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 The idea of professional privacy is no longer applicable in a connected world.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.