Introduction and important tips
This is a dessert buffet – don’t get sick!
My friend and fellow educator Amy Burns – an elementary music teacher in New Jersey – frequently starts a workshop by saying “We’re going to cover a lot of things here today. Please think of this as a dessert buffet: if you try to eat EVERYTHING, you’re going to get sick. Just take one or two ideas!”.
I was thinking of her while I wrote this guide. It covers a wide range of ideas, including
- An overview of the different ways you can use technology in all areas of your teaching life
- Types of tech hardware and accessories you might need for your classroom
- A list of technology “categories” that you can to explore with your students
- Links to further resources, lesson plans and free training
That’s A LOT of information.
My intention is not to overwhelm, but to give you a starting point: ideas for using technology, tips on where to get started and places to get further help when you need it.
Don’t attempt to eat the entire dessert buffet on the following pages.
Do you have a professional goal to include more tech?
Many teachers come to me saying that they have set themselves a professional goal for the coming year to incorporate more technology into their teaching. In fact, a lot of the time it’s their school principal or department head who has “strongly encouraged” the teacher to make this their goal.
Remember: technology is simply a tool. It’s an option available to you that can be used to teach a concept, reinforce information, capture learning or engage students.
The main focus should always be the learning outcomes. Technology is there to support your teaching and should be woven into your lesson rather than being the outcome itself.
If you’d like to start including more technology and you’re stuck for ideas, one thing you can do is take one of your favourite lessons and choose one aspect of the lesson that you can replace with a tech-focussed option.
- In a “getting to know you” lesson at the beginning of the school year, ask students to create a digital poster or bulletin board that shows a favourite musical performer, a favourite song and a favourite instrument to play or listen to instead of asking students to write them down on a worksheet. Padlet, Thinglink, or Google Slides would all work well for this activity
- When students perform a piece in class that they’ve been working on, video record them with your phone or iPad
- If you’re learning a drum pattern or clapping game, students could recreate the rhythmic pattern using a drum sequencer like Groove Pizza, GarageBand on iPad or the Chrome Music Lab
- Instead of filling out a paper-based quiz, use Kahoot, Quizizz or Plickers to deliver the questions and capture responses
Tech for your elementary classroom
What types of devices should I have for students? How many devices do I need? Should I buy a Mac or a PC for my next laptop? What about headphones, microphones and keyboards?
There are lots of ways you can spend your budget on technology (if you have one to spend, that is!). Don’t rush into buying lots of new equipment. Start with what you have access to already – even if it’s only your own laptop – and then grow from there.
For you, the teacher
As a bare minimum, you will need:
- Your own laptop (or desktop) computer
- A data projector
- Decent speakers
- Optional: an interactive whiteboard (an IWB setup usually includes data projector and speakers)
Which devices for my students?
There are multiple options for students. Some of you won’t have much say in this aspect – your school will decide which devices students will use, and whether your school is 1:1 or have access to a shared set of devices (or none at all).
Most commonly, schools have some of the following devices for students to use (or a combination):
- Mac or PC laptops or desktop computer
Ideally, you would have access to a few devices for students to use for hands-on activities during class time but you don’t necessarily need one device per student. My advice is to start by making use of what you have.
There is a lot you can do with a small number of devices and some teachers even prefer students to work in small groups using one device between 2-3 students.
For those of you in a position to purchase more devices for your music classroom, any of the options above will work well and you’ll need to decide which one is best for the student age group you teach, what your budget will allow and the types of activities you’d like to do.
What to do when you only have a small number of devices (or even just one)
If you have only one single laptop, iPad or a very small number of devices for students to use, you’re not alone. You can still do some great activities with your students.
Design projects for small groups that include specific roles and tasks for different students in the group and make sure the tasks are a combination of tech-based and non-tech based tasks. Students can then take turns using the device when their role requires it.
You can also run centers (stations) in your classes where you have a series of different activities that run concurrently. Devices can be used in one or two centers while others can be involve playing instruments, singing, literacy activities, rhythmic work and so on.
- 18 Ways To Use A Single iPad In The Music Classroom
- Podcast episode: MTT06: 15 ways to use a single computer in the music classroom
- Podcast episode: MTT04: 19 Ways To Use a Single iPad in the Music Classroom
- How to record students in a noisy classroom
- Podcast episode: MTT48: Using Music Technology Centers with Carole Corman
Ideas for using technology in your classroom
6 areas to consider
There are many ways you can incorporate technology into your teaching life.
Here are 6 areas to consider using technology:
- To organise yourself and increase productivity
- To make your own teaching materials
- To foster your students’ creativity
- To capture and assess student learning
- To drill or reinforce concepts
- As a “toolkit”
1. Organisation and productivity
Most of us use technology to organise ourselves on a daily basis. I’m always excited to find new tech tools to help me manage everyday life and become more productive so here are some of my favourites.
Some of my most frequently used tech tools are:
- Google Calendar – I have multiple calendars (work, home, blog post schedule etc) setup within my Google Calendar and they sync across all my devices
- Gmail – for my multiple email accounts
- Documents and spreadsheets – Google Docs, Apple Pages
- Spotify – it’s my music library gives me access to (almost) any music I need (you could also try Google Play or Amazon Music)
- Asana for my task to-do list and project management
- Lastpass to manage ALL those passwords so that I don’t need to remember them
- Productivity Tips For Music Teachers Part A
- Productivity Tips For Music Teachers Part B
- My Top 5 Productivity Tips for Busy Teachers
- 11 Must-Know Spotify Tips For Music Teachers
I talk more about ways you can use technology to organise yourself and improve productivity on my Tech Tips For Music Teachers – Increase Productivity and Create Your Own Resources page.
2. Make your own teaching materials
Tech tools are crucial when creating your own teaching materials and spending a little time getting to know how to use them efficiently can save you hours of work.
I recommend you use presentation-style software to create your resources since it allows you to position images, text boxes and other items freely on the page.
Best options include:
- Powerpoint (PC or Mac)
- Keynote (Mac)
- Google Slides
- Interactive whiteboard software such as Notebook (SMARTboard) or ActivInspire (Promethean)
You only need to learn a few basic skills in these software apps and you’ll be creating great resources in no time!
- Learn Just 5 Tips To Create Your Own Awesome Music Resources
- The 5 Essential Skills To Learn To Create Multimedia Worksheets and Presentations
- Big Free Music Notation Image Library
- Guitar Chord Image Library
- Ukulele Chord Image Library
- Tech Tips For Music Teachers – Increase Productivity and Create Your Own Resources
3. Foster creativity in your students
This is possibly my favourite use of technology! There are lots of great ways you can incorporate technology into your music classes to foster creativity and provide students with an engaging way to explore composition, arranging and performance.
We can’t cover everything in this guide, but here are a few creative projects you might like to try with your elementary students:
- Explore the science of sound with the bright colourful online experiments in the Chrome Music Lab
- Record found sounds and compose a piece of music with them
- Play a simple 2 or 3-chord song – such as the Blues sequence – on iPads
- Arrange your own version of a nursery rhyme
- Compose a drum pattern and record a rap over the top
- Record a children’s story and add sound effects
- Learn about the drum kit and create a basic rock pattern using an online drum sequencer
- Record your own radio show
- Notate simple melodies using notation software
- Compose video game music themes
- Perform an original film score live to a short animated video
- My big list of free music tech resources: The Ultimate Free Music Tech Resources Guide
- 50+ Lesson Ideas For The Chrome Music Lab
- How To Record Students in a Noisy Classroom
4. Capture and assess student learning
By using tech tools, you can easily capture student learning and assess student work quickly.
Assessment tools allow you to create quizzes, surveys and exit tickets. Gather students responses and have the software do the marking for you! Some popular options include:
- Google Forms
- Poll Everywhere
Technology can also provide an effective way to manage student behaviour, collect student work, collaborate or create multimedia content. Popular options here include:
- SeeSaw (digital portfolios; sharing of work)
- Showbie (digital portfolios; sharing of work)
- Class Dojo (behaviour management and digital portfolios)
- Flipgrid (student responses with video)
- Book Creator (create interactive multimedia books)
- Padlet (interactive bulletin board)
- Interactive music posters, word walls and brainstorming with Padlet
- Using Class Dojo in Music Classroom Management
5. Drill or reinforce concepts
One of the easiest ways to take advantage of technology in your classroom is to use tech tools to drill or reinforce concepts that you’ve been covering with your students.
Find apps and software that help your students to:
- Learn the notes of the staff (try Staff Wars, Flashnote Derby, Music Tutor, MusicTheory.net)
- Practice their instrument more effectively (try SmartMusic or PracticeFirst)
- Improve sight-reading (try Sight Reading Factory)
- Teach and reinforce theory and ear-training concepts (try Auralia, Musition, Theta, MusicTheory.net)
- Keep a practice journal (try Modacity)
- 30+ Fun Ways To Teach The Notes of The Staff Using Technology
- Speed up student learning and assessment with Smartmusic
- Supercharge Your Practice Sessions With Modacity
6. As a “toolkit”
As I was working at my desk the other day I looked around and realised just how many small things have been replaced by technology in my life:
- I no longer use the electronic tuner that I purchased when I was in my late thirties. I now use the Tonal Energy app
- The old-school analog pendulum-style metronome that I used for piano practice in my teens sits untouched in a box and these days, I reach for my phone and open up Tonal Energy or Metro Timer
- Gone are the days of pressing fast forward and rewind on my CD player (or cassette tape if we go back even further!) to learn or transcribe songs. Anytune Pro on my phone and iPad is a MUCH more convenient and effective option
Are there any basic tools in your everyday life that you could replace with tech options?
- 7 Ways Technology Has Revolutionised The Way I Arrange Music
- 28 Free Music Toolkit Apps for Teachers
What next? Free training and other resources
Free online training with PD certificate
- 7 Easy Ways To Use Tech In Your Music Class
- 9 iPad Apps Music Teachers Love and How To Use Them
- How To Create An Interactive Wall Display For Your Music Classroom
Music tech articles and podcast episodes
Other guides in this series – download your free copy
- How Do I Get Started With iPads In The Music Classroom?
- How Do I Get Started With Chromebooks In The Music Classroom?
- How Do I Get Started With Interactive Whiteboards In The Music Classroom?
Inside the Midnight Music Community
Popular courses & lesson plans for elementary teachers inside the MMC
If you’d like more online training and resources plus personalised tech help, come and join us inside the Midnight Music Community. These popular resources are included in your membership, plus a whole lot more!
- Super Simple Music Tech Lesson Plans (Using Free Websites)
- iPad Projects for the Music Classroom
- Transform Your Productivity – Tips For Music Teachers
- Composition lesson: Boom Snap Clap
- GarageBand for Mac Intro Course
For a list of the courses and lesson plans inside the MMC, head over here.
Download a copy of this guide
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Want more help? Music tech lesson plans and online courses
Hello! I’m Katie Wardrobe – an Australian music technology trainer and consultant with a passion for helping music teachers through my business Midnight Music.
I’m a qualified teacher but no, I don’t currently teach in a school. I help teachers through my online professional development space – the Midnight Music Community – where there are tutorial videos, courses, links and downloadable resources.
I like to focus on easy ways to incorporate technology into what you are already doing in your music curriculum through a range of creative projects. I also run live workshops and have presented at countless conferences and other music education events.
If you want simple, effective ideas for using technology in music education, I would LOVE to help you inside the Midnight Music Community.