Taking Control of Technology with Apple Classroom

This is a guest post by one of our blog writers, Katherine Miller.

My first years of teaching were hard! Way harder than it looked in the classroom of the master Kodaly educator where I was a student teacher in Gahanna, Ohio, USA.

I would spend many extra hours prepping and preparing for each of the lessons I created for my kindergarten through fifth grade students trying to make my classroom comparable to the well-established classroom she had. I imagine this is something most educators can relate to.

But by year 11, I was feeling pretty confident. My students were successful and thrived thanks to all the trials and tribulations of my earlier years as an educator. That’s when I accepted my current position in a district with 1 to 1 iPads for students.

Rethinking what was possible for student learning with technology in my classroom was exciting to me but also made me feel like that novice teacher again.

I had so much to learn and no music educator to look to for guidance like I had looked to my cooperating teacher at the beginning of my career. Although having 1 to 1 student devices didn’t change the practice I had been working on since my early years as an educator, it certainly enhanced it.

I was able to find many examples of how I could help build student’s knowledge of music using their devices by searching many electronic resources and blogs online, but incorporating technology authentically into my classroom was a little more difficult.

By far, my biggest struggle in beginning was managing student work flow and student use of technology for learning rather than choice activities. This is what brought me to Apple Classroom.

About Apple Classroom

Apple Classroom is an app for iPad and MacBook. It is easily installed from the app store, free of charge. The app can be used with 1 to 1 or shared student devices with some minimal set up to add students to your classes within the app.

I was originally drawn to Apple Classroom because the app allowed me to have the control over student devices that I craved. I wanted to be able to establish student devices as a tool for learning rather than worrying about what else students might be doing on them within my classroom. 

The Apple Classroom app allowed me to:

  • Easily manage multiple classes of students (a must for music educators)
  • Be flexible with the grouping of students
  • Monitor devices by viewing each individual screen with a click of a button (by far my favorite feature when I started to use Apple Classroom!)
  • “Lock” a student in the app we are currently using from my teacher device

While Apple classroom was a perfect solution for me, since my students and I use Apple devices, unfortunately it won’t work for those using other platforms. 

The Real Power of Apple Classroom: 3 ways to guide student learning

It didn’t take me long to realize that the real power of Apple Classroom was far beyond the features that brought me to the app. 

Apple Classroom provides a seamless way to deliver instruction to my students. I can use the app for more than just watching over their learning, but instead, use it to guide and share their learning with others. 

1. Guiding students towards specific content

One example of this is navigating students to content that I have found by choosing the app they need from my teacher device. In the past, I would have spent some of my precious teaching time demonstrating to students the process they would have to follow in order to navigate on their own student device to the resources they needed.

I would do this by projecting my teacher device for them to see and walking through it step by step. Students would then have to try to remember the way I modeled. As you can imagine, this was hard for some students. Now, from the actions screen within the Apple Classroom app, I can take the navigating out of their hands and guide them to where the content they need is so we have more time to work on our objective for the day.

This is especially helpful for my younger students who aren’t always able to read the app names themselves or find them efficiently. 

Apple Classroom App

Apple Classroom has many options or “actions” available to teachers from their teacher device including opening apps and navigating to apps on student devices from the teacher device.

2. Send files to all students simultaneously with the tap of a button

There are many different ways to distribute teacher-created content to students so that they can complete class assignments. However, many of those ways require students to be logged in or join a class through a special code. This can also be difficult for younger students which is why I began to use the Airdrop feature available on Apple devices. 

Airdropping content does not require the students to login which means we can save our time for learning rather than using it to teach the technology itself. The Airdrop feature on Apple devices is very student-friendly but before the existence of Apple Classroom, the teacher was required wait until each individual student icon appeared on the teacher device and then tap on each one in order to send the assignment.

Although it was pretty simple, it did take some time. I often found that I could only choose a few students at a time, especially with larger content like a Book Creator or iMovie file. There were also times that it took some student devices a lot longer to be recognized by my teacher device within the Airdrop window. 

Now, I can use the Airdrop feature to send content to students all at the same time by opening the class within the Apple Classroom app. Once the class is open, I can share content as I would do normally within the Airdrop window by choosing the icon that appears with the Apple Classroom name. One button, all students. And, we are ready to engage in learning!

Apple Classroom Airdrop

With Apple Classroom open in the background, the Airdrop feature will allow me to send things to all students in that class at the same time by clicking just one button.

3. Observe student learning from the teacher device

Lastly, I can use the screen view in Apple Classroom to observe students in real time as they are working. This has completely changed how individual student practice looks within my classroom. 

Prior to having student devices in my classroom, I would often use activities on paper to assess individual student understanding of a concept. An example of this might be composing 4-beat rhythm patterns that students clap and verbalise in order to build fluency or composing their own melody to reinforce melodic direction.

Although this worked for me for many years, I now realize that I can be more efficient and effective with my feedback to students by finding or creating activities they can use on their student device. By utilizing their devices and a variety of apps, Apple Classroom allows me to view all students work from wherever I am with my teacher device at the same time. This is so powerful! 

Using this feature helps me to identify who needs my help and guidance right away. It also helps me identify examples of work that the rest of the students in the class can benefit from. And with the help of an Apple TV, their work can be projected for everyone to see. 

Apple Classroom - observe student learning

Student practice in my classroom will never be the same with Apple Classroom. I can monitor each student’s practice, like this example of a student practicing to compose using sol-mi from the Smart Notebook file, from my teacher device in order to guide their learning.

Apple Classroom is one of my favorite tools. I use it daily within my K-5 music classroom. The Instructional Technologies Coordinator for my district, Brian Yearling, said it best when he stated “a teacher may COME to Apple Classroom for classroom monitoring of iPads but you end up getting the instructional benefits for nearly free.” 

Apple Classroom allows me to truly use technology to individualize and personalize my music literacy instruction for all learners. More importantly, it allows the musicians within my classroom to share their learning with everyone else too. 

Related links: 

Grab a free copy of this post!

Would you like to take a copy of this with you? Click on the download button below and we’ll send a copy straight to your email inbox. You’ll also receive weekly music tech tips and news (if you don’t already). You can unsubscribe at any time.

Click here to download

About the Writer

Katherine Miller

Katherine (Katie) Miller holds a Bachelor of Music in Education degree from Otterbein University (Westerville, OH) and a Master’s of Educational Leadership from Antioch McGregor Midwest (Yellow Springs, OH). She has 14 years of professional musical experience as a music educator and performer.

She is currently employed by the School District of Waukesha in Waukesha, WI where she teaches K-5 General Music and serves as a district model tech classroom.

You can connect with Katherine Miller on Twitter: @K8TMiller

Would you like to learn more about GarageBand on iPad?

Our new course, The Music Teacher’s Guide To GarageBand for iPad, is a full course AND a collection of lesson plans which has been created just for music educators.

By accessing the full course and lessons you will be able to earn a professional development certificate for your learning time. For details about what’s covered in the course modules, and a list of the included lessons, head over to the course information page here.