Student-Centered Learning in Choir using Chromebooks and iPads

In this episode:

Karla McClain uses technology – in particular iPads and Chromebooks – with her choir students to encourage creativity and to improve music literacy skills in her student-centered classes.


Listen to the episode here (or on your favourite podcast app):


Resources and links mentioned


Notes from our chat

I also took some notes while we chatted. Karla shared so many creative ideas for assignments and classroom instruction.

  • Assignment idea: students record themselves singing part of one of their choir pieces (ie. the verse) so Karla can hear them singing individually and then they create their own accompaniment to go with it (creative element)
  • Assignment idea: students choose a pop song and recreate it to make their own cover version
  • Assignment idea: at the end of the school year, Karla collaborated with the media specialist to put on a “composer showcase” where the students chose their best compositions and invited others to hear them
  • Assignment idea: using GarageBand on iPad, 6th students create 2 or 3-chord songs: Karla gives them a lead sheet, the students create a chordal accompaniment and then record the melody over the top.  They later add extra parts
  • Assignment idea: Year 7 students do a similar project with the blues – students can use GarageBand on iPad to create a sophisticated-sounding blues accompaniment
  • After having done a few assignments that have been set by Karla, she gets the students to create their own rubrics and assignment criteria.  Because they have already done assignments with her they already have an understanding about the elements that go into a good song.
  • Karla encourages students to be proactive with learning how to use software.  Once they learn a skill they can teach each other
  • Karla makes an instructional picture guide for some tasks – such as how to export and save work
  • We talked about the importance of starting small with technology – get comfortable with something and then add to the original idea, or change/adjust it over time
  • Karla tells her students “We’re going to figure this out together”. Creates a more relaxed tech environment and it doesn’t matter if things go wrong.  Students can help to fix issues and you can use them as “teaching moments”
  • Students can use in-built features in music software to create chord patterns and drum patterns or use predetermined scales.  Works well as an introductory approach and then students can move on to playing “from scratch”
  • iPads make a great tool for special needs students.  They can achieve a level of success even if they have limited motor skills or other abilities.


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Midnight Music Community: special rate for MTT podcast listeners

The Midnight Music Community (MMC) is an online space for music teachers interested in learning more about music technology.  There are online courses, lesson plans and lots of other resources for Chromebooks, iPads, Macs and PCs. Professional development certificates are available for all training undertaken by MMC members and I am in the Community everyday, personally answering questions and offering advice to members.

Access the special rate for podcast listeners here.

Music technology courses for teachers

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