The Success Of Student Blogging

The success of student blogging.

As the joint ICT coordinator at NFPS along with Andrew Williamson we initiated a blogging program this year. In the space of six months we have managed to have every staff member start their own blog, every class room has its own blog, most departments have a blog and every student in the 3 to 6 levels have their own blog. While the process has been a large one in regards to organisation and PD it has proved to be extremely successful in a number of areas.

We have been looking for a way to integrate ICT across the school curriculum. Where it becomes an integral part of each curriculum strand rather than being a separate unit. This is how it is in the world and how it should be within a school structure as well.  Blogging has been one of the platforms that has helped us achieve this aim.

Secondly we were trying to move the school to be much more in focus with Web 2.0.

While the world has rapidly understood and accepted this change, bureaucracies are always slower on the uptake merely because of the way they are set up. Issues such as control and fear are constantly hindering the effective teaching of up to date practice in regards to ICT. While our school was doing OK in regards to creative use of computers (making movies, animations, podcasts etc.) these things were merely taking up server space and students and teachers were never sharing their learning and teaching. Blogging has become the platform that has allowed us to instantly overcome this issue (along with helping us solve our space issues). Teachers and students are now constantly posting their work weather that be in text form or using more of the digital literacies such as film, music etc. All of a sudden our podcasts became real podcasts that people from all over the world could hear rather than merely simulations.

This has had a flow on effect into other areas of interest to me. I am a big believer in not teaching applications. Applications should only be learnt at a point of need. When there is a demand the learning becomes more effective and real. Staff and students are now demanding more use of the digital video cameras because there is a real use for them rather than the trite reason of doing some subjects in teaching IMovie. All of a sudden cameras that have been still for years are now constantly booked out and we are needing to buy more.

This sharing of learning and knowledge is also something that excites me. As teachers we can move our profession on to a far deeper level if we combine our knowledge and it is through blogging that our teachers are able to simply and effectively do that. Successful lessons are filmed and instantly uploaded. This has also had the effect of introducing new communities to many of our staff and students. Social networking is the way the internet has moved in regards to communication yet it is still something that is frowned upon by our educational institutions.  The blogs have been a great introduction to many of our staff into the world of social networking and how it can be used beneficially.

The blogs have also been really beneficial in helping to link the various curriculums through the school. In my other role as a music specialist I have always been keen to find ways to link specialist programs into the who life of the school (rather than merely be seen as and APT provider for classroom teachers). Now the students are happily blogging about what they might do in my classroom or their art programs and specialist teachers can video or record classes or work upload those files to what ever file sharing program you use (we use fliggo for our school but if you have utube unblocked use that) and then email the classroom teachers the relevant URLs which can be passed onto the kids. This has greatly increased the profile of the work the kids are doing in specialist classes. Parents can see, classroom teachers can see and plan accordingly. This also applies to our support teachers and their programs.

There are numerous other benefits such as pushing towards student centred learning, authentic learning, allowing for greater display and pride in work, helping those with ICT phobia to get onboard etc and there are many ways to go about setting up your blogging program at school. We chose to go through the globalteacher global teacher program which I cant speak highly enough of.

Feel free to comment or pass on any advantages or disadvantages you have found with similar

Movie making, soundtracks, literacy the whole lot

I’ve uploaded a video (below) that gives you an example of something I blogged about a couple of weeks ago.
This was a task I was doing with grade 6 students that used Imovie and Garageband, two great programs that come with the ILife bundle for macs.
The kids imported photos into IMovie, they wrote a short story that related to their selection of photos and recorded that story in using the recording facilities within IMovie. finally they wrote a soundtrack in Garageband to accompany the movie (in Garageband) exported the music as an MP3 dragged it into I Movie and off we went. We talked a lot about the appropriateness of the music to the film, the role of the soundtrack and how it was to enhance the visuals not overwhelm them.
We also had a huge number of technical issues which is often the case and actually quite beneficial for the students to experience.

There was so many things involved in this project such as literacy skills (creative writing), editing, music composition, multimodal learning, authentic learning, investigation and presentation, rendering, teamwork, saving to a network, folder creation, troubleshooting technical issues, leadership, importing and exporting of files, learning different file types.

Space Compositions

In Grade two we have been working on vocal compositions. This is where you draw shapes on the whiteboard and find appropriate vocal sounds to match (an early form of notational teaching). We also invented shapes to represent loud and soft and duration. We then incorporated some of this learning into the theme of space and added some sounds from the marimba that could be translated into variouse movements. Finally we made masks to make our short performance look cool and filmed it.

This is a great way to introduce children to the concepts of composition – using their voice, using sounds that can be made on the instruments having some simple notation and finally performing.

Heres the video

Students as composers

remy-ruby-and-saskias-piece As a very good example of children as composers here is a composition written and played by 5 grade six students. They were given a one hour class to come up with this piece and then performed nd recorded it at the end. You can hear it is written for four parts with both an A and a B section. These children have been with us for the five years I have been teaching at Fitzroy North PS so are very used to the idea that they are composers, an idea that myself and fellow teacher Andrew Williamson really believe in and try to teach . It was exciting for me to hear this composition as it justified alot of the philosophy

My Music teaching philosophy

Fitzroy North Primary School

The music programme at North Fitzroy is an incredibly rich, exciting and stimulating programme that embraces composition, creativity, participation technology and fun. The main emphasis behind almost all our work is to empower the students with a sense of belief that their compositions are worthwhile. The role of the composer must be demystified and children’s compositions need to be highly valued. If our music department can do this it will create a lifelong love of music in children but rather than just being observers of music these children will go on to be participants and most importantly creators.

Every child gets to participate in a generalist music class once a week. It is in this class that the core understanding of composition is taught to the child. We try to cover a huge range of concepts and presentation styles to allow for as many different learning styles as possible. These include sound sculptures, movie soundtracks, abstract compositions, loops based composition, recording techniques, traditional notation, rap and hip hop and rock music. By teaching through composition you can teach the basic concepts such as pitch, rhythm texture and melody in a way that has personal relevance for the students and therefore will remain with them for their life. In their generalist class we have also done lots of work in instrument making, singing and African drumming. Almost every class starts with a listening session where the children listen to a variety of music and are encouraged to make comments on the compositional techniques as well as a personal judgement on whether they like it and why. A lot of these “listening” exercises are now done using DVDs and a data projector giving children a greater visual awareness of the music. On top of the generalist lesson children are encouraged to participate in the ensembles that we provide. We run a mixed percussion ensemble for each year level. This uses xylophones, glockenspiels, djembe drums, marimbas and hand percussion. . Each part is sung to the children and the learning is done by ear encouraging the children to learn all parts (a piece might have 5 different parts to it ranging from bass, middle, high melody lines as well as different beats). The students in collaboration with Kynan and Andrew compose most of the pieces we play. Improvisation in this ensemble is encouraged. We also run a couple of rock ensembles and a choir. As much opportunity as possible is provided for these ensembles to perform within the school at music assemblies, at the school concerts and outside the school. Strong links have been made with the local high school and region where groups have been invited to our school for mutual concerts and we have taken groups to other schools and community events. Finally we also run an EYT (extend your talents) programme for children who show a very keen interest and ability. In this programme they form their own groups to perform, record and look at other areas of the music industry such as advertising and management. They can also make their own short movies and animations using programmes such as imovie and istop motion. In this creation process they are required to score all the music for their movies and animations.

We believe our programme is innovative in a number of areas. Our core philosophy of valuing the idea of students as producers rather than just receivers of information, is what drives all our innovation. We have fully embraced technology as not only an important learning tool but we see it as merely being another valuable platform to allow for meaningful learning. A lot of our teaching revolves around understanding the role of music in various situations but to fully learn this children need to create those situations. With this in mind the children work on a lot of multi media projects such as film making, animations, the creation of radio shows and podcasting. Through programmes such as radio waves we have been able to podcast a lot of the children’s work on the internet thus forming valuable relationships with other schools and community groups throughout the world. By doing this we are allowing the children to produce work that has wings out side of the classroom. No longer are they producing work for merely one person, the teacher, they are now producing it for vast communities found and created by the internet. Technology is intricately woven into all aspects of children’s lives and therefore should be woven into all aspect of their school life. All of the children’s work is recorded and given back to them in the form of digital portfolios or uploaded onto the internet. This recording process is also handed over to the students in many instances.
One of our major innovations however is to integrate the music programme into the classroom programme. If you are able to do this your programme is no longer viewed as a marginalised idea falling into line well behind literacy and numeracy but rather it becomes valued as a nessasary aid to those things. We have done this by pushing the value of multimedia projects because they work with visual literacy. We have run many PDs teaching the classroom teachers various music programmes such as garageband, imovie etc. By doing this the fear of music has been removed from the teachers and they are confident to allow the students to integrate music into many of their projects. We have encouraged teachers ideas and tried to provide the infrastructure for them to do this. All classrooms have 5 computers in them and we have a Mac lab of 20 Computers as well as a small recording studio.
The impact we have is an exciting one. On a very grass roots level many of our students gone into high school with the innate believe that they are creators and their creations are valuable. They are not content to merely play a role but want to have a very personal involvement in the creation of that role. A number of our rock bands, which were formed when the children were only 10 years old, have maintained and are now gigging professionally. We have developed significant relationships with local community groups such as the Old Colnialist home for the elderly and the Croxton Special School. A special project is being run with the Croxton Special School where 10 of our students are working with 10 of their students every week for a term playing music and ultimately leading to a performance. This is being filmed by the kids and will be turned into a DVD for the performers. This has been a very valuable experience for all involved. Our programme is fortunate in the way it has been terrifically supported and valued by school leadership. This has allowed us to develop our programme. To pass on some of the skills we have learned we have been running PDs for our cluster groups to help share some of our information as well as learn from them.

Data collection and Teching

I have noticed in my role as a music teacher that there has been a recent swing away from open ended, student driven learning to data driven, closed, assessment and results driven learning. When I started teaching I was so excited to learn that things had moved from the draconian days when I was a child, at the same time I was warned that everything in teaching goes in cycles and I have now been a part of the institution to see the first turn.
Once again things such as task completion and surprise, surprise “Spelling” assessment have taken over in the scale of importance from concepts such as deeper level thinking and the encouragement of “ideas”.
I love data collection because it shows us whatever it is we want it to show us and justify whatever it is we want to justify, including bad teaching and wow does it make us feel so much better about ourselves to be able to carry around reams of useless paper with various results on them.
We feel better about our sad selves because of the amount of work it took to get all those results.
Sad Sad Sad small world