Video Ethnography

For my ethnography, I decided to redo my “Favorite Artists” alternate assignment.  When students miss a concert due to a conflict or sickness, they are required to produce an alternate written assignment.  Usually, their assignment is to write at least three paragraphs about their favorite artist or genre and tell me why they like them.  I thought this would be a great assignment to transform into a video ethnography.

For the ethnography, I briefly researched the musicals during the late 80’s and early 90’s.  It was a time when I fell in love with the genre so I just had to find the best clips and music that would help my story.  Using an ethnography to express my interest as well as give the viewer  information about the subject matter was a fun way to complete the assignment. I was able to use music, video and pictures as well as narration to inform my audience.  Another one of the advantages of doing a video as a final product, is the ability to have a completed product that could be posted online and shared repeatedly.

Overall the best part of the ethnography is the ability to tell a story.  The story of how the musicals affected my life and inspired me to become a music teacher adds another layer on what could be dry subject matter.  Personalizing the subject matter makes it more important for the viewer as well as the creator.

If I were to implement the ethnography as a project for my students instead of a written essay, there are a few issues that I would have to take into consideration.  First, learning how to edit both video and audio would be a a steep learning curve for some of my students.   Adding sound and editing it to line up with the correct portion of the video could present a challenge for some of them. Also, constructing a video would take substantially longer to implement.  Because it is an alternate assignment and taking place outside of school, I would allow students to choose between the writing assignment or making an ethnography.

Overall, this was a fun project to complete, and I would like to explore actually making it an end of the year unit for my students.  Music is a key component in the development of one’s identity. Therefore, it would be a great project to do in the middle school level as students are developing their likes and dislikes that shape their personalities. I could only imagine what their reactions would be if they ever revisit the project in 5 or 10 years after middle school!

Lesson Plan



As I approach the end of my year long 6th year degree program in IT&DML, I am grappling with what to include in my E-portfolio.  I am the kinda “fly by the seat of my pants” type of person, in that, writing out a detailed plan and then executing it, is definitely not my style.   Consequently, in order to come up with a list of items to put in my E-Portfolio, I actually had to build it (or at least semi build it) first.

So far, I have a pretty good draft of my portfolio.  I started by going through each of the classes throughout the year and pulling out some of the big assignments/end units/lesson plans.  From those, I grouped them into two categories – General Ed Tech and Music Ed Tech.

Under the General Ed Tech category I included information on 21st Century Skills, Global Citizenship, ORMS, etc.  Under the Music Ed Tech category, I included all of the unit plans/lesson plans that pertain to and include music technology.   While there is some overlap between the two categories, I feel like this was the best way to keep everything organized.

I have also included a link to my blog and a whole section dedicated to my philosophy.  I am currently struggling about where to put a lot of the multimedia artifacts that I have created.  While the multimodal tutorials and screencasts have a place, some of the animations and cartoons that I created for Walk My World don’t quite fit in the layout I have now.  That is a shame, because some of those animations were pretty interesting and fun to create.  Maybe I will find a place for them in the about me section. hmmmmmm

Here is the link to my E-Portfolio so far.

Here is my Site Map:

E-Portfolio site map

21st Century Skills

21st century learning requires teachers to be cognizant of the changing technology as well as the ever changing skills that will required in order to participate in it.  Gone are the days where lectures and worksheets dominate the teaching classroom.  Project based learning that require communication, collaboration, and problem solving (just to name a few) are the teaching concepts of the future. That means that teachers will have to adjust their teaching and assessing in order to give the student the necessary skills for tomorrow.

In the TED talk with Tony Wagner, he mentions the need to reinvent the system of education, not just reform it.  Technology has made knowledge free and widely available.  Therefore, it is not important anymore to memorize facts and figures, what is important is “What you can do with what you know”. He then lists 7 Core Competencies that businesses across the globe identified as important.

Critical thinking/Problem Solving – From global warming to economic and political upheavals, tomorrow’s’ citizens will face problems on a global scale that will need to be tackled.

Collaboration across networks/leading by influence – As we are connected by social media and tools that allow us to collaborate on the global scale, today’s learners need to effectively navigate working in groups to solve problems.

Agility and Adaptability – As technology continues to advance and change at a rapid pace, today’s students need to be able to learn and adapt to new tools and devices.

Initiative/entrepreneurship – The internet has allowed anyone and everyone to innovate and monetize almost every aspect of our world and culture.

Effective Oral Communication – With the upcoming demographic shift, (minority will be the majority in 2020) it is important for the leaders of tomorrow to effectively communicate with a wide range of cultures and demographics.

Access and Analyzing Info – We are in an age of information overload. Future citizens will need to have a analytical and discerning eye for sussing out relevant and accurate information.

Curiosity and Imagination Technology opens up a new world of tools and ideas, yet individual need to have the imagination and open mindedness to continue to push the envelope and innovation.

Of these skills, I feel that Critical Thinking as well as Collaboration are two of the most important skills for today’s students.   A love of problem solving as well as a way to critically think for solutions are skills that will be utilized in all areas of future professional careers.  Also, because we all have deficiencies in certain areas, it is essential that students learn to collaborate to come up with the best possible solutions to problems. Those two skills also have many other skills encompassed within them.  For example, if you are effectively problem solving in a group, you are probably also analyzing info, using effective oral communication  and using imagination.

Of course, while all these skills are great in theory, teaching, and more importantly, assessing them can be challenging. In his blog, Will Richardson created a grid with different skills and the difficulty in assessing them.


So the question becomes, how do we account for those difficult to assess skills like curiosity, resilience, courage, etc?  While there is no one exact way to account for these skills.  Perhaps they answer is in self reflection.  By making students cognizant of their own learning process by self reflecting, we can encourage those hard to reach skills. I find most students will be honest with you and with themselves in the type of work that they are capable of.

In the new Connecticut Common Core Music Assessment for Singing, student are asked to sing and record their voice into a recording device.  Students are then asked to self-assess using a rubric.  The teacher also assesses the student using a different rubric.  While this assessment already has a technology component (recording device) it can be elevated using online rubrics such as ForAllRubrics combined with Edmodo so that students can record and keep their recording and assessment as a sort of online portfolio. I’ve written previously about them here.   Using rubrics to have students self assess is the best way for students to grow and develop 21st century skills.

Since I’ve written about these items before, I wanted to add some technology that would be useful for students to develop independence in their musicality.

Before they are able to fill out the rubrics and self assess, they need to have prior knowledge:

    • Students should have an understanding of the key music vocabulary (see student Self-Assessment Form) and concepts included in the task.
    • Students should be familiar with the knowledge and skills contained in this assessment and be familiar with the steps of the Performing process in the Three Artistic Processes model.
  • Students should be comfortable singing by themselves. Solo singing should be a regular part of instruction.
    • Students should be comfortable singing into a recording device.
  • Students should be able to follow along with the notation of a familiar song, so that they can identify in which measure a singer might have made an error.

While teachers will have to actively go over key vocabulary on how to evaluate a performance as well as the key elements of the artistic model, technology can help with three bolded elements above.  A program such as Smartmusic, allow teachers to upload music into their program.  The students can then sing into a microphone attached to a computer and not only will the music follow along for where the student should be, it will also given feedback on any wrong notes or rhythms throughout the piece.  At the end of the recording, the program will highlight all the wrong notes and give a score on their singing.  Because it is online, Smartmusic can be used in the classroom and at home. This allows the student who is not comfortable singing by themselves to practice in a more comfortable environment.  Using Smartmusic can allow students to take initiative in their own learning as they can practice as much as they would like. They are analyzing the data received from the program in order to make corrections in their performance.  There are also free vocal solos that are accessible if the student seeks them out.   They will even develop practice strategies such as:

  1. Slow down the tempo.
  2. Keep a steady beat.
  3. Repeat problem measures.
  4. Tune up.

Using this program, students can take charge of their own learning if they so choose.

21st century skills require innovation from teachers to create new lesson that encourage independent learning and thought.  Collaboration, problem solving, as well as many others, are key skill for our future citizens.  We as teachers need to encourage these skill in all ways possible, whether through technology or without.


Formative Assessment

I have this 7th grade string class, that is an absolute joy to teach.  We have finished our concert music for the year and are just sight reading through a bunch of music. Its a no pressure situation as all they have to do is try as they are not expected to know the music. Though they are usually game for anything, many of them hate to sight-read (read:hate to fail)  In order to make it fair, I have been sight reading the music along with them but I have been doing it on viola, the string instrument I struggle with the most.  That way, they see me fumble my way through alto clef playing at least 30% of the notes wrong right along with them.  Its fun and a great end of the year activity.

Anyway, during a train wreck in the piece of music, I stopped to regroup the class and one of the students pointed out that my posture wasn’t correct (my ankles were crossed). We all had a good laugh, and then, thoroughly chastened, I corrected my posture and was more mindful of my posture as I struggled through the rest of the piece.  Little did they know, they just became the guinea pigs for my grad assignment on formative assessment. (Revenge is sweet!)

In music performance, there is constant formative assessment.  Students play something, it’s generally terrible and then I/we try to figure out ways to fix it and make it better.  Most of the feedback happens in real time during class so technology doesn’t really come into play.  When I have used technology, it has been in overarching goals.

Over the years, I have noticed that most of my students struggle with string technique.  The violin, viola, cello and bass are difficult instruments to master. Just holding the instrument correctly is a struggle for most students who are beginners and do not have a private teacher. Below are three technological tools that can help teachers with giving feedback through formative assessment.

Lino:  Last year, I did this lesson on google docs but this year I experimented with Lino with great success.  I had students create a checklist for incoming 6th grade students for all the things that they needed to remember in order to be successful in orchestra.  This year, I used Lino.


I pinned sticky notes in different categories and the students brainstormed and made lists in each subject area.  We have gone over all the these techniques throughout the year, so they are showing their understanding when they make these lists.  Because we also do this as a group during class, it reinforces these concepts for others who may not have master all of these techniques.

Skitch is a great tool for students to get visual feedback.  I can take a picture, circle, point, highlight and make comments on it.  That way, I can actually point out what looks good and what needs work.

My 7th grade string students were happy to let me take pictures (both real and fake) of some of their technique.  Skitch is great because I can take photos on my phone or ipad ,write on the photo and then send it via email, tweet, etc back to the student. (or in this case, post them to the internet.)

IMG_1627  IMG_1625 IMG_1629

Finally, for little more formal assessment, I give them a rubric that I have created on ForAll Rubrics. You can make your own rubric, upload a rubric or search for a rubric from the extensive library that they have one there. Not only can students and parents log on to see their grades/feedback, it records and tracks the assessment over the course of the year.  It then analyzes the data and makes easy to read graphs for end of the year evaluations or your own personal use.

As I stated earlier, formative assessment is embedded in the music performance classroom.  As an educator, not only I would also encourage all teachers to rely on a formative assessments in their classroom, but I would absolutely advocate it for other educators as well.

At the end of the each year, my music department takes a trip to a music festival an area high school in order to get adjudicated.  We receive an overall score/rating and both audio recorded and written comments.  It a great experience for myself and the students as we get to see whether the technique we were working on were executed well.

This past Friday, I had the pleasure of being the adjudicator at a festival in my area.  This was my first time on the other side of the judges table and not only was it a fun experience, it was an eye opening opportunity as well.  I able to see and hear other groups, but by being able to formulate objective commentary on what I was hearing there made me reflect on my own teaching with fresh eyes and ears.  As an educator, I have always been baffled by the solitary nature of teaching.  If feedback and peer assessment are such great teaching strategies (which they are) it begs the question of why we, as educators, do not do more of it in our everyday practices as a profession.

Digital Assessment


Assessment in the 21st century needs to utilize technology in order to be effective. Using technology in order to give feedback to students can be an enriching and interactive experience. Pictures, video,  blogging, etc., can be great tools for self reflection for student. While different online programs can make data collection from assessments easy and time saving for the teacher.  This week our class had to explore different digital assessment tools and practices.  We also had to explore how to assess the digital fluency in our students.

Jody’s article has a great run down of different effective digital tools for assessment.  While I have heard some of tools such as Socrative and Kahoot, the Back Channel Chat tool for class discussion and exit tickets is really interesting.  Il give my students exit tickets a couple of times a week and while I currently don’t use online tools for it, the technology would be a great idea for teachers who do use computers or BOYD on a regular basis.

The video Josh posted, points out that we assess students in different ways.  Both quantitative and qualitative assessments are key in having a successful classroom.  Quantitative assessment for simple tasks and qualitative assessment for deeper learning are essential for a well rounded student learning environment.  Teachers can use technology for both quantitative and qualitative assessment.  Kara comments that standardize testing can be used as a mean for quantitative assessment while also differentiating for student achievement.  Blogging and portfolios can be used as more summative and qualitative assessment in order to evaluate student’s deeper learning.

As students use more and more technology digital literacy becomes an important skill for students to learn.   Students must know how to access, use and synthesize digital information and tools.  Christal includes a link to  Trail-9 that is a great resource to assess technology skills in students. Carl directs readers to Common Sense Media that is a great website with a ton of information on technology for both teachers and parents.  The website includes a curriculum for teachers to help students master digital tools.

Overall, as technology continues to evolve, teachers need to be on the forefront of incorporating technology tools into the classroom for assessment purposes. Teachers also need to assess students’ digital fluency and literacy in order to provide a quality education that meet today’s students’ needs.


Photo credit

Children, Teens and Screen Use Infographic

Today’s youth are exposed to more media than ever before.  Children spend almost 2 hours per day looking at screens  and by the time they are teenagers that number has increased to 7.5 hours.  By the sheer volume of minutes of media consumed, it is apparent the schools and educators need to develop strategies in order for students to navigate this new media consumption successfully.  On the flip side, as educators push for more and more technology in the classroom we must remember that there is such a thing as moderation and technology is not be the only part of a child’s life.  At the bottom of the infographic, I offered some tips for parents in order to navigate the world excess of digital media.

The process of creating an infographic was an arduous one, not only is there a learning curve associated with using the tool in order to actually create the product, connecting and synthesizing the data was a project all by itself.  That being said, the infographic is a great tool to help students use data and think critically in order to create a product.  While infographics can be used in any subjects they work well in data and number driven areas such as math, science or social studies. While infographics are accessible as an individualized student project, I feel that a teacher would get higher quality work if they had students work in a group.  The sheer volume of information and synthesis involved would make it useful to swap ideas in order to make the final product higher quality work.  Not to mention that at least some artistic knowledge and creativity is needed in order to make an infographic truly exemplary. In my experience, I find that creativity usually happens when people bounce ideas off of each other in order to come up with the best production.Teachers should assess both the data points and the artistic creativity of the work.

I received a few comments on how my infographic can be improved by my colleagues.  I wasn’t sure how to go about adding citations to the infographic so I asked for specific feedback. I ended up added the citation in light print at the bottom and I’m moderately happy about how it looks.

The most I’ve learned, however, was by looking at other examples of my colleagues infographics.  Carl Pastor’s infographic was absolutely amazing, and because he used Picktochart as well, I was able to see how he used some of the features to create his designs.  The amount of information on this topic was extensive and my biggest issue was deciding how much of it to put into my design.  I wanted to make a clean easy to read infographic that would prove by point without being overwhelming.  In the end, I decided to include another panel with some consequences of excessive screen time use in kids in order to tie my whole infographic together.

Lesson Redo

This week’s assignment for my grad work was to take an existing lesson and improve upon it by embedding technology.  The lesson I chose was a straightforward lesson about the note names on the treble and bass clef.  The lesson called for the use Music Trainers to practice note names as well as Alpha Smart technology in order to write reflections about their use of technology.  I made several changes to the lesson in order to have students obtain higher thinking level.

My Lesson

I decided to use the note identification exercises on  The website is free, can be used anywhere and can track student progress if need be.  Its a great practicing tools as well as assessment tool.  I also broke the note identification exercises up into short 5 minutes practice sessions.  In my experience, (boring) music theory is best done in short bursts at the beginning of each lesson instead of one long 30 or 60 minute lesson.


Music Theory Fun!

While learning note names is an important part of music education, note names in abstract (technology or no) has no real world application.   I thought that having students apply their learning by composing a simple phrase would add real world usage to the skill that they just learned.  By having to compose a phrase using just the  notes of the pentatonic scale they would reinforce their knowledge of at least some of the note names.  I choose the pentatonic scale specifically because, while it only consists of 5 notes, a student can compose a decent sounding phrase without knowing intricate composition rules.

The lesson also called students to write a reflection essay on their learning with technology.  While it is always great to self reflect on their learning, I thought a better use of writing portion would be to reflect on certain notes within pieces that the students are studying or performing. That would be a better “real world” use of reflection. That would be easily done in my classroom as we are always learning music along with music theory, however, I didn’t include it in the lesson plan as I was trying to create a generic lesson plan used by anyone.  But surely the next step would have students identify the trouble notes in the songs they are learning to play/sing by name either through formal written reflection or classroom feedback discussion.

I had Mimi peer review my lesson.  Mimi gave me some great feedback and encouraged me to add a peer assessment component where the students would play their compositions to the class and the class would assess each other by rubric.  I thought it was a great idea and incorporated it into my lesson.

The SAMR Model


The SAMR model is a way in which one can embed technology in what would be considered “traditional” teaching methods. SAMR stand for Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition Model and it demonstrates the levels at which technology can be embedded.

Substitution: one activity replaces another (writing essay on paper vs typing essay)

Augmentation: substitution with benefits (google docs allows collaborative essays)

Modification: significant task redesign (publishing a blog post with hyperlinks for the world wide audience of the world wide wide)

Redefinition: something totally new (no essay, students make a movie instead)

While the “very best” learning is found in the redefinition level of the model, we, as teachers should strive to use every level (whenever appropriate) in order to improve student learning.  In this lesson, I used the Augmentation and Modification levels of the SAMR model.

AUGMENTATION:  While the is essentially the same as a multiple choice worksheet, there is the benefit of students getting immediate feedback on correct and incorrect answers.

MODIFICATION:  I had students apply their learning by composing their own phrase by using the    knowledge that they have learned.  While this could “technically” have been done without technology, there would have to have been an entire lesson devoted to the correct way to draw notes, set up your paper, etc.  While those things ARE important, this allows students to compose without getting bogged down with some of the more trivial aspects of composing.

Integrating technology into lessons has proven to yield high results in students’ learning outcomes.  Teachers should strive to incorporate technology whenever appropriate in order to to enhance and completely transform traditional learning.