Friday, March 30, 2012

Cultivating Student Researchers using Google Apps for Education

This is the 7th part of a series in which 5th grade musicians are using Edmodo and Google Apps for Education to research composers and create websites based on that research.

How do we teach students how to find the best car when they are older?
How do we teach students to select the best financial investments someday?

It all starts with research.  The ability to research is one of the most important tools we equip our students with for their future.  Teaching students to research means teaching them how to grow their own knowledge base.  It means teaching them how to select, compare, analyze, synthesize, evaluate, question, and all those other though processes that we look for in teaching.  Researchers are lifelong learners and contributors.

Teaching beginning researchers is always a fun challenge.  Think about the skills needed to research:
• Locating information
• Reading for information (this is the most important skill - it is also the most difficult skill because students must slow down)
• Putting the information into your own words
• Citing sources
• Managing the research that you collect (index cards, notetaking app, etc.)
• Organization of information (the second biggest skill - assembling collected facts into a logical order to create a new product)

I added another challenge to this list this year - how do we do paperless research?  In past posts, I talked about our Edmodo library for biographies, timelines, and videos.  That takes care of locating the information.  But what about collecting the information, citing sources, and organizing?  Did I really want to have kids writing notes on paper while sitting at a computer?  And how could I take advantage of Google Apps in this process?

My answer?  I decided to use a Google Form.  The form has just 3 questions, all required:
1.  What kind of fact will this be?  Students must choose the kind of fact from teacher-created categories.
2.  Where did you find this fact?  Students must cite their source.
3.  What is the fact?

I saved the form as a template and had the kids use my template.  I couldn't just share the form with them because then everyone's facts would end up on the same form - no good.  Each student needed their own copy from a template.  The students renamed it and opened the live form.  A quick tutorial about the 3 questions, open the Edmodo library in another tab, and - VOILA - research!  Each fact that the student enters into the form shows up on the associated spreadsheet.  The kids had no idea how the mechanics of this works - they just need to experience it first.  After a few minutes of submitting facts, I had the kids tab to their spreadsheet and they were amazed to see their list of facts growing!
The real bonus is yet to come - the Google form/spreadsheet will help the kids organize their research, too!  The magic is in question #1 - "What kind of fact is this?"  I numbered the choices and put them in a logical order from birth to death.  When the students click on the spreadsheet column header, they will be able to sort their facts numerically (A-Z) and their notes will be roughly in the order that they should appear in their essay!  Also, by putting URLs into the citation box (question #2), students can easily click to the source for their fact - very helpful when the teacher thinks a student may have an incorrect fact or when the student needs to be encouraged to dig deeper into a fact.

Are all these shortcuts cheating the students?  No, for three reasons:
1.  These are beginning researchers.  Getting them excited about research and giving them the skills is more important than the mechanics at this point.
2.  This is a music class where we only get 60 minutes per week.  We need to leverage our time in the lab for maximum productivity.
3.  Why shouldn't we harness the technology available to them now and in their future?  Do we really believe any of these kids will be using index cards in the future to organize their research?  Would you?

Research is inherently collaborative because you are using someone else's work.  Research is inherently creative because the end result of research is always something new.  Research teaches students to take action because research is always about choices.  Collaboration, creativity, and action - what more can you ask for?

First day of Google Apps for Education for Students

Episode 6 in our series ...

We got every student logged into his/her Google Apps for Education account earlier this week.  That, in itself, was a success.  These 5th grade students are the first students in our district to use Google Apps for Education, and we really didn't know what would happen.  They all got logged in, but after logging in, our network got bogged down and we never really made it much got past that point.  It didn't have anything to do with Google - it's just one of those things that happens.

The most interesting part?  Trying to get 5th graders to do the little Captcha codes where you have to copy the random numbers and letters that are almost impossible to read.  They didn't know why we had to do that, they couldn't make out the letters, they couldn't understand why the letters didn't spell a word, and they were afraid of what would happen if they got the letters wrong.

In the end, this may end up being remembered as the most difficult part of the project!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Constructing Knowledge Through Online Conversations

This is part 5 in a series of an Edmodo/Google Apps for Education project in which 5th grade musicians research composers and create websites based on that research.

After two classes getting our feet wet using Edmodo, it was time to dive in.  In the first two classes, I found the students were doing well at locating information in our Edmodo library, navigating between multiple tabs in a browser window, reading for information, putting information into their own words, and posting amazing facts to our Edmodo group.  What the students could not do well was reply to posts in a way that creates a conversation.

This is an oft-lamented issue for students and society.  Students need to know how to have a conversation in various situations:  One-to-one, small groups, large groups, and now online.  The feedback loop of a conversation often gets short-circuited.  Communication is a 21st century skill (probably an every-century skill).

So I created a screencast that showed examples from our first week - good and bad conversations.  In the screencast, I asked students to "create conversations" and reply in a way that encourages dialogue rather than discourages dialogue.  We talked about "conversation killers" - replies such as "cool" or "wow".  These are words you say when you are truly speechless - not words you use to further a discussion either in person or online.

We then had two more classes in which students were to post and reply.  In the first class, students had to look at a composer timeline and post about another composer that lived at the same time and a historical event that took place when the composer was alive.  This had the immediate benefit of creating conversations because students could connect with other students whose composers were contemporaries.  Also, students really like history.  Since many Baroque, Classical, and Romantic events took place during the years of the American colonies, revolution (5th grade topics in our school), and Civil War, the students made connections between subjects.  (On the other hand, most students did not know what the Gulf War was...)

The next class was a bonus for us - the students viewed a work by his/her composer from a teacher-created playlist of youtube videos,  one video for each composer, which I shared to our Edmodo library.  In the past, it was a struggle to get a student to listen to a selection of his/her composer's work on the stereo and fill out a listening sheet.  But having the visual and the need to make a musically-significant Edmodo post about the video created more conversations.  Students have heard John Williams' "Star Wars" theme many times, but have never seen an orchestra play it - it changes their concept of music.  And if you can see "Star Wars" as a form of classical music, it's not such a big leap to Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, or Haydn.  The student studying Antonin Dvorak pointed out that the beginning of his "From the New World" Symphony sounds like "Jaws" and "Star Wars".  That perked up the ears of the John Williams student, and we have total excitement and online conversation about how Antonin Dvorak's music is similar to John Williams.  5th grade!  You can't make this stuff up, folks.

Students will make connections (construct their own knowledge) IF we as teachers give them enough ideas and points to connect.  The brain wants to make connections.  We build lessons in multiple dimensions so that students can take action and connect the dots on their own.  As a wise colleague of mine says "He who does the thinking, does the learning."

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Running the Course

I give myself 30 minutes every weekday morning for newspaper headlines and computer time.  About a week ago, an article by Grant Wiggins, the guru of educational curriculum, stopped me in my tracks.  When the leading voice in American education curriculum writes an article entitled "Everything you know about curriculum may be wrong," you know you better buckle up.

For those of us in music, the arts, physical education, tech ed, and the many other subjects that apply the core curriculum, we struggle whenever a new curriculum initiative is introduced.  For too long, the question we have asked ourselves has been, "How do we fit music/PE/art/etc. into this model?" when the question always should have been "How do our performances exemplify all that is right about curriculum?"  In reference to athletics, Wiggins says, "the game is the curriculum; the game is the teacher ... Knowledge about the game is secondary."  

The article opens with some transformational events in history - Copernicus's idea that the Earth revolves around the Sun and Einstein's idea that the speed of light, not time, is the constant.  Likewise revolutionary, Wiggins proposes "action, not knowledge, as the essence of an education".  Knowledge, Understanding, Transfer ... all serve a greater master - to move a student and humanity to action.  

The etymology of the word "curriculum" means a running course, like a race track for a chariot race.  We want students to be well-rounded and well-founded so they can run the course of life (curriculum vitae) successfully.  But this is scary for us as educators - we do not know what kind of action a student may take or what kind of action may be needed in the future.  Did anyone know what kind of action Michelangelo, Beethoven, or Einstein would take?  It is hard enough to equip students with knowledge to take them into the future - how do we prepare them for action?  By bringing the future into our classrooms now - by taking action now - by teaching them to act now on the knowledge they construct.

We live in a second renaissance.  Instead of a printing press, we have the internet.  How will we use knowledge of the past to spur students into future action?  For those of us who are music educators, we teach students to take action through music, since every piece of music is a problem to be solved and every performance is an action to be taken.  Taking action and performing is about creating something new - something never heard or seen before.  Performance is the curriculum; performance is the teacher.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Three Favorite Teacher Apps This Year

One of the reasons I love my iPad is how it makes my work in front of the kids easier.  It has become something like a universal remote control that replaces the other 5 remote controls you used to fumble between.  For example, as a music teacher, I always had these things close by:
• a stack of seating charts (22 sections per week)
• boxes of CD's that matched our textbook series (about 60 CDs)
• my lesson plan book

My lesson plan book was filled with little codes to let me know which CD to use.  You might have 3 hours of classes without a break, and I would pre-load the 6-CD changer and mark down the disc number and track number in my lesson plan book.  (In the "good old days," I even had a code system for - gasp - records!)  And changing a seating chart eats ups valuable class time when you only get 60 minutes a week with students.  

All through the 2011-12 school year, my three most valuable teacher apps have been:
SmartSeat (by Cornsoft)
PlanBook (by Hellmansoft)
Remote (by Apple)

The combination of these three apps have made my life easier, and have had an impact on student learning.  I can only give anecdotal evidence for that claim - less time spent on seating charts, websites that launch automatically from my lesson book, no fumbling through CD's, more prep time available to do these tasks.  These take precious minutes.  Here's a look at each of them and how they have helped me.

Smart Seat
Smart Seat is a seating chart on steroids.  Smart Seat allows you to copy and paste a list of names into a class, customize seating arrangements, scramble students, randomly choose students, take pictures of students in the app, email seating charts, track attendance, and more.  I will often put other information in the chart such as folder number or instrument number.  I never print seating charts unless I have a sub - and then it is easy enough to just email the seating chart to myself or a printer.  Have to move a student?  Just slide his/her name to a new seat.  Students can be added and deleted easily throughout the year.  At the time of this post, Smart Seat is $3.99 and has been well worth it.

PlanBook is more than a lesson book.  As a music teacher, I have a very complicated schedule.  I am at two schools:  a middle school which runs an A/B schedule and an elementary school on a 5-day rotation.  Plan book can handle complicated schedules, but it also lets you adjust your schedule easily for those special days that pop up.  My favorite features of PlanBook include:
• allows you to put URL's into your lesson plans and launch website directly from your lesson book.
• allows you to upload other files (such as Smart Notebook files) and launch from lesson book.
• Dropbox integration allows me to work on lesson plans anywhere, even if I don't have internet access
• Allows user to color-code individual classes
• Drag and drop to copy lessons from one section to another
PlanBook is not cheap ($35 for laptop or desktop through App Store plus $9.99 for iPad version through iTunes store), but I may never buy another lesson book.

Remote is Apple's own app to control iTunes and Apple TV ... well ... remotely.  Instead of loading all those CD's into the stereo (and even some records that I've transferred), I just launch Remote and I can control my iTunes library from anywhere in the room.  This is great as an elementary music teacher who is moving around the room or often sitting on the floor with kids.  I do have issues with it on a secure , enterprise network, but I set up a computer-to-computer network when needed.  Remote is free from the iTunes store.

So those are my top 3 this year.  I paid full price for all of them.  And not only have they made my life easier - I am sure they have an effect on student learning because I can get more done every class.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Apple TV vs. Reflection

Within the last few weeks, both Apple TV and the Reflection App by AirParrot have gotten considerable attention.  I have had a 2nd gen Apple TV since Fall 2011 (we have an all-Apple household).  But I also have purchased the Reflection App because I can already see applications for both.

Why has the Reflection app developed such a big following so fast?  I think it is for two reasons:
#1 - Most people do not have HDMI inputs on their projectors yet.  Although there was buzz about HDMI to VGA converters a few months ago, it's $40 for the converter on top of a $99 Apple TV box, plus cables, and you are still left with an audio issue.  And HDMI projectors are not cheap yet.
#2 - Cost.  Reflection is only $14.99 for a single installation.

But the single biggest drawback for both of these products for education or business is that neither functions well on secure, enterprise networks without some sort of work-around (at least in my experience so far).  If someone could address this problem, life would be so much easier.  So far, the work-arounds that seem to work best are Mrs. Magiera's for Apple TV (here) and Mr. Eley's for Reflection (via Tony Vincent here).

Right now, I am using both Apple TV and Reflection.  Here's what I am doing:
• If I am in the computer lab with an HDMI projector, I will hook up my Apple TV.  It is the simplest way to still have internet so I can use Edmodo, Safari, and other internet apps with students.  I find Apple TV to be a little more "seamless" in its operation.
• If I am in my classroom, I can easily plug in my laptop to an ethernet cord, set up a computer-to-computer network and use Reflection.  I find Reflection easier to use on the go.  And as a stand-alone window on the desktop, I can drag it from my laptop's screen to another non-mirrored monitor or Smartboard.  But Reflection can only be installed on a single computer.  I can take my Apple TV anywhere and plug it in.

So, at least for the time being, and if you have the funds, I would use both.  Like so many things in life, it is not "either/or" but "both/and".  At least for the near future.  And with this Summer's coming version of OSX to include Airplay mirroring of your laptop's screen, I hope somebody solves the enterprise network dilemma soon.

UPDATE - May 14 - My views on Reflection and Apple TV continue to evolve.  Please see my more recent blog post.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Warning ... Teaching may be addictive

You know you are in the right vocation when you can't wait to get back to work.
That happened again today as part of our composer research project.

Wednesday was our 2nd day in the computer lab as we research composers and create websites using Edmodo and Google Apps for Education.  When the students came in, they logged into Edmodo and found a new screencast I created about rules and etiquette for posting.  Basically, I asked the students to keep two things in mind:
#1 - All posts and replies should help us grow as musicians and learn about our composers
#2 - As the teacher, I see everything the students post.

Today's tasks were relatively simple - the students were to send a post to the entire class finishing this sentence: "An amazing fact about my composer is ..." and then reply to at least one other post in a way that helps us grow as musicians and learn about our composers.

I had no idea what would happen.
And I had no idea how successful it would be.

Slowly, the posts started coming.  Then more posts.  Then the replies.  Faster and faster.
I would be helping students and look down at my iPad and see "20 new posts".
Then I would read the posts and see amazing facts and replies in which students were making connections to their own lives.  This is the feeling that makes teaching addictive - giving students the skills, materials, and etiquette and letting them bloom on their own.  All I asked for was an amazing fact shared in a responsible way.

In past years, the 2nd day of the project would have looked like this:
Students using file folders of legally photocopied biographies to work with a single partner finding 25 vocabulary-type words that could be put into an online wordsearch creator.  Now, students are doing more rigorous work, making more connections to their own lives, and collaborating more with other students (= learning more).

There was one interesting moment.  In the midst of all this work, all of a sudden a student tells me someone has posted a personal note.  I look down at my iPad - sure enough.  Another student tells me the same thing.  Chatter spreads throughout the computer lab.  Aha - a teachable moment!

This student had simply sent the message "Hi Joe" (names changed) to the entire group.
I zoomed my Airplay connected iPad to the message so the class could see it together.
Me:  Look at the screen in front of the room.  What did your screencast say?
Class:  No personal messages.
Me:  Let's compare Joe's posts to Susie's right above it.  Susie's post says "Brahms became known as one of the three B's of composers - Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms."  The other post says "Hi Joe".  Which post helps us grow as musicians and learners?  Thank you for giving us an example to learn from.

The point is that students were ready to report seemingly inappropriate posting etiquette before I even could catch it.  No hard feelings - just a teachable moment.  And a learning community that will hold each other accountable.

The most amazing part of the day happened after school.  A few students were logging into their Edmodo account in the evening from home, reading more biographies, posting, and replying from home.  Learning is addictive, too.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

First day in the lab

Part 4 of a series on a new Google Apps for Education project in which 5th grade music students are doing a research project about composers and creating websites.

Yesterday was our first day in the computer lab.  Was everything ready?
• Edmodo permission slips turned in ... check!
• Edmodo student accounts created ... check!
• Apple TV connected to projector and working ... check!
• Screencast uploaded and waiting for students in Edmodo ... check!
• Google Form composer survey shared and waiting for students in Edmodo ... check!

My biggest fear was that I would have messed up a username or password as I created Edmodo accounts, but all 50 accounts turned out to work perfectly.

Why am I using Edmodo?

First of all, we need a "library" for our composer information.  I like that Edmodo gave me that ability.  It also lets me create folders for various types of information about our composers (i.e., biographies, timelines, images).
Second, Edmodo allows for the collaboration that I was looking for with this project.
Third, it will allow students to work on the project from anywhere in the world if they so choose.
Fourth, I find the user interface very intuitive for kids.
There were other options like Livebinders and Diigo, but I picked Edmodo for these reasons.

When students logged into Edmodo for the first time, you could hear several kids quietly exclaiming, "It looks like Facebook!"  I had carefully avoided that word as I had told kids about the project.  "Yes, it looks like Facebook, and we will discuss similarities and differences later.  But for now, here is your task ..." and we got to work.  No posting today.

The first task included watching a screencast I created (Quicktime-Schooltube) about opening multiple tabs in a browser window, finding our Edmodo biography library in one tab, and opening our Google Form composer survey in another tab.  By the end of class, the students had to use their biographies to answer basic questions about their composer.  The questions ask about country where he/she lived, male/female composer, and musical era.  The task is more about finding your way around Edmodo than gathering information, the students don't realize it and it does give us good data.  When finished, I will share the data from the form with them.

Most successfully completed the survey.  A few got to the end of class and did not realize that the survey does not save if you only completed half of it and will need to start over next time.

Another note - plugging my Apple TV into the projector allowed me to use my iPad to roam the room and give instruction without constantly running back to my laptop.  I was logged into Edmodo as a fake student in my class through Safari and as myself (teacher account) through the Edmodo app.  I was able to demonstrate Edmodo from both the teacher and student side at the double-click of a button.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Measure twice, Cut once

3rd post in a series about a new Google Apps project for 5th grade musicians

After making the switch to Google Apps myself in January 2012, it didn't take long to realize Google Apps would be the perfect way to revamp and revitalize my 5th grade composer research project.  I knew what I didn't care for in the old project and what Google Apps could bring to the game for my students (see previous post).  What I was not prepared for was the immense amount of work getting ready for a project like this.

I have spent about 6 weeks prepping for this project.  Along the way, several big issues came up, such as:
• In the past, I provided a file folder of research for each composer.  The focus has always been on research, and as a first research experience for most of these students, I have always simplified the volume of materials available for each composer.  But how would I guide student research on the internet?
• As I created an online repository of information for student research, I had to make sure that every one of our 25 composers had enough information, copyright free images, etc. for student use.
• Once students are researching, how will they take notes online?  Reading for information, citation of sources, and organization of notes were difficult enough when we used pencil and paper.  What would happen when we move online, and how would I facilitate success in notes and organization?
• Although I have created many websites over the years, none of them had been on Google Sites.  Now I would have to become an expert at Google Sites as fast as possible.  Not that the students will have to know everything, but I feel like I need to be fluent to guide the students.
• Would I be able to get computer lab time - enough to make it worthwhile?
• What would be the minimum expectations for our composer website?  Even the minimum expectations will require students to use Google Docs and Sites, as well as limited experience with Videos and Forms.  What did I want students to know at the end of the project?
• From a curriculum-design standpoint, what are the essential questions that should frame the entire unit?

And none of that takes into account the numerous organizational details.  The good news is that all of these questions have been addressed positively, often with great consultation with my colleagues and tech integration specialist.  I think you will see how these questions resolve as the project unfolds.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Google Apps Project, Week 1: Essential Questions

Day 1 of a technology project and we stayed far away from the computer lab on purpose.

Our concert was just a week ago, and I wanted to create a "bridge" between our concert we just finished and the composer website project we are about to start.  So I posed three questions to the students:

1.  What is a musician?
2.  Are you a musician?
3.  What defines "success" for a musician?

These are what we might call "Essential Questions" and they are the questions I want students to keep in mind as we go through this project.  We used these as a writing prompt the first class of the week, and discussed the answers the second class period this week.  We recorded the answers using online stickies - - which is one of my favorite web 2.0 tools for recording and guiding student discussions.
Part of our discussion on
The answers for question #1 (What is a musician?) were fairly typical - it was the softball question.  The answers to question #2 varied greatly.  Most said "yes", but amazingly enough, some said "no".  These are kids I've had in music class twice a week for six years.  Interestingly, there were even a few "maybe" responses - kids who said they were musicians when they were in class, but when they left the room they were not musicians anymore.  

For the third question, we talked about Bach, who was not famous until 100 years after he died (poor guy) and Stephen Foster, the American composer of songs such as "O Susanna" and "My Old Kentucky Home", who died penniless (really poor guy).  In that light, what constitutes "success" for a musician?  We compared success as a musician to success as an athlete.  We talked about goals and practice.  Great discussions.

My plan is to save these writing prompts and have the students continue to reflect on them as we move further into the project.  In the end, each student will have a page on his/her website answering these same questions.  My purpose behind this project used to be learning research skills and music history.  Now, we use will research skills, music history, technology, and 21st century skills to teach bigger concepts and character traits.  

Friday, March 9, 2012

Google Apps for Education - Prologue

Our district has started using Google Apps for Education.  So far, I am part of a group of early adopters.  Starting soon, more teachers are being trained, and in the next few weeks, Google Apps for Education will roll out to selected groups of students.  The 5th grade students in my building will be using Google Apps in music as well as with their homeroom teachers as we work on research projects.  I am excited to use this suite of apps with students and will try to blog my way through it.

How will we use Google Apps in music class?  For the past many years, I have done a 5th grade composer research project.  We take six weeks after the concert and go in depth about one composer.  Typical project:  poster, essay, listening component.  I had it down to a science after about seven years.  I have glorious looking posters and essays on the wall that we reference all year long.  Most kids look forward to doing the project for several years.  It dovetails nicely with the homeroom teachers, who are also embarking on their own research projects at this time of year.

But after many years of this, several problems emerged:
1.  Students only learned about one composer.  Sure, there are some famous composers (living and deceased, male and female, various nationalities, etc.), but how much does a student need to know in- depth just about Felix Mendelssohn in 5th grade?
2.  The projects remained in my room.  We use them all the time with all grade levels - they cover a 30' wall.  I always told the kids "It is your gift to us as you move on to the middle school.  If you want it back, you can come a year from now to get it."  I think only 2 or 3 over the years have come back for them.  But by leaving it at school, we take out a huge part of the educational equation - the parents!  
3.  Other than working with a partner, it was not inherently collaborative.  Reading each other's posters and answering questions does not count as collaborative.
4.  I never had the computer lab access in the past to really do the project justice.

This year, with the introduction of Google Apps, I arranged for lab access.  Each student will be making a website about a composer using Google Apps.  Along with Sites, we will use Docs (biographies), Forms (teacher created surveys), and Videos (safe content selected by teacher).  We will collaborate through Edmodo, including the parent component of Edmodo.  We sent out permission slips for the use of Edmodo.

By using Google Apps for Education, we are not just going to do the same project using technology, we are going to completely re-invent the purpose, the project, the audience, the collaboration - everything.  I have been working on the project for two months, and it's a little scary because this group of students might be the first student GAFE users in the district.  We're sure to have some student GAFE rollout bumps.

And what about those beautiful posters and essays on the wall?  They'll stay there.  But when you realize students care about what they create more than what people of the past created and put on your wall, new opportunities for learning emerge.

I hope this goes as well as I imagine ... thanks for joining me.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

No luck

So, it looks like my hopes might be dashed for the Apple TV upgrade.
Yes, they updated it yesterday with 1080p resolution and a faster chip, but to me it sounds like a simple upgrade rather than the "game changing" upgrades we all hope for every time.  The box is the same.  The ports are the same.  No word about it working on secure enterprise networks.  The new interface even works on the 2nd generation Apple TV.  Perhaps Apple TV boxes are just treading water until the rumored Apple TV set is released.  Of course, sometimes Apple lets us find the surprises on our own ...

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Wish list for this week's Apple event

My wife wants an iPad.  She's been waiting since Christmas, when I said "Wait ... the next generation will be out soon."  And Apple's event is this Wednesday.

Me?  I am more interested in what the rumored Apple TV, 3rd generation may bring to the game.  I have a 2nd generation Apple TV at home, which I have used at church on an open network.  I have tried it at school on an enterprise network, and I can get it to work using the method on Ms. Magiera's blog (add an additional wireless router).

In one of my classrooms at school, I am just finishing some upgrades (more in a future post when they are completed), but a big part of that upgrade was an Apple TV.  I currently have an unopened Apple TV, 2nd gen sitting in the classroom, its fate unknown until after Wednesday's Apple event.  I am hoping that Apple will make the 3rd generation Apple TV more friendly to enterprise networks, thereby making it a tool for businesses and schools.  Then, I will send my unopened 2nd generation model back and exchange it for the 3rd generation, if it indeed is more network friendly for schools.  The other question is what ports will be in the new model.

Finally, in the last few days, much has been mentioned about the Reflection app that mirrors your iPad to your laptop which is then connected to your projector.  I'm not going to drop $15 on it until after the Wednesday event.  Then a real comparison can be made.

BYOD - Not Just for Students!

The last two weekends, I have been a speaker for my church's Christian Formation program.  While the students are learning in classrooms, the parents all stay together for a presentation.  The space where I was presenting has a great A/V system, including a mounted projector with HDMI input.  So, I thought, let's see if I can give Apple TV a try in my presentation to these parents.

A few weeks before my presentation, I asked the parents "Does anyone have an iPad2 that they could bring to church?"  I assured them that they would be the only person using it, and that it would help our discussion.  We didn't need to be 1:1 - just enough for groups to take notes on during discussion.  

It worked like a charm.  Apple TV hooked up to projector, all of the iPads on the same wireless network (an old Apple extreme base station from home), AirPlay mirroring allowing each group to wirelessly project the notes from their small group discussion.  As a teacher, I had all sorts of backup plans ready to go, but I never even opened my laptop, and I certainly did not need that printed set of notes I brought along in case all else failed.  I used Keynote on my iPad with the presenter notes.  During the group discussion part of the presentation, I just handed my iPad off for a group to use.

This made me realize - Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) need not just be for students.  We need to get parents in on this as well.  By far, parents are the ones owning and using these devices right now.  But most parents do not realize the collaborative power they hold in their hands when they use a device like an iPad.  None of the parents in my presentation knew how to turn on AirPlay, and I am guessing most did not know what technology (Apple TV) I was using to make it work.  But we must show parents how this can benefit their children in the future.

In the Beginning ...

Technology in the music classroom?  Maybe.  Technology in the elementary music classroom?  Even less.  But if you view technology as one way of connecting to an audience, then technology makes perfect sense in the music classroom.  Music needs performers and listeners, and technology connects what we do in the classroom to the world outside the classroom.

How did I get started with technology in the music classroom?  I have been a Sibelius user since Sibelius 2 (music composition software).  I remember the first time someone introduced me to iTunes when all you could do was import CD's.  But those were all teacher tools.

Fast forward a few years - a principal in my district needed a place to store this monster sized, rolling thing called a Smartboard.  It ended up being stored in a practice room in my music room.  Nobody told me what it was or what it did, so I looked it up online.  After a little research and a downloadable Jeopardy game, the kids and I were having a blast.  I remember running to the principal and saying, "You have to look at this!"  She came down and said, "You know you have to orient it."  I had no idea what that meant at first, but it was the only 1:1 instruction I've ever needed in Smartboarding.  The rest is history.

Now, in my 13th year of teaching, I still have a Smartboard, but over time have added classroom websites, iPod, iPad, Voicethreads, laptops, doc cams, Apple TV, and (coming up) Google Apps for Education.  I am at the point where I want to share what I am doing in the classroom even more.  I guess even teachers need an audience, and to that end, this new blog.  Hope you enjoy