Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Dumbest Person in the Room ... and Loving It

In August, I had the pleasure to visit the Google Headquarters in downtown Chicago as part of the CPS Googlepalooza conference.  Google flew in top Apps for Education people from all over the nation for this event, and in the course of the two days, we heard, met, and learned so much.

Two of the people who spoke that week were Jaime Casap, Google's Global EDU Evangelist (who wouldn't want that title?) and Jim Lecinski, the head of Google's office in Chicago.

My favorite quote from the conference was spoken by Jaime Casap in the midst of a roundtable Q&A with the Googlers.  Speaking of his job, he said "I love being the dumbest person in a room of really smart people!"  He was clearly being self-deprecating since he is a smart guy.

But what does "I love being the dumbest person in a room of really smart people" really mean?

• It is really hard to grow when you think you're the smartest person in the room.
If you think you have little to gain, you're probably right.  People who think they're the smartest person in a room are difficult to relate to.

• Put yourself in risky situations where your mind may be totally blown.
Two years ago, I went to an EdCamp wanting to attend a scripting session.  I didn't know anything about scripting, but I wanted to know about it.  It was one of those times where I was in way over my head, but I loved that feeling.  Today, I look for opportunities to have that same mind-blowing feeling.

• Have a growth mindset.
When you surround yourself with really smart people, you start to question yourself.  Don't be afraid to grow based on those questions - those really smart people in the room probably questioned themselves at one point, too.
Growth Mindset anchor chart from @escott818

Everyone wants to look smart, including our students.
What do we do to get students to be comfortable with the idea of being the "dumbest person in a room of really smart people" and not feeling down about themselves?  Let me be clear: I am talking about a growth mindset here - not achievement or excuses.

• Develop relationships.
Students need to recognize the "really smart part" of every student. Trying to appear smart (or class clown) is a coping or defense mechanism when we don't feel valued in another way.  Developing relationships, recognizing the "How are you smart?" in every student, and being able to say "You matter!" lowers the defenses.

• Support student goal-setting.
Goals really are just framing our shortcomings in a positive, action-oriented way.  Goals say "I need something here - I am missing something here.  Here's how I will set about achieving it."  Goal setting moves a person into a growth mindset, as long as the goals are achievable and supported by others.

• Celebrate accomplishment.
How do kids celebrate accomplishment in a video game?  By moving on to the next level!  Same thing in a classroom.  Celebrate accomplishment and move on to bigger goals.

I hope to make my next blog post about my other big take-away from Google HQ.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Standards Based Learning and Assessment in Music: An Index

After a series of ten (ten?!) posts regarding Standards Based Learning and Performance Assessment in the music classroom, I put together a "table of contents" or index of the entire series. Feel free to click and read any or all of the posts.  I hope this is of use to others.  Good curriculum design crosses content areas - there are applications in these pages to all areas of the curriculum.

Chapter 1
Standards Based Music Assessment - Why state contest ballots won't help students improve.

Chapter 2
Standards - What They Are and What They Are Not - The pieces you perform are not units.  This post also details the four musical units we have put into place for all 6-12 ensembles.

Chapter 3
Why SBL in Music? - The personal reasons why I have started a journey to standards-based learning in music.

Chapter 4
Love at First Sight - Practical books for music departments that are focusing on student achievement and curriculum

Chapter 5
A Book You Must Read - Tony Frontier's Five Levers to Improve Learning will change the way you teach and lead

Chapter 6
Four Questions to Ask When Designing Music Assessments - It's all about quality - individual quality, ensemble quality, responsibility, and improvement.

Chapter 7
Setting the (Learning) Targets - Every topic in music can be broken down into smaller components. Teach students these 18 targets for quality vocal performances.

Chapter 8
Defining Quality - Once you have your learning targets, you can identify what represents quality (or lack of quality) in each of the 18 areas.  Also, offer strategies for improvement in each learning target.

Chapter 9
Standards Based Music Performance Report - Using the materials developed from the first eight chapters, I have designed the music assessment document presented in chapter nine.

Chapter 10
Recording & Assessing Music Performance - A pretty "tech-y" workflow that makes standards based learning doable, practical, and shareable for students, parents, and teachers.  The point is to use data to improve student & ensemble performance.  Not just to collect data.

Thanks for being a part of this journey!

Recording & Assessing Student Performance

What is the biggest obstacle in musical performance assessment?
Recording student performances.
How to record? When to listen? Who listens? What to do with the recordings? How to use the recording for assessment?  With all those students? How does it help the ensemble?
The questions are so numerous that we often give up.

What if we could "attach" the performance directly to the assessment?

And allow students to self-reflect and set goals based on the data?
And allow parents to be part of the process?
And be able to archive it, creating a digital portfolio?
And be able to keep it over the course of many years?
And be able to collect the data and use it to identify areas of need for individuals and the group?
And be able to do it all for FREE?

This post is about to get pretty tech-y.  If that scares you, I apologize.

Here's the simple list of the tech tools we can use to make this work:
Kaizena - to record voice comments (student performance) and attach to a google doc
GClass Folders - to create folders in every student's Google Drive that are accessible by both the teacher and the student
Doctopus - to copy assessment forms into each student's Google account
Goobric - to score students and collect that data back into a single teacher spreadsheet
QR codes - to provide easy access to individual student folders

Two questions come up right away?
1.  Why not use Smart Music?  It's not free.
2.  Why not use Google Classroom?  Right now, Google classroom allows only one editor of a document at a time.  It is written so that the student and teacher alternate editing rights.  If we want student and teacher to collaborate, both teacher and student need editing rights concurrently.  I hope that becomes a feature of Classroom in the future.

Now, a little more in-depth about each tech tool.
Kaizena integrates with your Google Drive.  Once you connect Kaizena to your Google Drive (click red "New" button, choose "More" and "Connect More Apps", then search for Kaizena), you can open any document with Kaizena (right click on doc, choose "Open With" and then Kaizena) and record audio.  The audio is then saved as a Comment in the comment feed.  When you, the student, or the parent (if granted permission) opens the document, the recording will remain in the comment feed.  Re-recordings could be added.  Kaizena allows you to tag your audio comments and will send notifications of new comments.

GClass Folders is an add-on in Google Sheets that enables a teacher to install a folder into each student's Google Drive.  Actually, it adds three folders to every student's Google Drive, preset with the correct permissions.  One folder is for classwide viewing, one folder is for classwide editing, and the third folder (assignment folder) is individualized for each student, accessible only by the teacher and student.

Doctopus & Goobric are also add-ons in Google Sheets.  Once you have set up your student folders using GClass Folders above, use Doctopus to make "virtual copies" of your assessment document.  The assessment will be placed into each student's "assignment" folder.  Doctopus integrates with GClass Folders, even though they are separate add-ons.  Goobric, on the other hand, is part of Doctopus.  Goobric allows you to attach a rubric template to your assessment.  As you fill out the rubric, the data is collected into the teacher's spreadsheet.  From there, you can analyze the data for the entire class.

I previously did a blog post on Doctopus.  I am not making a screencast of how to use GClass Folders, Doctopus, or Goobric because it involves student names (no FERPA violations here), so I'll leave it to the experts to explain it better.

QR Codes are a great way for teachers and students to have fast access to anything.  But did you know you can have Google Sheets automatically create QR codes?  Put your URL (or any other content) in the first column of a spreadsheet, and in the second column, paste this formula:
If needed, be sure to change the "A2" at the end of the formula to whatever your reference cell is. The formula will be replaced with a QR code.  You can copy down the formula for as many rows as needed in your spreadsheet.  Print the QR codes and tape them to folders, binders, desks, bulletin boards, or wherever so that students can skip the steps of searching through their Google Drive for the correct folder.

OK - so the assessment workflow COULD be this:
Beginning of the year:
1.  Teacher creates assignment folder for each student with GClass folders (one time, update as needed).
2.  Create QR code links to each student's assignment folder and tape to choir folders.

Every time students will be assessed:
1.  Teacher uses Doctopus to copy assessment document into each student's folder.
2.  Teacher uses Goobric to associate rubric with assessment document.

During assessment:
1.  Student or teacher opens assessment document in Kaizena and records performance. (Depends if teacher is listening live or recorded.)
2.  Teacher assesses performance and assigns scores using Goobric.
3.  Student and teacher together set new goal for next assessment period.  The assessment document has a spot for reflection and goal setting.

After assessment:
Multiple options: Teacher can share assessment doc to parents, teacher can pull up assessment documents at conferences, teacher can use in class for analysis by other students (with permission), teacher can use class data from Goobric and present to the class to analyze.  There are many options!

It took a long time to work all this out, but not very long to set up.   The real breakthrough was Kaizena and the ability to connect performance with assessment.

This has been my Summer project.  My hope is to focus on individual students, and in turn, raise the level of the entire ensemble.  It also makes music assessment quantifiable, yet clearly standards-based.  And it is built entirely on solid curriculum.  This process could be used in other curricular areas as well.  If you would like more information, please contact me on Twitter or by leaving a comment below.  Thank you!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Standards Based Music Performance Report

All of the blogs I have been writing about standards-based learning over the last several weeks have brought me to this point.  Taking all of the standards and learning targets, defining what quality looks and sounds like, linking individual performance growth to the performance growth of the group, and so on has brought us to actually assessing student growth.

At some point, we must assess the individual student for several reasons:
• To establish where the student is at one point in time as compared to the standard (pre-assessment)
• To identify opportunities for growth (goals)
• To monitor growth (formative)
• To provide individualized feedback
• To provide individualized exercises to meet student needs (differentiation)
• To establish that the student performs concert music at an age-appropriate level (summative)

Using the spreadsheet that defines quality for all learning targets (previous post), I created a somewhat-simpler assessment page.  It is not a rubric.  Defining what quality looks and sounds like is acceptable.  I think we will start to see rubrics more and more replaced by "quality" statements because they allow for greater flexibility.

It starts with the student's current goal, takes the student and teacher together through the assessment, asks for feedback from the student and the teacher based on the data collected, and then finally the student and teacher together set a new goal and plan for improvement so that the group may continue to improve.

Here is the assessment sheet as a Google Sheet.
Here is the assessment sheet as a Google Doc.

Partial screenshot of Individual Assessment for choral music
My next blog will be to explain one possible workflow and way of using the assessment sheet so that student, parents, and teachers all benefit.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Define Quality

We are really getting into the nitty-gritty of performance assessment in the arts now.  But this is the point where it could be most effective for students (and therefore, the program).
Which of these lists will help a student become independent

List 1
Can I sing?

List 2
Am I using proper abdominal breathing?
Am I using a north/south mouth shape with teeth apart and correct lip shapes?
Can I sing one note while someone else sings a different note?
Can I sing a non-melodic part independently & accurately?
Do I take breaks at predetermined, thoughtful locations in the music (phrases)?
If there are certain notes that the composer has indicated to be performed specially, am I doing that (articulation)?

Since we have 18 learning targets (see previous post), we have at least 18 questions.  The more questions a student is able to demonstrate positively, the better the chance of a quality musical performance.

But students also benefit from non-examples, and so I have provided what each learning target would look or sound like when not performed with quality.  This is not to make a student feel bad.  Rather, it is the start of a conversation leading to growth.

Furthermore, each of these 18 learning targets can be applied to any level of musical achievement.  You can use these learning targets and their examples at a 6th grade or 12th grade level.  In fact, twenty years after graduating with a performance degree, I could still use these same learning targets.

Finally, every example and non-example offers strategies for improvement.  I have compiled a beginning list, not an exhaustive list of steps to take to move to the next level.  I could imagine pulling together a list of warmups based completely on each of these 18 learning targets (i.e., "Need to work on articulation?  Work on exercises 22 and 23 for next week.")

Click HERE to view the full spreadsheet (click tabs on the bottom to switch topics).
The learning targets for "Intonation"

The next post will get into how to use these with students.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Setting the (Learning) Targets

In my previous post, I wrote four questions for designing performance music assessments:
1.  What does quality look like?
2.  What does quality sound like?
3.  What will a group sound like if everyone performs with this level of quality?
4.  How do individuals improve so the group may improve?

The answers to these questions provide your learning targets - the concepts we expect students to be able to do or demonstrate.  If we take a step back at this point and look a vocal performance unit so far, it would look like this:
performance unit within South Milwaukee's curriculum for ensembles
As you can see, each of the four topics have been broken down into 3-5 learning targets that are essential if a student is to perform with quality.  I decided that these learning targets were the major contributing factors that would create quality tone, intonation, musicality, and technique.  I tried to match the state ballot as much as possible.  You might come up with different ideas for learning targets, especially if your state ballot differs from Wisconsin's.  

I didn't try to make 5 learning targets in each area, but as it was coming together, I really liked it since our state ballot gives students a rating of 1-5.  It seemed like a logical way to help students make a connection between how they perform in class and what kind of score they might expect in a contest situation.  And since we have tied individual quality to group quality with our guiding questions above, our 1-5 rating could work on large group contest as well as solo/ensemble.  

We're not done.  Each of these learning targets needs to be broken down into criteria for assessment. But that will have to be the next installment in this series ...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

4 Questions to Ask When Designing Music Assessments

In my initial post in this series (here), I wrote that contest ballots are not helpful rubrics for students. They are written for adjudicators and teachers.  In designing standards-based performance assessments rubrics for music students, the most important consideration is to make it usable for the students!  With this in mind, I have developed an assessment based on four questions, based on my learnings from the resources I blogged about (here and here):

1.  What does it look like?
Pretend you have a student in front of you that was ready to sing, but as he/she was singing, the sound coming out is completely muted.  Would you be able to assess that student's tone?  For the most part, yes!  You can see the student's posture, you can observe his/her breathing, the relaxation of the neck muscles and jaw, the position of the soft palate and tongue in the mouth, the space between the teeth, and the shape of the lips. These are all deliberate choices that a singer makes when performing. Students, especially beginning students, need to be able to assess based on the visual.  For topics such as intonation, the visual would be the notation itself.

2.  What does it sound like when a soloist performs this learning target with quality?
Now unmute our student and let the sound out.  What is the aural result?  This is where individuals take responsibility for their own personal sound.  This is where we focus on the individual growth of each student within the ensemble.  And in today's media, students hear all sorts of poor and even unhealthy styles of singing.  This question differentiates for students what kind of singing is expected in class as compared to what they may see on TV or youtube.

3.  What will an ensemble of musicians sound like when they all exhibit this quality?
Once again, most music teachers could listen to 50 students individually and then correctly hypothesize what the ensemble will sound like.  But a student cannot.  And young students often do not realize what their contribution is to the larger group.  This question places the responsibility for the sound of the group squarely on each member.  For example, how does your personal performance of phrasing contribute to the overall group's phrasing?

4.  How can you improve your individual performance in this area so the group can improve?
Don't leave students hanging.  Using the data collected, here's where you scored in each area, and now here are some suggestions that will help you move to the next level of personal performance.  Again, the responsibility for group growth is placed on each individual.  This is where the teacher and student together set goals for growth.  The teacher can also group students based on needs.

To recap, the progression is:
Quality Individual (visual & aural)  --> Quality Group  --> Strategies for Improvement

Next up ... the answers to these four questions