Last week, I had the pleasure and honor of teaching two graduate courses at the Summer Music Institute at Central Connecticut State University, the university where I received my Masters of Science in Music Education. This is my fourth summer teaching on the campus in the Welte Hall music lab, but my first time teaching two separate courses in one week. Most days were 13 hour teaching days, with an additional three to four more hours of work when I returned to my hotel room. As exhausting as that sounds, it was an amazing week. I love teaching at CCSU because the music educators that attend the classes are amazing people whom I learn so much from. Plus, the staff (Carlotta, Lauren, Brian, Theresa, Justin, and Charles) are the best. For example, they greeted you everyday with a smile and asked what you needed to make your day better. They would also run out at a moment’s notice to supply you with items that you needed, like 12 inch cables.

Here are some reflections that I took away from last week, some include the improvements to the Notebook 11 software:

  1. SMART Notebook 11 has a new “activity builder” which many of us used to create wonderful assessments to the end of music units we were performing in our curriculum.
  2. SMART Notebook 11 now allows you to record up to a minute of sound into the file. Therefore, if you would like your “musical stairs” to sound the pentatonic scale being played on an xylophone, you can do that right within the program. No longer do you have to go to an outside program like garageband to record yourself playing a pentatonic scale on the xylophone, share it to disc as an mp3, and then import it into the notebook software.
  3. SMART Notebook tends to favor PC over Macs as they update faster for them and give them more options with how to export (like exporting as a powerpoint file), import, and utilize more options with picture files.
  4. Many of the participants’ backgrounds with the SMART board were that they were given the board, an hour or two of training from the SMARTtech technician and then told to go utilize it in the classroom. By the end of the week, all of the participants in level one and two could lead a workshop to other music educators. It is my sincere hope that they will take that initiative and show the other music educators in their districts the benefits of this device in the music classroom.
  5. When you put seven or eight music educators in a room with iPads filled with virtual instrument apps (iPads were featured in the nighttime session), they will naturally begin to make music together. That was one of my favorite moments from last week and I was able to capture it on video.
  6. Nothing beats facetiming my family and seeing the reactions of my girls (ages one and three) when they saw my face on the computer screen. My one-year-old kept trying to pinch my nose.
  7. My level one class was amazing. They drank in everything and produced and taught lessons that they would not have seen themselves teaching a year ago.
  8. My level two class was wonderfully advanced. They challenged and inspired me daily to be a better teacher as each night, I would go through the software and my personal research to challenge them more and to show them a variety of ways to teach a concept with the software and board.
  9. Finally, nothing replaces active music making. We all knew this coming into these courses. The SMART Board and its software are tools to assist us with teaching musical concepts and enhancing our current music curriculum.

Next summer, I will be teaching Technology Integration in the Elementary Music Classroom. If you are free next July, please come join me and learn about free resources you could use in your classroom right away, to how to teach in a one-computer classroom to a classroom with iPads and an interactive whiteboard, to a very simple way of creating a classroom website.

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