An Interview with the New York Times Learning Network

Christmas 2012

Happy December!

It has been way too long since my last post. I apologize for being MIA here. I have been mulling over ideas, but mostly very busy  learning and teaching. The 2012 – 2013 school year has been fabulously rolling along with lots of great progress from my students.

Around Thanksgiving, I was contacted by the New York Times Learning Network editor, @kschulten, for an interview. I am delighted and honored to have been featured in an article published on November 29, 2012 about a rap project I did with my students last year. If you’re so kind, go here and read it!  I was very happy that NYT Learning Network allowed two of my students’ work to be included! I am very proud to share their work there 🙂

I am very thankful for many ways I am learning and sharing what I learn with my students.

Here’s to a great holiday season!

~Yoon

Student Project: Year in Review

I have been wanting to write about this project for some time now. Now that I have the summer to reflect last year and plan for the fall, I wanted to share a fun project and highlight my students. 

One of the perks of being a “connected” teacher on Twitter is that I have an easy access to numerous resources. I connected with Katherine Schulten (@Kschulten), the editor of The New York Times Learning Network, on Twitter and had a chance to meet her in person at ISTE ’11. She is a former English teacher who is passionate about education. I enjoy learning from her and edu related people on Twitter. Some of these teachers have collaborated with me and others have been a source of learning inspiration (read about two examples from my previous posts: Connecting with students in Australia & Music in Me Project).

Right after the Winter break, I read a tweet from @Kschulten about a rap contest for students. The NYT Learning Network partnered with Flocabulary, an online learning site that teaches just about any subject through songs and raps. This project intrigued me because it combined music, tech and research. What important world events would my students remember and care enough to mention?

On the day I read through the contest rules, I realized that the contest closed the following day. I was disappointed that my students would not have an opportunity to submit their work. But I decided to go ahead and tailor the project for my students anyway 🙂

Project: Year in Review

  • PREP – The students and I watched Flocabulary’s The Year in Rap:  2010 and discussed its content and style. The students compared and contrasted the this rap to popular raps they listened to (Kayne West, b.o.b., Nikki Minaj etc.). Discussion topics  included through-composed vs. strophic forms, the rap length, accompaniment, solo vs. BGVs, and what role words and music have in a rap. I segued way into the project by asking, “What do you remember about 2011?”
  • PROJECT

Research: We went over this Google Doc which contains all of the information about the project. I let the kids know that they can decide to work in a group or individually. Most worked in a group, but a few chose to work alone. I worked on this doc with the frame work of NYT Learning Network contest rules, but adjusted to what I thought might work best to my students. I asked several Twitter social studies teachers on #sschat what sites are good for current events and listed a couple links they can go on. My reason: instead of citing just one source for all major news, I wanted to guide the students to seek out multiple primary sources. I allowed 4 class times (about 4 hours) for this project to be completed. Many of the students chose to come during study hall to get their work just right!

Music & Audio Recording: The NYT Learning Network contest provided music tracks from the fabulous folks at  Flocabulary, but since I teach music, I added this important music component to the project. My students have been using GarageBand (Apple app) for some time so I didn’t have to prepare them much for using loops. Unlike previous recording projects, I did not have the students use a separate recording mic. All audio recording and mixing were done from GarageBand.

So take a listen!

MY TAKE AWAY

  1.  FASCINATING TO SEE THE YEAR’S HISTORY THROUGH 12 AND 13-YEAR-OLDS. There were a wide range of topics and highlights. I loved that I discovered that my students are developing global citizens who, for the most part, care about world events. Class and 1:1 research conversations proved to be invaluable. Because students were documenting their work on Google Docs, I was able to follow their work and comment real-time.
  2. EXCITING TO SEE THE STUDENTS BEING EXCITED TO CREATE THEIR OWN MUSIC TRACKS. It was very interesting to watch students work. Partner groups needed to collaborate in class while listening to music (a headphone splitter is our friend). And because they had their Google Docs open, some chose to chat back and forth this way. Student group discussions on music style, lyrics, rhyming scheme, and instrumental choices were happening at a rapid pace. More than anything, they were listening. #win
  3. IMPORTANT STEP: SEEING THE STUDENTS IN HIS/HER LEARNING PROCESS. Some students were great researchers. Some were fabulous at writing the lyrics and some were just excellent at creating the music. The same students, while being so successful at these areas, struggled to use class time, or struggled with another part of learning. Partners were good  (since they chose their own) in this case. They motivated each other. It was important for me to recognize each student’s strengths and struggling areas and work through challenges. I have to say that guiding each group/student was a time consuming task, but to their credit, they worked hard! So…
  4. CELEBRATE & GIVE FEEDBACKS. It’s exhilarating when students call you like the world’s ending because they want you to listen to the short segment they have been working on (remember, I have {dramatic} Middle School students?). Run to them. Be excited for their successes, however short or minor. Also give them honest opinions and guide them to think about things they may have missed. The NYT Learning Network provided a rubric on their site, but I decided to give my own feedback as well as class feedbacks on each project. 

At the end of the school year, this project was mentioned many by my students as one of the memorable learning moments! If you decide to try, let me know how it went.

We live in a well-connected and resourceful time. Take some time to connect with teachers around the globe. You’ll be surprised how many generous teachers/organizations there are. Take time to learn and share! 

Last one…

This project has been shared via Skype with Samuel Wright (Wrightstufmusic) and for his Music Technology Presentation in March. He  is a music teacher and tech guru from Australia with whom I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. Samuel recently blogged about his presentation and mentions my students here. W00t!

Happy Summer!

~Yoon

 

September ’11 Music Education Blog Carnival

Happy New School Year! 

It is with great pleasure to {finally} publish the September edition of Music Education Blog Carnival here. I want to thank many teachers who submitted great posts. Their thoughts, recommendations, and philosophies, I believe, stretch our own thinking. For those of you who are  beginning a new school year, I want to bid you a great year of deep learning. May the learning in these months ahead transform us so that we can be better musicians and teachers. [Personally, I want to work on listening to my students with understanding and emphathy (Kosta and Kallick). I hope to blog about it some time this year…]

Enjoy reading this edition of Music Ed Blog Carnival! I encourage you to comment on the posts you read. And if you would like to host Music Ed Blog Carnival, contact Dr. Joe Pisano at @pisanojm or visit his site, http://mustech.net/.

{Forgive me if I made mistakes on your posts! There were just too many submissions!

Cheers! ~ ysl 😀

Music Education

Music Advocacy

Music Listening & Performance Review

Music Software/Hardware

Music Technology

Music Tips/ Learning Reflection

Hosting Music Education Blog Carnival: September Edition


To Music Teachers, Performers, Students, Parents, Music Specialists:

I am excited to host the Music Education Blog Carnival for September, 2011! The Blog Carnival was created and is maintained by Dr. Joseph Pisano of MusTech.net in order to promote the great works being done by Music Education Bloggers across the Internet. During the school year, many music educators have the privilege of hosting monthly issue. So if you are a music teacher, student, musician, performer, or an ardent music lover and you love blogging, please share a post regarding a music-related post for the September issue. Even if you don’t get to submit an article, check back in September to read variety of articles on the Blog Carnival! You probably don’t need this, but just in case you are wondering about some music-related topics, allow me to ask some questions to get you thinking and writing {but not limited to}…

Teachers, what have you been learning this summer? What are some new things you want to create with your students?

Students, what are some obstacles you want to work on this school year?

Performers & Conductors, what separates a great performance from a good performance? 

Composers, what are some ways teachers can implement music composition into their classroom? 

Parents, what concerns do you have in your child’s music education?

Music Tech Gurus, what apps or gears are on your Music Ed “MUST” list?

I hope many of you will consider sharing your thoughts and experiences! Think. Write. And go here to submit. I can’t wait to read yours. If you have any questions, please tweet me or leave me a comment below. 🙂

Please submit your article (short & sweet or long & thought-provoking) by August 29, 2011. Thank you!

~Yoon

Hi! I’m an ISTE Newbie.

I was attending the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference for the first time past week. I had no idea how big this conference was before my arrival. To tell you the truth, with the exception of my presentation, I was not at all prepared for its enormous everything. With 12K+ attendees and exhibitors the Pennsylvania Convention Center was one busy hotspot (this is an unofficial number. I’ve also read other attendees mention 18K…)!

With many conferences under my belt, I thought this conference would be just like the others. The truth is that I felt quite out of place as I wondered around the crowds and (what felt like) endless conference space. But all was not lost!

I is for Interaction:  F2F Conversations

 I am connected to a lot of educators online and have been “conversing” with many of them over the last year and a half. But meeting these people in person is one of the greatest moments I will experience. I have had the pleasure of seeing and hugging many of my friends for the first time. It was incredible to match their faces with their voices. What was more fascinating was that many of our edu conversations continued on. I enjoyed every conversation whether it took place in the conference lounges/cafes, over dinner, or right after some sessions. Passionate learning and thinking together in person beats any virtual space. I am also thankful to have met new teachers with whom I can learn from.  

S is for Sharing: Arts are Alive in the Mix

ISTE panel
E.Peterson, Y.S.Lim, M.Baldwin, & K. Pace @ISTE11

Presenting at ISTE was something quite special. I was honored to present with  Elizabeth Peterson, Michelle Baldwin, and Kyle Pace for the Music and Tech: Harmony in the Making session. Although I was a presenter, I learned much more. I really appreciated how my co-presenters shared about how they help their students to make deeper connection to learning through music and tech.

I am so glad for those teachers who were hesitant at first, but decided to to come to our session. My friend Doug Peterson (@dougpete) came to our session and wrote this blog post. I was quite nervous to have friends like Doug in the crowd, but also was empowered by their support. So thank you, Doug, friends, and all those who attended our session! It was especially great to meet @musictechie, @dougbutchy, @rdammers, and @DoeMiSo from my MPLN (Music PLN).

I was reminded again that many teachers are looking to the “arts experts” for creative ways to teach. I hope I can continue to do my part in sharing ideas and advocating for the arts education. I was thankful to see many arts offerings at ISTE and feel tremendous honor to have had the experience. I hope to encourage and partner with many arts teachers to consider presenting in the future. Kudos to all educators!

T is for Telic: Taking Notes

There are several things I want to remember if I ever get another chance to attend ISTE.

  1. Read the program & add handful interesting sessions at least to the ISTE app. I did not look carefully or plan well. I, unfortunately, did not get over the enormity of the conference. It was hard for me to know what to pick on the spot. Next time, I will at least have a list of sessions I want to check out.
  2. Know the layout of the venue. I was clueless where things were. I would not have wasted a lot of time if I knew at least where some things were. I was thankful for the many volunteers who were everywhere who helped me. Next time, I will look at the map!
  3. Enter the exhibition with a goal. I had some kind of allergic reaction (not really, but figuratively) when I entered the exhibition hall that made me come right out. It was just so big and I didn’t know where things were. Next time, I will seek out specific companies to check out innovative ideas.
  4. Set aside time for poster sessions and special workshops. Again, there were so many that I’ve missed because I was so tired! 
  5. Talk to more people. I may not get another chance to talk to a presenter or someone from the PLN ever again. I need to make time for more f2f and make effort to talk to more people. They just might be as lost as me!

E is for Excogitate: Now Think Out {Loud}

So what am I going to do now that I have attended, ISTE? I am going to remember what great experience it has been to connect and learn. You, who are in my PLN, will be there to excogitate (to think out; to find out or discover by thinking; to devise) with me. It comes back to building relationships and conversations, doesn’t it?

I’m thankful for you!

~Yoon

MiM Project: A Review

The thought of summer seems so long ago now that the school is in full swing.
I stop now to think back to the glorious days of summer.

This past summer was full of learning. I read books, blogs and checked out all of the wonderful sites my PLN had shared every day. Each day was packed with great discoveries.

So I started making a list of things I wanted to try this fall.

First project I wanted to start this year with my 8th graders came from @JaworskiMusic (Nick Jaworski) whom I’ve recently gotten to know. He has a fabulous blog about music education and teaching. One particular post, Music as Identity, caught my attention. Intentionally, I didn’t listen to a student project Nicholas had posted, but wanted to adapt this project for my students*. Thanks, Nick, for a great idea! This is how I remixed your lesson (now I can listen to your student’s project). * Nick’s students are High School students and mine are in Middle School.

Neon music sign
Image via Wikipedia

Music in Me Project

Make a 2-3 minute audio collage about the music you like and what you think it says about you.

This was a perfect way for me to learn several things about my students in the beginning of the year:

  • What role does music play in students’ lives?
  • What kind of music affects them or have meaning?
  • How will they express their thoughts in narrative writing?
  • How long were they going to take to edit music and audio recording in GarageBand/Audacity?

So with excitement, I explained the project to my students (given to them as well in the project handout). There were a lot of legit questions from them:

  1. Could we use songs with explicit words? Answer: Yes, as this was a project about them. I wanted them to own their project and create something they were going to feel good about. Each student were to bring their 4-5 selections of MP3s to upload into school iMacs. We also planned to get rid of explicit songs so that younger students wouldn’t access them.
  2. Do we have to start writing on Google Docs? – Answer: No. But eventually, what you write should be shared with me so that I can give some feedback or assess their progress and for easy access.
  3. Wait, what is an audio collage?Answer: Selections of music pieced together, edited by the students. The narration will either introduce the songs or be playing while the music is playing.
  4. I don’t know how to edit songs. – Answer: You will! Let’s get working so that you will learn.

So for next three weeks, students (we meet twice in 6-day rotation):

  • chose 4-5 songs they love and reflect who they are.
  • created their narratives on Google Docs. This made it so easy for me to instantaneously check their work and make comments and communicate with them.
  • learned to export MP3 files from their personal collections and import them onto school iTunes.
  • learned to use GarageBand to create and edit the project: trimming mp3s, fading in and out, controlling volume, balancing overall volume.
  • recorded their narrative and edit it to lay it over the edited music tracks. I use H2 Zoom recorder in my classroom. It’s the first generation of the Zoom recorders, but I love using it!

What I’m Learning: The Teacher’s View

Students were free to work on any part of the project during the class times so students needed to manage time well. When they started, it was a usual start: the motivated students started brainstorming, writing down ideas feverishly.  And then there was a group of students who sat around, doing very little. The momentum of this project was definitely set by the “busy” guys.

I was helping students recording their narratives and occasionally reminding students to work. Some students ended up not having much done (they wrote a couple of sentences on GoogleDocs) by the end of the first class. Why were they not being creative? Did they have too much freedom to explore and learn?

So much for that thought.

By the second and third class, I began to see something interesting. One by one, those not-much-producing students, began to show me what they were working on. After each class, these students went home and worked on their projects at home on their laptops. [N.B. Our school allows students to bring their own from home for school use.]  Because they didn’t use the class time, these students worked at home. They edited their narrative and recorded it on their own. Exploration went beyond classroom walls and über cool and creative projects ended up coming from these students.

Another interesting discovery was in students’ reflections. I found so much maturity in their voice in expressing the “whys”. Here are some examples of my students’ reflections:

Music reflects a lot about me because it’s what makes my personality. I listen to music whenever I’m on my computer. I listen to music when I am doing homework because it blocks out all other noises and it helps me to concentrate.
I can’t say music defines me, but I can say I love to listen to music.  It helps me concentrate when I do my homework.
Music means a lot to me because my life would be a lot less happier and nicer without it. I love the feeling you get when your favorite song just came on the radio and that rush of needing to belt out the words along with it! Music helps me gain more energy in the morning- it gets me excited for the day. Music makes the world have more pizazz, and is extremely entertaining.
Music is important to me in many ways. It brings me up when I’m down. It pumps me up and makes me feel like I can do anything.    Music is a must have.

It didn’t matter if the student was a girl or boy. For 98% of my students music mattered more than I had expected [one students did not like to listen to music or owned an iPod. We tweaked the project to something he can relate to. I’ll be honest – we struggled a long time to find this tweaked version, but in the end, the student did a fabulous job talking about the role of music]. I discovered how deeply my students were connected to music. I especially loved the way they expressed their identity tied to stories of family and friends. I was also surprised to hear playlists that consist extreme genres from classical to punk rock.

Technically speaking, students spent a lot of time editing and learning to use either GarageBand or Audacity. They learned a lot by making mistakes, taking chances, and asking questions. I really liked how many students helped other students when a question was being asked. Needless to say, our two rooms were never quiet (except for recording times).

Listen to some tracks from my students:

Moving Forward  ~>  ~>  ~>  ~>  ~>

Students’ finished mp3s were loaded up to iTunes. Using SoundCloud, I got an embeddable player so that I can embed it onto the class Google Sites page. Students listened to each other’s collage and gave constructive feedback. Since they all took a long time make these projects, I also wanted to give them a personalized feedback and assessment. I filled out this form and gave each of my students a feed back. I wrote everything in detail except the final grade and asked each student what they learned from this project. Their responses included how excited they were to learn to use GarageBand to create their project. A few were annoyed at how hard they had to work using the application. Some were so surprised to hear what different musical tastes everyone had. A handful of students recommended that I should start next year’s 8th grade year with this project because they had so much fun.

I learned  so much about my students. I also learned that I need to encourage them to be creative by creating a creative space and time. I’m learning to be patient!

My students ARE passionate about music and life. Now what?

Here are some questions I’m thinking of answering in a future post:

What am I going to do with this discovery now that I know what huge role music has in their life? How can I channel this passion to help them to learn more about music and guitar (all students learn how to play)? What other ways can I connect with them and learn about what I need to teach them?

Stay tuned!

What? A Virtual Choir?

There is strength in number, especially in a choir.

Choral singing, for me, is one of life’s vitamins. When people come together and sing, they are:

  1. making music through the medium that is most innate to them,
  2. expressing emotions, nuances and phrases perhaps we cannot possibly express even with the most descriptive words,
  3. choosing to be with others to enjoy working on making something beautiful.

When I learned about Eric Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque project, I was very happy. As a composer and conductor, Whitacre brought 185 people together.

So what’s the big deal?

The 185 people auditioned through YoutTube videos (much like last year’s YouTube Orchestra).  185 singers and 235 tracks after, the Virtual Choir was born. It’s a compliation of 185 individuals’ videos.  These singers have never sung in a rehearsal together or worked with Whitacre in person for this project.

Have a listen:

I think it’s remarkable the way Whitacre planned for this project (you can read about it here) so that the end result would be more or less realistic. As I was watching one of the videos Whitacre made for the singers, I was struck by a couple of things that really attributed to why I think this virtual choir worked:

  • First ~ Whitacre prepared the choir well. As a choral conductor, score reading or giving directions, is something that we all have to communicate to our singers. I noticed that Whitacre was very clear with his directions with score reading AND recording directions. This reminded me that short and clear directions make everyone’s life a bit more simple 🙂
  • Second ~ Everyone who were chosen to participate, prepared their best. Although the audition medium was a video and through a non-traditional method, all the singers clearly learned the music very well. I enjoyed watching small YouTube screens of people’s expressions. There’s so much we can express through singing! Beautiful!
  • Third ~ What a creative concept! Compiling real people’s sounds (in essence, sampling their singing) into parts are what sound engineers do best. Who would have thought it to put together a choir together?

Here are some of my students who shared their thoughts in their blogs after hearing this virtual choir:

I thought that it was very cool that Eric Whitacre had the idea to bring all those singers together in a unique way.  It amazes me that they were able to perform that song without even coming together to rehearse.  I would think that everyone would have to come together at one point to practice.  I also think that the way all the videos were put together made a good visual. Overall unique video….

I thought that it was a very interesting thing to listen to. I think it is sad that the people never got to meet each other and compare how they thought the virtual choir went. It was something new, and i thought that was interesting. it might be fun to be involved in something like that. I think it would be a great experience.

I thought the virtual choir was a big advancement in bringing people who are alike together through the internet. I felt like the music really sounded good and i can see why Eric Whitacre is a very renowned composer even in modern times. I can say that the music really moved me because so many people singing in this kind of way is very profound in that it can bring everyone together through music.

Aren’t they interesting thoughts from 8th graders? Although there are people like Chloe Veltman of the Arts Journal who wrote a review titled, “Lies Like Truth” (you can guess what her review is about by the title edit: I really enjoyed reading Ms. Veltman’s post; we just disagree on the possibility of real musicality that can be produced this way), but I think I took away more things I learned from Eric Whitacre and the choir. I loved the creative ways to bring people together to make beautiful music.

I hope I can participate in his next project.

So what did you think? I would love to hear from you!