Part Two: Five More Chromebook Apps/Websites for the Elementary Music Classroom
In the March, 2018 edition of the New Jersey Music Educators Association’s (NJMEA) Tempo, I wrote about five Chromebook apps/websites to utilize in the elementary general music classroom. The article featured Incredibox for music creation, Joytunes for recorder reinforcement activities, virtual instruments so all students can create music in the music classroom, Seesaw for student digital portfolios that allow students to showcase, reflect, and share their work, and Kahoot! to turn your assessments into fun, gaming activities. These apps and websites just scratched the surface of how music educators can use these in an elementary music classroom. In this article, I give further examples of some excellent apps and websites that can successfully be used by elementary music students in a 1:World classroom setting with Chromebooks or with one device in a classroom hooked to a projector with a decent pair of speakers. These apps focus on making music, creating music, sharing music, and connecting music across the curriculum.
From 1:1 to 1:World Chromebooks
As stated in my previous article, there is sufficient evidence that Chromebooks are becoming more prominent in the classrooms (Molnar, 2015). Moving from the 1:1 to the 1:World terminology reflects Alan November’s article titled, “Why Schools Must Move Beyond One-to-One Computing”, where he states that when educators focus on 1:World as opposed to 1:1, the thoughts shift from how to use the technology to how to engage students in their learning environments, during and outside the school day (November, 2013).
Recently, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), published a book written by Liz Kolb titled, Learning First, Technology Second – The Educator’s Guide to Designing Authentic Lessons. In this book, Ms. Kolb speaks to engaging, enhancing, and extending lessons with technology. She terms these three “Es” as the Triple E Framework. She describes utilizing technology that would engage, enhance, and extend beyond the classroom in ways that could not have been done without technology.
In these five examples, I strive for showing that Triple E Framework. However, I emphasize that this does not replace “doing music” in the elementary music classroom. The technology is to assist in the engagement of music making, to enhance the music making further, and to extend the music and creativity beyond our music classrooms.
Chrome Music Lab (musiclab.chromeexperiments.com)
In March of 2016, Google launched Chrome Music Lab to support the National Association for Music Education’s (NAfME) initiative of Music in Our Schools Month® (MIOSM). As stated on the Chrome Music Lab’s website, many teachers use this website as a tool to explore music and to connect music with science, art, math, and more (Google, 2018).
Chrome Music Lab consists of thirteen musical activities and explorations that can be done in a 1:World classroom, as well as a teacher projecting the website onto a screen and having students participate by taking turns creating, making, and exploring music. The requirements to use this website is a device that has the Chrome web browser. I would also suggest a decent pair of speakers and of course, a projector, if you are using this in a one-device classroom. If you are utilizing this in a 1:World classroom, I would suggest headphones or to space the students around the room so that they can focus on their music creations. However, students in a group or at a station can also wonderfully use these activities so that students can collaborate together to create and make music.
- Rhythm: Built by George Michael Brower. This consists of animated characters playing rhythms in meters of 3, 4, 5, and 6 (see Figure 1).
- In a one-device setting, use this tool to show meters as well as having students move to the meters. In addition, have a student create a rhythm pattern within in the meter. For older elementary, students can decode the rhythm pattern that was created on screen.
- In a 1:World Chromebook classroom, assign the students to first explore each meter and then to create a rhythm pattern for one of the meters. Once finished, have the students use classroom percussion instruments to play and record their rhythm patterns. Since this will create an atmosphere with very full sounds, encourage the students to perform each classmate’s rhythm patterns as a large percussion ensemble.
- Sound Waves: Built by Mark Lundin. This consists of an exploration and visualization of a sound wave moving through air molecules.
- In a one-device setting, I use this activity to introduce a STEAM unit. I collaborate with the science teacher as we work together on teaching about sound and music. With Sound Waves, I have a student play the keyboard provided in the app and they watch the blue dots move. The blue dots represent air moving through molecules. The higher the pitch, the faster the air moves. When the magnifying class is clicked, a red line will appear that draws the shape of one molecule moving through the air (see Figure 2).
- In a 1:World classroom setting, have students explore long sounds, short sounds, high sounds, and low sounds. Ask them to answer higher order thinking questions about why the shape of the red line changes. They can reflect on this using their Seesaw journals, or a padlet (padlet.com), or writing their answers with paper and pencil.
- Kandinsky: Built by Active Theory and inspired by Russian abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky. This app turns anything you draw into sound.
- In a one-device and a 1:World setting, the students draw a pattern on paper. This pattern can include shapes and lines. Set a guideline such as two shapes and three lines so that they can perform all of their drawings. Have the students draw their pictures into the app and listen to the results (see Figure 3). Ask them if they thought if it would sound the way the Kandinsky app played it. In addition, make the cross-curricular connections with learning about the artist in art class.
- Song Maker: Built by Google Creative Lab, Use All Five, and Yotam Mann. This app can make simple songs with melody, harmony and rhythm. The songs can be shared via a link or social media, where others can collaborate and add to or change the song. Click the “Settings” button to determine the song’s length, beats per bar, subdivisions, scale (major, minor, pentatonic), tonic, and range.
- In a one-device setting, the elementary music educator can create a melody in the app, like Lucy Locket, and have the students try to identify the melody. Then hand out boomwhackers and have them perform the melody. Song Maker uses the colors that are closely related to boomwhacker colors.
- In addition, the music educator can show a visualization of beat subdivisions by creating a song in a simple, triple meter and having the “Settings” show “Beats per bar 3/Split beats into 1” (see Figure 4). Have the students or the teacher create a melody when the notes will appear as dotted half notes. Then go back into the “Settings” and change “Split beats into 3”. The melody now changes and shows the subdivision within each measure.
- In a 1:World classroom setting, have the students create a melody and rhythm in a guided form, such as ABA coda, or AABB.
- Sharing the Song: When finished, click the “Save” button and the app will generate a link. The students can share this link on your music classroom’s Facebook or Twitter page. You can also copy the embed code to embed in a music classroom webpage. Finally, the students can copy the link and email you the link (if you do not share your email address with your students, consider setting up a gmail account just for students to send you work, ie email@example.com), place the link on their Seesaw journal, or place the link on their Google classroom. Finally, share the link with another elementary music classroom and have the students collaborate and comment on each other’s musical work.
Groove Pizza is a music creation app that can be found in the MusEDLab (musedlab.org). Led and researched by Alex Ruthmann, “The NYU Music Experience Design Lab (MusEDLab) researches and designs new technologies and experiences for music making learning and engagement together with students, educators, non-profit, and industry partners” (NYU, 2017). MusEDLab has six apps that promote creativity with music, but the one I mainly focus on is Groove Pizza.
Elementary students can experiment with creating looping drumbeats using mathematics in the forms of shapes and angles. One of the lessons that I enjoy is to have the students use one of the special loops called, “ROCK YOU” (see Figure 5). The first part of the loop is the drumbeat found in the song, “We Will Rock You,” written by Brian May and recorded by Queen. The loop is based on the shape of a rectangle (see Figure 6). The students can create more loops for the other three measures based on other shapes and then they compare and contrast the loops.
Once finished, the newly created loops can be exported as a MIDI or audio file that can be opened in any notation software or digital audio workstation (DAW). It also can be automatically opened in Soundtrap by tapping the “CONTINUE IN SOUNDTRAP” button. Since we have the EDU version of Soundtrap, the students can now add a track where they record themselves playing “We will, we will rock you” on the recorder, boomwhacker, or Orff instrument using the notes C B A G A A. In Soundtrap, the students can collaborate with other students in other music classes found in the same school or around the country.
These five examples show a way to enhance, engage, or extend how to teach a musical concept or integration across the curriculum in an elementary music classroom with one device or 1:World devices. There are many more apps and websites that music educators can access or have their students access to enhance, engage, or extend their lessons. These apps and websites do not need to be utilized during every music class. They should be used when the tool fits the needs of the students and the concepts of the lessons. I hope that this article inspires you to try a new tool in your elementary music classroom.
Google. (2018). About Chrome Music Lab. Retrieved March 16, 2018, from https://musiclab.chromeexperiments.com/About
Kolb, L. (2017). Learning first, technology second: The educators guide to designing authentic lessons. Portland, OR: International Society for Technology in Education.
Molnar, M. (2015, December 07). Half of K-12 Students to Have Access to 1-to-1 Computing by 2015-16. Retrieved January 1, 2018, from https://marketbrief.edweek.org/marketplace-k-12/half_of_k-12_students_to_have_access_to_1-to-1_computing_by_2015-16_1/
November, A. (2013, February 10). Why Schools Must Move Beyond One-to-One Computing. Retrieved January 15, 2018, from http://novemberlearning.com/educational-resources-for-educators/teaching-and-learning-articles/why-schools-must-move-beyond-one-to-one-computing/
NYU Music Experience Design Lab. (2017). About MusEDLab. Retrieved March 16, 2018, from https://musedlab.org/about
Taylor, H. (2015, December 09). Google is crushing Apple, Microsoft in US schools. Retrieved January 15, 2018, from https://www.cnbc.com/2015/12/03/googles-chromebooks-make-up-half-of-us-classroom-devices.html