What am I Reading?

What am I Reading_ (1)It should come as no surprise; I am someone who loves to read. Even as a kid I would often get in trouble for reading well past bed-time. Now I usually have more than one book in progress at a time, especially since I also discovered the world of audiobooks! I try to read a mix of “fun” books and “teacher” books, and this year I read some great teacher books. While none of them were directly related to teaching music, I still found a lot of value in everything I learned.

If you are looking for something to read this summer that will stretch your thinking, here are a few of my favorites from this year:

The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Couros

ChangeThe Innovator’s Mindset is the perfect starting point for why we should look beyond the “traditional” means of education to find what will truly benefit learners. George Couros talks about the need to move past student compliance, and how being innovative teachers can help us encourage innovative students.

Why is this important for music teachers? If we want our students to be musical and creative, we may need to take a step back and try something different. This book will encourage you to do just that.

Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Learning by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani

empowerIn Empower, John Spencer and A.J. Juliani discuss the importance of empowering students to own their learning experiences. When students are empowered, the learning is more meaningful and long-lasting.

Why is this important for music teachers?  Encouraging students to become independent musicians is something we should all strive for.  Not only does this help students now, but also in the future as they (hopefully) become life-long musicians and life-long learners.

Social LEADia: Moving Student from Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership by Jennifer Casa-Todd

social leadiaThe book, Social LEADia, defines the term “digital leadership” and explains why it is an essential trait for students to have. Jennifer Casa-Todd gives examples of what digital leadership can look like in schools, and suggestions on how to incorporate it into your situations.

Why is this important for music teachers? Many reasons! The music room can be one of the most visible (and audible?) places in a school building. We teach our students about the importance of sharing our music. A great way to do both is through social media. This book gives many ideas for how to include students in this process and why it is valuable to do so.

Learner Centered Innovation by Katie Martin

Learner Centered InnovationLearner Centered Innovation is what it sounds like: how to change your classroom to put learners at the center. Katie Martin discusses what we need to do for students and also what we need to do for ourselves as teachers to make this happen. I hope to re-read this book over the summer.

Why is this important for music teachers? The world is changing, and we need to change along with it! This book covers relationships, feedback, classroom culture, learning how to learn – things that music teachers live on a daily basis. The question Katie makes you ask is, are we doing these things in ways that best benefit the students? If not, how can we change?

What’s next?

I have quite a stack of books ready to go for summer. Here are a couple I am especially excited about:

  • Inquiry Mindset, by Trevor Mackenzie & Rebecca Bathurst-Hunt – I read Trevor’s first book, Dive into Inquiry, and loved it. Inquiry Mindset is supposed to be similar, how to infuse curiosity and inquiry into your classroom, but geared towards elementary students.
  • Teach Like a Pirate, by Dave Burgess – I’m excited to read my first of the pirate books! This one is about increasing student engagement and teacher creativity.
  • Maestro: A Surprising Story about Leading by Listening, by Roger Nierenberg – Finally, a music book! This book is actually about leadership as it investigates the relationship between an orchestra and its conductor.

What about you? Have you read any of these books? I would love to know what you thought! What other “must reads” are out there to add to the (always growing!) list for this summer? Please share. The only thing better than reading a book is reading a book with friends!


Note: Links to these books are Amazon affiliate links. If you click on these links and buy, I will receive a small commission at no expense to you. The price for the books is the same whether you use my link or not. Think of it as a way to support Off the Beaten Path financially without spending extra cash. Thanks for your support!


Enjoy what you have just read? Please consider following my blog! You will get an email notification when new posts are published. Email addresses will not be shared or distributed.


Global Learning

One of my goals this year is to introduce more global learning opportunities. I feel like I am beginning to embrace this concept personally with my PLN through Twitter and Facebook, but I need to also help my students discover how they can be global learners. When I stumbled upon the website for a Global Collaboration Day, it seemed like the perfect way to introduce the concept. I set up a project through Flipgrid, asking music teachers to share videos of their students performing a song. My hope was that we could truly get schools all over the globe to participate. While that didn’t happen, there were 35 videos submitted! Four were from my school 🙂 But there were also videos from across the US, Mexico, and Brazil. I consider it a success! According to Flipgrid there were over 1,800 video views and 39 hours of engagement. I was hoping there would be more interaction between the various schools, so I may try to add some comments myself and see if that encourages conversation.

4 (1)

The best part of this for me was seeing how my students reacted. When they first realized it was possible that people all over the world could hear them play, something definitely changed – they sat a little taller that rep 🙂  This week we went back to the Flipgrid to watch our video. The students loved seeing that 40 other groups had watched them! They were very quick to recognize the number of “likes” they had received as well. We could have spent all class period watching videos, but I left it at 3 for the day. More next week for sure. Another “teacher-win”occurred later in the day when I was talking to a student and her mother after the school. The student couldn’t wait to tell her mom about the videos, because she thought it was such a neat experience.

fullsizeoutput_2a4        Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 8.24.41 PM

This was my first time really using Flipgrid as a teacher (aside from an experiment for a family reunion which was a hit!) It was easy to set up, but I still haven’t decided if the videos should have required moderation. Some videos had less teacher-involvement then others and got a bit silly, but for the purpose of the project – getting students to share their music – it still worked.

I’m excited to say, while this may have been my first project on a global level, it definitely will not be my last! I have a couple other projects in mind for the year where we will reach out to professional musicians for various topics that I’m hoping will be equally as successful. Stay tuned!


A Place for Inquiry in the Arts

This post was originally published on the EdTechTeam blog:  

Is there a place for inquiry in the arts?

If you ask arts teachers if there is a place for inquiry in their classroom, most would say yes. But I think if you asked them to describe inquiry in their classrooms, many would have a hard time doing it. I was one of those teachers! But I’m excited to say, in this coming school year it WILL have a place.

I have struggled for a while, wondering if the current, “tried and true,” model of teaching instrumental music is still the best way. The teacher stands in front of the room, tells the students how to play the music, and the students play accordingly. When mistakes arise, the teacher tells the students how to correct it. Teachers learn to correct mistakes, students learn to follow directions. Sound familiar? But is this really the best way? Why are the teachers making all of the musical decisions? When do the students get to utilize their own creativity? What about critical analysis and reflection? The students should be able to actively participate in the entire process. In music, this is relevant in both solo (individual) and ensemble (group) situations. In an ensemble students will initially need guidance in how to work together effectively, for example to blend and balance their playing, but over time can’t the students make some of these decisions?


Trevor Mackenzie has a great graphic in his book, Dive into Inquirydescribing the various types  of student inquiry. This is what needs to happen in our arts classrooms too. We all start in the pool together, with the teacher directing the students. Gradually the focus shifts, the teacher exits the pool, and students begin making their own choices. Isn’t this what we want for our students? To make their own decisions? To BE musical and BE artistic?

“Gradually begin to flip control of learning in the room from the teacher to the learner.”

~Trevor Mackenzie

Where does inquiry fit in?

What I’m suggesting is that we continue teaching the skills and techniques necessary for success, but leave room for inquiry too. Leave space for students to follow their own passions, explore their own interests, and answer their own questions. In my classroom next school year there will be a lot of changes. Some will work, some will fail, and I can’t wait! The students will be following a personalized learning path. The key skills for the year will be mapped out but students will be encouraged to find their own way to demonstrate mastery. Yes, we will still work together on music for various performances, so students have the opportunity to showcase their personal mastery of their instrument and the opportunity to blend in an ensemble, but aside from that students will have a choice in what music to learn and how to learn it. They will be given a voice and a choice.

I’m also excited to later in the year delve into the world of Project Based Learning (PBL). Students will need to find a way to use their music to answer the driving question, “How can you have a positive impact on your community using your skills as a musician?” They will be able to choose an audience that is important to them, select what music to play, prepare that music, and carry out the project. For young students, this fits somewhere between Controlled Inquiry and Guided Inquiry, since I will be there to assist in the process. For older students, this question could easily be modified for a Free Inquiry project – though I wouldn’t recommend jumping right to it! This project is a double-win in the world of inquiry; not only are students encouraged to design their own project, but it is truly an authentic audience. Rushton Hurley said it best, “If students are sharing their work with the world, they want it to be good. If they’re just sharing it with you, they want it good enough.”

So this is it. My statement to the world that this upcoming school year will be different. There will be a place for inquiry. There will be a place for student voice and choice. And there will be great music.