Day One: Living Digital
Keyword: music, technology, digital curriculum, first two weeks, Flipgrid
Author: Katherine LaRose
Targeted Audience: Elementary Music Distance Learning Teachers
Day One: Living Digital
We’re at the first day of teaching and every school, every district is different. I will be providing a basic introduction to cataloging your resources and accessing further recourses if you are new to teaching digitally with distance.
Living Digital in a Digital World:
There are a lot of resources we can use for distance learning. The first step, however, is creating a catalogue of what you have and what you have access to within your district. Some districts give access to different curriculum and software. Make a list of what you have access to and how you have access to it, whether as downloaded onto a computer, iPad, or available online. Making that list can provide you with a starting place for what you might want to get outside of that.
For example, my district (Pinellas County) provides
Adobe Spark - create website, flyer, video
BrainPOP - create video
Code.org - hour of code
Connect Ed - music curriculum
Flipgrid - create video
Nearpod - create lessons in slide format
Office 365 - online interactivity, word/ppt/notebook interactions
Safari Montage - videos/playlists with no ads
Audacity - mix songs
GarageBand - create or mix songs
iMovie - create videos
LogicPro - create videos
QuickTime Player – create videos
Note what might be useful to you and keep track of what each thing is for. I did this in the list above as a note to myself but also a way to keep track of what I can use for what. This makes it much easier when trying to navigate through what you CAN use and what you WILL use. Star your favorites or ones that you use often but don’t be afraid to step off the list and explore others. If you are recording yourself only and not using any other technology, that is still using technology.
Hopefully, you already have recording capabilities through a video software such as QuickTime (open QuickTime Player, File, and New Movie for yourself or screen for screen record) or Windows10’s built in Game bar (Windows+G, then Win + Alt + R). You can record yourself teaching as if you are in a classroom if you have the set up available. Or you can screen record and capture your screen and everything you do on it, such as a presentation or activity. If you don’t have a computer capable of making these videos or they are not working, you CAN use something else such as a phone or iPad to record. Then you can upload it on your computer or straight to where you need to upload it, such as YouTube. Please remember to always watch your videos to make sure everything works properly. If the sound does not work, that will make a load of difference to your students who will be quite confused. If the video does not work, again you will have confusion. You can use a movie editor such as iMovie or LogicPro to edit these videos together or you can simply upload it into whatever format your district wants.
Making a Decision
In the Spring Semester, we were instructed to use THIS format with THIS technology. And that can be true for us all in the Fall as well. But that doesn’t need to limit you or scare you. You are going to be expected to use some format over another, but that doesn’t mean you have to use ONLY that. Pinellas County in the Spring rolled out Teams for us to use for our lessons with our students. We as music teachers were expected to post one video per grade level once a week on average. It was up to the school individually how we did so, with some doing pre-recorded and edited videos while others did a live lesson with no editing at all. These are still our lessons. We are still the specialists who know our field. How we present our lessons may be directed through one particular format (in Teams in my case) but that does not mean that I had to do it a particular way. I incorporated several different things into my lessons, from Flipgrid to Microsoft Notebook to ConnectEd. I could teach the way I wanted to, connect with my students how I wanted, and still have learning in a digital, distance learning format.
Making a decision today doesn’t mean keeping to it the whole time. Your lessons go how you want. You teach the way you feel comfortable. Teach the way you know how. That doesn’t have to change. But the way you deliver the information? The technology you use to incorporate projects, ideas, and songs into the lesson? That can change as much as you want. I used many different things with all of my students, K-5 in the spring, and I found some things were great with older students, some things were great with younger students, and some things need a bit of work. You’ll be teaching your students how to use what you use, so be prepared.
If something does not work for you, please do not keep using it unless your district absolutely requires you to use it for your classes and digital instruction. There are alternatives to nearly everything out there that might work better for you. If you are an Apple district and love GarageBand, that’s perfectly fine. But Chrome Music Lab works well in a simpler sense as well. Don’t feel you need to do what everyone else is doing, especially because you saw it in a Facebook or Instagram or TPT post.
Picking What to Use:
There are thousands of things out there for people like us. You don’t need to start teaching the first day with technology but you know it’s coming. Some of the most important things aren’t going to use technology at all and that is fine. Technology is a TOOL for you, not our bread and butter. That would be music and everything else is simply a tool we use to access and instruct.
Your week one lesson should be as minimal as possible. Plan NOT to use anything extra or new in your first week of lessons. Remember, digital distance learning or not, this is still the first week of school. My current lesson plans for the first week of digital instruction look very similar to my normal school year lessons because I plan on keeping them as similar as possible, digital or face to face.
In the gradual release, you can see the order of instruction I have planned. Seated at spots means they are either sitting in the classroom after being welcomed in or they are sitting at their iPads and logged into the lesson. My Intro to Music overview is a brief series of slides with some information about me, the school I teach at (Gulf Beaches in this case), and the norms of the music classroom. FINS UP is our PBIS. Digital or otherwise, we are still incorporating this into our classes as it is a part of our school and a way to celebrate success with our students. The next activity I have adjusted for digital instruction. If face to face, it would be ‘pass the friendship football and tell us your name’, but even if we are face to face, that won’t be possible. Using TEAMS in our district, I plan on having students introduce themselves to me simply by saying their name when I unmute them. If face to face, they will say their name when I point to them. And the final activity is Beat Buddies. If we are face to face, I will assign a Beat Buddy to each student and it will be theirs for the year, cleaned regularly of course. But if digital, they get to use their own, pick their own for the next time we meet, and even change it up and show off their favorite stuffed animals. MINIMAL technology requirements. This is not a race to see who can throw the most technology at our students at once but rather integrating technology into what we already do. Very little in my lesson plan is changed to account for the addition of the distance learning. That is just fine and will help you out.
Judging by the success of your first week, you can keep it that simple for the second week. You do not need to be complicated at all, especially in the first month. Remember that you are the music teacher FIRST. If you are comfortable and ready to start incorporating something new, remember your students. Pick something you AND they will be successful with.
In this case of 5th grade, I am planning on incorporating the application Flipgrid. Flipgrid is an application in which case one can record themselves in the app. Students and teachers can record themselves performing a task. In this case, the task that I am assigning them is the solfege scale. I will have a recorded version of myself as an example and they may watch it and refer to it as many times as they like. Then they will respond privately with a video of themselves singing a scale. With how Flipgrid is set up, I will have this set to PRIVATE so only I can see their videos and we can respond privately. This will help those students who have anxiety or nerves while also giving the chance for feedback.
In this case, I am integrating the singular aspect of Flipgrid. The rest of the lesson is how I would usually teach the second week of my fifth grade class. They would have a review of the norms established in our first week. We would review our FINS UP (PBIS) school song, we would review the solfege scale, have a brief listening, and then head into our canon. It has movements and is a rather fun song for students to learn and discuss as it has some language they might not recognize. The ONLY technology would be the Flipgrid and even that is not an assignment they are accomplishing during class but rather an assignment that they can complete at any point outside of class.
I picked Flipgrid as I have used it, my upcoming 5th graders have used it, and we are comfortable incorporating it into class. I am not at a very transient school and will see maybe one or two new fifth graders at most. My students will find the Flipgrid assignment something expected and even common in our expectations of music class while distance learning. I would not pick something that requires a lot of extra learning or has a high learning curve so soon into the school year. I want to give myself time to grow comfortable with anything I use before throwing it at students. If it is new, I will give them three weeks to grow used to said technology before expecting them to turn in some sort of product or project using said technology. Asking too much too soon is not setting anyone up for success.
Keep It Simple:
In the first month of teaching, be minimal. Use technology, yes, but don’t expect yourself to become comfortable with technology immediately or pick up technology one day and have responses from your students the next. Take it easy on yourself. If you are recording videos of yourself and posting those for distance learning students, THAT COUNTS! That’s still using technology and incorporating it into your classroom! And that can be enough.
My district is requiring us to use Microsoft TEAMS and Canvas with our students. For me, this means I am making my page for my students in Canvas with assignments located there while all videos will be through TEAMS. I will record the lessons I give, then link the videos created in Stream in the assignments in Canvas. Very simplistic, very straightforward, and nothing harder than what I can accomplish in the time. I am comfortable and confident in the lessons and technology I will be using with students. All students will be muted on TEAMS at the beginning, everything technology related will be explained during our norms in our first lesson in my intro to music presentation. And that will build the expectations for further lessons.
Know what your district is expecting and required of you. Every district is different. Every district has their own requirements. What your district asks of you might be different from the county I am in. Hopefully you are in a district that is very clear on their expectations of formats, be it video formatting or digital classroom formatting. If you are left to your own devices to pick something, pick something simple that you are either already familiar with or can become familiar with quickly. If you are recording your lessons, putting them on YouTube, and then sending it out to your students or teachers, that’s great! That is valid and still incorporating technology into your distance learning. If you are in a district like mine where certain things are expected, take those trainings (provided by your district or by googling how-tos or even Facebook/Instagram/etc) to become familiar with them.
Week 1 should be minimal and as tech free as possible. Take things one week at a time. You’ve got this. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your digital classroom. If you are comfortable with various technologies, you can start building them into your class at your leisure but don’t rush yourself. Take it at your own pace. Incorporate them slowly as you are ready and don’t be afraid to ask for help, go to Google, go to YouTube, or ask colleagues. We are all here to support one another, we are all here to help one another, and there should be no fear in working through these challenging times together. We are all each other’s friends even if we haven’t met yet and we know Elementary people have the most fun. Try not to stress out too much over this and take it at your own pace as much as you can. You don’t need to be perfect, especially right now. Look out for an in-depth look into Flipgrid in our next blog!
Feel free to reach out to me at any time with ideas for our next FEMEA blog, technologies you would like to see, as well as any questions, comments, or concerns you might have.
Gulf Beaches Elementary Magnet School