My old 2008 MacBook is currently rendering a 20 minute video that I created this evening (really since about 9:30, and it is now 10:40). While I am waiting (I may end up just going to bed), I wanted to blog a little bit about this process.
When our districts went to the middle school format seven years ago, music became a required and every-other-day event for our middle school students. The expectation of the number of concerts per year dropped from 3 (trimesters) to 2 (extra-curricular pay dropped as well, over 40%).
Since I came to the middle school level three years ago, I have used the period of time after my winter/holiday concert and starting of the spring concert literature to meet state standards and do some other tasks.
In past years I have done an extensive composition project (see my NotateMe Now lessons) as well as had students suggest music for our Spring Concert.
This year, we have spent the last 3 weeks doing a major study of the music selection project, which is based on us meeting seven of our state standards. The project includes learning about genre, the functions of music (thank you, Mr. Merriam), researching what music is available for choirs, and actually submitting suggestions. Students wrap up that project today and tomorrow. Some kids are getting a lot out of it, others aren't trying. I have purposely given students time to work in choir–many are choosing not to work. They have the right to choose their desired grade (specific tasks to meet a grade, a way of offering differentiation). I fear I'll be seeing a lot of Ds and Fs–in a school where you automatically earn 50%.
Well, that was the last project. The next project, which I am working on now, is a composition project that asks students to create choir warm-ups. As usual, I create a printed guide that contains everything I am going to teach in class. That document contains answers to big questions, such as, “Why do warm-ups,” and “What is my [as in: me, their teacher] warm-up strategy/order/philosophy.”
I didn't want to give the same lecture to all of my choirs–so I decided to make an instructional video that taught the content about warm-ups, and then a brief tutorial for the app we are going to use.
I was stuck having to go with iWriteMusic Free. I normally wouldn't recommend iWriteMusic to anyone, but we don't have money for apps, and NotateMe Now does not let you write lyrics in the free version. Notion and Symphony Pro are out because they are paid apps.
You can record your iPad on your Mac via a lightning cable (with Yosemite and above) with QuickTime. The problem is that you can choose to record audio from your iPad, or you can choose to record it from your Mac. I wanted both my spoken audio and the iPad's audio (inside iWriteMusic) for students to hear.
What I did was to record my audio on my phone using “Just Press Record” (there is also an Apple Watch application, which is why I have it). Then I imported the QuickTime movie to iMovie, dropped in the audio, and edited out the major bloopers.
What I will have (whenever my old MacBook finishes rendering video) when I am done is an instructional video of 20 minutes that is just about 10 minutes about why and how we do warm-ups, and 10 minutes of how to do the project tasks and use the app. It's a good balance, which will save me endless repetitions–and I can simply drop the video in my paid version of Showbie (another wonderful iPad app…on my “must have” list of apps for iPad educators) so kids can access it any time they need it (or if they are absent…)
Recording the audio separately at the same time as presenting was simply brilliant–I'm sad I haven't thought of this earlier.
I'll see how the kids react to the video. They are so screen minded (especially in a 1:1 iPad school), I am wondering if a video lecture/lesson/demo won't be more interesting to them than if I presented in person. I'll ask them afterwards (and watch them closely).
The end goal is for them to provide warm-ups we can use in choir, and I would even like to share some of them (student names redacted) here on the blog for your use, too. And yes–I need to start work on my warm-up resources again. I can likely do that in the summer, or over Spring Break.
The composition project helps us meet three additional Minnesota State Arts Standards. So there is definitely a method to my madness. There are some “boring” tasks in the process, but in these two projects, students will have suggested literature from an educated standpoint, and experienced composition providing exercises that we can potentially use in our choirs and share with the world.
We have also continued working on our sight singing, even though we're not singing choral literature right now. I'm not worried. If we were already working on our music for late May, they would be incredibly sick of that music by the time of the concert (regardless of their level of performance at the time).
After this short composition project (I'm thinking 2-3 days), we will move to ukulele. I have been having a blast getting instructional materials ready for that, too. If the ukulele is a success, I have some ideas on how we can continue to integrate it into choir even as we return to choir music.
Lots of good stuff to come in the weeks ahead.