Category Archives: blended learning

Module-making: finishing touches to going worldwide.

Over the past couple weeks I have been plugging away at my course prototype slowly, but surely. And I’ve been through quite the series of emotions associated with this.

giphy (1).gif

“Panic stressed” via Giphy

I have panicked(This doesn’t look like I thought it was going to!)

I have gotten excited. (This content is SO relevant and meaningful!)

I’ve second-guessed myself. (Does this accommodate all learners?)

 

I’ve felt challenged

yet confident. (I can do this.)

Where I am.
All I have left to do is wrap-up editing and filming some small parts for the module, otherwise everything is ready to go. I failed to appreciate how much planning goes into making a quality video. Taking into account setting, dialogue, visuals, and background music takes time. It’s not like I didn’t predict this would happen, but when you get into the video-making grind, time flies in a big hurry.

Fortunately, as I went through the creative processes, it led me to continue considering my summary of learning. It served as a reminder to be aware of the fact that simply creating and recording a song is actually a lot of work, even thought I have so much fun with it (Thank goodness I don’t have to make a full live action video to go with it too, it’d be too much). While capable of some limited visual work, it also caused me to revisit the idea: what would an Andres Arenada and Logan Petlak summary of learning combined actually look like (and how much time would it really take)?

Regardless, I hope the module is able to reach learners in my regular classroom, but where I began was to bring my regular classroom worldwide…

where i am where i began best version.png

“Where I want to be in the world” via Google Maps

Where I began.
In reflecting on what I set out to do in my original outlines, some new barriers to the creation of this prototype revealed themselves, and it all stems back to the original targets I wanted/needed to specifically address and account for: relationships and learners.

  1. Who are my learners and how will I connect? When you have no idea who your learners are, how exactly do you design an asynchronous lesson according to their needs and styles?

    The simplest way to address this, is universal design. When considering multiple forms of expression, engagement, and representation for the module, does my module do this? Does it have more than one opportunity for each? I think so! (Phew!)

  2. And when you only make one module to begin, can you really connect to other content?

    – In my module I found myself saying: “we’ll have to address this next time”, but there isn’t a next time (yet)! Do you plan for the hypothetical or does this make it less authentic?

  3. Does a class need synchronous sessions to be blended? Or can it be pseudo-blended through Flipgrid or Zoom? It is all online, but the learning functions similar to that of a traditional classroom and has some face-to-face components, but these components are not necessarily live. Is ECI 834 considered blended? Or all online?

 

Closing thoughts

Questions are great, and maybe some of them don’t need to be answered. Ultimately, the course prototype will be out on Tuesday, and I look forward to the learners I reach, and the subsequent feedback I receive to hone my skills. Hopefully it serves my main goal, educating people.

 

– Logan Petlak

 

 


In the Spotlight: Open Education

What happens before you have to stand on stage with a blinding spotlight trained on you, following your every move? A crowded audience lies before you, the heat of their eyes piercing your skin.

Photo by marfis75 via flickr

You practice. A lot.

This is the effect of asking students to do work in open online spaces like forums, blogs, or Twitter. When I am asked to post a blog it means that I spend extra time trying to perfect syntax to convey appropriate tone; I double-check and cite sources; I try to inform or persuade in a somewhat entertaining way. I also want to write things that are enjoyable, unlike in traditional closed classes where I care about enjoyability less because only the teacher reads what I write. Then, I don’t care quite as much. (But really, I am a bit of an over-achiever regardless.) The process is also more fun for me because I love getting comments on my blog and responding.

But does this really make the process of learning more authentic? How much of what is being said is being said just to get a mark and how much is driven by authentic engagement? Would I be writing this blog post right now if I wasn’t taking this class. Honestly. Or as the kids would say, TBH. No. I wouldn’t. However, it is definitely more authentic than writing just for one teacher.

Blogging also makes me more accountable because I want what I post to the whole world to reflect what I really think and who I am. This is not to say that sometimes I exaggerate just how excited I am about a new app or tech tool in the moment I’m writing the post. I might discover a tool, and think it’s pretty cool after trying it out and will probably use it at some point in my classroom. But I’m not going to write exactly that. Instead I might say, “I just found the most AMAZING tool! It’s free, it’s fun, it’s relevant, it’s intuitive. YOU SHOULD USE IT!”

So, when would I ask students to blog? What would be worthwhile for them to discuss in open spaces? I think that in music, I would still advocate for posting videos of progress on blogs or forums and having students comment on each others’ playing. It takes the pressure off of performing live, and kids have fun sharing and  listening to each other. I did this in EC&I 831, and appreciated the encouragement and feedback from my classmates.

Students could practice using music terms and develop literacy because they would have time to provide feedback in a forum. I think that this would be authentic to an extent. Again, as I mentioned last week, some participation would need to be mandatory, but that also protects people who want to share from being labeled overachievers or nerds, stifling key contributors. And we all know that we music types have enough of a stereotype to overcome already. I know what you’re thinking. I’ve never seen this movie, and I still know this…

I think that we could generate a culture where students would be excited to check in on students’ videos of their bands, ensembles, duets and solos. It would be a great way to generate excitement leading up to live performances.

Once again, as I said last week, we would need to practice skills of posting and commenting and set expectations as a class for the types, length and frequency of comments.

With this buy in from students and moderation of appropriateness by a teacher, I don’t think that my grade 9-12 students’ parents would have any concerns about them participating in an open online environment. They already are exposed to or participating more potentially unsafe spaces.

SO LET’S TRY IT, PEOPLE!


Eeny Meeny Miny Moe – and these tools are it!

Deciding which tools to use for interactive purposes in our blended prototype felt a bit like a game of eeny meeny miny moe. With so many tools to choose from how can one possibly decide which tools are the best for what you are trying to accomplish. Fortunately my team and I were able to decide which tools we want to use without much debate. We are going to be using Canvas as our LMS so we will be using some features of that site as well as twitter and blogs. I will go into more detail as to why we selected these methods but I want to start with the quote from Shaping the Metaphor of Community in Online Learning Environments: 

For a community to emerge, a learning environment must allow learners to engage each other intentionally and collectively in the transaction or transformation of knowledge.

This quote really stood out to me and validated the tools we have selected as our community building tools. Nancy, Andrew and I have had a lot of discussions around Twitter and how much we have grown to love it over the past few semesters. I have said this before and I’ll said it again for anyone who hasn’t heard me say it before – I used to think Twitter was pointless and really served little purpose. I didn’t fully understand the value in it. Looking back I now realize that I felt that way because I wasn’t using it to it’s full potential. I didn’t follow a lot of meaningful people, I didn’t understand how to use hashtags to my advantage and didn’t feel it was possible to share something meaningful in 140 characters. Twitter has become one of the most beneficial tool for me as a teacher. It has provided me with great resources, professional development and connections with other amazing teachers – all for free! I have really developed my PLN (personal learning network) and I can’t imagine my teaching career without twitter. I the teacher in this video has done an excellent job of discussing PLN’s and the role twitter plays in developing your PLN.

It is possible for students to build a PLN and we plan to encourage our students to build their PLN through using a course hashtag (which is yet to be decided) as well as hootsuite or tweetdeck. Students will be asked to interact on twitter by sharing articles, retweeting and quoting tweets from classmates within the class as well as people from outside of the class. By using hashtags students will be able to reach out and connect with others far beyond the four walls of our classrooms which will in turn help them improve the community within our classroom by sharing resources and information.

Another way we feel that an online learning community can be established is through blogs. George Couros shares 5 reasons why students should be blogging including developing a positive digital footprint, giving students a voice and allowing for student reflection. It is a great way for students to document their learning and share what they have been doing in class. Through comments on each others blogs the online community can further be established. Like Liz pointed out, it is important to consider digital citizenship and be sure that students are commenting respectfully and mindfully. Being that we are doing a digital citizenship course prototype we will be focusing on this early on in the semester. Students will be expected to follow classmates blogs through an RSS platform such as Feedly. Feedly is a user friendly way to follow blogs without having to go back to the individual blog and check to see if a new post has been written. We felt that this would be easier to use than creating a blog hub.

The last way that we thought we can try to establish a community is through the discussion feature on Canvas. An edutopia article lists many benefits to using a discussion board in an online course including critical thinking, improved reading & writing skills and reflection. The article also suggests having students come up with the guidelines for using the discussion board and just like Sarah I feel like this would be a really great idea. The chart discussing Bloom’s Taxonomy in relation to activities for discussion boards really opened my eyes to the endless possibilities for activities through a discussion board. Although I see the discussion board being used primary for students to connect with one another to ask questions or get help with information related to the course I can see it be useful to have an activity thrown in there every once in a while too.

I feel like there are so many other tools we could have selected but I feel like these are the tools that will help our students build a community online, much like I have experienced in all of my EC&I classes with Alec and Katia.

Are there any other great tools we have overlooked for our course prototype in terms of building community online?


Creating Community

What communities do you feel connected to? Why? Why do we need community? Benita and Melinda asked the same question this week. And I hope that I’ll leave you with one of many possible answers by the end of this post.

Whether fostering a community online or face-to-face, the instructor and students must establish expectations, participate in interactions, and develop communication skills. Like Schwier says, an environment doesn’t inherently develop into a community in which participants feel safe, belonging, committed and engaged. So, how do I plan to foster interactions using Canvas in my Music 9 prototype course?

Step #1 – Establish boundaries and participation rubric with students

Via edutech4teachers
                                     Via edutech4teachers
  • What rules are we going to follow in these spaces?
  • How often do you think you would need to participate for others to benefit from your contributions? Can you make this commitment?
  • What type of language are we going to use?
  • Learn about “Netiquette” and digital citizenship
  • Remember, chat comments cannot be deleted once they’ve been posted. You must be responsible.

Step #2 – Practice using the tools, explain their unique purposes/potentials

I plan to use the interactive and connective tools that are built into Canvas as the primary methods of communication: discussion, chat, conversations and conferences. We would practice using all of these tools and outline the expectations associated with each, before setting students “loose” to use them all.

The discussions section in Canvas allows responses to be organized by the question asked. Furthermore, students can add discussion questions if the instructor adjusts the settings to allow this. I would make sure that students would have access to this feature to increase the number of what Bryce-Davis calls “ringers,” which are new or unusual activities that “disrupt the established patterns and expectations just enough to renew interest” in the conversations. These discussions can be threaded, which allows members to focus in on particular comments of interest and follow that train of thought, rather than a stream of feed is more conducive to general comments. The threaded conversations help to ensure that discussion is organized and therefore potentially more meaningful and authentic. Small group options are available as well. Students can join particular focus groups based on interests or projects. Edutopia provides many suggestions in their Mastering Online Discussion Board Education Resource Guide. One idea is

“Instructional Discussion Boards should be used to meet specific course objectives and should be aligned with course content.”

For this reason, I would set the expectation for the discussion forum to be mostly related to the content of the course.

The chat section is a great option for students to socialize and build relationships. This area could be designed as a place for informal exchanges and for straight-forward student questions like, “When is this due?” or “What time are we meeting?”  It is important to note that comments in the chat cannot be deleted and are organized on a separate page from the discussion questions. Students would need to be aware of this ahead of time and know consequences for posting inappropriate comments.

Canvas also offers what they call Conversations, which is really just an email service. It’s a great option for one-on-one student-teacher interaction.

Finally, Canvas offers Conferences through a partnership with BigBlueButton, which is a web conferencing tool for synchronous online meetings, much like what we do with Zoom in EC&I 834. This option is ideal for group instruction or a more face-to-face feeling.

The combination of these tools is important. In his blog post this week, Adam said, “When looking for engagement amongst the class, it is vital to incorporate a number of different interaction opportunities.” The fact that Canvas has all of these tools within the same LMS means that students won’t need to check multiple providers to stay connected with their peers. When the log in to Canvas they will automatically be surrounded by opportunities to connect with each other in a variety of ways depending on the purpose of interaction.

Step #3 – Make the interactions meaningful, supportive and relevant

As I said before, setting expectations for each of the formats for interaction at the beginning of a course is crucial. The various forms of communication available, with students able to guide discussions, will make the interactions more meaningful than a strictly teacher-driven approach. Schwier says, “For a community to emerge, a learning environment must allow learners to engage each other intentionally and collectively in the transaction or transformation of knowledge. It isn’t enough that material is presented to people and they interact with the instruction. It isn’t enough that the learners interact with instructors to refine their understanding of material.”

Students also need to be taught the skill of asking critical or higher level questions for discussions to go beyond surface-level ideas and observations. Edutopia suggests teaching Bloom’s Taxonomy to ensure that students ask high-quality, purposeful questions.

Students need skills in research and citation as well, so that they find and support answers to their own and others’ questions.

However, my presence as the instructor in each of these areas will model meaningful and supportive interaction.

Schwier, 2001
                                Schwier, 2001

I think that required participation is also necessary, especially initially, to help students develop the habit of being a part of and contributing to the community. Icebreakers and introductions are important to developing historicity, which is an essential element of community.

 

 

I would also use rubrics for participation, as well as teacher, self, and peer evaluation to give students clear expectations and opportunities for feedback and self-reflection.

Step #4 – Troubleshooting

Edutopia helpfully outlines some Common Pitfalls so that educators embarking on this journey can avoid them. I think that I have planned for each of the concerns in my plan above. But the one that I feel I have the least control over is “Students may react in an inappropriate way by flaming other students or making disinterested or disrespectful comments to their peers or in response to assignments.” If this were to happen in a chat, there is one guide that says that the comment cannot be deleted. This is very concerning to me. If one student chooses to make a bad decision, it wouldn’t go away. I’ve emailed Canvas to ask why they’ve chosen this.

Step #5 – Learn!

By Frankieleon via Flickr
                                                                                By Frankieleon via Flickr

The primary benefit of creating a blended learning environment where students can connect online is that it improves the likelihood that they will learn more. Amy noted this in her blog post this week as well.  George Siemens’ Theory of Connectivity highlights the importance of networks in learning. I know this has certainly been true of my experience in EC&I 834.


Blended Music LMS = Significant Difference

When asked to choose any topic of interest this week, I immediately revisited the idea of Myth of No Significant Difference. Not shockingly, these thoughts surfaced around the same time as my feelings of overwhelmedness about the amount of work that I am going to have to do shortly to finish my blended Music 9 course prototype. It had me thinking about what the benefits of blended learning really are.

So, at the suggestion of Kara, I decided to see what others have done to create Music LMSs, and learn from their experiences, rather than assuming that I am the first to have tried it. I’m definitely not the first. And I found out that music teachers and institutions around the world are doing amazing things with blended LMSs in music, but one pair of music educators has a website that sucked me in for a couple of hours and lifted me out inspired and armed with a few new tools.

freebern

Freebern Music has designed a LMS for music courses at Burr and Burton Academy in Vermont to accommodate lower enrollment and still offer multiple courses. They say,

“We were  teaching students HOW to learn, leaving the WHAT to the digital tools we created. As a result, we found that content knowledge and retention was improving.”

They also built courses that addressed various outcomes around students’ interests WITH those students. In future years, other students used the courses and expanded on them as well.

One of the main concerns that they had after moving all of their music classes to blended environments was that some students still desired to be spoon-fed, and they needed to spend more time helping students develop skills to work autonomously. (Dre and Logan also discussed the importance of scaffolding in their blogs and with me this week.) Unlike in a traditional face-to-face classroom, the Freeberns couldn’t ignore this skill building. Without it, students could not be successful. They came up with three areas of focus: “These three components, a desire for autonomy, the instinctive need for mastery and a purpose for study,  motivate our students to learn in this type of educational structure; a structure that will help them become lifelong learners.” And as we all know, this is the ultimate goal. It’s a key component of Saskatchewan Curricula.

By FotoshopTofs Via Pixaby

Not all of their courses are open, but some course resources are open as well as links to music technology apps and resources. I had so much fun looking through them. It was clear that these educators have done a lot of work already to make this LMS and it was much more useful to spend time looking through their courses, tools, and statements rather than trying to figure it all out myself. One of the tools is sampulator.com. It’s a fun intuitive tool that allows people to create simple beats using pre-programmed sounds. I made one, and I think that I’m going to use this tool as the activity for my Music 9 module.

sampulator

I emailed the developers, Neil and Julie Freebern a note of thanks for sharing their concept, challenges and model and requested temporary access to the modules to see how they have laid them out. Hopefully, they will get back to me! Once again, the results of building a professional learning network have gone beyond my expectations.

The whole website appears to be mind-blowingly professional and comprehensive. Seeing this, has really inspired me. As a teacher who has to promote an elective class in a school with a declining population, I can see how LMS could provide administration with the flexibility needed to give students many opportunities to take music classes.

And that is a SIGNIFICANT difference. 


Barriers to blended/hybrid/mixed-mode/distributed learning.

Blended learning, instruction, styles, systems?

I recently stumbled onto a new term to be used interchangeably with blended or hybrid learning: mixed-mode learning (or distributed learning). More educational buzz words, yay! However, when I first saw the term “mixed-mode”, I thought: that sounds a lot like “modes of instruction”. Although I’ve read about modes of instruction for blended classrooms (and, in practice, plan to center these modes around student needs), I failed to specifically connect student modes of learning to student learning styles. I alluded to this association last week, but I just wasn’t full grasping it. Modes of learning are just students’ different preferred means/styles to learn, made possible through different modes of instruction, but these modes of instruction are not necessarily instructional strategies. But these modes of instruction can be made possible through the use of a LMS (or VLE… or CMS) or what I could call blended systems/environments. Most of which make use of certain instructional strategies.


A “Frustrated with Definitions” Activity
If you’re confused at all, here’s a fill-in-the-blank activity. I put hints for help and I’ll give you a word bank.

_________ _______ (use any of four different terms that mean the same thing) is a mixture of _____ __ __________ combining elements from a ____________ ____________ and a(n) __________ ____________ (compare an old classroom with a “new” classroom), one of which borrows pedagogy from a __________ ___________ model, where the delivery of lecture and homework are reversed. This  can help account for different ____________ _________ (use either of two terms that pertain to diversity of learners). Using different __________ ___________ (or _______ ___ _________) is considered easier in a _________ _______ (use any of four different terms that mean the same thing, but use the same one as above to avoid confusion) because it allows for _________-______ ________ (or _______-________ _________), especially when utilizing a  ___ (use any of three different terms that all basically mean: an online program that facilitates instruction and information distribution). Students may then create artifacts for ____________ of their learning (the words aren’t necessarily the same, but both can be applied).

Word bank: distributed learning, mixed-mode learning, hybrid learning, blended learning, traditional classroom, flipped classroom, online classroom, modes of instruction, instructional strategies, modes of learning, student needs, learning styles, inquiry-based learning, self-directed learning, project-based learning, CMS, VLE, LMS, assessment, evaluation


Does it make sense?

Bear with me.

If the mode of learning targeted was reading using a reading assignment as the mode of instruction, and the content was specifically fact-based, I would argue that would also be direct instruction (learning style). However, a reading that poses questions to the reader or connects the reading to other resources to further extend learning, could potentially be indirect instruction but the mode of learning (and by extension, mode of instruction) was still reading.

Still not sure? Below is a video that highlights what exactly blended learning involves, including how it looks different from classroom to classroom.

So what’s the point of clarifying blended learning; subsequently and seemingly trying to confuse you?

As positive as I tend to be, the reality is there are barriers to blended learning, and these barriers extend beyond terminology. So what are the barriers to blended learning? Not just for educators, but for students as well.

Barriers to Blended Learning

Educators
Like any new implementation, educators need two things: time and money.

  • Time
    Time to learn how to deliver blended learning in your classroom, as well as time for the accumulation and assessment of available blended learning tools (whether it’s presentation programs, editing/animation software, assessment apps, or learning management systems).
  • Money
    Money to actually make these tools available to educators on staff and in the division, as well as money to pay for the time teachers spend preparing.

Students
Just because the educators are prepared for this, doesn’t necessarily mean that the students are as well. Mostly, they need support. How do educators provide this (assuming the above are provided)? Guidance and patience.

  • Guidance
    Students will need to be told how learning will occur in and out of the classroom, including the emphasis this style may place on their role in directing their own learning.
  • Patience
    Students may be fresh to this style, so educators must provide them with time and opportunities to develop the skills to be successful in your particular blended learning classroom.

Making it happen

So with these barriers in mind, what are others tips to make it happen or drive blended learning? See below!

drivers-of-blended-learning

Drivers of Blended Learning via Pinterest

 

Closing Remarks

There will always be barriers to any style of learning. As educators, our first barrier is better understanding what exactly blended learning is and how it connects to what we already know, as most of it draws many parallels to previous pedagogy. However, it’s important to note that these barriers are not only limited to the educator and the student, but also the division, curriculum, and parents. Being aware of these barriers allows us to plan for potential or anticipated problems and implement our blended classrooms as best as we can for our learners.

Do you agree? Disagree? Is my definition of blended learning consistent with what you know? Have you felt my pain of not knowing exactly what all these educational terminologies are?

Have a great break everyone!

– Logan Petlak


The Media Diaries: Five Short Stories of Five Good Friends

No. 1: The Wise Old Mentor

By Dplanet via Flickr

I’m a reader. My parents read to me when I was little, and before I actually could, I would pretend to read stories from the Western Producer on my dad’s knee. I played “music” from the Reader’s Digest Christmas Songbook at my mom’s piano. When letters slowly morphed into words, and words into ideas and stories, my life changed. I would stay up late reading Nancy Drew under my covers, occasionally checking my orange leather wristwatch to see how late it was. I didn’t want to be too tired for school the next day. Yep. That’s me. I think I loved school because I was a good reader and most of what I learned there came from textbooks. Big. Heavy. Books. I survived on painfully slow dial-up, and downloadable version of the Encyclopedia Britannica until I left home for university. Text remained my wise old mentor in this institution as well. Bates argues that text “is an essential medium for academic learning,” and I definitely have found this true in my experiences. It’s kind of difficult for me to imagine that it is unlikely “that books will survive in a printed format, because digital publication allows for many more features to be added, reduces the environmental footprint, and makes text much more portable and transferable.” But I suppose all wise old mentors die eventually, making room for new teachers, though their wisdom lives on.

No. 2: That friend who keeps you company while you run errands and doesn’t stop talking so you kind of stop listening once in a while

pink-jvcMusic and podcasts are comfortable pals of mine. Music has been in my life since my grandpa bought me a bright pink JVC CD player when I was 13, and I was introduced to Podcast last year by a good friend. I have a difficult time relaxing, doing hands-on-work or exercise in silence, so these two keep me company and I enjoy listening to them, even if I drift off on occasion. I don’t find that I learn anything particularly useful or interesting when we hang out. But if Pen or Video join us, then the conversations get juicy. So, I didn’t find it at all surprising when Bates said, “that students will often learn better from preprepared audio recordings combined with accompanying textual material (such as a web site with slides) than they will from a live classroom lecture.”

No. 3: The Diva

Mr. P, my former science teacher, was a huge fan of The Diva. We used to watch The Diva’s presentations on reproduction, chemical reactions, and uranium mines. The Diva thought she was so much better than Mr. Overheadprojector. One day, she was trying to show off with some fancy singing and animation on the topic of Meiosis. And the poor thing flopped. Sighs were heaved. Tears were shed. Minutes of lives were lost. But in history later that year, The Diva shared Schindler’s List. And so, rightfully found a place back at the top as a powerful, evocative celebrity. So, Bates’s thoughts that quality, free and engaging videos may not be easy for teachers to find brought this memory of The Diva’s career “lowlight” to the surface.

No. 4: The Nerd

You know that guy who is so passionate, that he scares people away? The nerd? I recently got set up with him by my EC&I 834 profs, Alec and Katia. Since then, we’ve been on a few dates. He’s pretty deep when you get to know him; he knows so much! And he can really challenge me, which I like. Sometimes he gets a little boring when he’s quizzing me and I really just want to hang out with Music and Podcast, or even The Diva. Still, he has a LONG list of strengths. He’s pretty good looking in most styles, organized, methodical, environmentally friendly, accommodating, and patient. Unfortunately, I think many of those strengths are left unappreciated because the ladies don’t take or have the time to get to know him. And once in a while he shuts you out for no apparent reason. That can definitely be a turn off.

“many teachers and instructors often have no training in or awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of computing as a teaching medium”  – Bates

No. 5: Ms. Social Butterfly

captureMs. Social Butterfly is one of my new teachers. We’ve been collaborating and constructing together for a little while now. Within the last year she encouraged me to blog and join Twitter. To be honest, I got a tad overwhelmed by Ms. Social Butterfly and we didn’t talk for almost six months. We just needed a break. We sat down for a Zoom session just over a month ago, and discussed boundaries. Now, I’m self-directing my learning, just like Bates said was possible. She will be an integral part of my ongoing professional development, and I’m glad that she’s teaching me again.

Challenge

Have you met any of these characters before? Do you have any characters to add to The Media Diaries? Would love to hear what they’ve been up to!


Making a Music Module

In my Music 9 prototype it is going to be important for students to access instructional videos on the internet. There are many great professional tutorials for learning how to play instruments, so it’s just a matter of researching and directing students to those resources and not the amateur ones. However, I haven’t found as many good instructional videos on music terminology and theory.

Photo by stevepb via pixabay
Photo by stevepb via pixabay

Like Bates says, it’s important to choose the pedagogically appropriate medium of communication for the content of the lesson. A video showing music being written with audio instructions allows students to see the complex process in action, hear examples, and visualize the concepts. In fact, this method of teaching theory could be superior to face-to-face lecture and whiteboard instruction, because the music notation would be larger, neater, and faster to write.

With this in mind, I needed to find one tool that would allow me to write music, and another tool for screencasting.

First, I checked out Educreations. It’s not great.

You have to add slides in the order you want them to appear, and can’t switch them at any point in time. The writing feature is messy when using a laptop. The eraser is skinny and can’t be made larger, so it is boring to watch the erasing happen. You can hear the clicking of  keys in the video when you press the button to stop recording. It is so simple that it doesn’t allow for much creativity, and there are not many options for editing. Without that room for error, I feel I would have to start over again and again and again. I don’t have time for that. There also wasn’t a clear save button on the presentation I was making. Then my internet disconnected, and when I reloaded the page, the three slides I made were gone. 0/5.

So, I tried Screencastify. It’s great.

I downloaded this Google extension, and found it intuitive and simple. I also like that it is easy to access on my toolbar on Chrome, and I think I will be more likely to use it more often because of this. Even better, the videos save to Google Drive, which is where I already save all of my documents. The quality of the audio and video are both good. There is an option to learn quick keys, there are lots of colors available to write in, there is a button that quickly clears the whole screen without requiring painfully slow erasing. I also like the option to have the webcam record me at the same time as my screen. 5/5.

I do have one questionscreencastify-permission about Screencastify. What does this message mean? What is it accessing? What am I agreeing to?

 

 

 

So, that is when I started searching for a music writing tool. I found an AMAZING website called musictheory.net. This website has almost every lesson I would ever use in music classes from grades 9-12. The lessons online are free AND there are online exercises that correspond with the lessons.

theory-exercise

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately, the free lessons don’t have audio. You have to pay for and download their iOS app called Tenuto for those extra features. However, I could use Screencastify to go through the pre-existing lessons and record audio for them myself. I could use Screencastify to go through a lesson, and then show students where to go next to complete the exercise, demonstrate how the exercise works, and assign a task like: Using Screencastify to document your work, complete 20 Treble Clef note identifications and then upload the video to your Google Drive and share it with me. Afterwards, I could see which notes students are struggling to name, how long it took them to name 20 notes, and how many they named correctly on the first try.

Although this site is great, I know there will be times when supplementary lessons will be needed, so I read the review The Best Music Notation Software of 2017, and tried the only free software to make the list. MuseScore 2.  I have played around with MuseScore a bit, and it’s intuitive, it will play the notes that I write with a quality piano sound, and there is a built in screen capture tool, so I could easily take images of the music I write and upload them to other lesson documents or videos. I have used the professional music writing software Sibelius before, and MuseScore has all of the features that I have used on Sibelius, but unlike Sibelius, it’s FREE!

musescore

 

I am planning on using all of these tools to create my module. Do you know of any music tools that I should look into?


Music 9 is going to rock!

In my blog post last week, I asked readers to help me decide which platform to use for my music class prototype course by voting on a poll. I only had two responses. One was in favour of Canvas; one was for Schoology. Then, in our Zoom meeting on Tuesday night, I had a chance to see Alec walk through some different LMS platforms. After playing around with a few of them, I have decided to use Canvas as the platform for my Music 9 course prototype.

(***Tip: This post is long. If you want to skim through for the main ideas, just look for the bolded words.***)

Rationale:

iphone-music-pic
Via pixabay

I have chosen a blended learning approach using Canvas as a platform because I think the learning will be more student centred. Audrey Watters reminds us that “we like the idea that new technologies mean new practices, new affordances. But that’s not always or necessarily how technology works.” Watters also cautions teachers not to allow LMSes to take the student out of the centre of the learning experience. In this case, I really believe that the format could change the way students learn if I keep in mind ways to facilitate students’ individual needs and goals. Personal learning is more likely with a blended approach, and using Canvas as platform is especially exciting for a few reasons:

  • Blended learning increases engagement and teacher-individual student face-to-face time
    • Student choice. Music is particularly engaging when students can learn an instrument that they are passionate about, so that is what I encourage students to do. The online instructional materials available give students this freedom to choose any instrument.
    • Instruments or practice spaces are not always available to students in a period, especially if the class is large. With a blended learning approach, there is more flexibility for what students are able to do.
    • Teachers can give more valuable instruction to individuals during face-to-face class time. With a large number of instruments available to learn, it is impossible for teachers to provide students with instruction about all of them on a regular basis. If teachers can upload self-made or open instructional materials about different instruments for students to look at on their own time, students can come to class with questions and get feedback on what they have practiced.
    • Students need lessons with a teacher, but with the number of students in a class, it is hard to see each student each day. With video posts of progress on blogs, it increases the opportunities for students and teachers to interact and provide feedback.
  • Canvas’s organization options and compatibility with Google. Awesome.
    • Modules – unlike Google Classroom, I can create modules within a course for various instruments to personalize student learning.
    • Intuitive to use, which means I won’t give up on using it
    • I already use Google Apps, and it will be easy to upload my spreading existing materials to Canvas
    • I can use content developed by other Canvas users
    • Students can upload videos of themselves practicing and engage in discussions on Canvas, without needing to create blogs. This is a valuable time-saver in the Music 9 class, which is offered as part of a rotation within FineArts 9.
feel-the-music
By EuropeMusic99 via Wikimedia Commons

Target Student Population and Demographics: The target audience of this course will be grade 9 students; however, the beauty of this platform is that Music 10, 20, or 30 students who have never taken a music course before, could follow the Music 9 blended course initially to learn some basics before moving on to their grade appropriate level. (Eventually, I hope to develop courses at all levels.)

Course Format: This course will be guided by principles of blended learning with both asynchronous and synchronous components. Face-to-face interaction is a necessary component of music, but it can be enhanced tremendously with online components.

  • Online & Asynchronous:
    • instructional videos
    • theory assignments
    • share videos of progress through blogs that students and teachers, as well as community members can comment on
  • Online & Synchronous:
    • discussions on Canvas
    • guest speakers in Skype
    • live streamed concerts
  • Face-to-Face & Independent:
    • practicing  instrument at school or at home
    • recording using the recording studio at school
  • Face-to-Face & Collaborative:
    • playing with others
    • one-on-one or group lessons with the teacher present
    • performances with live audience

Course Toolset:

  • Online
  • School
    • instruments
    • sound reinforcement (mics, mic and instrument cables, mixer, amps, speakers, monitors)
    • paper copies of music (can be easier to read)
    • recording studio and GarageBand, Adobe ???
    • hand-written theory assignments

Do you know of any great tools or apps that music students should use in this course?

Course Content and Learning Objectives: 

For the first module, we will address the following outcomes from the Saskatchewan Arts Education 9 Curriculum:
  • Use voice, instruments, and technologies to express musical ideas.
  • Combine the elements of music and principles of composition to express unified musical ideas.
  • Compose and perform sound compositions to express perspectives and raise awareness about a topic of concern to youth.
  • Respond to professional dance, drama, music, and visual art works through individual or collaborative inquiry and the creation of own arts expressions.

Assessment Strategies:

  • Formative: blogs with videos, feedback in lessons, theory worksheets
  • Summative: performance, composition

Concerns/Challenges:

  • Online
    • low bandwidth
    • poor connectivity to wireless networks
    • student access to devices when working from home, and occasionally at school
    • time it will take to familiarize students with Canvas when Fine Arts 9 rotations are short
    • user friendliness of Canvas on mobile devices (I need to look into this; it might not be a concern.)
    • some students may be able to afford upgraded/superior apps, while others cannot, which could be discouraging
  • School
    • lack of space for students to practice with few distractions from other students
    • availability of instruments for students to use (esp. drums and pianos/keyboards).
    • addressing all students’ personal learning goals

What kind of challenges might you anticipate that I haven’t thought of yet?

 

 

 


Transformers: The Digitizers Evolve

Wandy’s latest blockbuster hit, Transformers: The Digitizers Evolve, is set to open in theaters in April 2017. We sat down with Wandy to ask her about her inspiration for this new film.

Q: What inspired such a different direction for this film?

W: For the last 20 years, educators have been incorporating technology in their classrooms. The integration may be as simple as using the internet as a research tool, or as complex as blended learning as a means to achieve personal goals. I thought that a great Transformer character would be a “Digitizer.” An educator who is driven to use technology in transformative ways. They have many tools at their disposal like social media, apps, open education courses, and creative software, so they can constantly change shape to facilitate the learning needs of their students. It might be the best Transformer to date!

Photo Credit: cea via Flickr
The Digitizers in the film appear to be regular robot teachers, until they transform! With the help of coffee as fuel, of course. Photo Credit: cea via Flickr

Q: What evolution can we expect to see the from the Digitizers?

W: The Digitizers are faced with the challenge of thinking about the mere mortals, or students, around them as individuals capable of learning and creating independently based on passion areas if they have the skills, tools, and support to do so. This shift in mindset is difficult as the Digitizers have become so accustomed to protecting the young humans, that they fail to see their strengths.

Q: Fans of the franchise are excited to discuss these ideas on social media platforms. Have you been able to connect with them?

W: Absolutely! I love hearing from them, and they’ve really inspired me to push the limits of what I originally thought the Digitizers would be capable of. Roxanne Leung shared What is Blended Learning? on Twitter and that gave me ideas to get the ball rolling. Jennifer Stewart-Mitchell shared Will Blended Learning Fulfill its Disruptive Potential on the EC&I 834 Google+ Community,  which sparked lots of thoughtful conversation with other fans.

Q: What future projects do you have in mind?

W: Well, I’ve always had a passion for music, and with the inspiration of this latest film and its fans, I would like to create a prototype for a blended learning music class. There would be both synchronous and asynchronous components. I haven’t decided what type of platform might work best, but I’d be interested in getting some input from your readers!

Q: Do you have anyone to work on this project with?

W: So far, I haven’t encountered anyone else who is interested in a blended music class prototype, but I’d be interested in working with someone who also shares this passion. Maybe this interview will spark someone’s interest!

“I’d be interested in working with someone who also shares this passion.”

Q: Do you think that you will be able to transform this class with the help of blended learning?

W: Like the Digitizers in my film, I’m going to have to make sure that I reflect on my philosophy of education and make pedagogical choices that empower and engage students. Like Tony Bates says in Teaching in a Digital Age,

“What is the role of the classroom teacher when students can now increasingly study most things online?”

I haven’t worked through what this will look like exactly, but I want the change in platform to be meaningful to students.

Q: Thanks for doing this interview with us today.

W: Not a problem.

You can help Sarah choose an appropriate blended learning platform for her next project by completing the survey below.