Elementary Music Class: Tech Integration with iPads and Chromebooks

This past week, I taught a course at Central Connecticut State University’s (CCSU) Summer Music Institute titled, “Technology Integration in the Elemnetary Music Classroom: A Focus on iPads and Chromebooks.” The participants in the course, who were elementary music educators (or about to be), were excellent! I had a wonderful time teaching and proudly displaying my own students’ works to show as examples.

A Focus on Integration:

Though the course was about technology in the elementary music classroom, due to the fact that the teachers in the course (and many of us who teach elementary) were using one or both platforms in their classroom, I focused on the integration aspect along with focusing on the iPad or Chromebook. At my school, our younger students have access to iPads and our older students have access to Chromebooks. When I developed the syllabus for this course, I chose to focus on integration, project-based learning, and how to approach technology through popular elementary music teaching approaches (like Orff, Kodály, Gordon, Feierabend, and more). In addition, from what I have researched and from my own experience in the classroom, when students are using chromebooks in the classroom, the teacher is using a laptop or something more powerful to teach. This is because the chromebook, depending on the model, can be a chrome browser with a laptop casing, which means it is a device with very little power for a teacher’s needs.

Blended Learning

Since this class utilized iPads and Chromebooks, I showed many examples that revolved around blended learning. Blended learning in the classroom “combines classroom learning with online learning, in which students can, in part, control the time, pace, and place of their learning. I advocate a teacher-designed blended learning model, in which teachers determine the combination that’s right for them and their students.” (Tucker, 2013). I credit the Far Hills’s teachers Krissy Coombs, Jeannette Mastria, and Peter McBride, for teaching me about blended learning. They utilized it successfully with their third grade classes this past year that inspired me to use it with my third grade music class. I, and our science teacher, created a third grade google classroom to enhance our integrated STEAM unit. With this in mind, we used Google Classroom and Seesaw as our blended classrooms. In my mind, Seesaw has been a game changer in my classroom this year. It has enhanced student learning and parent commmunication beautifully.

Flipped Classroom 

Another concept we explored was the flipped classroom. A flipped classroom is “a teaching technique that uses video assets as the primary means of delivering direct instruction to an individual — rather than lecturing to a group — so you can use class time for more difficult cognitive tasks with the teacher present.” (Sams, 2015). In the elementary classroom, this could look like a recorder video created by the teacher placed on Seesaw so that the students can access the video from home and practice.


Since CCSU had makey makeys and my school loaned me a Dash and Dot, we were able to begin to understand the basics of coding and how that could enhance the music classroom. When you read through the research provided by code.org, you begin to realize why you hear so much about preparing students for future jobs that are not created yet. Coding is a part of that movement. In addition, if you read up on the orgins of the Hour of Code project through my blog post, it points out the research supporting how coding, and its role in learning how to problem solve, are important. We explored basic coding by using scratch.mit.edu, created musical instruments with makey makey, and coded dash and dot to play the xylophone. Sometimes coding led to dash giving too much “love” to dot, as seen in this video #codingproblems. But, it can also lead to a very musical example as watching my daughter when she was seven, figure out how to code dash to play along with her.


We spent a couple of days exploring ways to use technology to enhance creativity. We composed, arranged, and created music in numerous, interactive ways. As we did this, we always kept the music making as the center of our activities. If technology was a tool that could enhance this, then we used it. However, if we felt that it was not the tool of choice, then we would not utilize it. Our final thought on this came from listening to Katie Wardrobe’s podcast with Josh Emanuel, a music educator in NY. Josh stated, “Students should have as many tools as possible that we can give them to make music!” To listen to this full podcast, click here. The example included above is one my 2nd grade students made using SoundTrap. They were a part of the Global Sound Project and created music from sounds found in North Korea, South Korea, NYC, and their own Far Hills classroom.

Green Screen/SAMR

Credit: Carl Hooker, https://hookedoninnovation.com/2014/08/01/samr-swimming-lessons/

Inspired by SC Hammond School elementary music educator, Cherie Herring, I skyped her into the class to talk about how to use a green screen and the benefits of using it in the music classroom. Cherie showed numerous project-based learning activities that her students created using the $5.99 bundle Green Screen app by Do Ink and a green cloth or green board. What I adored about her projects were that they were focused around her curriculum: musicians from SC, STEAM, and solving a real-world problem. One of the best aspects was that she showed an example where her students learned about sound and then decided on their own to create a video with green screen effects (they were interacting with sound waves). This drove home the point of Dr. Ruben Peuntedura’s SAMR model: Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. If you research his later videos on this topic, you see how redefinition has Not only to do with technology, but also to do with student-driven learning. Here is a great example of this point by Carl Hooker.


More and more, elementary music educators are being asked to assess their students’ progress. Some districts require elementary music educators to pre- and post-test their students. Some require educators to complete Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) or Student Growth Objectives (SGOs). Sometimes technology can be a very effective assessment tool when we need to study students’ comprehension. We used Plickers, Socrative, Kahoot!, and Google Forms. Plickers was a hit! Google Forms, with its update of the answer key and auto-grading, has become a big game changer in assessment (no longer need the flubaroo add-on). In addition, I feel that currently, google forms is the only assessment tool from the ones that we used, that can add video/audio examples into the assessment.

What Apps Did We Use? 

Since the music educators knew their way around technology, they learned how to use these apps from creating projects with them. This helped it become a bit more real for them as they were using them in a way that their students would use them in their music classrooms. If there is an *, then it could only be used on iOS. If there is no *, then it can be used on both platforms.

Blended Learning: Seesaw and Google Classroom

Flipped Classroom: Explain Everything

Coding: Scratch, WonderWorks for Dash and Dot

Creativity: SoundTrap (a little GarageBand*), Noteflight, Book Creator, Makey Makey, Explain Everything, iMovie*, WeVideo, Adobe Spark (We did not go into Youtube. Youtube is an amazing  teaching tool and can edit videos. However, with so many schools blocking Youtube, I chose to show how to use youtube through safeshare.tv and how to download a YouTube video because the internet can be so spotty in elementary schools).

Green Screen: Green Screen by Do Ink*, WeVideo

Assessment: Plickers*, Socrative, Kahoot!, Quizlet (just a little), Google Forms (now becoming a game changer as it can add musical excerpts and videos, you can create an answer key, and it can grade the assessments).

Music-Related: Staff Wars (now on chromebooks that accept Android apps!), Staff Wars Live* (not on android as of right now), Do-Re-Mi 123, Orff Xylophone by Tim Purden*, iDoceo, Planbook, and showed my website to see more apps and pricing (http://amymburns.com/ipadsipods/). We also used Chrome Music Lab and Groove Pizza.

Final Thoughts:

CCSU (http://web.ccsu.edu/smi) has a wonderful Summer Music Institute directed by Dr. Carlotta Parr, where they offer music technology courses in person and online. They also offer courses in music pedagogy, instrumental music, music for special needs, vocal music, and so much more! I spent numerous summers here learning and now teaching. I highly recommend them if you are looking for summer music ed professional development opportunities. You do not need to be enrolled in their Masters Program (though I highly recommend their Masters Program) to take the summer courses. I am hoping to teach a SMART Board refresher course next summer, especially since they just upgraded their Notebook software to version 17, which now includes the Smart Lab.

Hope you all are having a happy and musical July!


Sams, A. (2015, February). Flipped Classroom 101. Retrieved July 15, 2017, from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=286.

Tucker, C. (2013, March). The Basics of Blended Instruction. Retrieved July 15, 2017, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar13/vol70/num06/The-Basics-of-Blended-Instruction.aspx

Amy M. Burns is an elementary music educator, clinician, author, and musician. She currently works at Far Hills Country Day School in Far Hills, NJ teaching PreK through Grade 3 general music, grade 5 instrumental music, and grades 4-8 instrumental band. She is the author of Technology Integration in the Elementary Music Classroom, Help! I am an Elementary Music Teacher with a SMART Board, and Help! I am an Elementary Music Teacher with One or more iPads! She is also an author for Online Learning Exchange™ Interactive Music powered by Silver Burdett. She has given numerous presentations on integrating technology into the elementary music classroom as well as being a keynote speaker for music technology conferences in Texas and Australia. She is the recipient of the 2005 TI:ME Teacher of the Year Award and the 2016 NJMEA Master Music Teacher Award. TI:ME . You can find out more about Amy at her website: amymburns.com
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