This is a guest post by Katherine Miller and Alison Capelle.
There is a difference between seeing the possibilities of integrating technology into your classroom and actually doing it! Many innovators and early adopters of technology integration can make the task seem daunting.
We were early technology adopters, however we would not consider ourselves technology experts! The reason we have been able to integrate technology into our music classrooms successfully is our willingness to try. We try because we see the benefits of technology. We have seen meaningful gains in student learning.
We have seen students engaged in doing great things that otherwise would have been impossible! We have seen connections to benchmarks that can more easily be accomplished through the use of technology, like composing and improvising (“Leveling Up” Your Lesson Plans – Composing/Improvising). Technology has given us the time to build personal relationships with students around their musical performances (“Leveling Up” Your Lesson Plans – Performing).
Although the SAMR Model (Stop! Collaborate! And, Listen! Using SAMR in the Elementary Music Classroom) helps to address how technology can be integrated into teaching and learning, it does not address the first step to getting there. That is because there is no one size fits all process for integrating technology in an authentic and MUSICAL way for every classroom.
There are a few tips we can give based on our own journey with technology integration if you are feeling like you need a place to start!
5 Tips for Getting Started with Technology
Keep it simple….silly! Integrating technology can be really complicated. We are all in a position where teachers are being asked to do things that they have never done before. The KISS principle, originally attributed to the US Navy, says that systems often work the best when they are simple.
So take a breath and consider how you can simplify the use of technology for the benefit of students and yourself. What do you need to teach? Who do you need to teach it to? How will you know they have learned it? That’s it! These are the questions we need to reflect on as we prepare our lesson plans each week.
Routines, Routines, Routines
Teachers know that setting up a predictable routine is gold! Routines provide a sense of safety for students, especially when other parts of their life seem out of their control. Routines can also be a great place to start integrating technology into your classroom. (Remember, we are keeping things simple, silly!).
One of the simplest ways to begin integrating technology in your classroom is by setting up a routine for how work flows between teacher and student (think Google Classroom).
How will you disseminate your lessons to your students? How will your students return their work back to you?
Your use of technology can begin with how it can simplify your life as a teacher and make your job easier! The routines you set up should allow students to be independent which will save valuable teaching time and potentially get them ready for virtual learning or even substitute instruction.
Tip #1: Whether you are face to face or virtual, have students practice where to access all online resources to reinforce your work flow routines.
Tip #2: For our littlest learners, usernames and passwords can be a major challenge. We help them become more independent in typing them in by making a card with all of this information to refer to. Although it can be a large undertaking (depending on your student population), you can use them year after year. For a free version of this type of card you can visit this link.
It doesn’t matter if you are teaching in front of the class or asking students to complete work you have prepared for them, instruction needs to be engaging. Engagement increases the attention and focus of students.
It helps to motivate them to use higher level thinking skills and want to learn more! In terms of the SAMR model, engagement is not created by the number of apps or websites you use, but how you use them! The SAMR process often begins with just one tool that can give you the most bang for your buck.
There are some things you need to consider as your choosing a tool:
- Is there something your students are struggling with?
- Is there an app that you are curious about that your students are using in their regular education classroom?
- What are your students currently interested in?
Some popular tools for engaging students with technology are Flipgrid, EdPuzzle, ThingLink, Flippity, and Jamboard. They may be a great place to start!
Tip #3: Find people who are already experts in the one tool you choose and learn from them! There are so many great uses of technology tools shared through social media platforms from teachers who are in the same position as you.
Great ideas, great templates, and great technology integration ideas! STEAL THEM….with permission!
Don’t forget to check within your own school or district for those great technology experts. We would be nowhere without some of our amazing colleagues that have helped us along our journey into technology integration.
Attitude is Everything!/You are the star!
We would like to tell you creating lessons that include technology gets easier but really once things get easy….there are just new things to learn! But, there is good news: the time you invest in integrating technology will be paid back in huge dividends.
Your attitude toward technology will determine the success you have with it. If you think “This is hard. I can’t do it!” then you’re right. If you think, “I will give it a try and see what happens” then you might be surprised with the results.
You don’t know until you try. Your attitude is everything. Don’t be afraid to take risks or make mistakes. We ask our students to do just that on a daily basis so the least we can do is model the process for them.
Tip #4: Challenge yourself to create one new lesson or activity that includes technology each year!
If you are feeling overwhelmed or unsure of yourself, just remember you are the star! They need you. Be present. Ask and then listen to their thoughts. Don’t be afraid to show or share your own feelings. Students need a connection to you in order to learn from you. The deep, dark secret is your students do not need technology!
But, the benefit of technology and the SAMR Model is that it can transform your classroom and the relationships you have already created with your students. Sometimes, technology is the vehicle a student needs to connect with you!
During our experiences with flipping our classrooms and virtual learning, we saw students who were often quiet and reserved in our classrooms truly excel in ways that we did not in the typical classroom setting.
We believe that the time spent integrating technology into our classroom has been worth every minute!
Tip #5: It’s worth it!
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About the writers
Katherine (Katie) Miller holds a Bachelor of Music in Education degree from Otterbein University (Westerville, OH) and a Masters of Educational Leadership from Antioch McGregor Midwest (Yellow Springs, OH). She has 15 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. She was recognized in 2018 as a WPT Education Innovator by Wisconsin Public Television Education team. Twitter: K8TMiller
Alison Capelle is a music teacher at Bethesda Elementary, Waukesha, WI, USA. It is her 6th year in the School District of Waukesha and 16th year of teaching. She taught K-4 General Music for 10 years in the Howard-Suamico School District near Green Bay, WI. She received her Master’s Degree in Music Education with an emphasis in Orff Schulwerk from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN. As an educator, it is her goal to provide a positive learning environment in which students may experience all aspects of music, thus promoting lifelong advocacy for the musical arts. In her spare time, she enjoys singing, playing piano, reading, and spending time with her family.
Looking for More Resources for Music Teachers?
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.