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Things Technology has Fixed in my Teaching Part 3

by Jeremy Hanson Hanson.Jeremy@MacPhail.org

The third in a series showing HOW exactly technology has improved the quality of teaching or music therapy, i.e. Problems and solutions. No how-to's, just what impact is seen with students and clients

I use many kinds of technology in my teaching every day – here are a few of the highlights:

  • Evernote:  I use Evernote for my student assignment notebooks.  It has solved several problems for me and added features that my traditional assignment notebooks could not do.  I had already been using a word processor for my weekly assignment sheets and would print them out at the end of a lesson.  Students would keep them in a 3-ring binder.  This was an upgrade from a pen and paper notebook because I can type much faster than I can write, it’s more legible, and I had a copy of every assignment sheet in case a student “forgot” his assignment notebook.  However, I still had to save a copy on my work computer and if I wanted to view it anywhere else, I had to also save it to a USB flash drive.  Every day, I had to remember to back-up my day’s assignment sheets to my flash drive so I always had the most recent material.  I also went through a lot of paper and ink printing at least 1500 assignment sheets a year. 

Because the Evernote servers are based in the cloud, my most current assignment sheets are available on any computer (or portable device) at any time.  Evernote synchs both automatically and on-demand. 

I also appreciate the ability to add media to assignment sheets.  This saves the step of having to e-mail it to students and it overcomes the size limits on e-mail attachments!  I can include clickable links to websites directly on the assignment sheet.  Students can click on a link to take them directly to the relevant website immediately, rather than having to manually type an address into their browser (let’s be honest:  this also means it’s more likely to happen!).  Adding audio clips recorded in the lesson or accompaniment tracks is a breeze, as well as video clips.  This means that my “contact” with the student can be much greater throughout the week, even though it is through a recording.  Ease of access for the student means that the material is more likely to be seen and used.

  • MuseScore:  I use MuseScore on an almost daily basis for a whole range of things – making arrangements of pieces for students, helping students notate their own compositions, creating customized exercises, making musical excerpts for handouts, creating worksheets, etc.  I can’t recommend this easy-to-use software highly enough, for both faculty and students.
  • Audacity:  With the Blue Snowball microphone provided by MacPhail, I can make excellent quality recordings with the touch of a button.  I use this for recording audio examples for students, recording students while they are in progress learning a piece, and recording polished, performance-ready pieces by students.  I also use it for my own personal recording projects as well. 
  • ClassDojoThis free behavior management website/iPad app works really well for increasing student motivation and frequent communication with parents.  Students begin by creating their own avatars.  I start ClassDojo at the beginning of class, use it to take attendance, and keep it running throughout the class.  Students gain or lose points according to specific behaviors that I have created for my classes.  I explain that they are not competing with each other, but with themselves and I mostly use it for positive reinforcement.  I can write additional comments of explanation very easily and quickly.  My students love it when I notice their good behavior and they work hard to gain those points!  Every Friday, a report is automatically generated by ClassDojo and sent to parents.  This keeps parents in the loop of communication – what it working well and what needs adjustment – without any extra work for me.  Check it out at www.classdojo.com.
  • Spotify:  I use this on my PC, so it is free (if you use it on a mobile device like an iPad, there is a nominal subscription fee).  Spotify gives you instant streaming access to thousands of recordings by prominent artists.  You can also create playlists.  This means that I can play many different recordings for students as examples without having to purchase the CDs myself.  It also eliminates the need to store and find these CDs or load them on my iPod or computer. 

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