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.
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!
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.
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.
What did you learn?
Adobe Spark is a great tool that I can see myself using in my classroom - I loved creating the group poem memes! Adobe has thousands of photos, all tagged, that you can search through for inspiration; and the design templates are very user friendly. Many of the classrooms I've visited have music-related and inspirational posters hanging on the walls, but Adobe Spark gives me and my students the opportunity to create our own that are specific to our community. Using ideas, language, and images that are created by the students feels much more authentic and will hopefully guide our community more truthfully.
How could what you learned enrich your class?
The group poem activity is an excellent opportunity for students to learn about collaboration and sharing responsibility, and for me to teach them about being creative, responsible consumers of media. I especially like that it gives students the space to exercise soft skills while engaging with different types of content.
How would you integrate the group poem activity into a lesson?
It's a flexible lesson that could be incorporated into just about any unit. The overarching structure of the lesson enables students to work together to write, compose, collage, debate, revise...a wonderful array of skills! One opportunity that comes to mind is when we are studying specific composers or cultures of world music. I could provide students with different materials that enable them to reflect how the composer might have felt (empathy skill) or what imagery the music is creating in my students' minds, particularly if the musical culture is unfamiliar to them.
What opportunities do you see?
I appreciate that the source material for the poem can be varied as needed. Depending on the unit we are studying, I could provide my students with a wide range of source material that best fits the theme. I could expand the activity to include music and tactile materials in addition to visual elements to appeal to a broader range of learners. I would want to differentiate the lesson so that all learners could be successful.
What challenges do you see?
A significant challenge of my classroom management is my students' responsible use of technology. Many schools have banned cellphone use because students are constantly plugged in and struggle to focus their attention on learning. I appreciate what technology can do for our learning environment, but managing the students' use of it feels like yet another aspect of classroom management that I have to take on in addition to everything else. If we were to do the Adobe Spark extension, I'd need to have strategies at the ready to keep them on task.
How would you plan for the challenges?
I imagine a good way to use technology responsibly is to provide students with devices that are already setup to minimize distractions. I think digital learning is a powerful tool for my young digital natives; however, they are also social beings and easily tempted to start texting, Snapchatting, etc. each other during class. If I could ensure that any devices we'd use wouldn't be compromised by social media, I would feel much better about managing the class.
What did you learn?
Although I was glad to see people of color well-represented in several of the source materials, I was disappointed at how little representation there was of Asians and Asian-Americans. It highlights the media's role in shaping and reflecting our cultural values and standards of beauty, power, and creative expression - especially in the eyes of children. When the media consciously chooses to represent (or not) a particular demographic, it is actively contributing to conversations about race, gender, sexuality, and ability. Children witness and experience these conversations, and internalize their interpretations of the media's messages, often to a detrimental effect.
How could what you learned enrich your class?
The exercise reminds us how our selection of repertoire reflects not just our musical preferences, but our personal values and biases. If we are to model inclusion and culturally-sensitive pedagogy in our practice, then we must ensure that we include a broad range of current and historical world music in our lessons. In this, we highlight and celebrate the diversity of the world and can discuss with our students how it has changed over time.
How would you integrate the group poem activity into a lesson?
I might ask students to listen to several musical excerpts and write, draw, or collage (with provided materials) their responses to each piece. Then they could combine their response depictions as we did into a group representation for a gallery walk. I've done something similar with my elementary-aged students but it was individual work. It would be great to revisit the activity as a group effort.
What opportunities do you see?
The activity was an excellent way for students to grow their skills of collaboration and cooperation. In creating the poem and the visual, students must engage in respectful dialogue with their peers and compromise. As I check in with each group, I can help students develop their language and social skills in support of group work.
What challenges do you see?
Many students find working in groups challenging. Some students may try to force their opinions on others or devalue others' contributions; while some students may not feel comfortable advocating for their ideas or expressing their opinions to their peers. Dominant personalities will tend to take over planning and execution, which can erode other students' self-esteem and confidence.
How would you plan for the challenges?
A key teaching strategy will be to ensure students are being kind and respectful of each other's ideas and creating a piece collaboratively that reflects each student's contribution. I can monitor each group and provide language and tools to help students express their ideas, advocate respectfully for themselves, and compromise for the collective interest. I can give them just enough structure so that they can feel successful without stifling their creative instincts.
Today we discussed the idea of creative confidence and reviewed the now-defunct Adobe Youth Voices project: https://www.adobe.com/corporate-responsibility/education/adobe-youth-voices.html
A key takeaway for me with regard to reaching young digital learners is that effective youth media work often begins with these elements: