Hello, everyone! I hope you have had a great start to the school year. I have been incredibly busy and haven't found much time to blog. I have been sent a few promo codes for some apps that I will get around to writing about, but it may still be a week or two before that happens. The beginning of the school year is always busy, but this year has been particularly busy. Here is what is going on.
- I have been busy setting up my classes with technology the way that I want them to run. I have been using Google Classroom, GClass Folders, the Attendance2 app (iOS), and Showbie (best on iOS). I want to thank Larry Petersen, from Huron, South Dakota, for writing me and asking about Showbie. Showbie seems to be everything I have ever been looking for in terms of a paperless classroom on iOS. The cost of the app is $10 per month for the teacher (not the student), but gives full access to all the features to you (the teacher) and students in your class (not other classes). I will write more in the future about Showbie, but so far, it works.
- Setting things up is hard and time consuming. We have certainly spent more time on tech issues in choir during the first 5 days of classes (we meet every other day, so as of Monday, I will have seen each class five times) than singing–with the idea that we will be able to make more music later as a result. I've seen just about everything in five days…forgotten passwords, kids that cannot type their district e-mail address, and more.
- My colleagues (music) at my school are taking a purposeful approach away from technology in their classes. While that saddens me as a “music education technologist,” I also know that they need to do what they need to do, and I certainly have no desire (or wish!) to tell them how to run their classrooms, how to teach, or how to use technology.
- I am waiting for our PDF music reader to be distributed. Last year, Apple made it possible for a school to buy apps and then distribute them to students, and then later recollect them. This changes the finances of an iPad program immensly. Well, although Apple has made this possible, our MDM (iPad manager) can't yet distribute those apps in the “retrievable” condition. Up until now, there has been enough tech issues that we haven't needed the sheet music yet…but as of Tuesday, we're where we need to be.
- Our middle school (generally) has a music requirement with a choice of band, choir or orchestra. As a result, I get not only the kids who love choir or like me, I also get many students who didn't want to haul an instrument, or simply had no other choice. One class had five new-to-choir students in 8th grade that had no interest in singing or participating. By luck, I had an open hour on the opposite day, so we are now teaching those five students guitar. I am working with Zivix to see if we can purchase five JamStiks to use with these students, allowing them to work at their own pace (with coaching along the way). Thankfully, one of our sister middle schools had a guitar class in the past, and was able to loan us five guitars in the mean time.
- My wife and I, as well as our in-laws, are moving to the iPhone 6, and we're changing carriers from AT&T to T-Mobile. We have been on AT&T since our first iPhones in 2008 (3GS), and we tend to stick with our phones throughout the contract. We don't hate AT&T, but we often drive from the Minneapolis area to Milwaukee, and there is a long stretch of road between Minneapolis and Madison that has poor or no cell data coverage at all, and this hasn't changed in the past 6 years we have been with AT&T. Additionally, we'll save money per month with T-Mobile, even though you officially BUY your device with T-Mobile (AT&T sells it to you for $299, but you are locked into a contract where they recuperate their cost). In addition to some of the technical aspects that have been around for a couple of years (Touch ID) that were not on our old phones (iPhone 5), I am very excited about T-Mobile (and only T-Mobile for now) that offers wi-fi calling–moving from LTE to wi-fi seamlessly. My school…and likely yours as well…has TERRIBLE cell service inside the school. This will guarantee good coverage for the first time I have worked in a school (we have a closed network that student devices–and most faculty for that part–will not have access to). So we're excited about the iPhone 6.
- And I have been blessed with a lot of growth in choir at our school. Last year, I had 211 students, with only 24 students in our 8th grade choir (these numbers were established before I ever arrived). This year, I have 335 students, with over 100 in 8th grade choir; and we only had 95 students in 7th grade choir last year. I'm not bragging, I'm not superman, I'm not the world's greatest teacher, and I have many places to grow, even in my 19th year of teaching. I'm just grateful for the growth, but in truth, there are negatives as I no longer have lesson time, and setting up tech resources, such as Attendance2, has been tricky.
- I have been starting to hear back about presentations at music conferences this year. For sure, look for me at Iowa, Texas (also the TI:ME National Conference), Salt Lake City (ACDA National Conference), and potentially some more. There's also another big thing happening, which I will keep under wraps for now until I can break the news.
- If you are a Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Iowa music teacher, we are working on forming a TI:ME chapter. The original thought was a Minnesota Chapter, but we may need to consider a larger area of the North Central states to justify a chapter. We are looking to set an online meeting date to officially organize and make some plans. If you would be interested in joining us, please send me an e-mail! Thanks to Steven Struhar at MakeMusic for his assistance with this process.
I hope you have had a great summer and a great start to your school year!