Technology has oﬀered us a plethora of options when it comes to using various technology tools to teach and manage a music program. Not too long ago in the music education world, our technology use was limited to things like email, browsing websites, word processing, spreadsheets, notation software, PowerPoint, and using an electronic tuner, or a metronome like Dr. Beat. Fast-forward to the present and we have a multitude of options that can enhance our teaching and help engage our students more eﬀectively. We have a multitude of options that can enhance our teaching and help engage our students more eﬀectively. Here are four free technology tools that can be successfully integrated into your instrumental music program with little technical know-how.
Daily Rehearsal Slide: Google Slides
Before my band room had an LCD projector, the rehearsal plan was written on the chalkboard, just like every teacher. Although this was one way to communicate the lesson to my students, it was very limiting. With the integration of an LCD projector, a rehearsal slide created in Google Slides is a much more eﬀective communication tool. Every slide is archived automatically, creating a running log for the entire year. Links, videos, and audio files are easily embedded into a rehearsal slide. Images, like screenshots of scores or a warm-up created in Noteflight, can also be integrated to Slides. My favorite way to do this is to take a screenshot of music written in Noteflight, save it as .jpeg or .png file, and paste it onto the slide.
Additional elements like announcements, and reminders, can also be included. There are dozens of countdown timers on YouTube that can embedded in Slides by clicking <Insert>, <Video>, search for “5 minute countdown timer”, and selecting your choice. The video will appear and the size can be adjusted to fit the slide.
Online Newsletters: www.smore.com
Newsletters are a fantastic way to communicate what is happening in your classes. Yes, you could use traditional word-processing software, but Smore is chock-full of wonderful features that will make your newsletter stand out. Smore allows you to create customizable newsletters with tons of easy-to-use built-in features. Adding text, pictures, photo galleries, embedded audio and video, maps, and even integrating a Google Form is possible with a Smore newsletter. You can build your newsletter from a library of themed background templates and stylish fonts. One of the best features is the ability to email your newsletter to a group email list. Rather than emailing a link that parents may or may not follow, recipients will be able to view the newsletter directly within their email browser. Another bonus to using Smore is the ability to receive real time stats like number of views and time spent viewing. Ideas for use: parent newsletters, fundraising details, field trip and performance information.
Surveys & Forms: Google Forms
Most educators are familiar with Google Forms and know that they are great for collecting all kinds of information. For example, our students register for the solo and ensemble festival with a Google Form. It has streamlined a process that was previously overwhelming, making it more efficient and manageable. All of the solo and ensemble data that is collected appears in Google Sheets and can then can be copied, duplicated, downloaded, or imported into Excel.
I use Google Forms to create a Get To Know You survey that my students complete at the beginning of the school year. I ask questions like: ideas for music we should play, what is challenging for them, what do they want to know about me, and ways I can help them be successful.
One of my favorite ways to use Forms is to record playing assessment data from videos or live assessments. Setting up the form is very simple and I include the following:
- Student name or email address: Student emails give you the option of emailing the results using additional add-ons like Flubaroo or AutoCrat. Rather than entering each email separately, they can be pre-loaded into a drop-down menu for quick selection by copying and pasting from a spreadsheet or database.
- Instrument: Helpful for sorting purposes and comparing scores between instrument sections.
- Rubric: This can be created by choosing a scale or grid question type. I prefer to upload a screenshot photo of a rubric created in Sheets or Docs by selecting , . This allows me to easily reference the grading criteria for accuracy and consistency.
- Feedback: In addition to entering assessment scores, it is very helpful to create checkbox question types with common suggestions for student feedback. Quick Comments and Feedback to the Students:
- Great Playing
- Steady Tempo
- Excellent Tone
- Excellent Posture
- Check Key Signature
- Incorrect Fingering or Slide Positions
- DID complete in under 2 minutes
- DID NOT complete in under 2 minutes
- In addition, you can utilize an open-ended paragraph or text-type box allowing more open-ended feedback for the student.
Of all the useful technology tools that are available to music educators, assessment technology can have the biggest impact on musical growth and achievement. For directors looking for an alternative to traditional assessment methods, video assessments are a viable option. Many schools now have a 1-to-1 program which provides an excellent opportunity for students to perform and record their performance assessments.
Rather than using precious rehearsal time for individual assessments, directors can watch, listen and critique videos of their students’ performance tests at their convenience. It is an effective tool to assess playing skills like note and rhythmic accuracy, technique, fingerings, articulations, and dynamics.
In order to record video on the Chromebook, students will need to download a Chrome browser extension called Screencastify. It’s free and can be accessed in the Chrome Web Store. Once installed and set-up, students should select the “cam” option to record using the front-facing camera on the Chromebook. Mic level settings can be adjusted for optimum recording levels and videos can be saved to Google Drive. Instruct your students to save their video as “unlisted” for privacy purposes.
Students will find it easy to record and submit their performance videos. So much can be learned from viewing and listening to your students perform individually. My students often share with me how much time they spend recording their performance tests in order to record it perfectly. Below are a few more helpful suggestions and advantages to ensure you and your students have a positive experience with video assessments.
- Take your time when teaching your students to install and set-up the Screencastify extension. Review again when assigning a playing assessment.
- Provide written instructions to your students for recording with Screencastify.
- Practice recording a sample video in class and submitting to Google Classroom or emailing the video link.
- If your school does not have Google Classroom, students can email you a link to their video instead.
- Create a rubric to grade the assessments. Quality feedback is essential to growth.
- Brass players should not play directly into the microphone for better audio quality.
- Students can record their performance as many times as necessary in order to submit their best work.
- Some students feel less pressure recording a playing test alone rather than in front of an entire ensemble.
- Rehearsal time is not lost to in-class individual assessments.
- Screencastify works seamlessly with Google Drive and saves all videos to one folder. This allows students to record multiple“takes” of the same playing test while keeping the videos organized.
- Video allows the teacher to assess posture and instrument hold in addition to music skills.
- Videos can be shared with parents and students at anytime, as well as at parent-teacher conferences
As an educator, it is our responsibility to evaluate the tools that work best for us and our students. Leveraging technology is NOT about using it just because it’s new or available to us. We have to thoughtfully consider it’s intended purpose and decide if it will be useful and effective. Technology can be that pathway to reach your students in a way that traditional teaching may not.
For more ideas about utilizing technology, visit www.teachingbandandmore.com.