Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dealing With All That Student Work

This is the 11th part in a series detailing the progress of our 5th grade musicians as they use Edmodo and Google Apps for Education to research composers and create Sites about them.

This project took about 2 months to prepare (January-March).  A LOT of time was spent becoming a wanna-be expert at Edmodo and Google Sites, finding and uploading content for our Edmodo library, learning from the tech staff about our new Google Apps domain, creating permission slips for students, making lesson plans to be sure everything would roll out in a logical order, etc.  This was the first student Google Apps project in our district - we figured it would work, but there was a lot of unknown territory.  

Once we started the project, the first month actually took less prep time.  Most of the prep work at this point involved creating screencasts to post in Edmodo, keeping track of who posted and replied in Edmodo, and working with our tech team resolving issues as we moved into student Google Apps.

Now, classes of collaboration in Edmodo and creating Sites and Docs have now given way to the clearer skies and smoother sailing of student worktime.

But that means all of that student work is now ending up in my lap(top).  Or more correctly, all that student work has now been shared to my teacher Google Account.  I am making sure everyone has a Site created correctly, making sure everyone has shared biography Docs to my account, commenting on student biographies, and helping students who were absent or had missteps along the way.  One of the most challenging parts of a research project with students is helping students who are struggling readers.  Research is one of the most reading-intensive projects we teach.  It does not matter if the project is tech-focused or if it is pencil and paper, struggling readers will end up days behind the rest of the class without support.    

I could have been an English teacher or a math teacher - I like those areas.  Come to think of it, I really like science, too.  Especially chemistry and physics.  I think my students are surprised (and sadly, some teachers) when they realize a music teacher knows how to teach these other areas.  Music teachers are incredibly picky, especially when working with ensembles.  I think students are surprised to see the high level of quality I expect of their essays.

A few things I have learned about student work online:
• Be sure you have students name Docs they share to you in a specific format.  All of my students named their essay "Biography [composer name] S12" where S refers to the homeroom teacher's name and 12 refers to 2012.  It hearkens back to our Site creation in which we also used S12 or D12 to denote homeroom/year.  It makes finding the Docs in your teacher account much easier.  I know there are fancier ways to get students to share to a collection, but face it - it's just not going to happen with 5th grade students.  I am lucky they all shared to me and not some other teacher in a different building that also starts with "S".
• The commenting feature in Google Docs is great.  When students open their Doc, all of my comments appear, telling each student what needs to be improved.  Of course, this needs to be done to 50 Docs outside of class time.  But, I can do it from anywhere without taking piles of student work.
• 5th grade students will spell the word "Biography" in so many different ways, making it nearly impossible to find their Doc in your account ... But since the teacher is an editor, I just fixed it quickly.
• Google Apps usually does a great job of letting you know who owns a Doc, but not such a great job of letting you know who owns a Site.  I constantly refer to printouts to find out which Site goes with each student.  It was suggested by a member of our tech team that students put their first name in the description of their Site, thus attaching a name to a Site.  Don't know if we'll get to that this year, but next year, I would do that.
• To make matters more confusing, some students created two Sites on their own because the first Site did not work correctly.  Taking the time to do some Google "housecleaning" and making sure every student has only one Site and one biography before moving ahead is a good idea.  I am lucky, because these students are just starting Google Apps, meaning their account is relatively empty.
• Teachers automatically become editors/collaborators of student Sites, but not co-owners, meaning that there are parts of student Sites that a teacher cannot change.  You have to log in as the student to do this (for instance, if the student created two Sites, the teacher must log in as the student to delete the defunct Site).
• In a paperless research project, it is hard to know where each student is in the process.  When I had piles of papers in my room, I could just go through the pile and sort it quickly.  Not so anymore.  Does Johnny have 5 facts collected or 25?  Does Susie have 3 sentences of an essay written or 3 paragraphs?  During our worktime, I get through the room about once every 10 minutes to be sure everyone is making progress.  Perhaps I could have a poster on the wall where students could report this information to me quickly as they leave the lab. Asking for a response in Edmodo would probably work, too.
• The advanced students are getting to the point where essays are already being finished up.  One of my next projects is to put together a list for finishing the basic requirements of the Site and then a list of extension activities that can be embedded into their Site.  I want those high-flying students to take their Site as far as they can go with it.
• When I did this project in my room with file folders of biographies and paper/pencil fact sheets, it was a struggle to get 15 facts out of each group of two students.  Now, students are easily getting to 25+ facts on their own.  I also showed students how to sort their fact spreadsheet today so their facts would be roughly in the order of their essay.  There was audible "oohing" and "aahing" in the computer lab.

Going Google for this project has increased the workload 10 times.  The next time I do this project, it will be MUCH easier.  But every minute has been well worth it for the students and myself so far.  I just hope we can get it all accomplished as the year starts to draw to a close.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Flipping Out? Is Music the Original Flipped Classroom?

Wow ... the pendulum of educational technology is swinging wildly lately over the Flipped Classroom.

The concept is that you record your presentations for students to view at home, allowing teachers use class time for even more positive learning (thus flipping the usual order of lecture at school, homework at home).  The backlash suggests that if students won't put quality time into homework at home, will they watch videos?  What kind of engagement does watching a video entail?  If you are anti-homework, can you support the flipped classroom at all?  And of course, the biggest issue is that true flipped learning requires that you change what you do in your room with students, not just help them with homework in your presence.  I am not taking a pro- or anti-flipped model.  What I want to do is see how it relates to music education.

Is music the original flipped classroom?
Or is it impossible to flip the music classroom?

This takes us to the very heart of the study of music.  In music, you are either performing, creating (composing), or listening.  And these three are completely interwoven - one leads to another.  Your brain and your body are totally engaged whenever you are working on music.  Consider this scenario:

A 3rd grade recorder student must look at 5 lines and 4 spaces, decipher the letters of the treble clef, figure out the rhythmic values, turn the letters into numbers of fingers on their usually non-dominant left hand, tell the diaphragm and lungs to breathe in rhythm, listen to the resulting sound, adjust accordingly, hear what others are doing to play simultaneously, look at the next note while still playing the current note, and repeat the entire process over and over.  All of this must happen multiple times every second for the 3rd grade student.

It doesn't matter if the music student is in elementary music or high school orchestra.  The expectation is the same - performance - "doing" music.  Music teachers and students live under the deadline that a concert is looming.  The audience is waiting, and every moment is precious.  So students need to be engaged as much as possible - and that means in both the classroom and at home.

But what of the flipped classroom concept?  If the purpose to make best use of face-to-face time with students, how does that connect to music?  If one of the tenets of the flipped model is to have students "doing" or "performing" while in the presence of the teacher, we can say that has always been the goal of the music classroom.  Throughout history, music has meant working in the presence of an expert who can guide you to better performance.  And the expert convinces you that if you want to be truly great, you must go home and practice on your own.  Remember that recorder student?  We send that recorder home to the (ahem!) delight of parents all over.  In tech lingo, we could say music is "platform agnostic" since it doesn't matter where you are when you practice.  This might make music the original flipped classroom.

That means that musicians (and athletes, and so many other areas) are performing - are doing - both in school AND at home.  That's the best outcome of all.  In this scenario, flipping is not the question or the answer.  Engagement is.  And whatever you do to get kids engaged in your field of study - to get kids performing and achieving at a higher level - is the goal.

But I am not a fool - I know there are students who do not practice enough at home.  Just as I know there are students who can participate much more fully in the classroom.  The same happens in sports, math, music, and every other curricular area.  What I do know is that student engagement is the key to student achievement, and if the engagement is happening at both school and home, then achievement will (hopefully) increase.

Charlotte Danielson's framework says that "student engagement in learning is the centerpiece of the framework for teaching; all other components contribute to it." (domain 3c of the Framework for Teaching Evaluation Instrument)

Grant Wiggins recent article, entitled "Everything You Know About Curriculum May Be Wrong.  Really."  enshrines engagement and action as well:
"Suppose knowledge is not the goal of education.  Rather, suppose today's content knowledge is an offshoot of of successful ongoing learning in a changing world - in which 'learning' means 'learning to perform in the world."  We learn to perform, and we perform to learn.

It comes back to the basics of good teaching and learning - relationships, enthusiasm, and engagement.  There is no single recipe for the best way to accomplish them, and so the pendulum continues to swing.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

First Uses of Apple TV in Choir

I am very excited to have the new equipment installed and running in the Middle School choir room, the centerpiece of which is Apple TV.  Due to a few issues, I couldn't really try it out until mid-week.  But on Thursday, I just let the Apple TV run for the length of 2 classes while I taught.  The first class was 7th grade general music, and the second class was 7th grade choir.

My 7th grade general music students are recording music history podcasts.  It is a music history project we have been working on for a long time, modeled after the great Classics for Kids music history podcasts.  My students thoroughly enjoyed the Classics for Kids programs.  Instead of just listening to the Classics for Kids shows, I embedded the youtube videos of the musical performances featured in the shows in a separate website.   We only did the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic eras.  We will save Modern era for 8th grade.  

How did Apple TV help in this class?  Simply as a monitor.  I gave one group of students my iPad and had them record their podcast in Garageband in a practice room.  Since the Apple TV was projecting in the main room, I could see everything they were doing.  No worries about going on different apps or getting off task.  Not the greatest use of the Apple TV, but it is important in the life of a teacher.  After the group was finished recording, we were able to teach the other groups the differences between iPad version of Garageband and the laptop version using the Apple TV.  

But in our 2nd hour choir rehearsal, the real benefits of Apple TV came out.  
I remember when I first got a Smartboard in my music classroom five or six years ago.  I felt like the world walked into my classroom.  For a music teacher who had no student computers in the classroom or any access to the computer lab, the Smartboard completely changed my approach.  This is how I felt about using the Apple TV in choir this week.  The combination of the Apple TV, the iPad right in front of me, and the projector made for seamless learning.  I only used my laptop for submitting attendance.

All from the iPad right in front of me on the piano:
• Music playing through Apple TV while students are walking in
SmartSeat app open and on screen for attendance taker (don't have it yet?  read this)
Solfege Scale practice app - first time we used it as a class and kids did better than I expected
• In the rehearsal process itself, I opened Evernote, created a new notebook, and made a new note for that day's rehearsal.  We recorded small bits of rehearsal (either a short piece such as the Star Spangled Banner or about 30 seconds of a longer piece) in Evernote.  Then, students would offer feedback on what needed to be improved.  I would quickly type the feedback into Evernote with the audio clip.  Then we would practice those things and record again.  I repeated this process for several songs throughout class.  I did  this on Friday with my opposite day choir, and will continue this as we move into our Spring concert in May.  Although I am not an avid Evernote user, the fact that it can quickly and easily record and then add text to create a digital portfolio is what I was seeking.  (In the past, we've recorded with Garageband, but there was no way to annotate feedback and save it easily like a digital portfolio.)

Two things amazed me during class:
1.  We must not forget that students are innate musicians.  They know what needs to be worked on and improved.  It may not be in the order that we teachers might do it, but make them part of a constant feedback loop and they take ownership of the rehearsal process.  Phrasing, diction, and dynamics are usually are tops on their list because they know how to fix them easier.
2.  Sometimes students know what needs to be improved, but don't have the words for it and don't know how to fix it.  This is what music teachers live for - the nitty gritty of the rehearsal process.  One student, after listening to the beginning of a piece, said "We sound like children in that part".  What the student really meant was "We need to use a vowel shape and better breath support to create a more mature tone quality."  This was a teachable moment, leading to some work on vowels, another recording, and -voila -we have a more beautiful sound.  I wanted that fixed, but I didn't need to ask for it - they recognized it and asked for it to be improved, and with help from the teacher, they fixed it.  And if they don't do it next week, all I have to do is replay the recording in Evernote and ask for it again.

And two observations about audio:
1.  I need to get a decent recording microphone.  It doesn't do the students justice to use the built-in iPad microphone, and the students deserve a clearer picture of how they sound if we are going to continue this process.
2.  The Apple TV sends audio out through the HDMI and the optical audio (Toslink) ports simultaneously.  If your HDMI cable goes to a projector, you will want to turn off the volume on the projector so that you are only getting high-quality audio through your stereo system.

This was a day where technology:
• Changed my teaching
• Increased student achievement

I look forward to more use of Apple TV with apps such as ForScore (Used it in Fall, but directly wired to iPad, which never works well since the 30-pin connector always comes out.  I really like it and use it often with elementary students learning recorders) and SmartMusic.  If you are looking for excellent discussion about these two apps and more in choral music, check out Dr. Russell's blog TechinMusicEd.

Google Docs, Google Comedy

This is the 10th part (10 already?) of a series in which 5th grade musicians are researching composers and creating website based on that research using Google Apps for Education and Edmodo.

Most people would probably start introducing Google Apps by having students work collaboratively in a Google Doc.  Not us.  It has taken us 10 classes to get this far, and I have avoided Google Docs up to this point for two reasons:
1.  We needed the research and collaboration in Edmodo, the notetaking in Google Forms, and the creation of a Site to all happen first.  We did not need to use a Doc up to this point, but now the students will need to start typing their essays.
2.  I wanted to talk about embedding, sharing settings, and collaboration in Google Docs all at the same time.

So, this week, the students created a Doc for their composer biography.  The students had to be careful to name correctly, not so much for the future this time (as we did with Site URL's), but so that I could easily organize them when shared to my teacher account.  No problems with renaming - we did that with our Google Form template a few weeks back.

After a quick lesson about how Google Docs looks a lot like Microsoft Word and has many of the same features, I just had the students type a title on their Biography.  Then we went to our Sites and inserted the Document on our Biography page.  Again, no problem because the students inserted maps last class.  I think the biggest issue for elementary students as they do this inserting work is that you basically have to click "Save" three times to insert anything - once to select the media, once to save the frame settings, and then a third time to save the edits you have made to the page.  I told the students that Google just wants to make sure that you really want to make these changes - just keep clicking select/save.

Now the magic could begin.  Without confusing the students, they needed to learn that typing in your Doc would automatically change the Biography on your Site, as long as you refresh the page.  This way, the students see that even though your Doc and your Site are really two separate places, but they are linked.  If you change your Doc, it will automatically change in your Site.  Students added words to their Doc, tabbed over to their Site, refreshed the page, and found it had automatically updated!

Finally, we needed to tackle Sharing Settings.  To introduce this, a bit of comedy.  I just told them I was sending them all a new Doc to the home page of their Docs.  It only had two questions:

1.  What is the name of your composer?
2.  Where did your composer live?
Once I shared this Doc to all of them, and they all started trying to answer at once.  Hilarious, geeky chaos ensued.  I didn't plan to capture it on video, but I grabbed my iPad and started recording ...

They were hooked.  "You want to know how to do that?"  We had experienced Sharing Settings, and now I could teach them how to do it.  They all successfully shared their newly created biography doc to me.  They had to be careful to share it to me and not some other teacher, since all of our names are in the system.  I was able to show them instantly that all of their Docs were now in my account.  I will be able to comment on them as they write in the upcoming weeks.

That took 20 minutes, start to finish.  There was time leftover to start on biographies, finish gathering facts, fix issues with Sites, help catch up students who were absent, etc.  I am looking forward to a few classes of work time like this now that we have our Sites and our Docs created.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Building Sites, Building Leadership

This is part 9 in a series about 5th grade musicians in their quest to create Google Sites about composers.

Coming back from Spring break, the students needed something a little fresh to renew our excitement for our research project.  Before break, a handful of students had each created a Google Site about their composers, just to test if it would work.  This week, our task was to get everyone to create their own Google Site ... in a 30 minute period (gasp).

It was nice to have a few "experts" who had created a Site already (building leadership capacity in your own classroom).  Creating a Site is a simple, but very step-by-step process, and you really start to see the differences in elementary students.  One of the things I have found working in the lab is that there are a few kinds of computer students:

• Students who click ahead and always know what they are doing.  These students probably have had considerable computer experience at home and from previous teachers.  These are the leaders who will log in from home and try things on their own.

• Students who will follow right along with what the teacher is demonstrating and are usually successful.  This is the largest percentage of students.

• Students who know what to do, but will not proceed without approval.  These students are easy to spot because they raise their hands ... a lot.  The problem is that the teacher will end up doing nothing but answering questions from these few students for 30 minutes.  In response, I have instituted the rule that before you ask the teacher a question you must try asking at least one other student.  This does three things:  1.  It increases student collaboration,  2.  It builds student scaffolding and builds leadership, and  3.  It ensures that questions that are directed to the teacher are more serious problems.  Sometimes these are students who just fell a step or two behind.  They don't necessarily need the teacher - they need the information, which can come from other students faster than waiting for the teacher.

• Students who stare at the screen and wait for the teacher to realize they need help.  This is a very small percentage of the class, and I find that it gets smaller all the time.  These students can be harder to notice because they do not raise their hands.  You find them staring at the computer, unsure what to do when a pop-up dialogue box appears.  In response, I have suggested to students that if it didn't work the first time, just try it again (Isn't this what we all do when our own computer doesn't react the way we want the first time?)  I compared this to a baseball player who gets a strike - you don't walk back to the dugout right away.  You try again.  But, if you get more strikes, raise your hand and ask for help.

Back to our Sites - we had no problem creating Sites.  The biggest issue was naming the Sites.  The students had to be sure to spell the composer's name correctly, but we needed to add something else to make the website specific to the class and year without giving away the student's identity.  I am thinking towards the future - naming the Site "Beethoven" would create a URL in our domain that could not be reused next year.  So we add a combination of letters and numbers after the composer's name to uniquely identify the classroom and year (i.e., "Beethoven S12").  We are keeping the Sites only viewable in our own domain at this time, but will open them up later.

One side note - teachers seem to default to collaborators/editors on student Sites in Google Apps for Education.  This means teachers do not have 100% access to student Sites, especially sharing settings and deletion abilities.  I'm sure it exists at a higher administrative level in Google Apps.  But as a pilot project, it is something we will continue to look at.

Once the Site was created, we immediately created two pages.  This gives us practice with the edit button and the new page button.  The first was a biography page.  We will embed biographies on this Site next week.  The second was a page called "Where in the World?"  I asked the students to insert a map on this page of either the city where their composer was born or lived most of their life.  Easy as pie.  The "insert" command will be very valuable going forward, and I wanted them to get a taste of how to insert items into their Site.

So, by the end of 30 minutes, every student had a Site with 2 pages, including a map on one of the pages. Pretty crazy, but completely exciting for the students.  I think we are refreshed and ready to forge ahead!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Apple TV Comes to the Choir Room

It finally happened.  It started at Christmas, and finished at Easter.  The middle school choir room has received some much needed tech upgrades, including (drum roll, please) Apple TV!

The middle school choir room has been neglected for a long time.  Since the former high school was converted into the current middle school eight years ago, there has been a succession of middle school choir teachers and administration.  The room never got the treatment that so many other rooms in the building received.  Over the years, it did have 2 good speakers, a good amplifier, and a 5-disc CD changer.  This year, for the first time, I am teaching 7th grade choir in addition to my K-5 duties.  To my good fortune, there was a rotating music account fund and this year was the choir's turn to spend it.

I had two ideas for the funds:
Option A - some combination of laptops and mobile devices
Option B - projector, Apple TV, network, screen, rack, and other hardware

I decided to go with Option B.  I have been doing this long enough to know that if you don't have the infrastructure in place to start with, the rest of it will not be successful.  There will be options in the future for mobile devices - I can get some out of future budget monies, BYOD, etc.  I already have a few laptops and mobile devices.  What we needed a strong foundation for future growth.

So, back in December, I started putting together a list of items and talked to the person in our district who orders technology for teachers.  The first thing that was not going to be on this list was an interactive whiteboard.  We were going to go a different direction - Apple TV.  We were both excited for the possibilities, since no other room in the district (that I am aware of) has a permanent Apple TV installation.

Don't get me wrong - I was an early adopter of interactive whiteboards in our district.  I still use the one in my elementary classroom regularly and have plenty of colleagues who couldn't imagine life without it.  But it has its limitations, the first of which is cost.  Meanwhile, I have had Apple TV in my own house since Fall, and often bring it to use in our elementary computer lab and church, both of which have HDMI projectors.

But the choir room needed a few things in addition to the Apple TV:
• an HDMI projector - the most expensive part of this project.  Yes, you can get converter boxes, but we didn't have a projector in the choir room yet, so might as well just get an HDMI projector right away.
• a mount for the projector.
• a screen - in my case, big enough for 60 kids to see clearly at once.  We purchased an 8' wide screen to replace the tiny screen that used to be in the room.
• Cables galore, and cable conduit to make things look nice.  50' HDMI, 50' RCA cable, 50' SVGA cable, 50' internet cable, new speaker wire, and more.
• A rack to put all of the equipment in, including an existing amplifier, CD changer, and VCR/DVD.  Since the manufacturer calls it a "Command Center", I think the tech staff pictured something like NASA used to launch the shuttle.  It is a perfect size for a classroom and can handle rack-mountable components.
• An audio converter for the Apple TV that allows us to run audio into the existing stereo amplifier.  This is a Toslink to RCA audio converter.  Well worth the $30 for converter and a few cables to get great sound instead of the tinny sound from the projector.  (The DVD/VCR player just uses RCA cables directly into the amplifier for audio).
• A router as a workaround for Apple TV on a secure, enterprise network.

With this new system, you can use any nearly any media you want at the push of a button and have fabulous audio and video.  But best of all, the Apple TV will allow me - or anyone else with an iPad or new iPhone on the same network - to mirror directly to the screen.  Yes, I also own the Reflection App and it is good, but it's a gamble - Apple could shut it off with a simple update.  And the room still needed these upgrades - the projector, the screen, the rack to pull it all together, etc.  Now the choir room went from being the least tech capable room in the district to one of the most forward-leaning spaces for learning.  I think when other people see it in action, they will want it, too - just like interactive whiteboards were.  Apple TV is one of those things you have to see to understand.

Total cost is still being determined, but I purchased ALL of the above for approximately the same price as a single interactive white board.  Remember - we were starting from scratch here - most classrooms already have a lot of this equipment or wouldn't need all of it.  Plus I think I might have enough leftover in the account to purchase one of the newly-reduced price iPad2 for student use.

Once Spring Break is over, I'll post about how I am actually getting to use the new equipment to help improve student achievement in choir.

Slow Road Ahead? Take a Detour!

This is the 8th part in a series in which 5th grade musicians are researching composers using Edmodo and creating website based on that research using Google Apps for Education.

A week ago, I was seriously considering dumping the entire project.  Two months of prep work, excited students, great learning taking place - dump all of it.  Why?  Because we were having network issues.  Not the kind of network issues that can easily go away - issues that could have doomed our future work.

We have the most incredible tech staff in our district.  They empower teachers and always have the right answer.  But our elementary schools have a bandwidth issue, and that is what threatened to halt the entire project in its tracks.  Actually, this coming Summer, the bandwidth issue will be fixed, but that was not going to help the students right now.

As you know from earlier posts (here and here), we had no problem on Edmodo.  I could have an entire class viewing YouTube videos about their composers and posting to Edmodo (here).  But the next class, we would try to log into Google Apps for Education, and everything would come to a stop.  We had two classes in a row where kids would log into Google Apps, and then we would all sit and wait for the next 20 minutes of a 30 minute class.  It was like "king of the hill" - whomever could log in first got to the top of the hill, and the rest of the students waited in vain.

I kept our tech staff updated, detailing these issues.  They are already well aware of this project, since it is a GAFE pilot project in our district.  But I knew the answer ahead of time - bandwidth and network traffic.  Another teacher at the middle school piloting GAFE was having not having any network issues.  Just an elementary school bandwidth issue.

Argh!  I couldn't just drop two months of work and tell the kids "Here's some posterboard - let's illustrate your composer.  And let's just open Microsoft Word and type your report."  What kind of example would that be for the kids?  But I also couldn't justify taking kids into the lab for 30 minutes at a time and having nothing educationally to show for it.  I can't justify that as a teacher, and even more as a parent.

But there was hope!  First, one of our tech staff cached all of the 5th grade student profiles on a server in our elementary building - that helped speed up the log in process considerably.  Next, I decided to have the students log into Edmodo first since we never had issues while on Edmodo.  Then, I would stagger the log in to Google Apps so we weren't all trying to do the same thing at once.  Finally, at the end of class, I had the students remain logged into GAFE so that the process would be faster next time.  Since students log off computers when finished, it was not an issue to leave themselves logged into Google Apps.

And it worked.  I had over two hours of successful classes in the lab this past week.  Students have continued their research, and a handful were far enough that we tested creating Sites in Google Apps.  That worked, too, and after Spring Break, everyone will be ready to create Sites.  I just keep crossing my fingers that our workarounds continues to work.  Thanks to our awesome tech staff for positive words and help.  You can't do a project like this alone - even the teacher needs to collaborate and be creative.

Friday, April 6, 2012

What a Week it Was!

This school week only had four days, but it was packed with many successes.  Separate blog posts will come for some of these, but here's a sampler:

• Our podcast class recorded "An Interview with an Inventor" this week.  19 groups (about 70 students) all recorded and posted in just three days - amazing.  Of course, that doesn't include the research and script writing time, but the students have become quite adept at recording and simple editing in Garageband.

• My 5th grade musicians had success collecting research using a Google Form this week, and some have even started creating their websites.  Network issues tried to stop us in our tracks, but we have found ways to keep us working.

• The tech upgrades to our Middle School choir room are all installed.  This project was hatched in December, and just this week, everything is installed and functioning.

• My 7th grade choir students finished recording Solo/Ensemble pieces this week.  More difficult than it should have been ...

• 7th grade general music students have finished their scripts for a radio show podcast about the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic eras of music.  One of the groups has recorded, and the rest will be ready to go after Spring Break.

Now it is Spring Break.  Personally, it is not time for me to relax yet.  I am the Director of Liturgy & Music for a very large Catholic parish, which means a flurry of activity this weekend.  But I will fit in blog posts, some prep for ideas for the rest of the school year, and relaxation time with the family.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Using a Google Form to collect and organize student research

Here's how to create and use a Google Form so students can easily collect and organize research.
I used this with 5th grade students on the second day of logging into a Google Apps account.  The students were already comfortable researching in our Edmodo library and using multiple tabs in a browser.  They logged into their own Google Apps account, I lead them through the process of creating from a template, renaming it, opening the live form, and then set them free to collect facts.