Michigan Music Conference 2011—Day One

I apologize for the somewhat disjointed nature of this post. I was scrambling to get as much information down as possible during today’s MMC sessions. When I went back to look at my notes, I realized that they were perfectly clear…for me. Others may not find that to be the case, so I provided links to the original material wherever possible.

Utilizing Twitter in Music Education

The morning started with a presentation by Theresa White on how to utilize twitter in music education. The overarching theme of her presentation was connectivity—with other teachers, students, parents, musicians, etc. Twitter is a great resource for teacher because it allows us to constantly expand our knowledge base by providing a continuous stream of resources and thoughts.

In the education world, there are a couple of live twitter chats that have can be very fertile ground. For general education discussion, check out #edchat every Tuesday night at 7PM Eastern. It’s a general education discussion that isn’t specific to any subject area. Hundreds of teachers from around the world participate every week to offer up their own insights and experiences. The music-specific version of #edchat is #musedchat, which takes place Monday nights at 8PM Eastern. Musedchat has grown tremendously in popularity since its beginnings.

Both #edchat and #musedchat cover a wide range of topics from week to week, and a transcript of the discussion is posted online in case you miss it for any reason.

Theresa also discussed several practical ways to use twitter. Pose a question looking for help on a topic, and you’re bound to get several responses over the course of a day. Use twitter as a way to remind students and parents about important dates, assignments, schedule changes and everything in between. And perhaps the most exciting way, use twitter to share ideas with colleagues. It’s on-demand professional development.

Sharing Ideas for Student Compositions

Session number two for the day was presented by Joe DeMarsh, and he discussed different ways to get students of all ability levels to experience the composition process. His school offers a music technology class at the middle school level, and the kids in that class frequently don’t have any prior musical skills, so Mr. DeMarsh has spent years building up a library of projects that still allow those students to successfully create music.

The first, and most interesting project from my point of view, project presented by Mr. DeMarsh dealt with pentatonic scales. Using MIDI workstations, eMacs and GarageBand, he has the students create a three-track composition project. Tracks one and two must contain melodic lines using only the black keys on the keyboard (hence the pentatonic scale), and the third track must contain some sort of percussion. Using this setup, even the most musically inexperienced student can create something that makes rhythmic and tonal sense.

The PDF file of Mr. DeMarsh’s presentation can be found here. It includes over a dozen different ideas for composition projects that can be done with both a general music class and an instrumental ensemble.

Keynote Address—Dr. Joseph M. Pisano

Last year’s keynote, presented by Dr. Jim Frankel, was very informative and entertaining. This year’s was no different. Dr. Pisano discussed reasons for integrating technology into the classroom, questions to consider before integrating technology, and the benefits from integrating this technology.

Dr. Pisano began by discussing several important skills that are necessary for educators to integrate into the classroom.

  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Information literacy
  • Media literacy
  • Information, communication and technology literacy

It’s worth noting that these skills are already being practiced on a daily basis in the classrooms of quality music educators all around the world. They are doing a good job of preparing their students for the reality of the 21st century—a high value is going to be placed on creativity, and right-directed thinking.

Methods and considerations for integrating technology into the classroom were also discussed. Dr. Pisano offered up one nugget of wisdom that should provide the rationale for using technology in our classrooms—How can we connect with our students if we are disconnected from their world?

  • Does the technology allow us to accomplish a task more easily and efficiently?
  • Does it allow me to teach more effectively?
  • Does it allow me to do something that I couldn’t otherwise do?
  • Does it make for more efficient and better learners?
  • Does it provide a more effective means of communication?
  • Is the technology something that is fundamental to the 21st century world?
  • Are we proficient with the technology?

All questions to consider before we implement technology in our classroom.

Dr. Pisano’s Keynote presentation can be found here.

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