Sunday, September 27, 2015

Week 5 in the Books

This week, the class turned focus to how students respond to music and how technology can aid student response.  Much of the focus turned toward playing recordings for our students, which is something that we music educators should be doing constantly.  One point that was made in our text was that too many teachers use formal listening exercises.  It is acceptable to do formal listening.  However, this practice is very teacher-centered and may only help us accomplish a fraction of what we are trying to do.  We should make it a goal to get our students more involved in the listening process.  Listening maps and call charts (a text version of a listening map), are great ways for students to become involved in the listening process.  While it is important to speak about music in formal terms, it is just as important for students to use their imagination to create a picture of what the music means to them.

One of our major projects included using Zaption, which is a program that allows the user to upload a video and include captions, drawings, and images along with the video.  In addition, the teacher can include multiple choice questions, as well as open discussion based on prompting questions.  For my project, I used a marching band video from two weeks ago as my project and used the sidebars to ask questions to my students as well as point out certain aspects of the show that needs improvement.  This program is a great way for students to respond to music by listening, analyzing, and evaluating.  I am planning on using Zaption with my marching band from this point forward.

Our other project was to write a review of music software.  I chose Auralia, which is a music theory and ear training program.  I highly recommend this program, despite its cost ($99 for students, $149 for teachers).  I want to caution educators that the program may only be useful to more advanced students. I promise that it would be useful for the educator who would like to "brush up" on their theory and ear training skills.

I have added Diigo to my internet browser.  What is Diigo?  It is a social bookmarking website that allows the user keep track of useful websites.  While this would be useful for most people, it is especially useful for the person who aims to keep up to date on professional trends.  Diigo also brings the social aspect by allowing users to share information with other Diigo users.  Users can also follow other users as well as join groups with the intent of expanding their personal learning network.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Week 4 in review

This week's module was a great one in that it got me thinking about all the potential technologies that we music educators can use in day-to-day classes.  These technologies focus primarily on performance-related activities.  In addition, we had a chance to work with the Audacity program.

My favorite technology that was mentioned by Bauer (2014) was SmartMusic.  I have used this program for the past six years and find it very useful.  I primarily use SmartMusic to aid my students' preparation for solo contest as the software provides piano accompaniment for most standard solos.   I know of many band directors who use the program on site at solo and ensemble events.  In addition to solo accompaniments, I have used SmartMusic with students who are learning an instrument and are trying to catch up to the rest of their class (a beginning 8th grade student for instance).  I have also allowed students to use the program to practice music that we may be preparing for a concert or honor band.

One aspect that I have not utilized with SmartMusic and would like to is improvisation practice. Improvisation is a major weakness of mine and is something that I would like to improve on myself in order to help my students become more comfortable and successful.

Other technologies used in my class include tuners, metronomes (including internet based), digital audio recorders, and playback equipment.  I would like to have a SmartBoard in my class as I believe the door would be opened to use certain music theory programs for my classes.  I could also utilize YouTube much more than I do now.  I currently use YouTube to play recordings for my students.  It would be great to also be able to show them the video of performing ensembles.

I used Audacity to do a remix of the Mahna Mahna song from the Muppet Show.  While it was fun to work with, there were some challenges.  It was very tough to get certain tracks to line-up.  The piece has a groove that is set by a drumset.  When I tried to mix certain tracks together, it was very difficult to get the groove from the two tracks to line up.  The special effects are plentiful and fun to play with.  The user can get as detailed with the effects as they wish.  From an educational standpoint, I am not sure how useful the program could be for secondary students.  I think that it would be fun for them to mess around with, however, I feel that they would get much more out of other composition programs.  

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Week Three!!

This week's focus has taken me out of my comfort zone a bit, which is not a bad thing.  We primarily focused on DAWs or Digital Audio Workstations as well as discussed the importance of technology in the classroom.  More specifically, as far as music classes are concerned, how technology can impact the school population that is not in the traditional music classes.  This group is also dubbed the "other 80%". 

Technology is becoming vital for education, mainly because it is all around us.  If we were to ignore technology, we as educators would be removing ourselves from the reality, thus doing a great disservice to our students.

DAWs are wonderful tools because people (not just students) can compose all kinds of different types of music without having to know how to read and notate music in the traditional sense.  For this class, I used a nice program from Sweden called Soundtrap.  This program has many loops, which are basically chunks of notes or rhythms that repeat as much as the composer would like.  These loops make it very easy to set up "grooves" that the composer can use has "backup" for the song itself (melody).  In addition to loops, composers can use instruments of their own to import sounds.  They can even go as far as recording themselves by using the already-entered loops as accompaniment.  Great stuff!
A big feature of Soundation is that composers can collaborate with each other, without being in the same room.  While our class did not do this, we were made aware of the feature.  

Will DAWs ever replace traditional music making?  Absolutely not.  We can never replace live performers.  DAWs provide the opportunity for anyone to get involved in the music-making process, whether they know who to read notation or not.  

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Week 2 in Review

What a crazy week it was.  I am sure that any band directors reading this can relate that with the start of marching band, it is extremely difficult to fit everything in!

The readings regarding improvisation were very helpful.  I have to admit that I have not been good at teaching improvisation throughout my career.  Improvisation has been my greatest weakness as a trombonist and it is very tough to teach something that I struggle with.  After reading about the Kratus 7 stages of improvisation, I really began thinking about students' development in this activity. By relating improvisation to developmental stages, the readings provided me with a new outlook on how to approach this important activity.

Also, Bauer provided activity ideas that correspond with these stages.  This helped me make a connection from the teaching standpoint that I have failed to notice previously. I am anxious to try some of the activities very soon with all of my age groups.

I really enjoyed checking out MuseScore.   Before my last laptop crashed, I used on of the mainstream programs.  This particular program cost almost $200 and was very complicated.  It turns out that MuseScore provides everything that I need in a composition program.  The big bonus is that it is free!  I like the interface of the program.  It is very easy to look at, meaning that it looks simple.  I like that the vast majority of needed aspects (i.e. articulations, dynamics, etc.) are in the "pallet".  Even if the user is unsure of how to find a tool, it is very simple to look through the pallet.  I am planning on using MuseScore at my work for my composition needs.

Noteflight was also a great program.  Like MuseScore, Noteflight is very simple looking, and therefore not daunting for the new user.  One of my favorite aspects of Noteflight is that students are able to enter notes in a variety of ways, including a piano keyboard, the computer keyboard, and the mouse.  Another nice aspect is that the "pallet" follows the user, meaning that if he or she were to enter a note, they can change the note, enter a tie/slur, etc. without having to look around for it.  Of the two programs, I think that Noteflight is a bit more user friendly for students (especially the younger age levels).  The sharing option is a good and bad option.  The nice thing about the sharing tool is that students could potentially use it to turn in composition assignments.  The scary aspect is that, while students can share their music with virtually anyone in the world, they also may be conversing with people that could be harmful.

Bicycle for Two!!

I really like noteflight in terms of educational value.  Our students are so at ease with technology that they could probably have the program figured out much sooner than we adults can.  I like that there are several methods of inputting notes.  I also like the fact that the input tools (note types especially) are right next to the staff.  It makes inputting that much easier! The sharing tool is great in terms of students being able to submit composition assignments.  I like that they can get their music out to people anywhere.  The only aspect that makes me nervous is the the fact that students may be conversing with strangers of all ages.