Beginning of the Year- Getting Your Tech Ready

Its almost back to school for a lot of teachers!I love seeing the Pinterest boards piling up with new ideas and my Facebook teacher friends describing their pre- start of school dreams. I remember the excitement and all the time spent setting up my room. I decided this week would be some tips and tricks I learned about setting up the technology in your room!

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One of my old classrooms ūüôā

Make sure you test everything out to make sure it works, find the proper power and connection cords. If anything winds up dead or not working correctly make sure to bring it up to your tech department as soon as possible. Having working technology for the beginning of the school year would make like just a little easier!

Do not even try to set up your technology until you have figured out your floor plan. Too many times have I seen a teacher who sets up their tech and realizes it is in the middle of everything and completely in the way. The right placement will come when you have figured out the more important features of your space such as rug, chairs, and instruments. If your projector is not mounted to the wall and you do not have to travel from room to room I would highly recommend asking your tech department to mount it for you before school starts.

For three very important reasons:

  • If it remains on a cart there is a good chance for it to constantly be bumped and the picture to go askew.
  • Or worse! The whole cart knocked over! Bye bye projector, I hardly knew ye.
  • The worst is that it can become a tripping hazard. Let me tell you, falling flat on your face in the middle of a lesson is not the fun time you would expect.

Once your projector has a place, placement of your sound system is crucial.  If you have a portable system such as a boom box or iHome, find an electrical outlet and then drag a table or desk over to it. Putting it on the floor is just asking for a foot through a speaker! When you place any sort of technology in your room, make sure you consider if you want little hands touching it. Keeping it out of direct reach is always your best bet. You never want to put it so far away even you cannot reach it, but especially with younger students, you do not want them being able to push buttons from right where they are sitting or moving. A great tip is to try to get a small remote for any sound system. Perfect to stow away in a pocket and control your system no matter where you are in the room. You might not feel safe having it within reach of the students and place it on a high shelf. My reason for using a remote was it trained my students from a young age that the way to control my system was from the remote and not the speakers. If they were mischievous they went for the remote instead of the system itself and I could playfully karate chop their little fingers away before they got too far.

Creating a tech friendly learning environment

When you are setting up your floor plan for your new classroom remember a few things to help prevent disaster from striking,

  • Keep it off the floor to avoid being kicked. If you are on a cart keep it on there!
  • Secure it whenever possible. Not with flimsy tie downs either. Get the heavy-duty stuff like brackets and screws. You will thank me later.
  • Keep a clear area from your computer to the learning space. This lets you move back and forth easily when using the projector with classes.
  • If your projector (or if you have found the jackpot an interactive whiteboard!) is on a cart try to have it mounted to the wall.
  • Keep your sound system in a place where you can reach it, but it would be difficult for a student.
  • If you have any mobile technology at your disposal, make a designated area for it. That way your students have access but it is out of the way from daily routine.
  • Set up rules!
  • Most important, never let technology be the center of your teaching. Build your room around the singing, dancing, and playing you will do. The technology will land exactly where it needs to in order to build a perfect balance.

What kinds of things do you do to set up your room?

3D Printing in the Music Classroom

3D printing has become a new and exciting tool in schools across the country, allowing students to practice skills such as design, mathematics, problem solving, and even critical thinking as they engineer new products previously inconceivable before. 

So far, most of this technology has been reserved for school Makerspaces and STEAM powered classrooms. What would happen if music class included 3D printing into their learning. What would you do if as a music teacher you were granted access to a 3D printer? How would you use it where the students not only are learning about music but also getting the most out of the experience using the unique piece of machinery?

From my experience, every piece of technology out there can be used in any type of learning environment, you just need a little creativity to make it work for you. I thought to myself, what if I had a 3D printer in my old classroom? How would I use it?

1- Printing instruments: Say you are doing your yearly unit on instrument families, how could you take it a step further?

  • ¬† Creating new instrument designs from scratch. Have them use their new knowledge about how an instrument works to design their own unique creation. How about composing a song for your new 3D printed orchestra to play for an audience later?
  • Integrate engineering, mathematics, science of sound, and instrument families and anatomies into re-creating¬†instruments. Try making¬†a plastic reed? Can you create a different kind of woodwind with the same family properties? How about a percussion instrument?

2- 3D art interactive structures: Take this opportunity to work with your school art teacher. You teach about the science of sound while they discuss sculpture techniques and history.

  • Build a sculpture piece by piece learning about sculpture techniques and the properties of sound as you go. What shapes make what sounds? Why do we put that piece there?
  • Try integrating the Makey Makey tool into a sculpture (you would need some electrical conductor help.) Can you creative an interactive sculpture that can be played as it’s own unique instrument?

3- 3D Notation: What is better than bringing notation and composition to life in a 3D model?

  • As students discover musical notation, build symbols, notes, and even a grand staff to create an interactive composition tool for your classroom.
  • Create visuals that would allow students to actually touch and feel what they are learning about. Create manipulatives to use during instruction time, learning toys for center times, Keeping students as part of the projects all along the way. I would love to see a grand staff with shelving that students can place notes and rests on to compose and create new music.

My favorite 3D printers come from MakerBot. Well let’s just say they are the favorite printer company I frequent at conferences to stare longingly at their awesome products. If you want to try free hand 3D printing, try 3D Doodler. The one I have is an amazing piece of awesomeness.

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 Happy Printing!