Choir and Technology

I’m currently at a conference, although not really. My daughter is singing in a national honor choir (congrats!) and I’m here as her “chaperone.” Basically, it means I have a ton of freetime while she is in rehearsal!

As chaperone, I can go to sessions and concerts. I was excited to see a fellow blogger Chris Russell presenting today. (To be clear, Chris is truly a blogger with useful information. I just happen to vent on a WordPress site from time to time….)

I’ve seen Chris present number of times at education technology conferences, but really enjoyed seeing a presentation in a music conference setting. Many different kinds of jokes from this perspective!

It’s pretty clear that choir classrooms are not the first to jump on the technology bandwagon (except for Chris!) He did a great job setting up why it’s crucial to be using technology. He points out (very accurately) that the kids are using technology in your class already, whether you like it or know it.

I especially appreciated two thoughts. One was a phrase I haven’t heard before — but just loved and will use (with credit, of course!) The concept of technology integration vs. outtegration. He feels that most of the tech use in music/choir classes has been outegration — a recording made outside of class, or listening outside of class. Instead, the use needs to be in class.

Second, was attributed to someone I neglected to note – but the quote was, “Are you here to learn or are you here to change?” This is a great way to think about technology in classrooms. We should never be using tech in a classroom just for learning the same way we always have. Does the choir classroom look the same way it did 50 years ago? Instead, technology allows us to change  the way the classroom looks and the way the learning happens.

The rest of the session covered 9 excellent strategies for stepping in to the shallow end of the SAMR model: substitution and augmentation. This is a great way to approach a group of people who aren’t comfortable with tech. There were definitely a few of those people sitting by me.

The audience asked some great questions. It seemed to me that it was a group of folks hungry for information about this topic. It is definitely scary to some, but this wasn’t a group that seemed resistant – quite the opposite. It was clear that some of them were familiar with the concepts, had used some of the tools. They were there because they were excited by the possibilities and wanted to learn more. I left feeling very positive about the direction this is going. I think there will be many more opportunities for Chris to share his knowledge with this group!

Dear Student Letter

Posting this “Dear Students” letter to keep it in my list.  She has great one-liners, such as

I’m sorry that you are forced to sit for six hours each school-day despite research that reveals the detrimental cognitive and health effects of excessive sitting.

This teacher puts into words what I feel, but cannot say — not being a teacher. It’s what I’ve seen happen to my daughter, in particular, as she went through a traditional high school setting. Of course, she needs to take some responsibility for her own education, but watching these last four years has given me an entirely new perspective on the kids who don’t appear engaged in school.

My personal world view held (past tense) that academics were the be all and end all. The measure of success was your GPA, where you went to college, etc.  Of course, you’d be engaged in school and get As. Kids who didn’t were just lazy.

Watching my daughter’s journey through school, especially high school, has changed my perspective tremendously. A kid who is “shut down”, doesn’t do homework or participate in class likely has a very good reason. It may be the “problems at home” excuse we hear about. This is certainly a legitimate reason and a very real situation for many students.

The one reason I’ve never heard from her school is “problems with school” — not that my daughter is having problems in school, but that the school set up itself is the problem. No one has ever suggested that the reason she’s shut down and not engaged is because the school atmosphere is overwhelming (2000+ kids in one space for 6 hours?) or that the emphasis on test prep (be it the state tests or AP tests) might lead to a type of learning that is not enticing beyond the drive to get a 4.0 GPA.  Could it be some of the reasons mentioned in the Dear Student letter?

My daughter with ADHD and dyslexia became a classic shut-down learner (see Dr. Richard Selznick’s writings for more) after 9th grade, and totally shut down after 10th. School was (continues to be) a major (I’d say THE) contributing factor in depression and anxiety issues. Yet, right now, she is directing a full-length student produced musical with 70 cast members. She has the entire show blocked in her head — exactly where 70 kids will be on stage, how she wants the songs to sound, the set to look and more. She’s actively making decisions, working with a production team of peers, and directing a cast of her peers (much harder than an adult directing high school kids). She was forced to choose between two best friends for the lead. Frankly, I think this is a tremendous learning experience — and honestly, more valuable life skills than some of the academic work.

I don’t buy the “blame the victim” attitude that it’s all her fault that she’s not engaged in school. (And that is what I often hear. Most of her teachers have been caring and understanding, but the system does not allow for any flexibility unless one pushes VERY hard. That’s a topic for another post.) I certainly couldn’t tolerate the conditions in which she has endure  to be at school. It’s true that some kids thrive in school — which is awesome. But, just because some kids look and act like they don’t care does not mean they are bad kids or not worth it. Look deeper — there’s likely a pretty valid reason and we owe it to these kids to meet their needs. Maybe, just maybe, it’d be worth our time to make some of these bigger, systemic changes like mentioned in the Dear Student letter that would mean all learners would be engaged, have a positive experience, and grow into thoughtful, caring and successful adults.

Traditional Learning

Again, from the MOOC I’m taking about e-Learning Ecologies…. this course is really far bigger than e-learning. It’s about transforming education to the 21st century.

Great quotes:

Long-term memory in traditional education is remembering it until the day after the test.

This one is fabulous. The goal of the learning is learning how  to find information. If a student has researched, found the information, and presented it somehow,

The empirical details [about a subject] are irrelevant. They don’t need to be remembered because you can always look them up again.

Maverick Superintendent

My local school district is looking for a new superintendent after a long tenure (17 years, I believe). The current sup is much loved and revered by some — he’s done a great job keeping the district fiscally sound and has weathered the ebbs and flows of student enrollment. He closed schools early on and is now having to add space. He’s led the district through significant demographic change and is responding to the changing demands. He saw the introduction of the first 1:1 iPads in the district this year.

I did have the opportunity to participate in a focus group to give input on the new hire. No idea if they’ll listen to anything we said…. Just saw this great article about a maverick sup in NJ — THIS Is what I’d like!

Why? Highlights:

…we’ve redefined what public education should look like, to include creative problem solving and social and emotional well-being to be as important as academic success.

…we reframed what teaching and learning looks like by focusing on project-based learning.

I ask teachers all the time, if you can Google it, why teach it? Because we have so much information today. How do you help kids navigate that? That’s critical thinking and creative problem solving.

[businesses] want kids who can solve problems and think critically.

I am not anti-testing. I’m concerned about the policies associated with the testing regime and how they may detract from the quality and purpose and the use of tests.

Let’s bring this guy in!!!

E-Learning Affordances

I’m taking a MOOC called E-Learning Ecologies. At first, I wasn’t sure it was interesting or applicable, but I am finding it to be a fantastic experience. I don’t take MOOCs to get the certificate — I take them to get the knowledge. I don’t have time to do the level of work for the certificate, but I certainly enjoy being exposed to the new ideas and concepts. This is just a place for me to jot down some notes from this week’s conversations.

The 7 E-learning Affordances

The 7 E-learning Affordances

This course is putting forth 7 E-Learning Affordances. (See image). These are completely applicable to my work and to my shifting views of education.

Today, I’m watching video lectures about students as content creators as opposed to content consumers. The concept is quite basic.

  • Traditional learning: hand a student a textbook, asking them to read a chapter and spit back the info on a test.
  • Content creators: assign students to report on a topic. They talk about a report, but it could be a written report, a video, a poster, etc.

Assessment changes, too. It becomes irrelevant to be able to recall a series of facts. If you did all the research, you learned how to find the facts — a much more valuable skill. The  capacity/ability to produce a scientific artifact — becomes the evidence of learning, not the memory. “The test that just assesses memory is not as important as the test of what you actually did.”

While this concept is not at all new to me, I liked how they explained it. There is, as well, the need for me to find others who reference this type of thinking. For example, when I talk to people at my kids’ schools, it always goes better if I can cite a professor or academic work.

Balance of Agency

Here’s a great example in the shift of balance of agency — many years ago, there was Casey Kasem’s Top 40. We were told the top 40 songs. Now, everyone has music on their phones, create their own playlists — create their own top 40.

This is a shift from centralized agency to distributed, where people build their own.

Another great example is video games v. film/tv. In a video game, your actions have an impact on the narrative. In a film or tv show, you have no impact on the narrative. And — the video game industry is now apparently larger than Hollywood!

How does this impact education? This shift to active learning has to be reflected in schools. Kids are used to defining their own narrative, be it a playlist, a video game or learning. If learning does not adjust, we have problems.