Thoughts on December!

Happy First of December!

If you’re like me, you’re wondering how 2013 has gone by so fast. And if you’re a teacher like me, chances are you will be busy during the 20 some days in school and not really enjoying the holiday season. Music teachers, you know what I’m talking about :-).

I’m making an effort this year to ready myself for a month-long celebration. I want to be awake and be present hearing the sounds and laughters from the children around me (especially my own), cry with those who are suffering, and living the moments with friends new and old during this month.

I have much to be thankful for!

Here are 3 ways that will help me to celebrate during December:

 1. iTunes Radio – let it work for you.

If iTunes Radio is new to you, you should try it. Although I’m a Spotify user, I use the iTunes Radio in the car because Spotify radio is only for paid users (read about it here). I love the iTunes Radio because

  • It’s free streaming music
  • It plays very few commercials (and most of the commercials are music/music concert related)
  • I can use it in the car
  • And I can look at the history of what I listened to and find new favorites

You can start by listening to featured stations like Guest DJ – Kelly Clarkson who picked her Christmas favorites. It’s fun listening to celebrities’ playlists and commentaries. You can also start a station by clicking on the + sign (see image below).  I’ve loved using the iTunes Radio since October (iOS 7 update) and found many stations that helped me to find new Holiday favorites. Can you tell how I’ve been looking for special holiday songs by looking at my stations? LOL!

iTunes RadioiTunes Radio

The Radio also works like Pandora when you star a song you like – the station will play more songs like the one you starred. Enjoy the season with music!

 2. I read an interesting blog post titled “Kindness Elves: An Alternative to Elf on the Shelf Tradition” this morning. I love this post because the  blogger shares her pursuit of kindness and character-building activities to kids during the Christmas season. I  share her sentiments about Elf on the Shelf being a bit creepy and about the whole behavior modification (or manipulation) through using Santa or Elf-watching. I’m all for wonderment and making magical moments for children. What I don’t like is that many things we do in our culture enable the children to play  the entitlement games. So what struck a chord with me is that her variation  on the Elf on the Shelf is about  Kindness Elves “who love to help and notice kindness in others”. I emailed the post link to my colleagues at my school already and want to see the kindness in my students each day. So here we go! Let’s look for kindness and give help to those who need it!

3.  Give a thought to giving. Anna, the Kindness Elves blogger, said that we give presents because we love those people not because they deserve to get them. I agree. Instead of buying random gift cards, wouldn’t it be great to find a meaningful gift? I know how hard it is to find a great gift, but I found one today. So here I want to share it!

I sure didn’t have to take 5 to fall in love with this amazing product ;-). I learned about Koostik from Kelly Tenkely (@ktenkely) who wrote a post about her dad’s craftsmanship here. I love that Koostik products are handcrafted in America with natural resources, aesthetically uber cool, and are highly functional. I think smaller models will be good for cars without Blue Tooth. I’m hoping to order one in the next day or two for my husband. I just have to make a decision for which device…(I hope he doesn’t read this post).

December 2nd update

The good folks at Koostik and I’ve been tweeting back and forth about some specs so here they are:

The Original is 8.5″ x 3.5″ x 2″ and is approx. 1 pound.

The Pivot is 7.25″ x 3.25″ x 2″ and is less than one pound.

They are super friendly and great with questions and follow-ups. Shhhhh – I ordered mine – you should, too!

So how will you spend your December? If you find meaningful gifts (the ones you make or find), please share them with me in the comments. Also share some good music you may find on the iTunes Radio. And please join me in celebrating the goodness of life with children.

May your December heart be filled with goodness, kindness, and music!

Cheers!

~@Doremigirl

Create a Great Playlist for Your Students: MentorMobEdu

During the app share session at edcampHill, I shared MentorMob*.

*January 14 edit – MentorMob changed its educational site name to LessonPaths early 2014. All links from this post are still valid!
MentorMob is a great site to create a learning playlist for your students. You can paste any link (video, audio, article), upload images or PDFs, and create short quizzes to test what the students have learned. I think it’s ideal for any level of students. It’s not only great for teachers with IWB or SMART Board, but for teachers to create  playlists for learning-centers.
Why I like this app:
  1. All YouTube or Vimeo videos I selected for my students are in one place without the clutter of suggested videos or comments.
  2. Documents or slides for learning can be directly added to the playlist so that teaching and learning time is not wasted.
  3. Easy to view the entire playlist collection on the sidebar.
  4. Sharing the playlist with students and parents is easy.

Here is an image of  my playlist. Uploaded Doc that will be followed by a video of the music the students will listen to. There is a list of videos and docs on the left side. The circled tools are for editing, sharing and more (copy, delete, or change privacy).

Danse_Macabre_Listening_Guide_-_MentorMob-13

Create an Edu account. It’s easy!
  1. Go to mentormob.com and click on the EDU site (left bottom).
  2. Sign up using your email, Google, Facebook, or Persona accounts.
To create a playlist:
  1. Click on the “Create” button on the top menu.
  2. Fill in the title, description, type, category, & tags.
  3. Decide whether your playlist will be public (can be viewed by all) or unlisted (only people you share the link will be able to view it). I like to share with teachers so I leave mine in public.
  4. Hit the “Save and add content” bar.
  5. Click on the + sign to add links, documents, or articles.
  6. Add step info/ challenge questions.
  7. You can click on the pencil to edit any step on the playlist and modify any way you want it.
  8. You can embed your playlist on your blog/class website and have centers-like activities set in your classroom

One negative:

If your class blog is a WordPress.com like my blog, you will not be able to use its iframe code to embed the playlist. Fortunately, I use Edublogs and Google Sites so it’s not a problem when using MentorMob for school. The embedded playlist would look like this:

msfame.edublogs.org__p_1540_preview_true

So for my music classes, I no longer use the YouTube playlist I created for my students. MentorMob is great with customer service on Twitter (@MentorMobEdu). I like browsing through playlists created by other teachers in other subjects, too.

Check it out! You’ll be glad you did!

@Doremigirl

App Love: Spotify Radio

I love searching for songs and recordings on Spotify, everyday. Although I only signed up for its basic (free) membership, I’m able to enjoy millions of streaming tracks and organize my favorite tracks into playlists. When the Spotify mobile app came out, I downloaded it to my phone without hesitation.

But I deleted the app just as fast because the app only worked with paid membership :-).

Spotify sent out emails to users on Wednesday, June 20th with the heading: 

What it is: IT’S REALLY SIMPLE

Spotify Radio is a Pandora-like feature  that allows the listener to choose a genre (or style of a specific singer/band). You can build your radio station by giving Spotify’s music pick a ‘thumbs up/down’. This is screenshot of a Blues selection – Muddy Waters(!) – before I liked it:

Each ‘liked’ song is saved as a playlist file (i.e.‘Liked from Radio’) and easily accesible. If you don’t like the song Spotify has picked for you, it lets you skip up to 6 songs per hour. Pretty reasonable, I say.

This app was terrific to use when I was stuck in traffic yesterday. I listened to many more artists and recordings than I had in my mobile music collection. I enjoyed recordings of familiar artists like Sir Neville Marriner, John Mayer, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. And listening to Friendly Fires, Calla, Dropkick Murphys, and Rumer for the first time was just fun.

A few caveats: 

1. All kinds of ads can be heard a few times during your listening period. If you’re connected to your car audio through Bluetooth, or using the speaker on your device,  just know that your kids can hear these, too. Some ads are just for adults.

2. Since it’s not a regular FM/AM radio, there are explicit songs.

3. Spotify Mobile Radio feature is just for iOS right now. Android users, just wait a little longer.

Family Idea: Listen to music together 

Make music listening a part of your family’s summer. If you have younger kids, choose  a genre you want to listen with your kids and listen to new songs with them. If you have a preteen or a teenager, it might be fun to take turns picking new genre of music to listen together. As I mentioned earlier, there are many explicit songs in the database so pick more family friendly genres. For example, ‘Soul’ would have less explicit songs than ‘Hip-hop’ (although the topics that the songs from either of these genres might be equally adult-ish!). You, the adult, can decide what would make sense for your family.

As a test, I gave my phone to my 13-year old daughter. She naturally turned to ‘Alternative’. It was funny that the first song we listened to on this app was Ed Sheeran’s Lego House. This song happens to be one of her favorites so she was happy. She was also quick, though, to point out that Ed Sheeran should be classified under ‘Singer-Songwriter’, not ‘Alternative’. We listened to other genres, including the ‘Blues’ which she thought was cool. I loved spending our car ride talking about music.

I recommend it! Try Spotify Radio & experience more music! ~Yoon

If you like: Read my NPR Music App review.

App Love: NPR Music

I believe that apps were created to make our daily lives efficient and enjoyable. An app should make it easy for me to “do” a task. My criteria for keeping an app or actually buying one is simple: it has to be easy to navigate and use, the content on it has to make me think, and it has to be fun for me to use.

Last month, I saw a tweet from NPR about their new music app. Since I enjoy listening to many NPR podcasts, I thought I would give it a try.

As you open  this app, the front page features Top Stories with these

categories:

Rock/Pop/Folk, Jazz & Blues, Classical, World, Hip Hop/ R&B and Song of the Day.

One of the features I love is that I can read or listen to each story which had been featured on one of the 20 radio shows. I can scroll, touch~> listen, and touch~> stop whenever I want to move onto listening to something else. Most of the times, however, I find myself listening to the entire interview or concert performance because they are fascinating. There are genres and stories I would have never come across on my own! I frequently post these interesting finds for my Music PLN on Twitter using the app’s easy Twitter/Facebook integration. Finding new music and musicians is so easy and accessible.  Today’s Top Stories:

What does it take to find stories on the Canadian Soprano singing Wagner, or listen to School of Seven Bells’ song, or listen to a Raga Chamber Jazz or about women’s role in pop music culture now? Not much, except scrolling and choosing. Now I don’t have to wait for announcement-tweets telling where to look for such interviews or performances. I can just go to my phone and listen!

You can add segments you like onto your playlist to keep it for awhile. I like this feature a lot as I can save them for classroom use or to develop a project idea from a story or performance. Find even more music using live music stream from 75 NPR stations or purchase featured music through your iTunes.

All in all, I would recommend this app to anyone who appreciates music. Busy music teachers, especially, can search here for interesting articles, performances/concerts, or for classroom ideas. No more browsing for me: now I use this music smart music aggregator! It has become one of my favorite apps!

Note: This free app is available only for iPodTouch/ iPhone. I am sure NPR is working on making this great app for other smartphones!

June 22, 2012 Update

I still love this app on my phone AND on the iPad. Since my first post, NPR has released the app for other mobile devices. Enjoy!