digital portfolios

Digital Portfolios in Music Education Part 2A

Updated September 2019

Welcome to the second part of a 3-part series about digital portfolios in music.

In part 1, I covered the “what” and “why” of digital portfolios and gave an overview of the “how”.

We looked at the different types of digital artefacts that might make up a portfolio, which were:

  • Video
  • Audio
  • Text
  • Images

In this second instalment, I’ll share the software, tools and other resources your students can use to create these digital artefacts.  Because there was quite a lot of information to share in part 2, I split it into part A and part B.

The parts in this series:

Videos

A video may include recordings of a performance, composition, student analysis, a description of a process, or an original film score.

There are two main types of video:

  • A “live” video recording of a person or process
  • A video file produced by software such as a screencast, an animation, or a movie with a soundtrack

“Live” videos

To record students performing, or demonstrating something, the easiest approach is to use what is at hand.  When making my videos myself, I mostly use my iPhone because it’s always with me, it’s portable and easy to set up and it produces a great result.

Any of these will work:

  • A smartphone
  • An iPad or other tablet
  • A DSLR (or other type) camera

Extra optional items to improve video quality:

  1. A tripod, desktop stand or mic stand to hold your phone, tablet or camera.

 I have found that a tripod makes a HUGE difference to the quality of video produced by my iPhone. Because it keeps the phone steady, it gives the video a professional touch. 

I use a standard tripod (I had one at home already for my DSLR camera) and purchased a smartphone tripod mount that screws into the top of the tripod and holds my phone in place. Mounts for iPads and other tablet devices are also available.  When shopping for a tripod mount, look for one that is adjustable so that it caters for the ever-changing size of devices!

You can also purchase specially made clips and stands that are designed to hold smartphones, iPads and other tablets – such as the clip that attaches to a mic stand.  These can also be used when creating videos because they hold the device steady and at the right angle.

Mounts, clips and stands to try:

  1. A selfie stick. 

You may laugh (!), but I have found that a selfie stick can also improve the quality of videos created with a smartphone. The selfie stick makes it easier to position the phone at a specific angle, you can shoot video from up high or down low and any wobbles are decreased.

Again, look for a selfie stick that has an adjustable holder to cater for different sized phones. It’s also handy to have one that you can activate via a bluetooth remote.

Selfie sticks to try:

  1. An external microphone

An external mic is usually a necessity if you’re recording with a DSLR camera, but it can also make a big difference when you attach one to your smartphone or tablet device.  The microphone will pick up the audio close to the source (ie. the person who is speaking) and it will lessen any unwanted surrounding noise.

Videos produced by software and apps

A second type of video is one that is produced by software and includes:

  • screencasts (video recordings of your computer screen)
  • animations
  • an existing video coupled with a soundtrack
  • a video export of a Powerpoint, Keynote or Google Slide presentation

Screencast software options for desktop computers

Screencasting is an often-overlooked medium for student portfolios but can be a very effective option for students needing to provide a narrative, analysis, or feedback on a project they have created.  or assessment (when used by the teacher).  

For example, students can open GarageBand, press record in their screencasting software and then “present” their work while the GarageBand file is playing.  They can talk about their compositional process or describe what their future intentions are for their piece.

Screencasting is a great solution for capturing student creations on free interactive websites that don’t have a download or export option – like the Chrome Music Lab or Incredibox.

Screencasting can also be a useful tool for teachers assessing student work.  Rather than write a list of comments about their work, you can record your comments while their work is displayed on your computer screen.  I use this method almost everyday to communicate with the staff on my team and also the members of my online community!

There are quite a number of free screencasting tools available, but for music students and teachers there is one important feature missing from almost all of the free options: the ability to record system audio (the audio produced by your computer, such as the sound coming from a GarageBand file or a Sibelius score) at the same time as the microphone which is picking up your voice, or that of your student.

Here are some of the screencasting options you might like to consider:

  • Loom is my favourite free screencasting option.  It’s online software, it’s easy to use and it stores all of your videos in your personal Loom library.  It has the ability to record the audio coming from a browser tab so it’s a great solution if you use online music site with your students and you want to capture their work that way (online music site examples include Chrome Music Lab, Incredibox, Soundtrap, Noteflight, Beepbox and so on).  There is no limit to the video length and as soon as you’ve finished recording you end up with a video link you can send your students. Videos can be downloaded or embedded and you can upgrade to a paid account for extra features.
  • Camtasia for PC/Mac or Screenflow for Mac (Screenflow is the one I use) – both are great paid solutions that allow you to record videos of any length, you can record both system audio and the microphone, you can record both the webcam and screen and there are flexible editing options
  • Screencastify is another option that’s popular with many schools, but I find the saving and sharing of videos a lot more clunky that that of Loom.
  • Screencast-o-matic is free with limited features, or you can sign up for their Deluxe or Premier versions which unlock extra features and allow you to record system audio (Windows only).  Recording system audio is not an option offered for Mac users, but there is a workaround involving Soundflower 

Important tip: all of the screencasting options above allow you to record webcam video – they’re not just for recording your screen.  You can choose to record screen only, webcam only, or both at once.

Other video app options

There are a huge range of apps that allow you to create movies from still images, movies captured by the in-built camera, or from drawing or animation.  I’ll mention just a few below.

  • Flipgrid is a fantastic totally free option for educators. It works on any device and makes it super-easy to capture and share videos.  I can highly recommend it if you’re planning on creating more videos with your students. Read more about Flipgrid here and here (and go set up a free account right away!)
  • Explain Everything is a great interactive whiteboard/screencasting app that’s available for both iOS and Android devices and works on desktop
  • Chatterpix Kids allows students to take a picture and turn it into a talking character.  Simply take a photo with the camera (or use one of the existing images), draw a line to make a mouth and record your voice speaking (or singing).  Chatterpix makes the character come alive. The recorded video can be saved to the camera roll

Video editing

After creating a video, it’s likely that students will want to do some editing – removing unwanted sections, adding an intro and outro, or adding a soundtrack.  There are decent video editing options on all platforms which range from free to pricey. Here are just a few of the options (there are many more!):

Audio

There are many ways to produce an audio artefact for digital portfolios.  Four methods are listed below.

Record audio into a portable device

Use a portable device to capture an audio recording on-the-go.  You can use the voice memo app or a more fully-featured app. Portable devices include:

  • Smartphone
  • iPad
  • Android tablet
  • Handheld recording device such as a Zoom H4n

Record audio directly into your computer

Use a microphone to record audio directly into a computer via a suitable app.  There are many app options for recording audio in this way including:

Create a multitrack recording on Mac, PC or Chromebook

Another type of audio file artefact is a multitrack recording that students have created in a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).  This includes original compositions, songs, film or video game scores, sound stories with effects, or podcasts.

Once students have created their multitrack recording, they can export it as an MP3 file or similar so that it can be added to their digital portfolio.

Digital audio workstations that work well for this include:

Produce an audio recording from an app on your device

There are literally HUNDREDS of app options for creating music, recording audio and producing MP3s or WAV files on Android and iOS devices.  I’ve chosen just a handful here!

iOS

Android

Please note – I have not had experience with these apps since I don’t own an Android device.  These apps have been recommended to me by others, or in online articles.

Produce an audio recording from notation software

Students can create a composition in notation software and then export the piece as an audio file.  All of these apps can export audio files:

Coming up in part 2B, I’ll cover the options for creating image and text artefacts.

Other parts in this series:

Related: Digital Portfolios in Music Education Part 2B

 

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