Trying to get this blog going again, impetus is a co-worker who just got a classroom set of iPod Touches & is starting a blog about the whole experience. Her 3rd graders will eventually be bringing their Pods to my music room. They’ll have GarageBand loaded on there, got lots of ideas about how we’ll use that beautiful little (little? 800 mbs?) piece of software.

So, what’s been happening since I last tried to get this blog going two years ago?

  • still have a SmtBrd (official Musitechoblog abrv.), but the projector’s getting really dim (& no, it’s not a bulb problem, it’s a 5 yr. old Epson). Will be getting a new projector soon, that’ll have an HDMI connection (more about that next post).
  • Now have an iPad (2) for classroom use, plus I bought one for myself during the recent state tax-free weekend (a 3, that’s what everybody calls it, no matter how Apple wishes they wouldn’t).
  • My district has made an almost complete turnaround since two years ago as far as granting teachers and students more freedom to use technology, such as:
  • restricting teachers to “user” accounts rather than giving them administrative rights on their own teacher computers is a thing of the past
  • we (teachers) can access YouTube & show ‘Toob vids in the classroom
  • the district developed a BYOD policy for middle & high school students that seems to be working (better network filtering software helped w/ that)
  • they’re experimenting w/ BYOD for elementary (witness the above-mentioned Pod program in my school)
  • they’re piloting iPad projects all over the place, incl. in some music classes.

Not sure what happened in the last two years to change their attitude towards these kinds of things, other than inertia, & the fact that maybe the head honchos actually had wanted to move in this direction, just at their own pace. We do have a new superintendent, might be one difference.

And, some things haven’t changed – I still stay up way too late. So, more next time.


Not in Control

School starts next week, & I need to put in a bunch of work orders for my district computer. Last year my district supplied laptops for all teachers, which was great, but – none of us have administrative rights on these laptops, which means that I can’t:

  • install any software updates
  • update any browser plug-ins – Flash, etc.
  • install any open source, free software – I don’t even bother to ask about these, I’m usually turned down – other than a few exceptions, they don’t “trust” open source software

The Flash updates, etc. are supposed to happen automatically when I’m connected to the district’s network, but they don’t always – if they send out the update on an evening when I take the laptop home, then my laptop isn’t updated. It’s supposed to happen the next time I logon to the network, but it doesn’t always happen that way, or – the update starts as soon as I logon the next morning, & the computer becomes virtually unusable for up to an hour while the updates are downloaded & installed, which makes using the Smart Board for my first class either difficult or impossible. Of course, they don’t usually send out any notice telling us when updates will be sent out (so we can leave our laptops turned on at school in the evening).

Not being able to do Flash & Shockwave updates myself is particularly frustrating, because so many of the interactive websites I use w/ my students are dependent on those plug-ins. Then, there’s the whole audio deal – I’m fairly capable when it comes to using iTunes (like relocating the iTunes Library), & other media players, etc., but – my technician, while a nice guy, just isn’t that familiar w/ these kinds of software, unfortunately, which makes things difficult – iTunes tells me I don’t have “rights” to do things like relocate the Library, set the “default media player”, etc., but he doesn’t always know a whole lot about how to do these kinds of things. I once got a recommendation (from somebody who knew) about another district technician who was very familiar w/ computer audio, iTunes, etc., & I wanted to contact him to help me – I was even going to come to his building on my vacation, w/ the laptop, but – his boss in Dist. Tech told me not to contact him, said he was “already too busy”. There’s no doubt that our district technicians are way overworked, the one at my building also services two other buildings, he’s prob. responsible for maintaining at least 300 – 400 computers, all on his own.

Anybody else feel like you’re held hostage to your district’s technicians/Tech Dept.? None of them have any experience as educators, the head of our district Tech Dept. is a good guy, but he comes from the business world, not education, & his main initiative has been to replicate a business model – our network is all Microsoft, w/ permissions restrictions on computers, using the “My Documents” synchronization network function, & a Sharepoint site (more permissions, etc.).   While some of us teachers are trying to integrate technology w/ student learning, Dist. Tech’s main concerns are the network, viruses, & keeping the kids from accessing “objectionable” websites – their network filtering software won’t allow any access to sites that have “games”, there’s no distinction between legitimate online learning games & stuff like “World of Warcraft”, etc.

And that’s today’s rant, but here’s something fun – check out how nicely this program reacts to finger motion & pressure, really replicates the feel of jammin’ on a loud electric guitar nicely:

This Summer’s Links

So here’s some cool stuff I’ve been finding online this summer:

“The Choir” is a new TV series premiering July 7 on BBC America. It’s about choirmaster Gareth Malone going into schools & communities in England that have never had a choral tradition, & starting up a choir from ground zero. Kind of like “Glee”, only real. Looks awesome & inspiring, I hope you have BBC America on your cable/satellite, I don’t, so I’m gonna have to find some other way of getting to watch it. Previews here:

This is SoundBeam Vers. 5, & I don’t know how I missed learning about this amazing device. It’s basically the Therimin, updated for the 21st Century w/ a full range of musical sounds, & you have to see it to believe it:

The implications for use w/ Spec Ed, dancers, & little kids who love to wiggle is just unbelievable. One thing I like about it is that it’s not beat-dependent – it’s like GarageBand in the sense that it enables  music-making – improvisation & composition – for people who don’t have lots of skill (or any!) on an instrument, but unlike looping software, everything doesn’t have to have a steady beat, there’s way more possibilities for phrasing, rubato, musiciality.

Too bad it’s $4,000. But – you know, it looks to me like it should qualify as a Spec Ed purchase under the Fed Govt’s educational stimulus plan…

But then………..there’s this – for only $129:

Video promo from Korg on how it works:

There’s a Pro version, but it’s $399, what the heck, I’d say this little number would do the job for a lot less. Still not as cool as the SoundBeam, though.

Well, this post sort of turned into a product review, hmmm, wonder how that happened… that’s enough for now.

Being the Trials & Travails of an Elementary Music Teacher Trying to Use Technology

Well, I have no idea if anyone’ll read this, but here goes – welcome to my blog. I’m an elementary music teacher who has been trying (w/ varying degrees of success) to use technology w/ my students for the last several years. I’m starting this blog because – well, I want to connect w/ other teachers trying to do the same things I am; to be honest, I’m doing a little self-promotion w/ this; & prob. most importantly, I need a place to rant/vent/complain, because, as some (most? all?) of you that have tried to use technology w/ your teaching know, uh, things don’t always go as planned….and, sometimes (often?), other people in your school don’t understand/care about what you’re trying to do. And then, there’s the various technology technicians, network nerds, etc. that have no training/experience as educators, but who seem to be the “gatekeepers” when it comes to teachers having the ability to use technology in meaningful ways.  So, here goes. (Update: my wife just reminded me that I should try to remain positive, so allright, I’ll TRY)

It’s summer, but I’ll be back at school in a week & 1/2 – my district has so-called year-round schooling, so I’m most of the way thru my summer break. Here’s how I’ve spent my summer:

  • sleeping
  • trying to re-do as many of my Smart Board lessons as I can, to remove copyrighted material & replace it w/ “legal” stuff
  • took a short class on RTI (Response To Intervention)
  • looking online for cool stuff for this coming school year

I’m gonna post again later tonite w/ some stuff I’ve found this summer, right now it’s dinner time.