Sunday, November 27, 2016

Real World Learning: Final Reflection

Real World Learning: Final Reflection

The implementation of the Veterans Day Lesson plan is now over.  The evidence has been collected and the students have performed for the assembly.  Now is the time to reflect on what went well, what was a challenge, and how I and others can improve the lesson for next time.

Photo Credit: Boston Globe


I feel that the lesson was a success.  What defines it as a success is that it was a learning experience that made a personal connection for the students and the real world.  We went beyond that initial goal in a couple of different ways.

First we put an interdisciplinary spin on the lesson by bringing together teachers from other content areas in the school.  This brought not only my own students into the realm of real world learning, but also the entire school!  The collaborative environment was exciting and opened up opportunities for other teachers' students to play an active role in the performance and the process.

Another way that the Veterans Day assembly went beyond expectation was the fact that I was able to use the Livestream app to broadcast our assembly and performance to the world.  This was increased by at least ten fold with the social connection of Twitter to announce the broadcast.  Through broadcasting the performance to the public, the students became part of the fabric of the real world learning.

Some expected successes were the connection that my students made to the event and their own life.  The reflection and the research portion of the lesson were aligned and implemented at the same time.  I think this allowed students to have a deeper and truer sense of the meaning of Veterans Day and link that understanding to a person or activity in their own life.  From parents, to grandparents, to siblings...  The impact of Veterans Day on these middle school students' lives is inspiring.


Challenges were expected and always are when venturing into the unknown.  With that in mind at the beginning I was able to setup the students for success by explaining that upfront.  This helped to establish an environment of solution minded students.  While some challenges were small and easy to overcome, others were a bit bigger due to the environment.

I first must preface this with my professional background.  I am in my 3rd year at my current district.  Prior I taught in an expansive high school program.  This sometimes blurs my perspective of what to expect of the students.  So now the problem.  Leadership!  An imperative lesson that all successful instrumental music students must learn.  Our own success is not just based on how well I do as a musician, but how well the group does.  To teach this concept is a challenge in itself and when you need leadership for success, it becomes 1st and foremost

I desired to use the Veterans Day Assembly as an opportunity for the 8th graders to lead their younger 7th grade counterparts.  The problem was macro-process, they are still learning leadership skills.  So this brought the 8th graders to a question...

Why do we have to perform with the 7th graders?  They make us sound bad! 

There it is!  I have a wound that needs to be mended.  Leadership.

Lesson learned.  I now plan on integrating leadership activities into this real world learning experience.  Not only will this benefit the particular lesson, but it will have a positive impact on the students' lives (real world).  It's not always what we do, it's often how we do it!

Next Time...

The goal is to always go bigger and better than before.  I think the best way to go about this is to empower the students to take on a more active role in the process.  Now that I've created the template, the real world learning can be expanded to include building more community while creating a personal and deeper experience for the students.

Final Thoughts

Real world learning is necessary for our students.  Content and application of that content is important to learn in order to successfully move into the realm of real world learning, but it's got to get out their for people to connect with, people to evaluate, people to understand.  Empowering our students towards real world learning will give them the tools for a lifetime of success and continious improvement.  Let's *"ship it!"

*This relates to my readings of Seth Godin in his book Linchpin.  Here is an excerpt of a post...

Fear of shipping
Shipping is fraught with risk and danger.

Every time you raise your hand, send an email, launch a product or make a suggestion, you're exposing yourself to criticism. Not just criticism, but the negative consequences that come with wasting money, annoying someone in power or making a fool of yourself.

It's no wonder we're afraid to ship.

It's not clear you have much choice, though. A life spent curled in a ball, hiding in the corner might seem less risky, but in fact it's certain to lead to ennui and eventually failure.

Since you're going to ship anyway, then, the question is: why bother indulging your fear?

In a long distance race, everyone gets tired. The winner is the runner who figures out where to put the tired, figures out how to store it away until after the race is over. Sure, he's tired. Everyone is. That's not the point. The point is to run.

Same thing is true for shipping, I think. Everyone is afraid. Where do you put the fear?

-Seth Godin

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Real World Learning: Veterans Day Assembly Lesson Evidence

Real World Learning: Veterans Day Assembly Lesson Evidence

Evidence of Implementation

In the beginning...

As a band director, I am inclined to engage students in "Real World" community events whenever possible.  This is not only good for public relations of the program and the school, but more than that it is imperative that students find their place in the "Real World."  They need to discover the importance of community service first hand.  This was the driving force behind wanting to establish a performance side to the Veterans Day Assembly at our school.  This year was the second annual and I would argue that it gets more expansive and refined each year.  The Veterans Day Performance and assembly is Real World learning for our students.

The process...

As many band directors know, the preparation for an event doesn't always look the same as the outcome.  Throughout the process of implementing the music, program, choral integration, and execution of performance, I changed many of my initial preparations due to several different reasons.

The first was due to opportunity.  Initially I envisioned only the band planning for the assembly.  In conversation with my colleague we came to the conclusion that combining the band and choir in a performance would strengthen student engagement and community involvement as a whole.  This slightly shifted my plan.  Now I was looking at creating the best possible performance for the band and choir while still staying on my objective of Real World learning for my students.  This took some additional editing and creativity on my part.

A direct result of having the choir join us was that I needed to come up with more music.  This was done through arranging and writing.  I had great concerns of the band overtaking the choir due to the nature of the activity.  This brought about another opportunity for a couple of students.  I created a solo/duet section of the music to accompany the choir.  This had to be written out, yet the time and energy it took was well worth it.

As different situations came up it was a breath of fresh air to have my choral colleagues to work through different solutions.  Although I initially didn't foresee collaboration as a part of the experience, it became a staple of creating a successful performance.

Interdisciplinary collaboration also became imperative as I worked with and communicated with the principal, the social studies department, custodial staff, and other school groups.  This sort of proactive and well-thought-out process set the Veterans Day Assembly and performance up for success.

As the days grew to the event, the students were introduced to an activity which I title Veterans Day Research and Reflection.  Students were able to dive into the deeper meanings of Veterans Day including its origins and connections.   Students were also able to reflect on why the band and choir are participating in Veterans Day and the significance on their own lives.

In the end...

Due to the preparation, collaboration, and involvement of the entire school and outside community, the Veterans Day Assembly was a success!  Students were able to actively participate in a Real World learning environment that brought deeper understanding and connection to their lives.

(photo courtesy of

Content Standards/Outcomes
Demonstrate understanding of relationships between music and the other arts, other disciplines, varied contexts, and daily life.

Student Evidence and Reflection

The Music

Students performed traditional patriotic music that directly is associated with the Real World experience of Veterans Day. Many of the same pieces were performed by other bands and choirs all over the United States to acknowledge Veterans Day.  The students rehearsed, practiced, and performed the following pieces.

The Star Spangled Banner arr. by Mark Williams

Salute America arr. by Don Schaeffer

We're Loyal To You (School Song)

Veterans Day Research and Reflection Assignment

Q1: What is the origin of Veterans Day in the United States?

Q2: What is the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day?

Q3: Choose 2 of the following topics and give historical facts about that given topic…

a.) Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

b.) Choose and write on 1 of the following American wars…

1.) World War 1

2.) World War 2
3.) Korean War
4.) Vietnam War
5.) Gulf War
6.) Global War on Terror
c.) Respecting the Flag

Q4: What is significant about Veterans Day?  How does that relate to your life?

Q5: Reflect on why we perform and participate in the Veterans Day Assembly at Byron Middle School.

Student Responses

Veterans Day Assembly and Performance Live!

Another way that I made this a Real World learning experience was to broadcast the event live via LiveStream.  I also announced the event on Twitter.

Veterans Day Assembly and Performance via Livestream

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Real World Learning: Veterans Day Assembly Lesson Plan

Real World Learning: Veterans Day Assembly Lesson Plan

Driving Question

As band members we often are asked to play for such events as Memorial Day and  Veterans Day.  There is a reason that these events occur yearly and are so significant in the United States of American.  In this lesson I ask students...

Why is Veterans Day important?

Link to History of Veterans Day via United States Department of Veteran Affairs

(photo courtesy of

Content Standards/Outcomes

MU:Cn11.0.E.Hs novice
Demonstrate understanding of relationships between music and the other arts, other disciplines, varied contexts, and daily life.

21st Century Skills

Students will be implementing a variety 21st Century Skills.  Aligning with Partnership for 21st Century Learning, The focus will be on the skills associated with "Key Subjects and 21st Century Themes."  This includes global awareness and civic literacy.

Habits of Mind (soft skills)

The Oxford Dictionary defines soft skills as...
"Personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people."

Pikes Peak Association for Gifted students outlines a series of soft skills (Habits of the Mind Chart).  One significant soft skill to be gained from this activity is #11, Creating, Imagining, and Innovating.  The focus of the driving question is open-ended to the point where students are able to use their personal experiences and research to create new and innovative ways as to the importance of Veterans Day.

Lesson Activities

#1.) The band rehearses 2 veterans day assembly tunes, Star Spangled Banner and Salute America (patriotic musical medley including Yankee Doodle, You're a Grand Old Flag, and Yankee Doodle Boy).

#2.) Students will research the history of Veterans Day, relating the content to current events and coming to a conclusion as to why Veterans Day is important.

#3.)  A Veteran who played in the army band and continues to play bugle at veteran funerals will come and discuss his viewpoint as to the importance of Veterans Day.  He will also discuss his role as a musician involving veterans.

#4.)  Students will perform the week of Veterans Day with the choir for the community and student body.  

Learning Assessment/Student Engagement

Students will use a Standards-Based Assessment tool which is currently used consistently in the band classroom.  Click the link below to view an overview and reflection of the tool.

Genius Hour and Standards-Based Grading in the Instrumental Music Classroom: Final Reflection

Student Reflection Activity

Students will reflect by writing a letter to a military veteran or a military person on active duty.  The letter will include the reason why Veterans Day is important.  

Final Thoughts

The goal is that students use real-world learning to discover the importance of Veterans Day.  This will give deeper meaning to their role as musicians and as citizens of the United States of America.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Real World Learning: Empathy Reflection

Real World Learning: Empathy Reflection

Definition of "empathy" according to the Oxford Dictionary:

"The ability to understand and share the feelings of another."

If our goal is to create the best possible leaning environment for our students, we must look closely at our audience.  We must empathize with them by understanding who they are as people and what engages their learning.  This can be a challenge and often is forgotten.

In many career fields success is based upon the actions of the proprietor and how those actions relate to an object.  In teaching, the educator must use the people in the environment to create a productive learning atmosphere.  Empathy is the key to that success.  If we are to design successful learning experiences, we must empathize with our audience, our students.


I enjoy the use of interviews when wanting to learn more about a person.  When done well, an informal interview can create an environment where the interviewee can feel safe, confident, and respected by the interviewer.  This takes successful preparation and an inquisitive mindset.  When conducting an interview with open-ended questions, the interviewer is able to inquire about deeper thoughts and feelings towards a given topic.  Interviews also offer a direct and important link to how we design our lessons, products, etc...

Browsing can be inspiring.  Check out the Stanford University Institute of Design!

In the preparation stage of the empathy interview process, I spent a lot of time brainstorming and reflecting on the questions that I would ask my students.  I felt that a road-map was necessary for the interview in order to be sure I was on target as to what information I was wanting to acquire.  I wanted to be sure to maintain a level of consistency from person to person, yet offer areas where they could break away from the questions at their discretion.  I feel that the script/road-map that I developed was successful!

Interview Questions

Empathy and Education: What I've learned

I often find myself sometimes focused on the content for the lesson I'm producing without even considering who the lesson is for.  What are their likes, dislikes?  What is their background?  What excites, frustrates my audience?  What are some of the limitations when it comes to technology, resources, etc...

While creating the most complex procedures for the greatest lesson, I must remember that all of that time and effort are wasted if I don't have empathy for the people who are learning in the environment.

We've heard the importance of rapport in the classroom.  Yes rapport is important, but in order to instill a deeper understanding more must be achieved.

The Importance of Establishing Rapport with Your Students by Rebecca Ryan and Janie Wilson

The days of forcing information into learners through lecture, worksheets, and videos are over.  We must as educators connect with our students.  We must meet them where they are at, be a support as they grow and learn, and get them to where they desire to be.  Empathy is a main ingredient when designing a successful and worthwhile learning experience.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Real World Learning: Introductory Research and Reflection

Real World Learning: Introductory Research and Reflection

The goal of this blog post is to take a deep look into "Real World" learning.  This includes definition, description, connection to content, opportunities, and how this idea fits in with the status quo of education today.  As the idea of "Real World" learning unfolds, we must consider what quality application looks like in the *classroom.

Real World Learning Defined

Defining a word can be a challenge, especially when attempting to align it within a given context, in this case education.  I first look to the Oxford Dictionary.

**Side Note**

In the last year I read a book which tells of the origins of the Oxford English Dictionary, The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester.  I will never look to a dictionary in the same way again.  A must read for word enthusiasts.


The Oxford Dictionary defines Real World as a noun stating "the existing state of things, as opposed to one that is imaginary, simulated, or theoreticalwe live in the real world of limited financial resources."  Traditionally in education it was our job as educators to let students practice skills in order to prepare for the real world.  What we have discovered is that successful learning must incorporate real world application.

Successful learning correlates with being able to maintain retention of the material needed to demonstrate a proficiency of understanding.  How do learners achieve this long-term quality retention?

The Glossary of Education Reform lays out the importance of **authentic experiences in order to achieve successful learning.  According to the article Authentic Learning, real world experience keeps students engaged and wanting to learn more.  The information being taught is new and cutting edge.  This better prepares students to succeed in college, professional careers, and life in general.  The topics also are relevant to learners lives outside of the classroom (Authentic Learning).

Real world learning makes a connection for students to to real life.  Often this learning involves improving the quality of local, regional, and world-wide environments.  Students find themselves not waiting to make a difference; they are making a difference now!

*Classroom is being used here to describe a location for learning which in a 21st Century environment could be brick and mortar, out in the real world, or even online.  Blended learning comes to mind when using this term.

**The Great Schools Partnership refers authentic learning "to a wide variety of educational and instructional techniques focused on connecting what students are taught in school to real-world issues, problems, and applications."  link Authentic Learning Article.

The Look! Real World Learning

Check out this Prezi presentation to discover ways to make elements of learning "real world."

The Look! Real World Learning Presentation

Instrumental Music and the Real World

There are 2 ways to look at real world learning in relation to instrumental music.  The first would relate directly to the content area of music and the performing arts.  The second would relate to the real world skills used and developed in an instrumental music setting that directly correlate with the attributes and levels of understanding of a professional (applying to many career fields).  First we discuss the content of instrumental music involved in real world application.

The content of instrumental music can lead to a real world career as a musician, musical director, or music educator.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, music directors use the skills developed from education, training, and experience.  Often music director will be employed by schools and religious organizations.  While jobs as a music director are located all over the country, the highest case of employment is located in larger cities.

The involvement in instrumental music brings about real world application due to the nature of the learning environment.  Being in band is unique to most classrooms and offers real world experience.  Students are engaged in applications which give them an understanding of skills out side of the music content area.  Tim Lautzenheiser discusses this in his article Why Music? Why Band?  He brings up specific points that are applicable in the real world, no matter what profession.  These point include quality and quantity, ethics and rules, authority and domination, wisdom and achievement, and inner peace and personal security.  These are real world concepts which bring about success in careers of the future.

The social aspect of band is an important part in a student's development.  According to the Gates Foundation Article The Silent Epidemic, "High school dropouts, on average, earn $9200 less per year than high school graduates, and about $1 million less over a lifetime than college graduates."  These statistics point to lack of connection with students in the classroom.  The application of real world skills beyond that of content are important to keep students interested and engaged in the school environment.

Real World Opportunities and Challenge

Real world learning brings students to a deeper level of understanding.  This includes displays of proficiency which are not relevant to the traditional style of assessment (tests, quizzes, multiple choice).  This could include the showcasing of evidence, comparing and contrasting competing ideas, and perhaps even an analysis of a difficult problem.  This style of open-ended assessment gives teachers the opportunity to allow students to take ownership and dig deep into concepts and projects which they feel truly passionate about.  Ownership develops a higher level of engagement and interest in the concept being applied.  There are also challenges which go along with this line of thinking.

An open-ended thought process may steer particular objectives to the wayside or order for a deep level of learning to take place.  This means that less content is covered, just at a deeper level.  Depending on the expectations of the course and the feasibility of the standards to be taught, the "less is more" saying can be a challenge.  On the flip side, offering students the ability to take ownership applies to all.

Opening the door to discovery and ownership allows all students to benefit and all levels of proficiency.  Engagement and interest become the propeller for success in the open-ended equation.  A student who is engaged is a student who can progress, a progressive learner is a successful learner!

While real world learning is just now coming to the front lines of education, I see the pros out weighing the cons in educators continuous progression towards building better learners.

Onward to the "real world!"

Monday, August 1, 2016

Genius Hour and Standards-Based Grading in the Instrumental Music Classroom: Final Reflection

Genius Hour and Standards-Based Grading in the Instrumental Music Classroom: Final Reflection

Standards-based assessment and genius hour coincide with what George Couros is describing in his book The Innovator's Mindset.  There are three primary examples that I'm going to discuss in relation to Couros in this final reflection for my genius hour project titled Genius Hour and Standards Based Assessment in the Instrumental Music Classroom.  The first is Couros's concept of "inside the box," innovating using the resources that we already have in our classroom.  The second is about how we as educators create new learning opportunities for our students in our classroom by implementing digital technology.  Finally I will discuss the concept of empowerment and how genius hour and standards-based assessment engages our students in an empowered learning environment.  Innovation and standards-based assessment both share the common theme of bettering learning in our classroom.

"Think Inside the Box"

As educators we often find the want to always reach for the newest and so-called greatest thing out there.  By thing I mean resource, poster, method book, recording track, etc...  We also use the lack of new tools as an excuse of why we can't produce what we desire.  Many times the resources for the greatest success are already at our finger tips.  With my particular genius hour project I wanted to use what my students and I already had at our disposal.  We are fortunate enough in my district to have a one-to-one Ipad program in our district.  This type of thinking is what Couros is writing out when we says "think inside the box."

All students currently have Ipads at their disposal.  I have also used (as well as other teachers) the Google Apps associated with my project such as Google Forms and You Tube Capture.  The mediums for success are not new to the students.  The thinking is!

Students are now being asked to use their resources and devices to demonstrate what they have learned in a particular week.  This includes all of the concepts associated with their method book, learning targets, and state standards as well.  The resources are already present, the self-assessment and standards-based thought process is what we have added to the equation.  Students are now increasing their learning due to resources "inside the box."

Creating New Learning Opportunities

Status quo is not in the vocabulary of an innovative teacher and leader.  This is discussed in chapter 9 of The Innovators's Mindset.  Innovation is setup to create better learning and in order to get better continual change must be present.  Digital technology has been a re-invention of the pen and paper.  The possibilities seem endless when implementing technology with better learning.  My goal in presenting a standard-based self-assessment tool to my students was to create a tangible and practical method which was new and productive.  I hope to have success!

The new learning opportunity I have created puts the ownership of understanding in their hands.  There is no longer a question as to what they are needing to learn.  The question now is what level of proficiency is the learning at.  I want to set a precedent that we'll get there, but we must have a self-assessed sense of where we are at in order to know where we are going.  Standards-based assessment is personalized and not standardized.   Each individual can focus within the given concept at their pace.  The job of the educator is to use innovation (and a bit a technology) to engage the learner and reach the level of proficiency (and beyond).

Empowering the Learner

I have always been a fan of giving my students ownership in what they do.  The challenge is to help learners understand that with ownership comes responsibility.  My hope is that through self-assessment and the standards-based thought process I will be able to empower my student to take risks.

So often we give students too much information to focus on.  This gives even teachers anxiety.  Through my project I wanted to simplify the concepts and expectations in order to give students the opportunity to take risks and engage in the learning rather than questioning what they were learning.

As educators and leaders sometimes we just need to listen, let go, and collaborate with our students on learning.  As I implement this project into my classroom I hope to be surprised and impressed by the learning capabilities of my students.

Final Thoughts

As educators and school leaders we are always striving to find better ways to engage our students in productive learning.  With standards-based assessment being integrated into districts all over the world and the continuous implementation of technology in the classroom, my project offers learning innovation that is both tangible and practical in the educational environment.  I look forward to putting standards-based self-assessment into action!


Monday, July 18, 2016

Challenge: Motivation in the Classroom

Challenge: Motivation in the Classroom

One of the biggest challenges that we have as educators is motivating students to learn.  Teaching unlike other professions involves a diverse group of people who come from different backgrounds and progress in their learning at different rates.  As teachers we are up for the challenge!  The million dollar question is how do we overcome that challenge.

I recently moved from a high school band director position to a middle school band director position.  I still have the same expectations of my students as I did as a high school director, but the way that I motivate students has drastically changed.  I have just climbed to one summit and discovered that the journey has just begun.  So now what?  What are the ways that I can motivate students in order to help them understand their full potential and reach their goals?  Intrinsic motivation.

Wonderful article of actual activities to do in the classroom to build intrinsic motivation.  Thank you David Palank.

Strategies to Build Intrinsic Motivation  

Intrinsic motivation is the "buy-in" for students.  Students find this type of motvation creates environments that are interesting and rewarding.  There are three main ideas about intrinsic motivation that I refer to often in class taken from Daniel Pink's book Drive: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Autonomy can be a challenge in the classroom, especially with a class as large as a band ensemble.  It can be done though.  By using the learning goals and concepts, students are able to discover their own ways to figure out how to achieve.  This gives them ownership over what they are accomplishing, and enables the teacher to have a clear idea of level of profiency the student is at.

Mastery is something that I use often in the band classroom.  Mastery is not a complete understanding of everything in the world.  I see mastery as a complete understanding of a given topic.  Students are asked to play the correct pitches throughout a selection of music.  Did they get the rhythms all correct?  Perhaps not, but by mastering the pitches, they were able to celebrate their accomplishments, thus building a strong sense of confidence and a preparedness to go after the next challenge.

Purpose is where we as educators connect our students to the real world.  Often in music the real world exists instantaneously as we are in preparation for a real world concerts.  Students have an authentic experience as they showcase their skills to an audience.  I often Livestream concerts has well to create an even broader real-world experience.  The connection of the performance to purpose gets the students discussing other reasons as to why we are working towards particular goals.  Understanding purpose increases student motivation to work hard and achieve!

Side Note...
"I am motivated by fun!!!" Let's agree what fun is in our classroom.

Success/Having Fun: Learning takes active participation. Through learning there are many exciting and fun discoveries we make. Having fun no longer is a passive activity on the surface. It happens when we achieve our goals and objectives. Through contributing to our own success we are able to come to a new understanding of "having fun!"

Final Thoughts

In accordance with Daniel Pink, we as people have natural desires to learn, to create, and to make the world a better place.  By tapping into these natural tendencies in the classroom, we are able to increase intrinsic motivation thereby opening up endless opportunities for our students to achieve.

Onward and inward...

*Definition links reference: Oxford Dictionary

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Genius Hour and Standards-Based Grading in the Instrumental Music Classroom: Research

Genius Hour and Standards-Based Grading in the Instrumental Music Classroom: Research

I am currently working on a Genius Hour Project involving standards-based grading in the instrumental music classroom.  My goal is to create an effective tool that can be used for self-assessment.  The tool is to be tangible and practical in the allotted time for the class.  It is my hope that students will strengthen their understanding of what they do in the classroom (perform/rehearse) with what they are being assessed on in a standards-based environment.  This blog post will give an overview of three research sources I have used in order to come to develop a successful self-assessment tool.   The first will outline the content used to create/perform understanding of a given concept.  The second will discuss successful assessment tools used in the instrumental music setting.  The final source will tie in standards-based assessment with the first two sources.  Onward we go!

The first source I will be using in my research is the Tradition of Excellence Comprehensive Method Book 2 Conductors Score.  This will directly correlate with the exercises and the pieces that the students will perform in order to learn the concepts.  The book also offers a scope and sequence that will work as a guide to be sure all necessary concepts are self-assessed in correlation with the appropriate skill level of the students.  This source will offer proficiency of standards addressed in class (not proficiency of attributes).

The proficiency of standards will offer 2 main categories with which the students will self-assess each week.  The first will correlate directly with the Musicianship Standards.  Students will identify which standards are being addressed in a given activity.  The second will focus on the Objectives for Student Learning.  These are the concepts with which the students will label themselves in accordance with a 1 - 4 at what level of proficiency they are at.  Based on the area of study (and week), other concepts may be thrown into the assessment for additional reflection.

Reference: Tradition of Excellence by Bruce Pearson and Ryan Nowlin

The second source I will be using comes from Frederick Burrack from Kansas State.  He has written in-depth about band programs and student portfolios.  Within the student portfolio, self-assessment is a major component.  While most of the information in the source discusses the portfolio is "analogue" form, it is my desire to innovate wit this resource to bring the concepts and ideas to 21st Century Learning.

The assessment tool I am developing will use components and formats that Burrack mentions.  From the portfolio piece I plan on adapting his concepts of the assessment and put them into a format that will be both tangible and practical in my band classroom setting.  This includes replacing the paper form of assessment with the Google Form medium.  Reading through the research is helping me to make sure students are held accountable for their musical learning goals.

There are four main areas which are addressed in the research.  Once again as in the the previous source (Tradition of Excellence), this source will address the proficiency of standards versus the proficiency of the attributes.  The first area is the assigning of a specific scale, etude and section from piece being assessed.  The second area is where the student will record the assigned piece (as many times as they would like to get their best recording).  The third area is where the student will asses their performance.  The final area is where the student will submit the recording and assessment to the teacher in order to verify proficiency on a given learning standard.  All these concepts will correlate directly with the tool I am developing.  While perhaps not in the same format, similar activities will be present.

Reference: Frederic Burrack, Developing Students Portfolios in your Band Program

The third source of my research comes from a presenter at the First 2016: The Institute for Better Learning on June 16, 2016 in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin.  The title of the session was called "Re-defining Accountability."  The presenter's name was Tom Schimmer.  He addressed the idea of assessment versus grading.  What does this look like and what does it mean in a school system?

Standards-based grading looked dividing up the learning into two areas, proficiency of attributes and proficiency of standards.  The idea of accountability related to the underlying concept that essential learning must be made mandatory.  Traditional grading lumped attributes and standards into one category.  The re-defining of accountability refers to empowering the students to know what the essential learning goals are and where they are at on the journey.  This is one of the main reasons why I have chosen to develop a self-assessment tool in my classroom.

Reference: First 2016: The Institute for Better LearningTom Schimmer

Bringing together the ideas of quality concepts and content, proven instrumental music assessment, and a definition of standards-based grading in my research has given me resources which will enable me to develop a tangible tool that is grounded in depth and innovation.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Genius Hour and Standards-Based Grading in the Instrumental Music Classroom: Reflection 1

Genius Hour and Standards-Based Grading in the Instrumental Music Classroom: Reflection 1

We are in the midst of a shift in how we as educators look at assessment and grades in the classroom (Educational Leadership Article by Patricia Scriffiny). The band class has always used a certain level of standards which continue to apply complexity as students become more proficient in particular concepts. The challenge is to build a deeper level of understanding and performance within the exercises being studied and the music being performed. How do we as music educators create tangible and practical opportunities for our students to build this depth?

I am working towards creating a tangible tool for students to use on a daily basis that focuses on self-assessment, standards, and concepts being covered in class. My level of understanding pertaining to this topic is at approx a 3 out of 5. I know what students are to learn, but my challenge is to create a link between daily activity in band and the broader picture of what standards are being accomplished. I also what to create a progressive path for students to recognize where they are succeeding and where more work is needed. I hope to keep it simple and keep it concise.

Onward we go...

"What is Genius Hour?" - Chris Kesler

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Connected Educator... ...Chapter 10: A Reflection on Connected Leadership

Connected Educator... ...Chapter 10: A Reflection on Connected Leadership

The need to be connected is nothing new in education.  Since the beginning of time people have gotten fulfillment through being connected with others.  In the past many our connections were in the form of physical contact (F2F).  With the advancement of technology, the definition of connectedness expanded to include conversations on the telephone and the medium of television.  Now in the 21st Century we find ourselves again redefining what it means to be connected.  Having a 1990s super computer that fits in our pocket today, our ability to connect continues to grow.  The resources of the 21st century now allow us once again redefine what it means to be a connected.

With the realization of the need to redefine what it means to be connected in education in the 21st century, we must become active and contributing members of this expansion.  We do this through leadership.  It is not enough as leaders to ride the wave of this new age of connectedness.  We must innovate and initiate our medium to better what we do as educators.  At the end of the day, we now have an opportunity to meet students where they are at, connect with them, and take them to beyond their potential.  There is no replacement for a great teacher.  Great teachers can now enhance student learning through connected leadership.

Twitter Realization

Connectedness comes in many different forms.  As an initial skeptic of Twitter, I was proven wrong on my perspective of the effectiveness in the educational environment.  The idea of using Twitter as a method for professional development seemed unattainable and mythical.  I have come to find that Twitter is a medium that can connect many different levels of my professional life.  This includes others from across the globe in my music content area, educators from other content areas, and professionals in the field outside of education.  I have found out that I have instant access to the educators and innovators that can open my eyes to new resources and trends in education.  Twitter on the personal social side I still don't buy in to, but in my professional life... ...GO TWITTER!

Google Enhancements

The Google world has engaged me in creative collaboration and resource building.  Google Drive has allowed me to share my files, resources, and even concert videos with the masses.  Through privacy and sharing controls I have also been able to restrict access to particular folks, or in many cases open access to the public.  I no longer fear privacy issues.  I have convinced myself that in order to fully take advantage of the connected world, you must openly immerse yourself in the connected world.  Google has allowed me the ability to do that.

Collaboration Micro/Macro

I truly have enjoyed collaborating with other educators, administrators, and students from all over the world.  Most of all I have enjoyed getting to work with my WSU Cohort.  As we continue this journey we are engaging in deeper and more meaningful conversations and projects.  We as a group are now tapping into the innovation side of being Innovative Instructional Leaders.  The world seems a bit more welcoming and friendly now thanks to the WSU Cohort folks.  I appreciate you and look forward to working with you in the future.  Together we are making a difference!

Final Thoughts

I believe in connectedness.  Not just our ability to connect in the digital age, but also connectedness all forms.  From physical F2F to video/audio to digitize chats and sharing.  I think connectedness is what we are called to do as human beings.  The Connected Educator Course has fallen comfortably on my lap of professional development.  I continue this mentality as I work towards becoming a better educator and leader.


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Connected Educator... ...Chapter 9: Connected Concerns

Connected Educator: Chapter 9... ...Connected Concerns

While being a connected educator brings about many positives, in this blog I wanted to look at concerns.  These include both as a colleague and as an educator.  Being on the fore-front of a new philosophy of education is unknown territory that can be scary and unknown at times.  Some of these concerns also deal with students and how they are to overcome particular hurdles in reference to being connected.  Remember, the grass may not always be greener on the other side.

1.) Too Much Tech

What is the balance that we have to achieve in order to be successful as an educator?  I am finding that there are few days where I will go tech free.  Yes we do discuss the idea of "unplugged" for a day but being connected in the digital world and reaping the benefits of that connectivity implies that we are needing to use digital technology often.  We are spending less time doing what we did and more time on digital devices.  What are the consequences?

From a student's perspective I am concerned about screen time and the lack of physical socialization.  While students may be living out their lives online, are they loosing out on the traditional activities of life from riding a bicycle to playing a musical instrument?  Only time will reveal the outcomes, but it is a concern.

Balance is what we strive for in the digital age and I think we as educators must remember that too.  When assigning activities which require digital connection we must be sure to put ourselves in the "shoes" of our students and that the pros are outweighing the cons.

2.) Can't Keep Up

I sometimes feel that the connected educator platforms in the digital world are vast and continue to change at such an extreme rate that by the time you learn how to fully implement the digital application it is obsolete.  There are apps that I would call fundamental (such as Twitter) when I think of being connected, but those even at times are becoming obsolete in the classroom.  If we are to truly become connected educators how do we keep up.

I think the solution to this will come naturally.  The digital market place will find quality over quantity and place particular programs at the forefront of connected education.  While we may always have to decipher what is best for our own classroom, I do believe there will be a clear and proven standard to digital education.

3.) Access

The buzz is loud and proud in many districts about tech across the US, but there are students who struggle not because of capability, but because of access.  Currently our city, state, and federal internet infrastructure does not support connected learning.  There are particular elements that exist to aid students in school, but what about at home.  How can we expect students to maintain connectivity and put learning into practice if we are not supplying them with internet access and the devices necessary to complete the tasks?

This is one of my biggest concerns.  As teachers we need to be sure once again we are putting ourselves in the students perspective.  Public education presents itself as an equalizer.  This is not the case pertaining to internet access in homes.  While someday this may change, for now a connected educator must always know the limitations of his/her students.

As we tap into the unknown in the digital age of connected education, it is important to meet our concerns head on.  While pretending they are not there will no doubt lead to disaster, confronting our greatest fears I know will lead to success.

The Challenges of Raising a Digital Native | Devorah Heitner, Ph.D. | TEDxNaperville

The Question (Please respond in comment area)

What concerns you most about being "connected?"

Connected Educator... ...Chapter 8: What Motivates Us to be Connected?

Connected Educator... ...Chapter 8: What Motivates Us to be Connected?

The 21st Century has arrived!  With it has come a change in how we are motivated as educators.  One of the most interesting books I have ever read on motivation is Drive by Daniel Pink.  In it he discusses the extrinsic and  intrinsic motivations that we have in our lives and how those motivations influence our decisions.   Society is changing and whether we know it or not there is a strong motivation to be connected digitally.

Motivation applying to teachers falls into a category all of it's own.  As a young high school student (never thinking of being in the role of a teacher) I had the perspective that teachers taught because they only had to work 9 months out of the year and the rest of the time was "vacation."  I also thought that teachers taught because they wanted to have power over other people (students).  As I graduated from college and began to teach I discovered a whole new motivation to why teachers teach.  I teach to make a difference!  I teach to connect with students!  I teach because I see potential in people.  Being an educator is one of the only jobs where your success is based on the performance and execution of others. It was always hard to explain to non-teachers why I am willing to take a pay cut.   I will never financially make what some will, but I know that I make a difference in the world... ...for the better.

Check this video out!

Taylor Mali: What Do Teachers Make?

So where does being connected fit into the whole idea of why we teach.

1.) How.
Educators are life-long learners and experts at professional development.  We do not settle for good-enough.  We are always striving for something better.  We can't do this alone and the expectations on teachers continue to grow on a daily basis.  Not only do we have to teach, we have to prove to everybody outside of the classroom that our teaching is effective.  The add-ons seem endless.  But there are ways to go about doing our job better.  New ideas and broader perspectives are only a click away.  By sharing our ways how to teach with others we are opening doors that lead to endless potential for our students.  We strive to thrive!

2.) Support.
While I often teach in a room filled with 50-70 students, I often feel alone.  We need to have a professional learning network and a support system to reassure us that the risks and chances we take are well worth it.

3.) Innovate.
There are new and better ways of educating our students out there and before we were connected, we didn't even know they existed.  Being connected gives us the power to innovate with our students on a level where we can make an impact with more people in the classroom.  By connecting with others I am able to discover different perspectives on particular topics.  This brings me to look through a new lens and drives me to innovate and share my discoveries.

4.) Fun.
Being connected is fun.  Through being connected in our social lives we are creating endless relationships.  We don't have to go to the coffee shop to find out the latest and greatest, we just jump on connected digital technology and are able to discover the latest and greatest.  Being connected digitally bridges the gap between social and professional.  I continue to observe educators building relationships socially and turning those interactions into new learning opportunities.

There are reasons why we continue the digital trend of being connected. The time and energy that it takes must be worth it as so many people are "drinking the water."

The Question (Please respond in comment area)

What motivates you to be connected?

Friday, April 8, 2016

Connected Educator... ...Chapter 7: Attitude and Opportunity in the Digital Age

Connected Educator... ...Chapter 7: Attitude and Opportunity in the Digital Age

Skeptic: According to the Oxford Dictionary, a skeptic is "a person inclined to question or doubt all accepted opinions."

I lately indulged myself in the book The Professor and the Madman and discovered that I myself am a skeptic.  I make assumptions of validity until I am convinced otherwise by cold and hard facts (or that which I define as truth).  In now considering myself a "Connected Educator," I no doubt have shifted my thoughts on connectedness and technology in the digital age a 180 degrees.  What once was wrong is now an opportunity.

We as educators find ourselves traveling in canyons, up mountains, and back again when considering professional growth and opportunity.  What does it take for us to drastically shift our way of thinking?  I argue that it is attitude.  If we are looking for deception and void we will find it.  If we are looking for opportunity and possibility, we discover that we only know what we know.

There are 3 different circumstances which have led me to defining myself as a connected educator.  Some seem trivial while others seem prolific.  I leave you to judge.  First a connection with "the madman."

The Professor and the Madman tells the story of the greatest human contributor to the Oxford dictionary.  After reading this book I will never "read" another dictionary the same way again.  The "madman" as he is termed in the book takes the attitude of a philanthropist in his darkest time.   Jailed, insane, and alone, he uses the opportunity to follow a calling to contribute to an unrewarded project in which he desires no recompense.  This leads to a mystery in which opportunity leads to greatness.  What is the setting of our professional life?  Where do our opportunities lie?  What is our attitude?

Out With the Old and in With the New

Courtesy of

One of my first opportunities to dive into the digital age had to do with a yellow notepad.  I took extreme care to always take notes and have my yellow notepads with me at all times.  What I didn't realize is the opportunity knocking at my door with the introduction of the Ipad.  I took notes, drew pictures, planned out lessons, and even sketched marching band formations on my yellow notepads.  They were near and dear to me, but I needed more.  While I indulged in my yellow notepads there was an entire digital world waiting to be discovered.  I knew for my own sake if I was going to make the change I needed to let the yellow notepads go entirely and completely give myself over to the digital age... ...and I did just that.  Five years later with little regret, I continue to use digital devices to record my notes, drawings, lessons, and even sketches.  With opportunity came reward (yes I still have all my old yellow notepads, but just as keepsakes).

What's a Tweet?

Another digital opportunity that I recently took advantage of is Twitter.  I have always been an extreme skeptic of Twitter as the media often presents it as a way for celebrities to express themselves universally.  I didn't want that on my plate.  But now... ...I discover that with a positive attitude and an open-mind I am able to see the benefits of participating in a Twitter environment.  The endless amount of connections one can make opens doors and opportunities for a life time.  I have discovered that I have so much more to learn from other music educators, general educators, administrators and even students via Twitter.  In our digital connected society we do what we need to do to make a difference and connect.  Twitter has become a practical and profound resource in my professional development.  What's a Tweet?  An opportunity.  Who knows, some day we may even be able to get our news from Twitter.  (check out the link below from the Wall Street Journal)

Let's Share: Google Drive

"Hey Mr. Mangan.  Where's that file?"  One of my most constant forms of organization in my professional life is Google Drive.  Once a skeptic of security breach and intrusion by Google, I now find myself constantly developing new methods to better organize and share files.  I developed a method in which I can access anything I've ever wanted to reference in an endless pool of data through Google Drive.  The opportunity to have resources digitally and at my fingertips brought me to the realization that information equals value and I need to organize my value through a system.  The paper cuts and many hours of filing are over.  With a productive attitude and willingness to take advantage of a product I once found skeptical, I now find myself with the substance I need to be successful.

Meet Google Drive

I have found that my attitude limits my advances in opportunities in the digital age.  While skepticism is sometimes a necessary characteristic for survival.  I am finding more and more that attitude and a willingness to try often lead to success.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Connected Educator... ...Chapter 6: Do As I Do, Not As I Say

Connected Educator... ...Chapter 6:  Do As I Do, Not As I Say

So often we as educators feel pressured to say the right words, when in fact students are often better watchers than listeners.  I notice particular trends with my students that have nothing to do with what I am asking them to do, but more so with what I am doing on a day to day basis.

I am going to focus on 2 areas where we as educators can "do" in order to get our students to become leaders in the classroom.  It's time we start walking the walk.

Setup for Success

How do we setup for success in the classroom?  In the music education setting this is a phrase that I use quite often.  It could be physical to the space such as an arrangement or placement.  It could also be a pedagogical setup.  When working on a new exercise, chorale, or section of music I remind my students of what elements are necessary for success.  It could simply be having a plan for the day which is centrally focused on student learning.  Whatever it is, it is a recipe for achievement.

The physical space in the band room where I teach is the blank canvas which will eventually become a masterpiece.  I take pride in the appearance and organization of my room and have the same expectation of my students.  Are the chairs setup in an organized fashion?  Are the music stands straight?  Is the percussion section appropriately setup for the upcoming?  Are the number of chairs in each row appropriate?  The physical space is the launching point for success.  I have found that students take pride in appearance and structure.  There are times when I enter the band room and magically the stands and chairs are placed for the next class.  To my surprise a student has done this.  Actions over words...  This is not my space.  This is our space and we come to learn and paint our masterpiece.

Another way we setup for success is preparing ourselves for achievement.  We first look through our music and decide which areas are the most challenging.  From there we break down the fundamentals of those areas and make them pristine.  They become simple when looked at in a micro setting.  As we then look to play the entire excerpt, success seems to come easy.  What was once unattainable is all of the sudden a problem solved.

No matter how an educator (or anyone for that matter) sets up their environment for success, we know that a little prep goes along way.  If we expect our students to connect in the classroom, we must connect.  If we expect greatness, we must be great.  Often times more is said in silence than in words.

Check out this article on the "path of least resistance."  It's a great resource for ideas on how to better the physical classroom environment.

Setting Students Up For Success

If at First We Don't Succeed... 

Take pride in the failed attempt.  Why do we feel we have to be perfect.  Some of my greatest moments as a educator have come from my greatest failure.  Once we accept that we are not perfect and will fail (and often at that) we become more focused on what is important... ...educating our students.  This goes the same way with colleagues.  Those that are talked about the most are often those that take the greatest risks... ...and fail!  We are not in teaching to show we don't make mistakes.  We are in teaching to encourage our students to try new things and take risks even if they might fail.

I enjoy greatly when a student in my class catches me making a mistake.  I make no notice of it and move on.  Through my actions I try to show them that it is okay to make mistakes.  "If my teacher tries and fails why not try?"

Check out the video below of 2 former presidents discussing the importance of trying and being willing to fail...

People search out role models and examples to follow.  We are constantly bombarded with people telling us what to do and how to act, and so are our students.  Actions speak louder than words.  Let's as educators focus on what we are doing instead what we are saying. Recall the 2 ways we can go about doing this in our classroom.  First setup our environment for success.  A little prep goes a long way.  Second, teach our students that it is okay to fail.  We don't know what we don't try.

Onward we go!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Connected Educator... ...Chapter 5: Co-Constructive and Collaborative Learning

Connected Education... ...Chapter 5: Co-Constructive and Collaborative Learning

Times are changing in reference to how students learn in the classroom and how teachers teach.  The adult is no longer the expert in the room, but a facilitator of learning.  It is our responsibility as educators to work together to develop positive and productive learning environments for our students.  The best classroom is created by building our learning together as a team.

(Photo Credit: New York Yankees MLB.Com

"The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime."

Out With the Old, In With the New

A significant source of my learning came from my teachers growing up.  We learned skills such as note taking, short-hand writing, and prioritizing content.  This all came typically from "The Lecture Method."

Check out the following website from the 'Center of Research Teaching, and Learning' on the advantages and disadvantages of lecturing: 

Lecturing: Advantages and Disadvantages of the Traditional Lecture Method
What we are finding is that learning can be done in a different way.  Collaborative learning is taking the education world by storm.  Teachers are working with other teachers, students, professionals, and the community to engage the classroom in active learning.  

As a music educator I am finding it imperative to move towards a new way of teaching.  I am taking the resources of old and adapting them with my own ideas to make a new way of learning.  Students are also involved in the process of this development.  We are co-constructing our learning.

The scene looks like this...
  1. Students put into practice particular fundamentals which apply to the music we are studying.  (Students are performing and demonstrating what they are learning instantly).  These fundamental concepts come from the Bruce Pearson Standard of Excellence Band Method.
  2. Based on the level of individual and group comprehension, I hybrid the fundamental, creating additional learning applications and exercises which develop a deeper understanding and connection with the student as an individual learner and musician.  This is often done based on other music educators ideas through my PLN.
  3. Students then apply the fundamental at-will, whether it be in their composition, practice, or rehearsal.
  4. We continue to use all the resources we can get our hands on to apply the fundamental in a more complex manner.  This includes using our new found skills in an environment of interpretation and expression, the band rehearsal!
We are moving in the education away from making it just the students' responsibility to learn and sailing towards a collaborative responsibility to create a productive and successful learning environment.

Put Yourself Out There

(Photo Credit: National Archives

Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke the words "the only thing we have to fear itself" in his first inaugural speech in 1933 (National Archives).  While FDR was dealing with the tragedy of the Great Depression, we as educators can learn from this in the way we go about educating our students in the digital age.

We need to understand that in order to reach our potential as educators and our students learning potential, we need to put ourselves out into the world.  This means we have to define our learning environment and share it with others.  We do this through our PLN and other interactive outlets (digital and analogue).  This often brings about great fear over criticism and negative reaction.  If we don't break free from that fear, we will never reach our fullest potential as educators.

Putting ourselves out there among our greatest critics, fellow educators, is a constant challenge, but a challenge that we must face.  We ask our students to do it everyday, and as mentors and role models, we must do the same.  

FDR significantly changed the role of the federal government in 1933 to wage a 'war on the Great Depression'.  We can significantly change our teaching by overcoming fear and  putting ourselves out there to share our ideas and learn from others

In the instrumental music setting we are constantly required to perform in a public setting.  Concerts, sporting events, and ceremonies are often a platform where we are criticized as educators.  This however is not enough.  We need to share not just the product, but the process of our learning framework.  This could be as simple as online conversations or as complex as live interactive learning with other classrooms via Skype.  Either way we must challenge ourselves to engage our greatest critics, fellow educators.

What's Next?

As an educator I challenge myself to build a learning environment that is consistently co-constructive and collaborative.  This means that I must share my ideas without fear.  A new way of learning in the digital age has presented itself.  It is our responsibility to embrace the given resources to become better educators.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Connected Educator... ...Chapter 4: The Connected Community

Connected Educator... ...Chapter 4: The Connected Community

We as a society know that the future is one of being connected. It is our job as educators to engage our students in mediums that will bring them success in the present and the future. The tools and resources that build a connected environment are a necessity in the 21st century. As educators, if we are to engage our students in a connected community, we must first establish our own role in the digital age. It starts with our own community... ...our school.

The Buy In:

How is it with so many interactive and productive resources at our fingertips some folks don't buy-in to the benefits of a connected environment? Speaking from the experience of a skeptic, there are 3 reasons why.

1.) Fear of Judgement

Being connected means sharing what is happening in our professional lives and in our classroom with the whole world. In order to do this we need to embrace a transparent mentality and open our doors to let the world in. For all educators this can be challenging. We are self-conscious about what we do and how our students and colleagues will react to it. We know that to be connected we must be open to feedback and and criticism. How do we overcome the challenge of transparency?

In order to overcome we must go back to our philosophy of education. Why do we do what we do? Why did we decide to pursue a role in educating young people? For me personally it comes down to the fact that I do it for the students. I believe in the youth of our society and the potential that they carry. I overcome my fear of judgement by always asking myself "is this best for students?" With a solid foundation to stand on there is no need to have fear of what others may think. The response is simple...'s what I believe is best for students.

2.) Privacy

Being connected means opening up your professional life to everyone. The idea of professional privacy is no longer applicable in a connected world. In order to be connected we must be willing to work as a team in a global community. The question is do the pros outweigh the cons in order to benefit learning? I argue that they do.

The opportunities and resources that come from opening our professional lives up to the global community have many positive consequences. I have always been a team teacher and believe that all educators have gifts to share with students. With the global community, that team just got infinitely bigger and all members benefit from the sharing of resources and ideas.

3.) Lack of Knowledge and Understanding

Being connected means being open to understanding how to use new tools and resources to better learning. One of the most common discussions I hear from fellow educators is that students know these tools better than we do. How do we educate a population that has grown up in an age of technology?

While students may be able to navigate certain tools with ease, it is the educator who knows how these tools can be beneficial to learning.  I often see students using ipads and smartphones for the use of entertainment.  Our role is to help them unlock the endless possibilities of these devices.  Technology is so much more than just a video player.  It is an interactive tool for learning.  Our knowledge and understanding comes from our desire to use the mediums of today to educate our leaders of tomorrow.

Also with digital training modules, learning new tools is easier than ever.  A short investment will produce expansive results in our students.  We must also engage our students to see outside of the box and discover new and exciting ways to use technology to learn in the 21st century.

At the end of the day...

It is our job to educate.  Building a connected community creates a better learning environment for our all.  Through connected learning students are interactive, provided personalized instruction, and engaged more directly in the learning process.  A connected school community is better because it provides more learning opportunities at a fraction of the cost.  We used to have to travel to find a primary source experience for our students.  Now through virtual tours, traveling abroad digitally is only a click away.  We are giving experiences to our students that we never received because growing up we were not connected digitally.  A connected community will open the doors to limitless learning potential.  Our learning will never be the same again.  A new medium is just over the horizon.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Connected Educator... ...Chapter 3: The Connected Classroom

Connected Educator... ...Chapter 3

There is no doubt that the future of classrooms in America are "connected classrooms."  Technology continues to become more affordable and online tools more accessible.  These two factors bring numerous learning opportunities that change the face of education and connect students and teachers inside and outside of the classroom.  There are two primary questions I will answer in this post.  The first is to define what it means to be a connected classroom.  The second is to outline the value in the creation and implementation.  It often seems limitless in reference to the tools available.  We start with particular tools and how those tools are used in a "connected classroom."

#Education - You Tube

As a music educator I have found that You Tube is an important part of the fabric in my "connected classroom."  The continuous goal is to make You Tube a regular part of our learning.  You Tube has taken an active role in our playing evaluations.  Instead of doing live playing assessments with the teacher, students now have the option to submit their playing evaluation via You Tube.  Students post the recorded video via their You Tube channel and share the link with me through our online Moodle class page.  I also have the desire for students to use You Tube to share their musical experiences with people outside of the classroom.  This could be through a performance or through a particular musical narrative.  Other students from all over the world could share and exchange their musical experiences as well.  Students also could use self-recorded You Tube videos as teaching tools for younger students.  Currently I am working towards giving older students leadership opportunities to provide in-depth video examples of particular musical passages that younger students are working on.  The connection is a win-win for both groups, providing additional instruction for younger students and leadership opportunities for the older.  I continue to come up with ideas with the help of other educators on more ways for students to use You Tube in the classroom.  Not only are students using You Tube, I am also using my You Tube channel to provide students with additional learning tools and resources.

I have now begun to introduce online lessons via You Tube in particular areas of fundamental music study.  I also provide supplemental video recordings for students as they prepare musical pieces for performance.  Students are able to access the videos through Moodle and repeat the short online lessons again and again to increase learning potential.  I also can provide direct video feedback to students giving them specific evaluation information about particular videos they submit to me through You Tube.

Using You Tube in my connected classroom provides constant feedback on how students are progressing throughout their musical tenure.  This is useful for parents, students, and the teacher to continue to increase individualized learning potential.  While You Tube has become the most prominent app I use in my classroom, there are others which continue to help me discover the meaning of a "connected classroom."

Google Edu

Google has many different opportunities to increase student learning in a connected classroom.  One in particular that I have used is Google Drive.  We as a music department naturally archive all of our performances.  In our "connected classroom," we now upload our videos into a Google Drive, forward, and share the link for students, parents, and the community members to view.  This increases the visibility of the students to the world outside of our walls.  Students also take pride in the performances and products that they produce knowing that their network just got a lot bigger.

Smart Music

Smart Music has become a staple of our connected music education classroom.  Many of our lessons are taught using Smart Music.  Students also have the opportunity to use the same product at home for better practice and a more consistent presentation of the content.  Through the use of Smart Music I have found that school rehearsals have been more focused and home practice for students that have Smart Music has become more productive.  Using the connected tool Smart Music has also increased opportunity for more individualized instruction, providing students with specific tools geared for a students specific learning stage.  These tools have helped with rhythmic and note understanding.  Smart Music has increased the connection between what students are doing in the classroom and what they are doing at home.


Skype is a way that I look forward to using to connect with other educators, conductors, musicians, clinicians, and experts in the field.  In a "connected classroom" I envision that my students will be able to connect with students from all over the world.  I also envision that we will play a particular piece of music and network with the composer via Skype to give us feedback and thoughts on his composition.  Skype is also an excellent way to allow students from afar to sit in on our rehearsals and performances.  While this is a new tool for me, Skype is bound to become a staple in my "connected classroom."


There is one method I have used and foresee using to bring together the many tools and resources of my "connected classroom;"  Moodle.  While the actual apps don't always apply directly to what I do as a music educator, using Moodle as a hub has been a wonderful way to keep a safe, simple and accessible online learning environment for my students.  Moodle makes the gateway to the "connected classroom" easily attainable.

The Value of a Connected Classroom

A "connected classroom" is valuable to a learning environment in the 21st century.  It has the potential to leave a positive impact on students, teachers, parents, the educational institution, and the community at large.

There are several different areas of value that pertain to students.  Being connected means being global.  This provides students with the opportunity to realistically make a worldwide impact.  The comprehension and understanding that students achieve through being connected is deeper and more collaborative.  Students have direct access to experts and other students who share ideas and interact live.  The learning is enhanced because being connected means being authentic.  With this authenticity students are naturally prone to leadership opportunities.  Many of these opportunities are evaluative in which students learn the success that comes from daring to fail.

They build responsibility in having to navigate not only the face-to-face classroom environment, but now the world stage as well.  Some might think this may be a downfall due to the potential risks of negative reactions and feedback, but I see this more as an opportunity.  Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, students are already familiar with this type of medium outside of the school walls in their social and family life.  We are just bringing them the school environment medium they already know.  In the connected environment students discover more about themselves and redefine their roles in learning.  This brings them to reach beyond their potential with endless resources and support tools.

The "connected classroom" brings value to all stakeholders involved including parents and the community.  Transparency is prominent in being connected.  Parents and the community are able to be active members of the learning environment.  The community takes pride in the learning accomplishments and becomes more apt to support the educational institution.  This is great for students because the community is a natural part of their growth.

The face of education is changing and growing outside of the classroom.  We as educators must embrace this change and use everything in our power to fulfill the very reason we became teachers... engage students in learning.