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.