Thanks to an AMAZING technology incentive provided by my district, the band program has been awarded a set of 25 iPads to use in our class. As part of this program, as well as part of my T-TESS personal goals, I plan on sharing each and every lesson we use on here so that other educators can learn from our successes and failures.

My first lesson will be to get our students to educate their peers on what it is we do. In band, you can’t exactly hang our work on the wall in the hallway, but I’m looking to do just that. Using a combination of the apps Canva and Aurasma, I’d like to create virtual reality advertisements for each of our performances throughout the year. Hopefully, it will all work out smoothly, but if it doesn’t, I’ll tell you any pitfalls we encountered and how to avoid them.

I’d like to start this project on Friday, and I anticipate it will take 2-3 class periods to complete.

Lesson Plan:

Student groups will be assigned a performance from this school year. Each group will research the music performed and discuss the historical context, both the original composition and the performance. Once they’ve completed the guided worksheet, they will then create a poster featuring the performance and important information about it using the app Canva. After students have created their digital posters, we will print them to hang in the hallway. Once printed, we will use the app Aurasma to assign each poster a virtual video of the performance described.

TEKS Covered:

§117.313. Music, Level IV

(5)  Historical cultural relevance. The student relates music to history, culture, and the world. The student is expected to:

(A)  discriminate representative examples of music by genre, style, culture, and historical period;

    Include information on each poster for the piece’s genre, style, culture, and historical period.

(B)  evaluate the relevance of music to societies and cultures;

    Include information on each piece’s cultural references (For example, Charlie Brown Christmas is a piece based on a famous movie that is played around Christmastime)

(C)  define the relationships between music content and concepts and other academic disciplines;

    Display the historical context of each piece. List important mathematical relationships in the music.

(E)  analyze and evaluate the impact of technologies, ethical issues, and economic factors on music, performers, and performances; and

    Comment on the quality of video recordings, both from the user’s side and the performer’s side.

(F)  generate tools for college and career preparation such as curricula vitae, electronic portfolios, personal resource lists, performance recordings, social media applications, repertoire lists, and audition and interview techniques.

    Create a portfolio of musical performances from throughout the year


Update and T-TESS

Posted by Nicole

Well, it has been a whirlwind of a few months. When summer band kicked off, I wasn't able to keep up with school, professional development, rehearsal, and putting together about eight different sessions at our district's symposium this year. Needless to say, I've been quite busy. Marching season really takes up every waking minute of your life, but I wouldn't change it one bit. We had an incredibly successful season that only ended the weekend before Thanksgiving. Now that I'm a little less sleep-deprived, I feel like I can finally get back to work on this blog!

This year, I will be evaluated using Texas' new system called T-TESS. It's the state's way of seeing if you're a capable teacher or not. This new system places a lot of value in your lesson planning and personal development as an educator. Part of my requirement was to articulate a set of personal goals for myself as I grow as an educator. I listed different ways I'd like to explore the technology side of education and how I can help other teachers. Specifically, I want to blog more about issues with technology and music education, tweet more, present more, and create more resources for others to use. I fully intended to being this in August, but as any band director in the state can tell you, HAHAHAHAHAHAHA not happening. 

Now it's December and I can finally start! Stay tuned to this blog and my twitter account for updates, lessons, and learning experiences. 


Tech Tips for Fine Arts Teachers

Posted by Nicole

This week starts our district-wide professional development. For the next two weeks, we have a combination of local and outside development sessions and workdays. This year, I somehow got myself into presenting and am leading a total of EIGHT sessions between our local Google Academy, symposium, and our neighboring district's symposium. Over the next few days, I'll give you a look into what I'll be teaching, and hopefully you can learn something new!

The first resource is my living presentation of "Tech Tips for Fine Arts Teachers." By living, I mean I constantally update it as I find great resources to share. I thought I had completed it, then found out about a new app just yesterday. I was able to add it in and it'll be included in Wednesday's presentation. Take some time and look through this to see great tools for fine arts teachers of all flavors. 

Google Play has a Music section that incorporates all of your favorite music resources. I've switched over to using Google Music on my mobile and desktop devices rather than my iPod for quite a few reasons.

Get Your Music Anywhere- Once you upload your music to Google Music, you can pull it up anywhere you have an internet connection. Once you've done that, you can download your music to that device to use when offline. I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to update or change something on my iPod, but couldn't because it was synched to one particular computer I didn't have access to at the time. Now, I can add or delete a song and have the change reflect on my Chromebook, phone, work computer, desktop, and iPad. For Band, I can quickly update our summer workout playlist from home or my desktop, and it will change on my phone, even as we are outside working out. 

Large Library of Music- Much like iTunes, Google Play has the option to let you download your favorite music. The benefit to this is that your Google Play account can share your funds between music, books, movies, and apps. 

Playlists- As with iTunes, you can create your own playlists within your music. Occaisionally, Google Music can even put together playlists based on your music and stations. Create playlists based on artists, genres, composers, or even tempos. This year, we'll have specific warm-up playlists where all the songs correspond to the show in tempo. 

Radio Stations Based on Life- This is one area where I think Google Play edges out Pandora. I love some of my Pandora stations, but sometimes, I'm not sure what kind of music I'm in the mood for. Google Music takes the time of day and gives you station suggestions based on what might be going on in your life. Below is an example of Thursday afternoon's choices. If you check in the mornings, there are great Get-Up-And-Do-Stuff playlists. Each suggestion, like "Having Fun at Work" will give you subcategories to hone down your selection. These are fun, not just for your own productivity, but when you need a boost in your classroom. Turn on study music during down time. Turn on get-pumped-up music before a football game. Try epic movie scores before a competition. Whenever you need to set a mood, there is a playlist available for you. 

Now, I'm only scratching the surface on this one. There is a subscription service available as well that gives you access to millions of songs and pieces of music. Use that to get reference recordings for your band, whether it is concert band music or pop music for football games. If you choose to stick with the free version, there is still plenty you can do. Even if you don't use it for your full music library, it's great to carry your most-used music around with you at all times.


Smore, Not Just For Newsletters!

Posted by Nicole

Many teachers and administrators know about the Smore website and how useful it is to provide information in a newsletter format. All it takes are a few clicks and you can have a customized and professional looking flyer to send out to your band, your band parents, or the community. 

I HIGHLY recommend that you create a free account to check out all Smore has to offer. Here are Smore's Featured Flyers that you can browse through to see the different ways people have used this great program. Below are some band-specific ideas of ways you can incorporate Smore into your classroom communication.

Event- Create an event flyer for your concerts or fundraisers. Once you email them to parents, they can share them through email, Facebook, Twitter, or other social media. This can help reach more viewers and possibly raise attendance.

News Bulletin- Use Smore as a traditional newsletter. The features inside let you provide all sorts of information. For example, our summer band newsletter has our schedule, pictures of the required items students need to buy, links to our social media accounts, and an event link for our Hot Dog Supper.

Programs- If you'd like to train your parents and students into using more using more technology, look into making your program through Smore. You can include your pieces, your students' names, and pictures from various events through the year. Before the concert, post a large QR code with the link either near the entrance, on the door, or project it if your facility has that capability. 

Share Audio- Smore currently supports sharing SoundCloud files, so you can upload recordings of your band performing to share in a Smore with distant family who might not have made it to the concert. You could also use this feature for sharing reference recordings of pieces, exerpts, etudes, or student compositions. Just make sure you're abiding by all copyright laws when sharing music.

Share Video- Much in the same way you can share audio, you can insert YouTube videos into your Smore. Show videos from performances, or show student-created films. Use videos to teach easy concepts or go over information for upcoming trips. 

Insert Forms- Google Forms is the best thing ever, and you can insert forms you've created into your newsletter. This could be a great way to collect student or parent information, use it as a shirt order form, or as a sign up page for volunteers. 

What ways have you used Smore in your classroom or rehearsal hall? Share in the comments below!


App Review: Show Me

Posted by Nicole

Well, I've officially rediscovered my old-new favorite app. ShowMe is an iPad app, but also has website functionality. I used it at my previous school basically in place of a white board. We didn't have any sort of white or chalk board in the band hall, but we did have a large TV over the podium. After getting an Apple TV, we would pull up ShowMe and use it as a white board. We could draw rhythms, instructions, and whatever else we needed on there, and it really worked wonders. That was until today. I discovered a whole new world of use for this app.

ShowMe was designed to create and record lessons to share or send to your class. You can record your voice, drawings, and notations and upload them to the website if you wish. From there, others can search for your lessons if you make them available. Today, I started to poke around the music lessons. There are many available, and they'd be perfect to use for quick bell-ringers or days when you have a substitute. 

Just through a few searches, I was quickly able to find all sorts of teachers using ShowMe in some really innovative ways. My favorite by far is this video explaining an etude assignment. The teacher was able to upload a picture of the etude, notate over it, and record herself playing along with it. I am most definitely going to use this idea when All-State Etudes come out at TBA.

The final example I wanted to show you is just a sampling of the many ways teachers have used ShowMe for an assignment. Because the app records your voice, you can use it for playing tests. Many students uploaded their test with just their name and assignment written, but this one had exactly the sections she was playing. I'm not sure if the teacher required the musical examples or not, or if the student uploaded them herself, but either way, it's still a really cool idea. 

Don't stop here. There are a million more ways to use this app in the music classroom. Tell me how you plan to use this awesome resource in the comments!



App Review: Paper by 53

Posted by Nicole

Yesterday, I visited the Texas Tech School of Music for an amazing clinic over all things marching band. Tarpley's Music of Lubbock sponsored the event, and our clinician was the one and only Professor Duane Hill. He's the director of the Goin' Band from Raiderland and an all-around awesome guy. We learned about everything from breathing to marching to leadership to technique. It was also the perfect opportunity for me to test out my new FAVORITE app, Paper. 

Paper is an app created for designers of all types. I highly suggest you download and just play with it for a bit. You can create different notebooks for each idea or topic you'd like. Each notebook can have it's own, personalized cover, and you can add as many pages as you'd like. 

The navigation features are a little bit odd to get used to, but they aren't too bad. For example, you can swipe left or right to flip your pages, but it doesn't always respond the way you want it to. I think it just takes a little more practice, but I was still able to navigate just fine. 

There are multiple tools and colors you can use to sketch with. I used primarily the skinny marker when taking notes (with a stylus, by the way). I've seen many people much more talented than I draw very intricate designs with the pen and brush tools. There's an additional marker tool not shown that will let you sketch basic geometric shapes and it will snap your drawing to the shapes as seen on the left of that picture. The pallet of colors extends futher than the seven shown, and you can create your own swatches as well. This tool is perfect for teachers of elective type classes, especially the fine arts. You can write notes with a stylus or your finger, you can draw or sketch, or you can paint. I envision this being used for designing colorguard or theater costumes, sketching stage set-ups or drill design, oe really anything else you want. I know that's kind of vague, but once you get in and play with the program, you'll see that the potential is endless. Again, I love this app and will be using it lots this year for putting my thoughts down on "Paper" when taking plain, worded notes isn't an option. 



Teachers Pay Teachers is Awesome

Posted by Nicole

If you haven't already heard about Teachers Pay Teachers, it's high time you should. This is an amazing resource for educators and by educators. The basic premise is that you can upload any and all files you've created for your classes and classroom and sell them to other teachers. If you need something, someone's probably already created it. There are many free listings too! It's worth checking out, no matter what subject or grade level you teach. I've just started this week uploading some of my creations for beginning band and already had multiple views and downloads. If you're interested, please check out my store. I have a few sets of free flashcards as well as free planner and calendar templates. I'd love to get some feedback to know what you'd like to see next!


App Review: Band Pad

Posted by Nicole

This last weekend, I got to be a part of #edcampWT hosted at my former school. We had educators from all over Texas join us to learn from each other about how we are using technology in the classroom. I love the challenge of taking all the ideas I learn and applying them to the band classroom. I recently got an iPad to continue my exploration into iOS apps, so now I'll be able to research and share technology ideas across all devices and operating systems! Without further adieu, Band Pad!

I came across BandPad simply by searching for band related apps in the App Store. It is important to know that while I found this for iPad, it can be used on any device or browser, so you aren't tied down to any particular device. There is a free portion to the service, but you can also upgrade and get more features. 

When you first open the program, you'll see a list of free songs that you can play along with. Most are simple melodies that would already be in your beginner book, but there are also MANY foreign melodies, perfect for your cross-curricular learning standards!

Once a song is selected, you will see the melody on the screen, and you have the option to change not only the instrument, but the key as well. As you play along with the track, each note is highlighted and the fingerings are shown on a chart as the song progresses. You have the option to slow down the melody to practice, play it as normal, or to play without a helper track.There is a built-in tuner in the interface as well as the option to add in note names below the notes. 

If you sign up with a teacher account, you can assign certain songs, print them out, and even display them through projectors or whiteboards to use in class. Students can earn trophies and compete against themselves and their other classmates.

Verdict: This app is very cool, especially for beginners. It reminds me of Smart Music, but the fact that it's lightweight and free gives it a little advantage. If I were still working with beginners next year, I would definitely look into using it for extra credit or motivation to practice certain lines. It does have its limits, but given that the base account is free, it's worth checking out!




Using Instagram in the Classroom

Posted by Nicole

I like to pretend I'm knowledgable about social media, and I try to stay up-to-date. When I started teaching, I found out very quickly that was not the case. Kids these days are using social media in different ways than we could possibly imagine, and the trends are rapidly changing. My second year teaching, my students told me I had to get an Instagram account, so I did. They had to show me how to use it, what to do, how to comment, and all the other quirks of the app. It wasn't long though and I had it mostly figured out. The majority of my students use apps like Instagram (not Facebook like us old folk), so I decided to use it to reach them where they were. Here are quite a few examples of how to use Instagram in your classroom! They're band-focused, but you can use them in any subject area easily.

Before we go much further, I do want to advise you to check with your disctrict on their social media policies. You'll need to check to see what the rules are for posting students' pictures, names, and information. At my last district, I could post pictures and names, but my current district has a few more regulations. Consider making a classroom account separate from your personal account, and I highly advise that you DON'T follow students. You don't want to be responsible for seeing what they may choose to post.

1. Real-World Application

My husband traveled to England last year, and I used his remaining change to show kids the "When am I ever going to use this?" of math, even though music is my main subject. The kid who guessed first got one of our leftover pence. You could use this for all sorts of real-world applications for your subject!

2. Reminders

Remind your students when they need to bring supplies for a project or papers that had to be signed. Nintendo trash talk is optional.

3. Bragging on Accomplishments!


When your club, team, or class does something awesome, brag on them! This could be groups or individuals. You can highlight projects, student work, or if your district allows, pictures of the students themselves!

4. Further Education

Keep kids interested by showing them how your subject is being explored in the real world. While I was gone to the TMEA convention, I posted frequently about the musical experiences I was having. This would work especially well for science teachers going on nature walks, coaches traveling to professional games, reading teachers at a bookstore, etc.

5. Humor and Hashtags

Take advantage of #mcm (Man Crush Monday) or #tbt (Throwback Thursday) to highlight famous characters and people from history in your subject. I did a string of composers for #mcm, but you could show historical figures or even book characters. Don't forget about silly memes you may come across. Don't be afraid to post silly things!

6. Upcoming Events

Advertise for camps, concerts, shows, and other events that may pertain to your subject area. I've posted things like concert posters, band camp flyers, and commercials from TV to tell my students what's going on in the community related to music.

7. Practical Applications

Reinforce what you've taught in class with summaries or reminders. I focused on "CNAP" with my beginners, and after a rigorous week, I reminded them how to prepare for their test. The second picture is pretty disgusting, but it was posted the day after an off-topic lecture on why you shouldn't eat right before or while you're playing. A little shock-value made it's point very quickly, and many kids washed their mouthpieces after seeing the picture!!


A few more, though I don't have examples...

  • Create a hashtag for your class or your topic. Let students post progress pictures of any projects they are working on. Create a hashtag specifically for homework help so that you can see what your students may be struggling on.
  • Encourage students to post pictures of ways they can use your subject in real-world applications (Geometry: Take a picture of something you had to measure. Reading: What is your favorite book at home?)
  • Show students that you are a teacher, but also a person. Post occasional fun pictures (within school guidelines) to help relate with students. I post pictures of my hobbies (crocheting) and my dog. It's a great conversation starter to connect with kids.
  • Take pictures of the behind-the-scenes prep work you do for your classes. It shows them how much you care about them and gives them some insight into the teaching professsion. I'll be posting from our EdCamp this weekend.

If you have any great examples, please share them!