. It seems evident from the article that the Wakanda curriculum achieved these goals, and for that I commend the teacher's creativity and innovation. Yet I can't help but wonder if the same goals could have been achieved through the exploration of real-life cultures. I wonder if the teacher had sufficiently delved into the cultures represented by her students - were these not ripe with potential? I understand the article's focus wasn't on the prior work of the teacher, so I don't want to assume we have the whole picture from this one piece. For me, it has encouraged me to consider more carefully on the blending of fiction and non-fiction when we explore culture - particularly when a potential by-product is that students will feel compelled to look to imagination rather than reality to find inspiring stories of their people.
My student teaching site recently had a Promethean ActivDisplay (a type of Smart board) installed in the music room, so my CT and I have been gradually learning how to incorporate it into our lessons. Promethean hosted a training event in Midtown, so I attended to see if there were any tips or tricks I could bring back to the classroom. The event was somewhat open-ended in that all user-experience levels were welcome and consultants were on hand to address individual questions. Attendees could also watch 15-20 minute demos on general topics if they wanted to learn more about generic functionality.
My time watching the demos generally reinforced what I've already learned just playing around with the board at school. Although it was helpful to have the consultant validate much of what my CT and I have been doing, there are several limitations to our use of the ActivDisplay in our class:
1. The system is Windows- and Google-based; thus, it is designed to plug seamlessly into other Windows software and online tools such as Google Classroom and Google Play. Both my CT and I use Apple devices, so the connection between our devices and the board can sometimes be bumpy or require workarounds.
2. A significant lift of Promethean is its teaching and learning interface, ClassFlow. This software is designed to replace ActivInspire, the company's previous interface that is widely used on both proprietary and non-proprietary boards. In this interface, teachers can design activities and assessments, display them on the board, push them out to students' devices during class, and create small groups for collaborative work in real time. An improvement of ClassFlow is that it is intended to be a student communication tool as well. Through it, teachers can email assignments, assessments, grades, etc. and use ClassFlow to display these various artifacts during their lessons.
The downside is that my school doesn't use any of this content, nor do they allow students to use devices during music class. The school already has an integrated grading, LMS, and SIS system (Jupiter iO) that includes a communication portal for documentation communication and sending emails to staff, students, and parents. The school has no incentive to change over to ClassFlow - it doesn't appear that the school considered this feature important when they decided to purchase the displays. In addition, the device policy is firm at the school so there is very little chance that my CT will ever be using the software to push content out to students during class.
3. All of my classes this term are performance-based (band), with very little interaction between the students and the board. My CT does not include composition in his curriculum, nor do students write out music literacy exercises on the board. Any writing is done as homework. As such, I don't see the students using the touch feature of the board any more than they used the traditional chalkboard.
4. The speakers on the display are powerful and clear, which is great for classrooms that don't have sound systems. My CT, however, already has a high-quality stereo system installed in the room, so I don't anticipate using this feature either.
As the demos were not especially helpful, I spent about 20 minutes talking with consultants about specific questions. They showed me a few tips to streamline navigation between apps, and helped me fix some whiteboard issues I was running into. Only one consultant had ever trained a music classroom, and she was limited in the amount of context she had for everyday use of the board. One idea she did suggest was to display the conductor's score on the board during rehearsals via forScore. I actually loved this idea with one caveat. My CT and I have the score on our iPads during the rehearsal and I think we'd continue to use that display (i.e., in front of us) as our guide. Meaning, I don't see us following along using the score on the board rather than our iPad. But having the big score displayed behind us might help students keep their place, improve their ability to hear other parts (by seeing them), and ensure that everyone knew where we were starting each time we ran a section. I think with some practice, my CT and I could probably integrate the score display into the process. We would, however, have to spend a bit of time teaching the students how to read a full score, since none of them are used to this (to my knowledge).
Overall, many of the features offered by Promethean aren't going to significantly impact the daily routine in this classroom. Currently we are only using two features - the timer and the generic display. The timer is helpful for students as they enter the room, seat themselves, and get organized. The display is larger and clearer than the chalkboard, so the agenda and homework are more easily read in my opinion. That said, for a $6000 per-board investment, I'm not sure an effective cost-benefit analysis was conducted for the variety of classrooms in which the boards would be used. I suspect other subjects may be using the tactile interface much more than we are in music; however, I wish the teachers would have been surveyed more prior to implementation. I also wish the administration carved out time for the departments to discuss and collaborate on ways to use the boards more effectively. Perhaps we might discover additional uses for the board if we had the time and space to discuss it with the other music teachers.
I absolutely loved this process! From a technical standpoint, I appreciated that Adobe has thought carefully about the user experience. Much of the process is either automated, drag-and-drop, or otherwise streamlined so that adults and students alike don't waste time fiddling with overly complicated navigation controls. A few clicks can usually get you what you need without frustration. Several design templates provide great inspiration and cover a broad range of experiences that students might want to document. I especially liked the prompts on each slide of the templates. These prompts provide a useful narrative outline for each slide so that the overall piece stays succinct and coherent. Many of our students struggle with writing outlines for their narratives, so I greatly appreciate that the templates have these baked right in -- students can easily follow them while they work. Also, the voice recording function is quite easy and I think students would adapt to it quickly. One way to make the process go even faster would be to have your media (e.g., photos, videos, music) pre-selected and accessible. Adobe has a large free library that students can peruse as needed, but I could see many students taking a lot of time browsing and making decisions. Overall, I can't foresee any major obstacles for students who have some technical literacy. As with Post and Page, Spark Video opens up the door to creating multimedia presentations that students can use across their coursework.
Similar to the other tools we've explored, I like that the bulk of my time was spent creating, not trying to understand how the software works. I found it largely intuitive for a first-time user, and I'm sure my students would explore more functionality than I did. No matter what the level of technical experience the student may have, Spark Video can be a powerful tool that balances user creativity with ease of use. If you can record your voice and drag-and-drop various media, you can make a video with Spark. I imagine this software could be empowering for many students and inspire them to create other works!
Rather than separate my Spark page and my lesson plan, I created a lesson on a Spark page that uses Spark posts as a homework assignment.
Creating the Spark page was an excellent way for me to share content with my students and for me to grow my skill with this technology. Experimenting with the different ways to display photos took a bit of time, but once I got the hang of it, I found myself revising my procedure to better take advantage of the site's capabilities. I think students will be engaged by the varied presentation, and the integration of videos, text, and photos was a fun way for me to include multimodal stimuli into the lesson. The different themes were a great way to get started without having to customize every detail. I also appreciated that many different pages are available for inspiration - several of the educational pages gave me ideas to use for my lesson.
The most challenging aspect of creating the page was deciding which photo presentation style was best for each image or set of images. It was time-consuming to play with the display options because the tools were not intuitive to me. It took a while to figure out how to move images around, change the sizing, etc. I also couldn't figure out how to change the overall background of the page from solid white to something else. I tried several different photo options but I couldn't find a way to change the entire background to a static image.
I could absolutely see myself using Spark for a number of my lessons - really any that use photos or videos would be great to launch on this platform. Prior to working with Spark, I hadn't considered the idea of using a webpage as a vehicle to display the content. Having worked with it, I now see how this format is a clear, engaging way to display a lesson plan. Of course it's predicated on having internet access and a display of some kind (e.g., Smartboard, projector, etc.); however, if those materials are in place, Spark has the potential to be a powerful tool for me to use in the classroom.