Chill Nights

Chill nights be tight.                                                                                                                                        There's something so right                                                                                                                                About a dream that's real,                                                                                                                                    With so much appeal.

All it takes is patience                                                                                                                                                In what may conspire.                                                                                                                                               A path that only some faith will inspire.

No fear.

Keep leading me higher                                                                                                                                        And higher.                                                                                                                                                            This pain will lead me to fire.

iPad Collection Season: Check!

Another "iPad Collection Season" at Hillbrook just wrapped itself up in a nice bow. 

We used a different strategy this year (compared to previous years): collect 4 grade levels of iPads in 1.5 days instead of 1.5 weeks.  It seemed a bit daunting at first, since it takes a lot of energy to guide multiple groups of students through the collection process, in addition to hauling said iPads from one side of campus to another after collection (with only two of us collecting).  It was worth it, however, to have a faster timeline and more efficient process.  Ultimately, it gave students a longer period of time with their iPads, which helps when teachers are still assigning final projects and assignments that are dependent on the use of an iPad.  

If you are curious about the process we use for iPad Collection (in middle school), check it out below:

  1. In the fall, when iPads are deployed, have students create an empty folder titled, "2018 Work."  They can upload items here throughout the year if desired.  This isn't exactly what we for "student portfolios," but it's a way for students to quickly keep things that are important to them. 
  2. Starting 1-2 weeks before iPad collection: have advisors/teachers guide students through uploading any content they want to keep for next year to the "2018 Work" folder mentioned above.  Here are the general instructions we give students for this process.
  3. Have advisors/teachers remind students to: have their name and grade level CLEARLY visible on their case, remove any decorations from their case, locate and bring their charger + cable and bring their iPads fully charged on collection day.
  4. (Optional) Make a special announcement to the whole school mentioning all important items from step 3.  BONUS: do this in character, calling yourself "Collector Gadget" and using a thick east coast accent and improvised routine (I have done this two years in a row!).  Feel free to make up your own character ;)
  5. Gather a BUNCH of milk crates/rolling carts and label them by grade level.  Have at least one bin solely for collecting chargers.  Grab some electronic spray cleaner and some micro-fiber cloths as well.
  6. Create a spreadsheet listing all students, separated into tabs by grade level.  Make columns for "iPad," "Charging block," "Charging cable" and comments.  This will be crucial for keeping track of missing items or broken screens.
  7. On collection day: go through these steps with students.  It helps to teach them how to properly tie their charging cable.  Also, it helps to setup a "cleaning station" for wiping their screens.
  8. Use your spreadsheet to check off items as they are turned in.  It took us about 20-25 minutes per group of 20 students (give or take) with two and sometimes one person checking in.  

That's about it!

I am usually the only Tech person here most of the summer, so it's important to me to have iPads as organized as possible before the school year officially ends.  This summer, I will fix broken iPads, swap out cases, update our MDM inventory and profiles, rotate iPads in or out of inventory and get ready for another rockin' school year!

What do you do at YOUR school for iPad collection?  Comment below!

#almostsummer

Be a Good Glitch-Finder.

Over the past week or so, I have had two experiences that made me feel like a worthy citizen of this digital age.  They both involve finding strange oddities (i.e. annoying glitches) on particular websites.  These glitches were by no means on a monumental scale, but were things I encountered more than thrice on the same site and I was getting fed up.

I am sure many of us in this situation of consistent glitchy-ness would continue to use the site indefinitely, no matter how frustrating (assuming it is a useful site otherwise).  In these two situations, I decided I did not want to sit there and let these seemingly obvious glitches keep swimming down the stream of internet subconsciousness we all float upon (some of the time). 

I wanted to be an advocate for change!

So, in both scenarios, I contacted the support team for the site (by phone if possible) and explained that nothing was immediately wrong on my end, but I wanted to bring to their attention a glitch that I had experienced many times and that they should know about it!

Both companies were extremely helpful and pleased that I was actually going out of my way to help a company become better. 

Now, I am not trying to boast or make myself look like a better human being than everyone else.  I simply want to spread the word that it's very gratifying to know that your observations, quick communication and few minutes of time can not only help a company improve their user experience but can spread positive and proactive thinking across industries.

So, go find some glitches!


Hillbrook Sound Art 2018 (The Rundown)

Hey guys!  The Hillbrook Art Show 2018 is about to wrap up.  It's been quite the artistic year over here and I wanted to share with you some personal experiences with 6th grade Sound Art. 

As I mentioned in a previous post or two, I have been teaching a new 6th grade art class focusing on SOUND.  It's been a very fun and eye-opening experience for both the students and myself (being my first time teaching a class of my own outside of percussion ensemble) as a new medium for self expression and storytelling.

We created several small projects over the course of the class (I had 4 groups of 6th-grade students that rotated between 4 art classes throughout the year):

  • Sound Reflections (Listening for five minutes to a sound artifact and either writing or drawing their interpretation/story based on their connection with it.)
  • Soundscapes with LoopyHD (Students made observations in the form of writing and audio recording of sounds that encompass the area around them.  They then recreated the sounds they previously heard by recording new sounds in the LoopyHD app.)
  • Short Videos with Foley Sound Effects (Students got to meet and see a cool demo by a working Foley professional!  They also created their own 30-45 second video clips (or grabbed a licensed one from Vimeo) and recorded all of the sounds themselves!
  • AudioBiography Final Projects (Based on a chosen personal "theme," students composed their own audio (including Foley sound effects) to help embody that theme or idea.  A visual element was required in addition to sound.  Students used GarageBand, LoopyHD and iMaschine as primary audio creation tools and chose between iMove, Padlet, Thinglink or Scratch + MakeyMakey for their final presentation medium.  Check out all of the awesome student projects below (be ready for some interesting variety):

        Quarter 1: bit.ly/2ILnZRQ

        Quarter 2: bit.ly/2rHMOoe

        Quarter 3: bit.ly/2IlMguk

        Quarter 4: bit.ly/2II2CB8

For the Art Show this year, I made sure to take 360-degree images of each class.  Then, I uploaded either links to or the actual project to a hot spot under their picture.  I setup two iMacs at a table with links to the AudioBiographies (and other projects) already open in several tabs (on Thinglink).  I also laid out several pairs of headphones with headphone splitters so visitors could listen simultaneously (great way to connect with others in an abstract way!).  

All in all, this has been a fun and challenging year of stretching and discovering what students can create with sound.  Can't wait to teach this again next year!

#fyi I am always available for more information about any of the above-mentioned projects or any other thoughts or questions you may have.  

 

 

 

 

Audio App-titude: Enhancing Learning with Audio (CUE 2018 Resources)

Yesterday, +Christy P. Novack and I presented a session on integrating audio into student projects and your overall teaching.  It was super fun and was great to give teachers new ideas to bring back to their classrooms!  In case you missed it, below is the session description and a link to the presentation slides (with many resources included).

To connect with Hillbrook teachers about audio-integrated projects we have done or are in the process of doing, fill out this form.  We would love to talk to you and provide more information about these projects!

Description from our "Audio App-titude" session at CUE 2018:

"Is music just for music class? Is sound something you hear, but never write about? Incorporating a multi-sensory experience is instrumental in designing a more differentiated learning environment. This session will highlight a few audio apps and tools that can bring a new level of engagement to the (non-music) classroom. "


The Mentor

What makes me think?  What makes me blink?
What makes me second-guess everything that I see?
The answer is not in what makes it you or me,
But it is troubling when I forget to breathe.

To feel claustrophobic beyond belief
Is like listening to your own blinking heart beat.
It is not as if there is no hope.
Only a sense of being out of scope.

I do not feel helpless or out of touch.
My inner strength feels very robust.
The pot hole inside is gaining ground.
What I really need is to feel profound.

What can I do to fill the hole?
All of my elements will be in control.
I need you there to see this through,
For what comes from your journey is in me too.



As Aliens Leave and Peace is Restored.

"Calm, relaxed, I imagine a water droplet dripping. Sitting at edge of a lake, eyes closed, relaxed. Quiet suspense building, then lake quavers. Let’s out vibrations. Suddenly, it’s like a purge, and humans are being hunted. I hear voices, warnings, as they get closer. It settles, and I hear more voices, fading off. I start running, and reach a rural town. It’s run down, and I start hearing things, from people. Good, bad, all of it. It settles, as aliens leave, and peace is restored."
--Varun (6th grade student)


This year I was tasked to design an art course for 6th grade students at Hillbrook. The class was to be focused on Sound (my specialty and personal passion) and have an overarching theme of "Self Portrait." All four 6th grade art classes would share the same portrait theme. This has been a very fun and challenging project! I will most likely make several posts around designing and teaching this class, as I have many insights, "learns" and cool experiences to share.

This post, however, is dedicated to introducing you to the pure power of SOUND REFLECTION. This is not to be confused with meditation, musicology, music theory or acoustic building design. This, my friends, is a powerful gateway to the mindful observation of space, mood, internal dialogue and storytelling. It is only a part of the larger "sound art" class, but such a key element in opening these students' ears, minds and souls to the strength of sound.

To facilitate a "sound reflection" experience (either by yourself or with a group of students/peers), follow these steps:

1. Choose a track to play. This can be instrumental or with vocals, but instrumental tracks tend to be more evocative and leave room for creativity in reflection. It helps helps to choose a track that is 5 min. or less (if possible).
2. Provide guidelines for listening. Before the first sound reflection, have a conversation around how to listen with a mindful focus. Key things to think about are: What imagery does this sound bring to mind? Should I write something or draw an illustration? Will it be a story or a list of whatever descriptives come to mind? Talk with your students about all the ways and mediums with which they can reflect. There is no "right or wrong" way to reflect.
3. Provide a workflow/template. It helps to provide students with a central place to document these reflections. I decided to make a Google Doc template titled "Sound Reflection Whiteboard," where they can write entries for each reflection. I assigned it via Google Classroom and gave each student a copy. It is expected that every reflection is in some way inserted into the document. If they choose to draw a picture, they can take a photo of the drawing and include it in the document.
4. Find a good time. In my class, I decided to do these reflections almost every time we meet, and always at the very beginning of the class period. It brings calm, focus and good discussion afterwards, leading to more mindful learning for that hour, not to mention the fact that deep listening and discussion can strengthen community in the classroom.
5. Share and discuss. Have 3-4 students share each time. Make it optional. Over time, more students will feel compelled to share, based on their relation to the particular track that day. You may be surprised at the deep insight and emotional intelligence that can come to the surface when stimulated by sound.

Refer to the slides in my previous post (Bridge 2 Tech) for links to other student Sound Reflection examples.

Any questions or insights from your own teaching experience? Let me know in the comments, or feel free to reach out via Twitter at @eh48 or email at ehendricks@hillbrook.org.


Keeping Your Sanity with eBook Distribution

Those of you that have been in the educational technology world for the past few years have seen MONUMENTAL changes in lots of different categories of technology.  There are many more bots and drones that are compatible with the Tynker app, for example.  Swift Playgrounds has taken off as an interactive base station for learning coding and Google has made it much easier to manage your classroom resources with Classroom (groundbreaking, in my opinion).

There is one thing, however, that has made only INCREMENTAL improvements.  The biggest headache that I have experienced as a "device management profesh" is the existence and necessity of eBook distribution in the school environment.  You may be wondering what exactly I am talking about.  Let me break it down.

When iPads were introduced, schools began spinning their gears around whether or not the iPad (or any mobile device for that matter) are either appropriate or affordable for learning environments.  Hillbrook School (where I have worked for about 4 years) was one of the first schools in the country to jump on the chance of introducing iPads in the classroom.  It was tricky at first, given the fact that virtually no teacher had even touched an iPad themselves before having to create curriculum incorporating this complex tool.  It was cool, though, because over time these same teachers discovered exactly how powerful the iPad could be.  We even re-designed how our classrooms look around the idea of "flexible" tools.  

With all this greatness came more pressure on app developers to create useful tools for both the consumer AND the classroom.  Over time, this has happened and is still happening and gradually improving.  Awesome.  The systems for distributing these apps to students and teachers has ALSO improved dramatically (Thanks, JAMF!).  Awesome.

What's not so awesome, as an ed tech profesh, is that the distribution of licensed digital books has been a huge headache and is not for the weak-hearted.  Without going into too much detail, let me give you an overview of the current process I take every time I need to push an eBook to students:

Systems we use: Active Directory, jamf MDM, Apple School Manager, Apple VPP
Devices: 1:1 iPads grade 1-8  

Workflow:

1. All iPads have been setup at the beginning of the year using an Active Directory login.  This allows a unique "username" to appear in the jamf MDM database (requires linking LDAP info in the jamf settings).
2. Apple School Manager account was setup and Managed Apple I.D's for (almost) all students and faculty/staff were created by uploading .csv files to Apple School Manager with a WHOLE BUNCH of required data.  Check out this extensive manual.
3. Apple Education Support settings were enabled and updated in jamf.  We had to be pretty specific about how these were set, since the Active Directory username needed to match the Managed Apple I.D. (headache).  Example: AD username = ehendricks.  Therefore, jamf needs to know that the AD username is the same as the first part of the Managed Apple I.D. (e.g. ehendricks@appleid.hillbrook.org). 
Settings we use at Hillbrook for importing Users in jamf using Managed Apple I.D's.


4. Purchase eBook licenses in the Apple VPP store.  You will need one license per iPad.
5. Go to JAMF > Settings > Mobile Device > Apple School Manager > Force Sync
2. REQUIRED: Go to JAMF > Users > search for any user > Click Import > Import new users added earlier in ASM
3. Create a new VPP invitation in jamf.  Add User(s) to new VPP Invitation.  Make sure it is set to “automatically register"!
4. Assign the eBook to students in Users > VPP Assignments.  Make sure you have enough licenses!
5. Students will need to then login in the iBooks app using their Managed Apple I.D.
6. Then, they can go to the Purchased section of the iBook app and open the book!

PHEW, see what I mean?!!!!

Yes, that IS a lot of steps, and there are probably many more steps hidden within all of this, depending on your situation, school environment and the MDM that you use to distribute eBooks.

The cool thing is that in order to keep your sanity in this process, you need to remember to be patient.  Large technology companies like Apple and jamf are rooted in the needs of "grounding" technology.  Technology that many categories of users depend on and have specific expectations and needs depending on their industry.  eBook authors ALSO have an industry, which is partially in the digital sphere, and partially in the physical sphere.  It's a little weird, but we have to respect this discrepancy.  Older business models and licensing still need to be dusted off and redesigned, but who will do the dusting?

This is some crazy, convoluted stuff, but let's join hands, breathe and trust that the needs of the world will influence iBook distributors and authors to reassess the ways in which they reach the student masses.

God Bless.

(Also, please email me at ehendricks@hillbrook.org or respond in the Comments section to discuss any specific questions or needs.)

Own Your Tech! (Repost)

(Repost from an earlier blog post published on the CUE blog last year.)

Hey teachers! Part of being a well-equipped educator is knowing both how and when to use a variety of tools and resources to lead our students in becoming better learners.  Today, these tools are often electronic, which can add more complexity and stress if you are not used to using them on a regular basis.

Just like every book has a cover and every pair of scissors has a blade, every device in your classroom setup has an intentional design that serves a specific purpose. The key is to be able to define this purpose. This comes from understanding the features/benefits of the tool’s design and knowing how to manipulate these features to have full control over its integration in your classroom setup and, ultimately, in your teaching. Let’s think about a few ways in which we can better prepare ourselves for OWNING these technology tools in our classroom.

Why is This Thing in the Room?

Have you ever used another teacher’s classroom and were completely thrown off by the technology setup? “What is this rando cable hanging off of the desk and taped to the floor?” “Are there seriously three remotes?” What follows is this flowchart: Is the other teacher around? If so, can I ask them what the heck is up with their setup? Shoot, they are gone today. What is the phone number for the Tech Department again? Will they even pick up? Slowly crumple into a ball of stress.

Let’s take a big step back. Before you even walk into the other classroom, what are your GOALS for teaching that day? Will you need to show a slideshow of a student’s service learning trip (yes), play an audio clip of Michelle Obama’s speech (most likely), have students collaborate using Google Documents on their iPads (yup)? Good. Now that you have a better picture of what you and your students will most likely need to succeed during that class period let’s nail down the types of devices required, as well as the features we will need to use to provide the greatest benefit in learning.

Here are the most common categories of tools used in today’s classroom, including a few features:

Display
Projector, TV, SmartBoard
Power button, power cable, video inputs, remote, settings menu
Audio
Wall speakers, portable speakers, TV audio, built-in computer speakers
Audio cable connection, volume control, power cable
Mobile Devices
iPad, Tablet, Laptop, Chromebook, iPod
Power/syncing cable, OS software, microphone, speakers, apps, settings
Internet
WiFi, Ethernet
Access Point (Router), ethernet cable, SSID (network name), settings

Let’s step forward again into the other teacher’s classroom setup. What type of display device is provided, and where is it in the room? Great, you found the TV. Now, where is the content stored that is being displayed? A Shared Photo folder on your laptop? Cool. How will the laptop be connected to the TV? Nice! That HDMI cable was almost hidden from view under the pile of papers on the desk. Is the TV powered on? If not, where is the remote? (etc., etc.)

Do you see how our line of thinking changed from major freakout stress ball mode to a more soothing, “I’m going to ask myself some essential tech setup questions” voice?

Draw Your Setup.

It can be challenging to truly understand your tech. setup without a visual illustration. Imagine if you were in the situation above. A basic illustration (from the teacher that normally uses that classroom) outlining the main tech tools, how they are connected (with labels), and where they physically are in the room could have helped, right?

This concept can also be useful when needing a stronger grasp of your OWN classroom setup as well. Learn what is in your room, why it is there, how things are connected (types of cables) and what features are available with that tool to enhance student learning.  Then, DRAW IT.

Own Your Tech.

We have looked at the technology in a classroom setup that may initially seem foreign and uncomfortable.  Your goal is to make that “weird” setup your own (in your own classroom) by mastering its flow, knowing all its intricacies and practicing being in the driver’s seat when it comes to troubleshooting.

In preparing for this next school year, what gaps do you have in the understanding of your tech setup (or a co-teacher’s)? What goals do you have for maybe mixing it up and trying something new? What resources do you have for finding out more information about a device/component, or learning how to troubleshoot more efficiently?

A great way to pull this all together for yourself in a nice little easy-to-reach package is by creating a digital Technology Resource Guide. It can include all of the information discussed in this blog post, plus whatever else you want to include! Here is an example of what this could look like.

Have a great "second half" of the school year! Let's OWN this.



Follow Emily on Twitter (@eh48) and read more about her technology escapades on her blog (tech4word.blogspot.com).

Fall CUE 2017 AudioBiography Resources!




(Click on image for presentation slides.)


Apps:

GarageBand (All-around "home base" for audio production)
iMaschine (Cool digital drum machine/looper)
LoopyHD (Basic live recording and looping)

Thinglink (Regular and 360 images + audio tags)

Padlet (Padlet Backpack is great for schools)

Other Links:




Contact Emily:


Twitter (@eh48)

Emily's Sound Projects:





Annual CUE 2017 Presenter Resources!

Hi All,

Below are the resources I shared in my two CUE Tip sessions during CUE 2017!

P.S. Don't forget to enjoy #cue17 and #rockitout.

Twitter: @eh48
Snapchat: emmo48

Presentation Slides:

CUE Tip: Own Your Tech!
CUE Tip: The "Pied" Piper

Websites:

myipadfix.com
Created by yours truly as troubleshooting tool for teachers/students.
bit.ly/ownyourtechguide
Template for creating your own Google Doc resource guide.
Google Slides
Create your own interactive troubleshooting guide!

Apps:

Reflector 2
Mirroring app for MacOS/Windows for Airplay from an iOS device to a laptop.
Paper53
Use for creating sketches/illustrations of your classroom setup.
Evernote
Use for creating organized notes/images/tags of setup-related resources.

Do You Live by Puzzle or Maze?

Do you live your life by puzzle or by maze?

It can be easy to live you life without thinking “big picture.”  Who wants to hear from their father, as an adolescent, “Have you thought about what job you might need in order to save money for a college education aimed for something that your mother and I both want you to achieve... because we know what is best for you...?”  

“Dad, I’m 10.  At least let me finish this fudgsicle.  It’s melting all over the couch.”

All through life, you most likely have had some type of “grownup support system.” People that are several years older, guiding you with their wisdom and life experience.  This support system initially takes the form of a maze.  Defined walls built with intentions of a direct path towards the fulfillment of a “grand finish.”  All fine and good, except no two walls are designed by the same person in your support network.  They intersect, create dead-ends, go opposite directions…

The maze is something mostly out of your control, where specific direction is painted by others’ expectations of you, and you don’t necessarily know where you are really headed.  You are primarily following painted pathways until you “hit a wall,” and are forced to turn one way or the other.  In your mind, is this empowering in the long term?  What if there was a different approach to finding fulfillment on your crazy life journey?

As you grow into adulthood, your life could also take the form of a puzzle, built piece by logical piece.  Remember those one thousand-piece puzzles that would take several days/weeks to put together?  My mom used to buy one new crazy complex puzzle every Christmas, and would urge me and my three sisters to add at least 2 pieces each, every night before dinner.  When I heard her directives, I often felt frustrated, starving and annoyed.  I liked games, puzzles and all, but being forced to finish a puzzle wasn’t always a fun idea.  Eventually, the process of practicing patience and quiet contemplation became appeasing.  We became a silent train of puzzle membrane.  She had a personal goal, and we silently helped complete it.  The coolest thing, though, is that no matter if we helped or not, the process of puzzle-building was my mom’s “zen.”  We were not always around to help, but she kept putting the pieces together at her own pace.

She thrived off of the challenge, and sometimes depended on the top lid of the puzzle box to provide cardboard guidance of what the actual picture is supposed to look like (if you survived the “don’t-sleep-until-the-edges-are-done” experience).  If we all got stuck, that top lid was everything.    

In this method of life as a well-pieced puzzle, the support system mentioned earlier does not go away.  These people that help you build that full puzzle picture are your “top lid,” providing guidance, straight up support and hints as you experience the puzzle building process. They are your family, certain coworkers, mentors, neighbors, bandmates, dental hygienists, etc.  They are there at your 5th grade graduation, your 8th grade graduation, when you went through puberty, when you first had to pay for movie snacks on your own, when you learned to write a check (blast from the past), when you negotiated a contract for your first hybrid car.  They may be semi-strangers that talk you through a problem or give you really great neutral advice.  

EXCEPT, their expectations for you are no longer defined by concrete maze walls.  They are there to help you find the edge pieces, or that one piece with the little dot of yellow and the black flowery background when you really get stuck.

Life will always be something that doesn’t have concrete answers or even a very clear path.  It can be super intimidating at times and extremely complicated, to say the least.  Living life like you are in a maze, while seemingly supportive and well-defined, will often provide a false reality in the long-term that is painted by other people’s perspectives.  But, is it YOUR perspective?  
Live life like you are constantly BUILDING.  Look for the pieces that FIT, even if you have no f*$ing idea what you are actually building.  That’s ok, because your top lid people will always be there to help you fill in the gaps of what your picture should look like.  Life can be aMAZEing, but sometimes a good puzzle is all you need to truly find complete fulfillment, piece by crazy piece.












Analog.

Sometimes being analog is okay.
It means doing some things manually
        and a few a day late.  It means breaking things
    apart
And putting others away.
Let's all be a little quieter today.

That was a poem to set the right mood.  Yes, my job is primarily focused on technology.  Or, should I say that my job DESCRIPTION is focused on it.  We all work each day to fulfill certain expectations that are imposed on us due to goals set by either a third party or by your own awesome growth mindset.  There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this.  However, how often do you take a step back and realize that "hey, I'm human.  I have needs.  I get hungry.  I get sad.  I get angry.  I get confused, I get... I feel... I need..."  I get.  I feel.  I need.  These characteristics carry forward into the translations of our daily work.  We fill voids that lack empathy and bring perspective to a binary conversation.  We make the water cooler COOLER.  Our job descriptions don't include these very valid human characteristics and perspectives.  They are based on expected actions, activities and results (nothing wrong with it, though).

Go ahead and take a snapshot of today in your mind.  Pick any time that sticks out.  What were you thinking?  What were you planning?  What conversations did you have??  How much of that was in your job description?

All I am saying is that there is a reason they hire humans and not robots.  We could be automatonic or automa--NOT.

Don't exist to check the boxes.
Exist to persist,
Even if a dash or dot gets missed.
Sometimes being analog is okay.




Decide.

It's tough to face the screens today.
It's tough to face the screams in play.
The people lied, they bend and sway.
It's tough to really know the way.

If all the Earth were blue and gray.
If all the truth was out of play.
If wisest minds were kept at bay.
A blinded ship will ride the waves.

Who am I to pitch my voice?
Who am I to make a choice?
Who am I to be aware?
Of all the pain that's caused by fear.

Heaviness may be inside.
Helplessness may make you cry.
We are more than fear and lies.
Keep the faith, we will not die.

You are one to reckon with.
ACTION changes those who sit.
Happiness begins with wit.
Never be the one to quit.



Tapping for Truth.

I was never a trouble-maker in school.  In fact, I was a very afraid of negative attention (I would probably not have been a great celebrity publicist).   I liked to sort of "blend." A wild, and often distracting, imagination dictated my engagement in learning.  If I grew disengaged during a lesson at school, I would often start tapping rhythms on my desk or draw random shapes and cartoons.  It wasn't that I did not want to learn, but needed kinetic engagement and a creative release.  I was a budding artist.  Distraction came easy for me, but this was an issue that I would eventually discover and learn to manage.

However, my own history of staying focused and engaged while in school are nothing at all compared to what under-privileged students are experiencing in many school systems.  There still exist many cultural and racial biases that can deeply impact the fruitful delivery of a child's education, as well as their growth during adulthood.

Although many children of many cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds have many different ways they learn, society has placed social stigmas on them that make it incredibly more difficult to succeed.  A child must believe they can learn before they can grow.  

No matter a child's culture, family life or unique ways of learning, we must constantly and consistently provide a pathway to a strong sense of self and purpose in the world.

Whether an annoying pencil tap, a violent gangster rap or tendencies to nap in class, children are telling you what they need.  We need to help them realize that they have every ability to hold steadfast to their drumstick pencil, even when society hands them a gun.

Tapping for Truth.

Sitting there tapping on my desk.  Chin up, smile wide ready for the test.

Teacher thinking who is that creating sounds just like a gun?  Playing like it’s nothing, but you just end up with crumbs. Tap tap tap don’t pay for gas or do the math.  Rest your hand around that pen until you crash.

Sitting there doodling a cube.  Nice and geometric like I saw on YouTube.

Scribbles in the corner of your perfect piece of paper?  Supposed to keep it clean, but instead you’re just a hazer.  Taking time to draw these lines, you’re out of line.  Soon enough you’ll be committing all the crimes.

Sitting there trying to be heard.
Trying to engage in this unempathetic world. 
Screaming at the faces who refuse to really see.
Tapping at the cube of all their fears surrounding me.




ISTE 2016. The First Installment.

I just spent the past 3.5 days at the most populated ed. tech. conference in the world.  I walked past dozens of people with allergies, colds, weird quirks in their walking patterns, loud talkers, interesting smells, accents, alternative interpretations of common slang. 

ISTE 2016.

I don't know why I just told you all of that.  People are people.  We smell, we talk, we sneeze.  At the end of the day, however, we all BELIEVE in something.  I common goal, which happens to be the learning and empowerment of students.  Whoops, I forgot the hashtag!

#ISTE 2016.

Many minds coming together to talk about digital integration and purposeful design in the use of technology in the classroom.  

#ISTE 2016. #manymindschangelives 

Last night, I facilitated a workshop on managing the technology setup in your classroom and seriously feeling empowered to learn and reach for better solutions, stronger setups and resilient relationships with those that support you.  It was really fun and interesting to learn how technology fits into your daily process (as teachers and admin) and the opportunities we all have to make the technology integration process even SMOOTHER.

bit.ly/ownyourtech2016

#ISTE 2016. #owntyourtech #ifeelempowered #smooooth 

Ther is so much HEART here.  So many people working incredibly hard to support, enrich and empower their students in every way possible.  Technology has become such an essential part of this learning experience.  AND, it has been great exploring DENVER, CO.  The food, drinks and laughs have been incredible.  Thank you to everyone supporting this conference, and I know that I have grown so much from this experience!

#ISTE2016 #hugethanks #highfive #seriously

The Intersection of Old and New.

    Modern technology is a new species of insect.  To older generations, it may seem like an aggressive attack on comfortable living.  To the young, it is a new idea that is yet to be obtained, just within reach.  How can we, as a culture of modern citizens, create an environment where ALL can feel comfortable around a new "species" of technology?
     Can we bring a greater sense of discovery to those that consistently feel anxious, stressed and/or scared of new technology?  It spreads beyond just recent innovations.  Think of something as ingrained in our culture as a toaster.  Young people will be required to understand the goal behind the design of the toaster, and may even need to use it on a regular basis the rest of their lives.  To them, it will be "new," and to those in previous generations that grew up when the toaster was first invented, it is still just a regular part of life.
    Now, what happens when an "old" invention intersects with "new" innovation?  Today's technology!  (Don't forget about yesterday's technology, or tomorrow's technology either!)  If it is new to you, it's a new tech tool.  No matter how you look at it, both the young and old are discovering the inner-workings and meaning behind a tool.  Right now.  Today.
    "What exactly is happening within different generations," you ask?  The young bring some serious gusto in adding enhancements (based on learned theory and observation in today's culture), while the old carry incredible insight into why this "thing" came into play to begin with.  Naturally, a push and pull system arises.  The younger generations are constantly seeking ways to make things better, brighter and bolder (bless their hearts), while the older generations (bless their hearts, too) are constantly asking "Why?  Is this really necessary?"
    One more thought: What happens when a "comfortable" mindset intersects with a "curious" mindset?  My answer would be relevant innovation.  Ideas that work for that individual and make sense to him or her.  Today.  Right now.  Every time a relevant tool is discovered, explored and fully implemented by an individual, a new bar is set for creativity and innovation in that person's life, whether they are aware of it or not.
    No matter when or where we grew up, we have been exposed to a culture with a very specific set of tools and a certain path of growth and welfare.  Change and "new-ness" can be frightening to any of us.  But, what pushes us through this initial fear is the sense that, "Hey, this could actually be pretty cool.  What else can it do?"  That flicker, flare and flame of discovery can drive someone of any age onto a path of innovation, all their own.   

Wheelbarrows and Music

What do blue jeans, scarves, found objects and wheelbarrows have in common?  At Hillbrook, they are all "tools" used in discovering the connection between soul, mind and body through the creation of music.

Yes, this is intended to be a blog about educational technology, and that is exactly why I am writing this post.  One definition of technology, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is "a capability given by the practical application of knowledge." (mwd 2016)  Through a process of scientific discovery, students at Hillbrook are creating new ideas and processes using "analog" tools, leading to a much larger scope of ideas, connections and creations.  Students are creating new concepts and experiences for themselves, preparing for a life of learning and innovation.

                                              

When I was in 1st and 2nd grade, I went to school at a magical place called, "Go Like the Wind Montessori," located in Ann Arbor, MI.  Part of the Montessori philosophy is that "students need activities that help them to understand themselves and to find their place in the world." (amshq 2016) If you are not familiar with the Montessori philosophy, the American Montessori Society describes it as "an approach that values the human spirit and the development of the whole child—physical, social, emotional, cognitive."  (amshq 2016)

Montessori rocked.  Individual attention, independent hands-on exploration, creativity, real growth...my perfect place.  Looking back, I'm so glad I had a taste of it for two years, since the rest of my education would have much less freedom of choice and individualized learning.

Our primary teacher, Ms. Shields, would often play her guitar and sing with us in a circle in the classroom (In Montessori, it is common practice for music teachers to came into the classroom, where pretty much everything takes place, aside from physical education and some special events).
Twice a year, there was a large choir production, and in first grade, we did a mini operetta, called "The Mice of Mozart."  I auditioned for a solo, which was pretty ballsy for a first-grader.  I got a cool part, and had to wear a vintage dress and spray paint my hair a sweet sweet silver.  The 30-second solo was mesmerizing in the moment.  My parents had the best video-taping intentions, but alas, the camcorder battery died right before my solo (face palm).  Great experience, though!

After second grade, my family moved to a neighboring city with a kick-ass public education system (rare).  I loved my teachers and felt supported throughout elementary school, minus the troubling third grade year of math (shudder).  Let's talk music education again.  At Houghton Elementary, we followed an Orff approach with a few twists.  We used kneel and strike technique (floor marimbas) and also sang many songs in one or two parts.  We learned basic song structure, rounds, rhythm sticks, recorder.  We learned square dancing and took a field trip to Green Field Village near Detroit, MI, where we placed ourselves in the shoes of Pioneers.  We could also sing an impressive rendition of "From a Distance" by the entire fifth grade that brought our parents to tears.  We got dance parties on the occasional Friday, where we drew songs from a bucket and got to dance to "Thriller" and Twisted Sister.  

Let's jump ahead a few years: in college at University of Michigan, I majored in Percussion Performance and felt very rhythmically secure.  I felt proficient in piano as well (5 years of Suzuki piano lessons sure helped).  I had so many amazing and humbling opportunities: performing in Carnegie Hall, playing the original score of Star Wars, playing in many world premier performances, learning how to compose and teach percussion methods.  I'm fairly certain my motivation to pursue creativity through music would never have happened if it were not for an education rooted in discovery and hands-on learning.  

Here is a video from my Senior Recital at UofM.
    
Jump ahead again: I currently work at an independent school in CA called Hillbrook, focusing on educational technology and tech support.  I had received a Masters in Digital Media and Learning from the University of San Francisco, which led me to this awesome school.  Hillbrook's 3rd grade music curriculum includes a new and pretty ground-breaking annual project: the "Hillbrook Sound Project."  Through this project, co-teachers Kristin Engineer and Jenny Jones (lower school music teacher and lower school science teacher respectively) choose a primary object to use as the theme.  Last year it was bicycles, and this year, wheelbarrows.  


Sound Projects from 2014, based on wooden chairs.
This year's Sound Project in the process of creation, using wheelbarrows and found objects.
The main goal for students is this: using a wheelbarrow as a base, design a musical instrument as a small group, with found implements, that can be used in a performance incorporating the sentiments of emotion, art and music (in so many words).  

Leading up to this project, Ms. Jones guides students through the discovery of natural sound and how sound is essentially created, exploring sound waves and how a pitch is created using wine glasses.  Simultaneously, students are learning to use blue jeans as an instrument, adding a performance element of self-expression and creating their own musical forms.  Through working with these concepts of sound source, interaction with materials, and the emotions involved in music-making, students are, in a sense, creating their own technologies.

Exploring the creation of pitch using wine glasses.

Check out these videos:
  • Wine Glasses and Pitch: "Wine glass pitch explorations in D major and D minor scales (this was in science but they had to create a composition with the pitches) It was magical and meditative!" --K. Engineer, LS Music Teacher
  • Blue Jean Jive: (Blue Jeans compositions, based on Andrew Huang and his "Music with 1000 Pairs of Jeans" video)
  • Music, Emotion and Art: "Vasilly Kandinsky art project (collaboration with the art teachers), creating abstract art to jazz of the 1920's in order to express their emotion...through color." --K. Engineer
Wow!  Even through a Montessori-hybrid-public-elementary-school education, my teachers would have never introduced this.  Self expression through found objects bolted together and painted, fusing art, science and music?  Mind blown!     
    
There is so much to be said for freedom of expression, let alone the ability to fuse together several implements and sounds, fostering the growth of the power of listening, tuning the ear inwards toward emotional response, playing as a group, feeling the feels that can only come from playing and striking something that is a non-traditional classroom instrument.  Something that could break and it would be ok.  Let educational freedom RING!
    
I'm writing this to show that there is nothing wrong with what has been done in the past, since educational methods have varied widely and transformed in many ways over time.  Isn't there a similar history with technology?  Knowledge and tools are built upon by others, creating stronger innovation, but that BASE never goes away.  Those that think independent schools are only for the wealthy, this is a PRIME example of a RICH music education whose cost is that of what is provided in the home, nothing more, nothing less.  
    
At an elementary age, let's allow students to embrace these found objects of rhythm, space and emotional equity, leaving behind the notions of delegated instruments and parts.  Although structure leads to healthy discipline, a good wheelbarrow can lead to a MOUND of possibilities. 

Sources:

Social Networking.

What is the alternative to social networking? It's like trying to find something other than bread with which to make a sandwich. Sometimes you just don't want the starch. You leave it for another day and have a salad instead. Nothing wrong with ignoring bread- until the lack of grains makes you feel incomplete. Social networking isn't life, but without it we feel depleted. And yet, when things are too defined/refined, we crave something wholesome. With a chaos of "friends" comes the need to filter, to redefine, to classify, to reach out and touch somebody. Don't think of these networking platforms as beasts of burden, but as a means to clarify what is already there. We are not the same without the friends that are there to support us. Be aware of who you are. The rest will "follow."