A few months ago (and more recently), we asked for your help: we wanted real-life teachers to share what was happening in their classrooms technology-wise. And share you did! We heard from so many of you, and we’re going to be sharing your classrooms with our fabulous readers starting…today! I don’t know about you guys, but I find it so insightful to see what other folks are out there doing. Sometimes they mention a tool they use or an application for a particular device that I hadn’t thought of, and I wish I had been able to think of that particular thing so much earlier! This is why collaboration is so awesome, and important.
Today, we’re hearing from Gabriel Fernandez, who teaches in El Paso, Texas. Thanks for sharing your classroom, Gabriel!
And don’t forget, if you’d like to share your classroom with us, please do! We’d love to hear from you!
6-12, Music (Band / Percussion), Middle School / High School, Public School
In the 21st century, edtech has progressed in ways that we thought unimaginable at the turn of the century. The once revolutionary concept to unlock a smart phone by the flick of a finger, has now been dwarfed by a perpetual growth in social media and social networking. In my classroom, however, technology is still a developing involvement that has come a long way and yet, still has many strides to make.
Our students use digital tuners that attach to instruments using a contact microphone that closely resembles a clothesline clip that easily clamps on the the bell of the instrument. Within milliseconds of creating a sound on the instrument, the contact microphone picks up the frequency of the sound and allows the digital tuner to show the student exactly how many cents high or low they may be. Though the development of ear training remains a fundamental dogma that cannot be denied in any musical classroom, the incorporation of these contact microphones and tuners have been an enormous help for the developing student.
During rehearsals, both myself and my head band directors utilize a multi-function keyboard that can produce perfectly in tune tones for many instruments as well as serve as a metronome to keep a constant and steady pulse during rehearsals. When working with individual sections of instruments that are transposing instruments (the note that they see and play on the page is not the actual note that sounds out of their instrument) we are able to quickly and efficiently use the keyboard to identify where students are playing inaccurate passages. We use the keyboard frequently during our warmup routine and it has proven to be an enormous resource for us.
Finally, like many teachers must do everyday, attendance has always been a challenge to collect accurately and on time (within the first 15 minutes of the class). As a band director, at the beginning of class I am bombarded with students having issues opening their lockers, issues with instruments not functioning correctly, and a host of other issues. Sometimes taking attendance is the last thing on my mind because it requires me to step away from my classroom and go into the office to take attendance. Through the use of a smart phone / tablet, I have been able to log on to my Tyler SIS account and take attendance much more easily and efficiently.
Lastly, the ability to showcase performances for students using speakers and projectors has been a huge advantage. In the developmental years for students, it is crucial that they understand and experience a finished product. We try to show our students performances of groups from many areas of music and it has proven to be both an inspiration and a resource for students. One day, they can be sitting in the seats of Boston Symphony Hall and the next day they can be listening to recordings of other middle schools and high school from across the country, all through the efficient use of technology.
Technology has been a huge help in my classroom and though I feel that we music educators have not exactly found the most efficient way to incorporate technology fully in our classrooms, I am open to the possibility that technology could very well help us be more efficient in our efforts. Minor technical issues with tools that we use can sometimes cause a delay in instruction time, but these issues can always be easily avoided by preparing and making sure that things are in full working order before beginning class.
-Harmony director (electronic director)
-Speakers / projector
It would be ideal for all of my students to have electronic tuners. Though they are not expensive and not hard to obtain, we still find that some parents have issues getting these tools for their children. In a perfect world, our budget would allow for us to purchase them for every student, however, this is just not the case. In the very near future, we will consider fundraising efforts to help costs like these.
One of the most challenging hurdles that I face in my classroom is the outside world that so greatly defines students. I have experienced on numerous occasions, students who are often defiant and troublesome in the classroom open up to me about being bullied for a large part fo their adolescent life. This is a recurring problem that we as educators are obviously not addressing nor stopping at the early stages, and later in the students schooling, we destroy ourselves out of frustration because we are left with students who have “taken things into their own hands,” only to become defiant, bitter, and uncooperative.
I am always reminding my students that despite what kind of treatment that you get from others, it’s important to remember who you are as an individual and not to allow others define you. At the middle school level, students are so deeply concerned with the acceptance of their peers, that they often let the decisions and behaviors of other students define their own. This is a huge problem for any classroom because students are often defiant and uncooperative in class without knowing why or recognizing that it’s merely because it is what they see others doing.
This obstacle has to be overcome every day in my classrooms with students at all age levels. Despite the many efforts to confront bullying head on, we as educators must take it upon ourselves to stop lecturing and stop assuming that we know what is “wrong” with the student, and instead, listen to the student and try our best to understand “what happened” to the student. All students have a desire to be great, as do all human beings; our job as educators is to dig as deep as we can in order to uncover that desire. My rule is simple: listen to your students more than you lecture to them.
Being a musician all of my life, I’ve always been faced with the challenge of trying to find my sole purpose in life. With orchestras closing down, audition lists becoming slimmer and slimmer, and school tuition rising as the years go by, it has been easy to find myself looking at other roads to take to find my ultimate purpose in life. After struggling with this question for some time, a mentor of mine asked me to make a two-column list on which to listed two categories of things: 1) What I thought I was very good at 2) What I really enjoyed doing in life. On my first column, I listed things like playing percussion, working out, and teaching people how to do new things. On my second column, I listen things like helping other people with their problems and challenges, improving the lives of others, traveling, and contributing to humanity through innovative ways. Once I was done, the answer became very, very clear to me. Music education.
In a normal day for me, I get to listen to students about their problems and challenges both in school and at home, I get to teach students to do something new everyday, I get to monitor and help the development of students through one of them most important times in their lives, I get to “head fake” students into becoming hardworking, thoughtful individuals, and I get to help launch my high school students into the next chapter of their life, whether it be higher education, a trade school, or jumping right into the work force. More closely related to music, I get to teach music, write music, read music, write about music, read about music, talk about music, and play music all day long. I get to work with other people as part of a team to help our students become the best that they can be, not only in music, but in everything that they do in their lives. Most importantly, being a younger teacher, I get to be a role model for my students every day.
Long story short, through music, I feel that I am making a huge contribution to humanity on a daily level and that has got to be the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had.
My ideal classroom is one where both my students and myself show up prepared mentally, academically, and musically every day for new and exciting experiences. Students are well behaved and I am always, no matter what I am doing, striving to be my very best for my students. We have a clear agenda with specific goals and we have a lot of fun along the way while we reach those goals and work through the agenda. We use a multitude of resources to reach our potential (recordings, videos, art, literature, cross-curriculum, etc.) and we always, as a class, seek out the most efficient way to be our best. My ideal classroom will be full of students who are respectful to those around them as well as to myself and one that always fosters a positive, nurturing learning environment. Though we would be respected as a group that innovates and always reaches our own potential, we will always remain humble and never flaunt our success. Most importantly, my ideal classroom is one where the students leave at the commencement of their time with me fully prepared, motivated, inspired, and equipped for the many challenges of the 21st century. My ideal classroom is one that leaves students living their lives in constant, never-ending improvement.
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