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The Empowered Music Student is Connected

Gone are the days of being isolated in the far corner of the school! With technology, music teachers have found a variety of ways to connect with other music teachers around the country and the world. We have discovered the value of a PLN, using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and everything in between. With it now being so easy, there is no excuse to not reach beyond the four walls of your classroom and connect students with other students, classes, schools, professionals, community members, and more. Just as empowered music teachers are connected, empowered music students are connected too!  

I genuinely believe it is our job as educators to not only engage our students in music making but also to empower them in the process. We can do that by helping our students become connected musicians. When students connect with other students or musicians, they take ownership of the project, it becomes more meaningful, and the students move beyond being only engaged in music making. That is our ultimate goal – to help develop music students who are empowered. (If you haven’t read this post about Empowered Music Students that I wrote with blogger buddy Kathryn Finch, read that before you continue!)  

No longer does the teacher have to be the only expert. Think about a lesson you teach – how could that be enhanced by inviting an expert into your classroom? With technology like Skype and Google Hangouts, this is easier to do than ever. Last spring my 5th-grade band connected with band composer Scott Watson via Skype. We were preparing his piece, Super Hero, for our spring concert. Two weeks before the concert we arranged to have Dr. Watson “join” our rehearsal. We spent half of the rehearsal working on the piece of music, and the other half in discussion with Dr. Watson. The students prepared questions to ask and enjoyed learning more about his process for composing Super Hero and music composition in general. Having Dr. Watson join our rehearsal made things even more real for the students, and it gave them a new appreciation for the piece of music. On my end, aside from scheduling the time with Dr. Watson, the only thing I needed to do was set up a microphone (I used a Yeti) connected to my computer, which I plugged into my SmartBoard. Dr. Watson was a huge help in providing a diagram of the best way to do this. I highly recommend this experience if you can arrange something similar for your students. 

Connecting students to other students can be equally as powerful. Several times this year and last I connected students through Flipgrid. Students contribute videos to a shared grid, learning from and being motivated by each other. The “Holiday Music” grid was probably the most successful. Students from seve schools around the country contributed videos to this grid, playing band and orchestra instruments, singing, playing the piano, and one even played Jingle Bells on the zither! There were 492 videos submitted to this grid! Students were motivated by hearing the various songs played, often pushing themselves to learn more difficult music. The students were also very supportive of each other, frequently leaving encouraging responses. Flipgrid is an easy way to connect students to other students. (Check out this post on ideas for using Flipgrid in the Instrumental Music classroom.) 

Another highly successful project was also with Kathryn Finch, where her students created rhythm exercises for my students using Google Slides. Her students loved the idea of creating FOR someone, and my students loved having something designed especially for them! You can read more about that project in this post about Google Slides in Music

In reality, you don’t have to do anything elaborate. Find something that allows your students to form a connection outside of the classroom. Is there a composer or expert you could reach out to on social media? Someone who might do a Skype session with your class? Is there another classroom or group with which you could share rehearsal recordings? Could students create how-to videos for a younger class, teaching anything from instrument technique to simple songs? Consider starting with your own PLN; even having another teacher friend connect with your class can be powerful. 

Just like any new things in your classroom, start small. Find one thing you can try with an ensemble or class and go from there. You may surprise yourself with the results! 

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Further Reading:                                                                                                   

The Qualities of an Empowered Music Student                                           

Learn LAP – With a Musical Twist 

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