Friday, September 30, 2016

Year 7: Week 6 - Bringing iPads Into 5th Grade Music

I remember six years ago, finding a projector on a cart and using it to show lyrics and videos in my general music room. It was so old that every single shade and light had to be turned off before you could barely make out the image. It wasn’t that my school couldn’t get the funding for technology in this room, it was that no one had asked.

The reason I started using this overhead was purely pragmatic. Handing out lyrics sheets took time and was distracting. The added bonus of showing videos gave the class more depth and another contact point, which helped students learn songs faster.

The next year, I got a really nice projector installed in the classroom as well as a document camera. This allowed me to seamlessly use this technology. Previous years, I had to wheel the cart out, and wait a couple minutes for the projector to warm-up. Now I could turn on the projector, put on the lyrics I wanted, mute the image when we were doing other work and with a press of a button, lyrics were instantly up.

During this time I also started using my school iPad, for showing videos, keeping student records, playing music and displaying lyrics and music. This device had no boot-up time and was easy to carry, which was a big bonus since I teach in two different classrooms.

These past two weeks I experimented further with technology. Each 5th grade homeroom has ten iPads (about enough for half the class). I created a folder on Google Drive and loaded it up with videos, lyrics and audio recordings of songs we were working on. I shared this folder with all of my 5th grade students.

During class time, half of the students watched videos and listened to songs along with a directed worksheets while the other half of the class were around the piano working on singing with me. Halfway through the class, student switched activities.

I had some trepidation in trying this out. First off, while our iPads are pretty well monitored, kids can still do inappropriate things on them. But students can also do inappropriate things with tambourines. If it happens, fine, we lean into it, but this isn’t a reason to not try. This is the main reasons I used Google Drive as opposed to creating a playlist on Youtube.com. Google Dive gives them a controlled amount of content. If I shared a playlist of youtube.com, suggestions would come up in the side bar that could lead student to places that at the very least would be distracting and at the worst, could be very inappropriate.

There’s always issues with the use of the apps. Google Drive has a very cumbersome way of logging out. I was very lucky to have the support of our technology department and for the first day we worked with iPads, I had one of the tech teachers in with me helping the students with the iPads. After this first class, I used them without the tech teacher and they did fine.

I wanted to use iPads so that the students could control the pace of their learning. This ended up allowing students to go deeper (e.g. student could re-watch a video they were interested in) and get more done since they weren’t waiting for others in the class to move on to the next part of the worksheet.

This set-up allowed me to work with groups of students with singing in a smaller group which was much more efficient. With only 8-10 students standing around me I could hear, diagnose, and correct singing issues much faster.

No, efficiency is not the most paramount goal of my teaching, but when it happens, paired with the ability to teach with more depth and provide students with more independence, teaching becomes more meaningful and more fun.

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