Category Archives: Assessments

Ten (iOS) Tech Tools to Help a Secondary Music Educator Prepare for a Concert (#3: Assessment tools: Schoology or Showbie)

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This is a continuing series on ten iOS Tech Tools that can be used to help a secondary music educator prepare for a concert.  The idea comes from Amy Burns, who created the idea for this series with a focus on elementary music educators.  You can find Amy’s series at mustech.net.

I have had to try to find ways to assess students that reflects what they know and what they can do.  When it comes to a performance, I cannot grade them individually, as I cannot hear what they are individually doing in the concert.  I have to assess them before or after the concert on an individual basis.  I don’t have lesson time, and we don’t have funding for red/green note programs.  We are a 1:1 school, however, so what I can do is have every student record themselves singing a part of a song during a rehearsal.

I used to assess student performance with Showbie (see post #4 in this series), where I would post a rubric in PDF format, and then have students use the embedded audio recording tool to record themselves in class on that document (make sure they know where the microphone is on an iPad or Chromebook—it has moved locations on the iPad in recent years).  Then I later used Showbie’s quick grading feature to toggle through each of the sung assessments and to quickly mark the rubric with a finger, stylus, or Apple Pencil.  I have about 340 students—and if you choose the right area of a song to assess, you don’t need much more than 15 to 30 seconds of music to ascertain a students’ current level of ability on a song.  I stole the idea of using rubrics for this process from a colleague at another 1:1 iPad school in the area (Sue Bujold), and middle schools in our district cannot give a grade lower than 50% on any assignment, even if a student has not attempted the assignment (please do not take this statement as my approval of this approach).  If a student missed the opportunity to record in class, they could attempt to record at home (a cappella), or record another day in class, if we were still working on the music.

This past concert season, I assessed two songs, along with sight singing and rhythm reading, all in a group setting—it is incredibly efficient, even with a large number of students.  You do have to use your prep time efficiently if you want to keep your home life your home life (otherwise you will be grading non-stop at home, something I try to avoid).

Last year, my school decided that all teachers would use Schoology, and this year our district provided funds for the enterprise version.  The full version of Schoology has an embedded audio recorder, and has rubrics built in.  This year, instead of using Showbie for assessments, I have used Schoology…and this works incredibly well.  Students record themselves in an assignment, and the assignment is already linked to a rubric (pretty much the same rubric as the past).  Grading is just as fast as Showbie, particularly if I grade using a MacBook (and not my iPad).  As in the past, students can resubmit recordings, and the minimum grade of 50% still applies.  Again, please note that the free version of Schoology does not allow for in-app audio recording.

In both programs, I can add specific comments (something I do not always have time to do), and with the 50% minimum, scores may not be what a student desires—but they do not completely destroy the grade, either.  As you can see on the rubrics, the categories are “meets expectations,” “partially meets expectations,” and “does not meet expectations.”  One of the great joys of this approach is that students have to sing for you, but they do not have to sing alone or in a small group in front of you, which can be absolutely nerve-wracking for some students.  In this method, they can sing with their peers, but their microphone (I find about 6-8 inches away from their mouth while singing) allows you to hear how they are doing individually in the safety of the herd.

I will be using similar rubrics with video assessments (pointing at the students hands on the instrument) as we move to ukuleles as a primary focus for the next 10-12 weeks.

If you are a teacher that has been looking for a way to individually assess student performance in music classes, these technology tools are an incredible way to help you in that process.

I have attached some images of the rubrics that I have used in the recent past with both Showbie and Schoology.

 

 

 

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Showbie and Schoology

Last year, my 1:1 iPad School decided to have every teacher use the free version of Schoology. The free version lacks a number of features–and as such, I kept using Showbie in my classroom even as I used Schoology.

This year, our district is piloting the full (enterprise) version of Schoology, which has a greater number of features. I am still using Showbie in my classroom–but at a much reduced level.

Showbie now calls itself a “light” learning management system. Originally an iPad app (and growing device agnostic year by year–a growing solution for Chromebooks, too), Showbie allows you and your students to share all kinds of documents–as well as to invite parents to see them. You can grade submissions in Showbie using a quick grading tool (I still had to transfer grades into Infinite Campus by hand). If a PDF is used in Showbie, either the student or teacher can annotate the document–which is a wonderful feature (Schoology currently only allows teachers to annotate). Showbie can also accept audio, video, GarageBand, and more file formats. Someone asked how a GarageBand file could be shared by a student or teacher…and Showbie is an option for that. There is a free version of Showbie, as well as a paid version. I have paid for the program for the past three years, with a renewal coming soon.

In my early days, students completed worksheets in Showbie, I used Showbie for their music (you can create a folder that only class members can access and upload music–and page turns are left/right and allow for annotation), and I eventually used Showbie for audio and video assessments. I would upload a PDF of a rubric and have students submit audio or video recordings (most recorded in class during an ensemble rehearsal), and later grade them using the rubric. I even had students assess themselves on a rubric (I cannot figure out how to do this on Schoology). I call this methodology a “light” approach to red note/green note software–my friend Paul Shimmons at ipadmusiced.wordpress.com uses SeeSaw and Google Classroom in a similar way.

Last year I moved away from having students write answers to daily questions in Showbie (from the S-Cubed Sight Reading Method) and instead used Schoology’s quiz feature (self grading). And this year, Schoology’s enterprise version allows students to submit audio recordings, and rubrics on Schoology work great (we are also using Schoology as a grade book and only copying end of term grades to Infinite Campus, our actual student management system). This year, rather recently, I have temporarily abandoned the written part of S-Cubed (sticking with the content and tasks)…so I am not using any system to grade written work.

I am still using Showbie for student music–and it is worth every penny of the annual subscription ($125?). Admittedly, for my current use, I wouldn’t need to pay–but the service is so useful (and we use it with so many students) that I want to make sure we are supporting the company. With Showbie as our music folders, I can easily send out new music, delete music (or an entire folder), and students still can flip left/right and annotate their music. Schoology can’t do that–yet.

How do I make sure students are using Showbie instead of messing around on their iPads? That’s a tricky question–but generally the answer is that I use Apple Classroom to monitor their app use. I could look at screens…but I figure if they are in the right app, that’s most of the battle. Some kids doodle throughout the hour on Showbie…but they would be doing the same with paper music.

Some readers may wonder why I wouldn’t use forScore, unrealBook, NextPage, Newzik, or PiaScore (free) with my students. There are two reasons. Showbie only allows my students to see their music, turn pages, and annotate. All of the other programs include too many options for my students–they press every button. Cost is also a factor. If forScore is $9.99 (worth every penny), it would cost 50% of that for an educational version of the app which can be withdrawn and reassigned). For my 300+ students, it would cost $1500 to get forScore on every iPad. Showbie is $125 per year. And finally, I love being able to quickly assign and withdraw music from a classroom “assignment” (it is really a folder). No other app has this level of management (although forScore has played with groups and Newzik is working on solutions). I should also add that Showbie is super-simple for students to use and to figure out. It isn’t surprising that Showbie is popular for all grades, K-12 (I don’t know a single math teacher would wouldn’t love Showbie). All of this may change if Schoology offers annotation and left/right page turns in the future.

With the enterprise version, our Google accounts work for Schoology–removing a barrier–and Showbie still works with GAFE accounts. The non-enterprise version to Schoology was a mess with e-mail accounts and passwords.

Ultimately, what I want to convey is that we are in our 5th Year of 1:1 iPads, and due to external influences, my workflow continues to adapt to both available resources and the expectations of my school/district. If you have the enterprise version of Schoology…try in-class or out-of-class (band/orchestra) use of the audio recorder and a rubric for assessments. And if you are in need of a super-easy solution to digital music (not perfect, as page turns require swipes and there are no “hot spots” to allow for repeats or DC/DS markings) look at Showbie.


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Digital natives?

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I am not a fan of the term, “Digital Native.”  This implies that today’s students (including college students) are SO familiar with technology that they need no training.  After all, they grew up with the technology, so they know how to use it, right?

Well, they know how to do recreational things.  They know how to use social media and how to play games.  But when you ask students to use technology for academic purposes–they struggle.  They still need to be taught.

A couple of months ago, a very popular technology guru “put down” a teacher because they showed them every step to do something.  “Let them figure it out on their own,” was the sage advice.  I interceded for the teacher, saying that my own students seem to be incapable of following CLEAR directions (written or spoken), and do not have the initiative to figure it out on their own.  The guru then attacked me, saying, “I will believe in your students even if you don’t.”

So I put it to the test.  With the limited time we had with ukuleles, students only learned the C and F chords through late October (10 minutes, maximum, every-other-day).  I decided to test their ability to play these chords by having them make an instructional video to teach others how to play the chord.  To earn a specific grade, they had to complete specific tasks.  One of the tasks at the A Level was to use picture-in-picture or split screen to show a closeup of specific chords when they were teaching how to play those chords.

Every student has access to an iPad and iMovie.  How do you use split screen or picture-in-picture?  Ultimately, you move your cursor in the iMovie project to where you want to add the picture-in-picture or split screen.  Then you choose a second video (or the same video) to drop into place, and a “…” option allows you to choose how you want to embed that video.  After the video is in place, you can reposition a picture-in-picture box, and you can even resize the image to zoom in.

How did I learn this?  A 20 second search in YouTube for “picture in picture iMovie iOS.”

I didn’t give these instructions–these are digital natives, who can read the instructions, and can search using Google and YouTube, right?

I have nearly 400 students in choir.  Do you know how many were able to do picture-in-picture or split screen in iMovie on iOS?  NONE.  I had one student that spent $6 to buy another program that would allow her to do it (and she earned an A). Otherwise, students were quite content to earn a B, as it did not require extra work or effort.  400 digital natives–and not a single one could figure it out.  That educational guru sure was right!

As we continue with the ukulele in the coming months, I will show them how to do picture-in-picture and split screen in iMovie, because I want them to be able to make instructional videos not just for ukulele–but for other things they are passionate about.  And I also want them to know the work that others do to prepare those videos. But I have to SHOW them, because they will not figure it out on their own (or tap into the knowledge of others on their own initiative).

Interested in using the video assessment idea to use with your own classes?  (Ukulele, recorder, playing tests)? Here is a PDF of that assessment.

Note: The photo is of my now 8 year old son, who started using our iPhones in a significant fashion at just over one year (this would be about 2 months after that).  And yes, even my own children struggle to use devices appropriately, particularly in education.

Lesson #1 using NotateMe Now

I am going to be using NotateMe Now, a free app, to teach my students how to write music notation, as well as to teach them about the elements of music, and to get them composing.  This is the first in a series of planned lessons that I will teach.  I am providing video lessons for students who miss class, or who need to review what I have taught (a.k.a. “flipping”) at home when they are working on assignments.  My concept is to have most students do this work in class, but some classes move more slowly than others.

I am also providing detailed notes for each lesson.  These are all provided to students via a shared Google Folder, and they are also available on my Google website for students.

I talk about submitting the two assignments for this lesson via a Google Form–this is a way for me to have students share their work with me, and for me to stay on top of their submissions.  If they simply drop their work into a folder, I can’t possibly remember what I have corrected or what needs to be corrected.  The Google Form allows me to see who has turned in work, when they have turned in work, to be able to see the work, and to be able to hide the rows of assignments I have already graded.

These lessons are intended for middle school students in grade 6-8, in a 1:1 iPad school where all students are moving at about the same level when it comes to basic concepts in music.  In future years, I will have to add additional content and build on existing skills.  But since we are a first year 1:1 iPad school, all of the students move at about the same pace for technology.

I am working through Boxwave to buy 50 Evertouch capacitive styluses for my students to use; I hope they arrive next week.

As always, feel free to use what works for you, and leave behind what doesn’t.

Addendum: A large number of students “didn’t get” the lesson…but in truth, most “didn’t even try,” even having the lesson and notes in video format.  I used the second day of this material to ask for student volunteers and to work through the Assignment Checklist, which appears in the PDF document below.

The notes/handout was created using Notability.

NotateMe Now Lesson #1 Assignment and Checklist (PDF)


Lesson on using Hokusai Audio Editor and Google Drive to make a recording

As I have written about in the past, I have been trying to find a way to have my students record themselves over an existing audio track for assessment and portfolio purposes (we will use them for Student Led Conferences as evidence of what they do in choir).

We held our mid-year concert last week Monday (the middle school concert season is much relaxed versus my old high school concert season), and it is time for my students to do some assessments regarding their performance of their music–and to prove their mastery over the content.

We are going to take a few weeks away from choral singing to take advantage of the iPads at our school, learning a lot about music and technology in the process.  In late February (we meet every other day) we will get back into the choral music again, but for now we are going to be doing some sessions on audio recording, writing music, and GarageBand.  In the process we will be utilizing free apps, including Hokusai Audio Editor, Google Drive (We are a Google Apps for Education District), PiaScore, NotateMe Now, and GarageBand (new free edition).

The following handout and video represent the days I spent teaching how to use Hokusai Audio Editor.  I made the video because some students are absent, and others just tune out in class, so they can “flip” the experience and learn from home.  I also provide written guidance–but I think students will be more likely to watch than to read.

If any of these concepts are useful, please feel free to use them.  You could do this process with a small handful of iPads if you have recording space in your school.  My school does not have practice rooms for the choir program, so students have to do their recordings at home.

I also have students submit work via a Google Form when they are finished–this works great for me and I will blog about this in the future (it wasn’t my idea).

So…without further adieu…here is how I taught my students to use Hokusai Audio Editor to make a recording over an existing audio file in conjunction with Google Drive and PiaScore.

Post-Concert Recording Project (PDF – Step-by-Step instructions and assessment)

The next lessons I will post are on music notation and NotateMe.