More thoughts about SmartMusic and choral assessment

This morning, Brandt Schneider wrote a short post about the use of SmartMusic and final assessments in choir.  I’ll list his four main points (further edited) and respond to each.

1. I need to create my own exercises in SmartMusic.

As a person that enters most scores into Finale with the intent of making rehearsal tracks (in the future, to export as MusicXML files or SmartMusic files to student devices), I tend to be “okay” with making my own resources.  At the same time, there are a wealth of resources available for band and orchestra, including full ensemble works.  There is definitely room for growth in the area of choral music education. 

2. Perhaps I need to employ a checklist.  Too often students leave without clicking submit, or the microphone levels are too low.

The biggest frustration using SmartMusic in my experience has been the hardware we employ.  As I’ve mentioned multiple times in the past, SmartMusic is not at fault for our hardware issues.  Students tinker with our computers…we find things unplugged, settings changed, and parts missing from time to time.  This could all be solved with SmartMusic for the iPad, where so many things cannot be changed.  I created a quick-start document for our SmartMusic practice rooms–but I still ended up going to rooms to troubleshoot problems.  

A lot of problems with recordings can be solved if students simply listen to their recordings before submitting them.

3. Students get more nervous singing for me [in person].

I think this may be true, but students also waste more time when the sing in front of me.  They spend time fretting and making excuses, and restarting multiple times.  This wasted time disappears with SmartMusic.

4. I like having the recordings if there is a grade dispute.  It is also nice to see the growth.

There usually isn’t a grade dispute because students see the score they’ve earned for pitch and rhythm; leaving only your “recording” grade to add (which could be any number of aspects based on your preference…tone, expression, etc.).

As for growth, MakeMusic told me that those recordings stay available indefinitely, allowing the ability to see growth over multiple years.

In general, a successful implementation of SmartMusic in choral music will include assessments for both sight reading and choral/solo literature.  The assessments should be short and focused on the skills you are building.  Assessments based on literature should be short and focus on the most difficult sections of the literature.  Try to assign only one assessment at a time so that you can stay caught up with grading.  And don’t overdo the number of assessments because the move to SmartMusic and true accountability to having sight reading skills and the ability to sing the literature (alone) is a paradigm shift in choral music.

I’m looking forward to starting next year with SmartMusic, including a pre-test in sight reading.

Thanks, Brandt, for sharing your thoughts!

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