By Elizabeth Crutcher
Sulphur Springs HS - Choir
At my school last year, I shared my office with the orchestra teacher, which was one of the best experiences in my professional and personal career. She continues to be a mentor and good friend. One morning we were discussing how to keep students accountable and take ownership of their performances by showing up and behaving respectfully. She said something that changed my teaching philosophy in an instant, “Beth, we aren’t just teaching music. We’re teaching life skills through music.”
The same reason why I teach music is the same reason why I tech my classroom. My students have much more access to technology than I did when I was in high school. Smart phones were just emerging and expensive, WiFi wasn’t as readily available as it is today, and teachers taught in a very traditional classroom setting. Many of my students have a smart phone or iPod with them at all times. They use it as a tool to get through the social and academic aspects of their lives.
BYOT is not a new idea in the education world. I was introduced to it about 4 years ago through my friend and colleague, Steve Hayes. Since then, I’ve been hooked. I let students use their phones/iPods in my class to take pictures of notes, follow a presentation online, work on group projects, and access videos/audio files related to the lesson. My choir students use their devices to record themselves singing a cut of music to send to me for assessment.
For our Baroque composer project, two groups chose to present via Instagram, one group chose Facebook, another chose MySpace, and one chose Twitter. Many students who did power points in their first project chose to do a Prezi for the Baroque. After watching a video made on Videolicious, a group decided to present on Claudio Monteverdi using the app Splice. At the end of each project, I ask my student two questions: What did you like about it? Would you use it again?
The response varies each time. Some students really love the flow of Prezi while others like the comfort of using PowerPoint. I asked the group who used Twitter my two questions. One of the members said, “I loved it because it was something familiar. Like, I tweet every day.” That was huge. She took what might have been a boring topic and took ownership of it by using her tech language to present.
My newest initiative has been flipping my choir classroom. Students are able to follow a video at their own pace and receive direct instruction at home. When they come to school the next day, I’m able to assess who needs more time on a certain concept and who is ready to move on. Of course sometimes students forget to watch a video or do not have access to a computer. One of my solutions is I arrive to school early and stay late so students can watch the videos. We also have a school library and public library for students to access the website and watch their video.
Using technology in the classroom, especially implementing BYOT, comes with its challenges, but it is incredibly useful in every classroom. In my classroom, we have two expectations for BYOT: only use your device for classwork and when it is time to put away your devices, they are off limits. Teaching with tech has its obstacles. Students may have trouble accessing certain sites because they can’t connect to the school’s WiFi or the district’s web filter. Some
students may not have a device at all. However with planning and a collaborative effort with Technology and the librarian limitations become almost nonexistent.
I have learned the most from my students and colleagues. They tell me about new things all the time. My third period introduced me to Splice, a video making app. Eight period introduced me to Glogster. The head of technology at Sulphur Springs HS directed me to websites and sends out emails of new and upcoming apps. One of my favorite resources is FreeTech4Teachers.com. Even if you just google, “tech in the classroom,” a host of blogs, articles, and videos will appear.
As an educator, my job is to prepare my students for life after they leave me. Using technology in my classroom is helping me achieve that. Any content area can benefit from integrating tech into their curriculum. They may forget the date of Mozart’s birthday or who wrote Rhapsody in Blue, but they will be prepared to use technology in a smart and safe way, which is a life skill that will never leave them.