10 Tech Things Every Music Education Major Should Learn

  I’ve been on vacation all week and luckily have started to clear my mind and get motivated before our last big stretch before summer break. One of the things I did this week was head up to my Alma Mater to visit. I saw some old friends  and was able to see a few former professors as well. As I was visiting one former professor I was reminded of the music technology class I took while going for my bachelors degree. To be completely honest..it wasn’t the best (I am SO sorry if my professor is reading this!). I of course did take it during the winter break but still..it was lack luster. We were taught Finale Notepad and Audacity, two programs that are important  to know but that was all we learned. Where was everything else? the classroom equipment, the websites, the other software, hand held tools. If I hadn’t worked at our schools technology support desk I wouldn’t have known any of this. So I started thinking, if I was teaching a basic tech class for music education majors what would I want them to know? What basic tech skills should they be learning to help them in a real world job situation? Here are my top ten things:

1. Making a website or wiki page– I don’t mean coding in CSS or HTML or PHP, using a simple webpage maker or wiki creator is an important skill to help teachers build pages for your program. They can be the connection between you and the community letting everyone know what’s going on and how they can help out your students.

2. The right way to social network– It’s not just for staying in touch with friends. Social networking is now a great way to network with other teachers and be up to date on all things music education. Music ed majors need to start getting into this in college. It will make the transition from graduation to job so much easier when you have a PLN to guide you there! While you’re at figuring out how to work all this social networking why don’t you come join us for Music Ed Motivation Day! (http://www.cdwinal.com/musicedmotivationday.htm

3. Setting up a speaker system– We all put on shows, there are speaker systems involved and a lot of the time you are the only one in the school who supposably knows how to use it!

4.Using video and audio recording equipment– All music teachers have some sort of performance or performing ensemble that needs to be video tapped or audio recorded. Knowing how to use recording equipment is an important tool!

5. Websites– It is so important to have a huge list of websites you can use with classes. That way when a reinforcement activity or a visual is needed for a concept you are teaching you already have it!

6. Apps and Ipads/Ipod Touches– Ipads/Ipod Touches and apps are becoming more and more important and prominent in the world of education. Knowing how to use them successfully and integrate them into your class is going to be a big must.

7. Interactive Whiteboards– Self explanatory, just knowing how to operate them and use them in a music classroom is another important tool in a teacher’s tech arsenal.

8. Creating Performance CDs– Recording all the audio, editing it, putting it in to a play list and then burning it to a disc might seem simple to the avid tech user but not everyone knows how to do it. Learn how to make one!

9.Composition software and midi equipment– Especially if you end up teaching middle or high school, music technology classes are becoming more well known and one class that a lot of students get excited about. Having the knowledge to work all the devices for creating professional quality music with your students will open up a whole new world and make you more of a well known prescience in school.

10.HOW TO INTEGRATE!– One of the most important things I’ve learned is to never use technology for the sake of using technology. Find a question you want your students to answer or maybe a concept you want to reinforce and figure out how to use technology as a tool to help you with that quest.

Why I love Quavermusic.com

I’ve been meaning to do this post on www.quavermusic.com  for a while and so glad I finally had the time to sit down and type it out!

    Quaver Music is not only a website for students to learn all there is to know about music, it’s also a provider of amazing music curriculum supplement materials including a DVD series. I have been using all Quaver has to offer since the beginning of the year and am totally in love with it. I talk about it a lot especially the website so I think it’s high time I just did a giant brain dump on everything I use and integrate on the website and shared it. If you’re looking for how to maneuver around all of the tools they provide look to the Quavermusicblog.com, I’m here as a teacher to let you know how I integrate it all into a classroom.


Concert Venues

1.Book – Sitting in the menu of each venue is a short book filled with lots of visuals and fun facts about the genre of music for that particular venue. At the end of each of these books is a set of questions. Get them  all right and you not only earn a diploma for that venue but also an accessory for your avatar. I like to use this feature with my students before vacations as a way to relax yet still learn. We have what I have dubbed “The Diploma Challenge!” Where students compete individually for diplomas, if they earn one then their name goes on my hall of fame (papers taped to a table that have the name of each venue on it where they can write their name and class for all to see)

2.Games – Each venue has a puzzle and matching game to go with them .These are more fun for the students than educational. I tend to let my students do these after finishing a webquest on the site or after they have earned a diploma in a challenge. A lot of my students enjoy the time to just sit back, relax, play a game and listen to the music at that venue.
3.Map– I love this tool. I’m a bit of a geography nerd myself. The map will show your students exactly where the venue is located so they can see for themselves how close or far away it is from them. Not only does this tie in with geography but it also ties in with history. You can have a chat with your students as you look at the map about when the venue came to be, whether it is still there, and maybe some famous musical figures that played there or that are involved in the genre and could have played there.

The Music Room-

The music room is customizable, a place to dress your avatar, watch Quaver videos, and play arcade games! I might play a video during a lesson as a teaching tool but the best part about this space? It’s a carrot to dangle in front of my students for when they’re finished with everything else on their list.


The Phone Box– Ever want to travel back in time? I do! The phonebox will take you back in time to visit 4 famous composers Vivaldi, Cristofori, Beethoven, and Debussy listening to their works, learning about their life, and everything else about them. My music curriculum is slightly abnormal, I’m not suppose to teach my elementary students composers. All of this is supposed to happen in middle school, so what do I do when a student comes up and asks me who these people are? I use it as a teachable moment and we travel back in time as a class to go visit these people. My students get a kick out of thinking we go back in time. When the phone box is whirling around and around in the space time continuum  we sometimes put our hands in the air and pretend we’re riding the imaginary roller coaster back in time before landing hundreds of years in the past and listen to who they are and all the work they’ve done.

Interactive instruments– Fun to touch, fun to listen to. My students can’t get enough of being able to just run their mouse over all of the interactive instruments in the shop trying to piece together whatever melody they could. It’s great for my kiddos to be able to listen to these sounds hearing them in different areas. It gives them the idea that they can find sounds and instruments anywhere, just because they’re not placed in front of them doesn’t mean their not there.
Hidden Game– ssshhh, did you know there’s a hidden game in the shop? I tell my students who haven’t found it yet to look in the shop with promise I’ll tell them with 5 minutes left of class if they haven’t found it yet! What does this game teach? Pitch! It’s perfect for my younger students who are still trying to grasp the concept of it. When I first start teaching them about pitch I give them the rule that the smaller the instrument the higher the sound and the opposite with the bigger the instrument. This game breaks that mold getting them to listen to the pitch itself and not the size of the instrument!


EarIQ– Let’s go to the carnival and test our ear IQ! I wish I had this when I was training my ears. A new area of Quaver music.com that I find myself playing right along with them. You can train your students ears to hear higher and lower pitch, intervals, and chords. I just started using this in class, my K-2 have a blast watching all together on the projector and telling me which clown to “poke” for higher and lower pitch. My 3-5 can get on our netbooks and complete this on their own.

Studio- This is a fantastic suite of music creation tools. Not only is it user friendly for my little ones, it also produces great quality compositions that are easy to share and can all be stored right there on the website.

QBackbeats– Click the drum set and you’re there. This tool will create full drum set patterns with just a click on one of those black squares. Great for teaching students about rhythms and patterns! I like to have my students write rhythms on their own or as a class using Q Composer or Finale before moving on to QBackbeat just so they know HOW to write a rhythm before hand. During the process of teaching rhythms I get students to remember that a rhythm is a pattern of notes. This creator gives them a visual on how they can take those patterns and layer them together to make a rockin’ sound.
QGrooves– It’s a lot like Garageband. You use premade loops or packets of music that can be put into different orders. The chords can be changed and you can layer different instruments into this too. QGrooves has become a favorite of my students for how easy it is to use and the great end product they create. I can teach form with this. Binary, Ternary, Rondo, its all there and easy to show students with the QGrooves. I will usually do the I/We/You method with this showing them how, having them help me, and then sending them off to try one of the forms on their own.
QComposer– Don’t have a notation software on your computer but want to do a quick composition with your kiddos? This is it and free and you can access it anywhere. I use the QComposer with every student K-5, alone or as a class. My K students can watch and help me create a rhythm using this and then we can sit in a circle and play it on drums. My 5 students can write a melody on it and then not only hear their melody with the instant playback but can also go over to the xylophones and play it themselves.
QStrum– I haven’t used this as much as I should in class but it is one of those sections of the website that my guitar loving students will bug me about until I let them get in there. QStrum will allow them to create their own guitar song and see how it’s played. I have had points in my classes where a few will be on Qstrum and I will bring out some of the student guitars  letting them try their song on the instruments.

QDancer– Another new addition to the site that within a week is now becoming #1 on my “Ms. Dwinal can we please?” list. I haven’t figured out exactly how to teach this yet but I have a good feeling some Hip Hop dance performances are going to be happening in my classroom before the end of the year using this tool!

*QDos– Open a creator in the studio, click file, QDos and you’re there. These are a great way to give students a step by step way of creating music independently. A lot of times when my students use www.quavermusic.com they are on net books and it is hard for me to supervise each student at ever single second of the class, QDos help them through step by step reminding them to listen and read the music carefully. The great part about these is they are quick and get harder by level so it easy to differentiate instruction for each student!

I have 1 school account for each of the schools that I work at and one for myself. I find this the easiest way to log in elementary school student who are just starting to get use to computers. I do have a good amount of student who have their own account that they use at home and will log in with that, but until a tool comes out where I can watch over and manage all my 600 students individual accounts and have access to their QStudio work (There have been hints that sort of tool is on it’s way) 1 account for a school is easiest to do. 

So try it out, I dare you. It will suck you in to a world of musical fun that you would never want to run away from.  Need some ideas or help? I’m here! Or talk to the crew at Quaver yourself they have fantastic customer service and are on Twitter! Mr. Quaver himself is @Quaversays or talk it out with the awesome Abby at @Quavermusic!!

The plus side to composing on computers

After all of the technology that has flown in and out of my room this week as my students have some fun composing the week before vacation it made me start to think. What is the plus side to having students compose music on technology rather than paper and pencil? When is it proper to hand them a writing utensil and when is it a good idea to get them on a computer?
I do love both don’t get me wrong, I usually have my students writing after learning the basics as a way to assess melody and rhythm writing. I also have them using paper and pencil as a way to get them to visualize the orchestra in their head on their own. Writing melodies on paper is an important skill especially if a student continues on in music. Even though I feel writing on paper is important, composing on technology devices is found a lot more in my classroom. For me there are so many pros and technology available to me that I can’t help but use it all.

You should know I like lists by now, here is a one of the reasons why composing on computers is important:

1.Less Paper=Less Headache- Save a tree! Use a Computer! I don’t know if anyone else has this problem but I for one get a headache just looking at a stack of paper that contains student work taking up space on my already cluttered desk. Some things we obviously can’t get done on a piece of technology but I know if I want to try something with a class on paper that 20 students turns into 60 because I need to carry the same lesson on with all classes in that grade. That can take up a lot of space on my desk and waste a lot of trees. Giving a student a computer to do their work on can save physical space, save the planet, and save you a headache.

2.Store and Share Easy- It’s so easy to save student work and share with anyone if it’s digitized. Any program from Garageband to Finale to web based composition suites make it easy to store anything you create and quickly share with the world at the drop of a hat. The best part about easy storing is you get to keep several years of student work with little physical space involved.

3.Instant playback- The best feature of composing on computers! We can hear what we think a melody or rhythm sounds like in our heads but what is in our heads doesn’t always end up being played by the band. Instant playback gives the composer a way to listen step by step all through the creation process. There is no artistic freedom from a musician involved, the computer plays what is written which is a great tool especially for students who are developing the ability to read music and play it in their heads.

4.Wider variety of composition tools- Composing just isn’t notation anymore, you have your smart instruments, your loops, your dot notations, it’s all there. From Finale to Sibelius, From Garageband to The Quaver Studio. Web based, software, or apps you have everything and it can be all at your fingertips as long as you know where to find and how to use it.

5.Anyone can do it- You don’t need to know how to play an instrument (even though you should learn anyway), you don’t need to know about notes and rests. There are so many ways to compose out there that anyone from the age of 1-100 can do it. With everything that is out there to compose with this puts everyone on a level playing field. Have a student who has a physical or mental impairment? There’s a way to include them. Have a student just doesn’t want to do it? There’s a way to include them. No matter who you are, what you do, where you’ve been, or what you’re going to do with all of the technology music has available you can be a composer.

3 pros to integrating tech.

After such a busy week with projects and stress galore and the urge to just keel over and give up, I’m back to my old self after drinks with an old friend. Usually with a post I think of the topic earlier in the week and then think about it all week and on fridays I just brain dump. This week my creativity was pulled elsewhere for more important matters but there is always time to advocate for technology in my music classroom. Here are the top 3 reasons why I use it, why I advocate for it, and why it is just awesome:

Engagement- Number one reason for technology in my opinion. You can always teach a concept without technology tools but can you truly engage a student by holding up a piece of paper? Think to yourself before you teach a lesson, would the students react better to learning higher and lower pitches from you banging them out on the piano or would they rather listen to a clown on a seesaw and choose which clown is playing the correct pitch? Would they go bonkers over taking pencils and paper writing melodies that most might fly blind on until you finally take it and play it on an instrument for the or do you think they prefer to hear their composition at every point in it’s creation through the magic of instant playback with a full orchestra? It’s not a crutch, it’s a tool we can use to connect with all of our students grabbing their attention in this digital age.

Visual Learning/Practical Application- It’s there in front of them with pretty colors, things moving and whirring all while they learn. Tech is for the visual and practical application learners. The constant pictures relating to learned concepts and ability to sit students down and let them use it themselves makes a world of difference to student learning. Most students i have now learn by doing and seeing. Give them a chance with technology and let them show you what they can do.

Provides the ability to stretch and go further- Without having technology we have a classroom that is a box, a closed up, taped up, air hole poked box in which there is no way to break free. Technology allows you to connect them with what they can’t see. The world out there is round and has a lot to offer. Half the students you have might not make it out of the area, they won’t see anything past where their eyes can behold unless you teach it to them. Technology connects you with the impossible field trip making it possible. Take a wild ride through the African Savannah, sit through a concert at Carnegie Hall. Meet up with a class across the country or write emails to professionals in their field. Technology allows you to stretch your lessons further and go more in depth with what you do letting students see further than what they really see.

Who cares what you have available, what your level of technology experience is, or who you need to have help you. Using technology in your classroom is a tool to help you teach and be the best you can be.

The Wanna Be Hercules

The wanna be Hercules, just see them standing there,
They hold the weight of the world on their backs with sometimes out a seen care.
Hercules was a hero to most and so is this wanna be,
Sometimes they’re as tall as a chair or as big as a tree.
Now anyone can be this wanna be, they watch, they listen, they problem solve just like you or me,
but instead of letting most problems roll of their backs the wanna be..well..they just can’t relax.
They strive to make that magic wand just swoosh and make it all go away,
but in reality it just cannot always come into play.
So if you find yourself to be this wanna be, just remember you can’t always be the thing you want to be.
Even though so much baggage might loom, be the one to make it balanced giving everyone equal room.
Make the thought of dealing with it all disappear for just a day but never forget the stories they told you that just need to be locked away.
Give them hope, let them strive. Give them a chance to be and feel alive. Expect all to do well and never ever give up even if you don’t like to tell.

The Rules of Rhythm Baseball

I had an inquiry about how to play this so here it goes!

Version one:

With this version you play it indoors, all you need is a clean room and 4 chairs set up as bases then something to keep score and batting order.

-Set up the chairs in the room in a baseball diamond shape and divide the class up into two teams.

-Each team needs to have a team meeting and will write down their batting order (I usually have them do it on the board so I can know who goes next.)

-One team goes up to bat first while the other one takes a seat against the wall and out of the way. The first team gets in a line behind home plate and will send one batter up at a time. I am the pitcher for fairness.

-The pitcher will give the batter a body percussion rhythm (This is a great time to assess rhythm call and response by the way). The rhythm can be anything from patting the legs to clapping to snapping and so on.

-If the batter gets it incorrect they are out. If they get it correct they take a base. Only singles are allowed in this version. The same team stays up to bat until they have either gone through the full rotation or they get 3 outs.

-The teams keep switching after full rotation or 3 outs until the end of class. Who ever has the most runs at the end of the game wins.

Version 2:

-In this version you still have 2 teams but we play outside on the baseball diamond with a kiddie bat and ball.(Got mine for $5 at Walmart!)

-When teams go outside I appoint a captian for each and hand them a clipboard with paper to write down batting order and fielding position. In this version the students are the pitchers and I remain the ump.

-Remind your students it is just a game as well, you will get the little leaguers or baseball fanatics who try to incoorporate the complicated rules and get frusterated when they don’t happen.

-With this version of the game the pitcher must give the batter a body percussion rhythm before the pitcher can through the ball. If the rhythm is correct then it is played like a normal baseball game. If the rhythm is incorrect then they are automatically out.

-Sometimes I don’t keep track of the points with this version just to keep it light and fun. Remember if you bring your students out to remind them about jackets the class before if it is colder outside and check in with the office to let them know you’re outside.

This game is a hit with all my students!!

5 more Ipad Apps and How I Use Them

Dustbuster– Brand new app hot off the market from Joytunes. This app stars a firey Granny armed with a dustbuster ready to dust away those dustbunnies from your piano keys. You can either use the piano on the app itself or use a real piano to play this game. There are multiple levels with plenty of songs just waiting to be dusted away by your students. The great part about this app for me as the teacher is you can have the game just showing the students which keys to push OR it can be set to have students reading the staff and finding the keys themselves! I use this app when teaching small lessons to individual students. My classroom is only set up with one piano so as a quick breather from learning a new song or doing exercises, the piano students I see can play a few levels of the game as a way to deviate from the normal lesson but still learn piano!

Recorder Master– To be a master, recorder master. This is another killer app from Joytunes but instead of piano you have your students playing recorders trying to shoot notes at birds flying across the screen or to get the cat in the airplane to collect as many notes as possible. My 4th graders use recorders every year and earn belts as a class so we have plenty of classtime to use recorders together. What happens with this app is while my students run warmups together with a classmate leading I set up my Ipad to my Apple TV and then I project it on the board so all can see. Then as a treat they get to work together as a team to accomplish the levels in the game. I love this game because it not only teaches students about breath control, note fingers, pitch, and relative duration it helps them implement and practice these concepts as well! During this whole activity I am wandering around with Ipad in hand and helping students with fingerings and other recorder issues while helping the whole class beat each level.

Melody Street– Interactive book great for K-2 if you are teaching instrument families of the orchestra. Melody Street is a website as well and this app is an interactive book based off that website. Each family of the orchestra lives in the same house but on different floors. It explains each of the basic instruments of each family in the story. What I will usually do is play this through my Apple TV and let the students watch through. We’ll then divide the board up into each of the families and review which instrument goes where. After I will usually play a review game or have students pick a family then draw and color instruments belonging in that family.

A Jazzy Day– Another interactive book but this is about Jazz music. The cat family travels to a jazz performance and talks about jazz music and the instruments associated with it. The book is great and even better there is a game you can have your students play that helps them identify instruments. Put this app up on the projector and have the book read through itself. The book will identify most of the instruments so when you go to the game most students should get the idea. With the game I have my students volunteer to go up to the screen and point to the answer. Almost everyone raises their hand!

Splashtop– Fantastic app that lets you manipulate your desktop. This is great if you’ve always wanted a smartboard but never seem to be able to get one. All you need to do is download the app to your ipad (not recommended to do on Iphone or Iphone because of screen size.) Then download the splashtop streamer to your desktop and viola! You can connect your Ipad to your desktop and be walking around the classroom teaching while manipulating programs on your computer in the front of the room. This is great especially if you only have one computer in the room. The students can be watching what your doing with the projector on and you can be roaming around the room giving students turns to help with the activity on the screen or standing next to troublesome students to manage the class. Do be warned though, if you are trying to trick your students into thinking that the computer is moving magically it will not work, there is a slight screen blink when it connects so they figure it out. Also, watch out for other tricksters with the same app, anyone can connect to your computer as long as the streamer is on and they can break your passcode!

*Apple TV is a fantastic tool you can use in your classroom that is an alternative to an interactive whiteboard. At about a quarter of the cost of an IWB you can wireless mirror your Ipad on to the projector screen while seamlessly roaming around your classroom. Now this is an HDMI device so unless you have an HDMI projector you will need an HDMI to VGA adaptor and if you want sound you will need an audio converter box. This is a device I use on a daily basis in my classroom to use apps with whole classes. It is a great investment worth looking into if you are unable to get an IWB or just want an alternative to and IWB.