This evening, we had our first of two evenings of conferences for our second term of the year, which will be followed by another evening a week from now. Today was also the day that my first SmartMusic assessment, a sight-reading assessment, was due. I had my iPad with me at my table (placed in the hallway outside my room/office), and it was my go-to tool all evening. Of all the parents I saw this evening, only one student had not completed the assessment–and that same student has a sibling in the program who did finish the assessment–so I accessed SmartMusic through SmartMusic Inbox for every student.
It was another “wow” moment (series of moments?) for me and the parents of my students. Every conference focused on the actual achievement of each student, listening to their performance and pointing out errors with pitch and/or solfege. Ultimately, it was the most performance and student focused set of conferences I’ve ever held in my sixteen years of teaching. Parents were amazed by the technology and were pleased to be able to hear their children sing (some students do not sing at home). I didn’t officially offer a survey, but I would be willing to bet that every one of those parents that came tonight would encourage the continued use of SmartMusic, as well as the continued use of SmartMusic Inbox at conferences.
As with most sets of conferences, parent attendance dropped to zero roughly an hour before the end of the night. At that point, I was able to start grading the SmartMusic submissions from the past two days. I had a stack of seventy to go through, and made it through forty-four of those in under an hour.
As I work more with SmartMusic, I’m beginning to come up with some new ideas for grading rubrics based on SmartMusic’s own settings. I’ll write more about this later, and I believe that I’m going to be partnered wit the State of Minnesota and the Perpich Center of the Arts to supply a number of assessment tools for music education that will be available free of charge to the public (more news about this later as details emerge).
I mentioned some difficulties with hardware (not a MakeMusic/SmartMusic issue), and have created a “Quick Start” document to help students solve program opening issues and microphone issues on their own. When I’ve edited that document some more, I’ll certainly post it so that others can use it as a model for their own Quick Start guide.
As a note to all SmartMusic educators…SmartMusic Inbox on the iPad is a valuable tool. There are some issues (e.g. no “resubmit” button, no way to change the due date of an assignment, and an error that doesn’t necessarily show feedback you’ve already provided), but on the whole, it’s a stable app that really fills a valuable niche in the world of performance-based music education classes. It is great for grading, and it is incredible for conferences.
It may seem that I’ve become a SmartMusic apologist as of late, but please understand that for the first time (December 22nd, in fact) self-created vocal assessments became a reality, at the same time that MakeMusic is beginning to enter into the iPad marketplace (more about that in a separate post). In other words, both my career (vocal music) and area of vocational interest (technology in education) have merged at the same time with SmartMusic, making this a highly successful tool (already!) for me and I am sure that its use is going to show in student achievement both individually and as members of their choirs.