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Last month, the Spanish teacher and I worked together to have our second grade skype another second grade class in Spain. The Spanish teacher set this up with a teacher from Spain. The children in Spain wanted to sing and ask questions during the Skype interview so the Spanish teacher asked if our students could sing some of their holiday concert songs. I jumped at the chance because they were ready to sing their songs to an audience and it would be the first time that all three second grade classes would be singing their songs together. Plus, I feel that skyping other classrooms with a great way for students to learn so many educational concepts.
Both set of students enjoyed the interview thoroughly. We began by singing “Rhythm of the Season” by Jennings from Music K8. We then sang Donald Moore’s version of “Siyahamba.” The students from Spain then sang “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” and another children’s Christmas song that I did not recognize. We then sang “Dreidl Spin!” and they finished with singing a Spanish song to us. The interview continued with questions from both sets of students. I had to leave at this point to go teach a PreK Older’s music class.
What The Students and I Learned:
At the end of day, I made notes about the experience as I did this a few year’s back with another music class in the United States. Skyping another country brought this experience to a whole new level. I noted the following items:
- The children seeing and asking questions with children from another country was amazing!
- The students getting to sing together their holiday concert songs for the first time was wonderful. They sounded so good.
- Hearing the Spanish teacher speak so fluently in Spanish to the teacher in Spain was also amazing. I usually hear her speak to the young children, which means that she speaks slowly and incorporates English. I told the students at my lunch table that listening and watching her speak so fluently and naturally was my favorite part.
- Hearing the children in Spain sing so many songs to us.
- Both classes of students realizing that music is an integral part of the curriculum.
- The technology: this could not have even been thought of ten years ago! And it gets easier and easier to do.
- Seeing this and relating this to when my second graders three years ago skyped a second grade class in Illinois and asked questions about weather, time, singing concert songs, etc. And when the 3rd graders skyped a class and spoke about their 50 states project. It is just amazing.
- The students realizing that the world is a very big place.
- The students realizing that they are not the only ones who prepare for performances.
What You Need:
The equipment required for this to happen was:
- A Network with other professionals (a great group to begin with is the music teacher facebook network at https://www.facebook.com/groups/musicpln/ or the Music Education google+ network at https://plus.google.com/u/1/communities/102610005911356159206) so you can easily find another music educator to skype.
- A Skype account. There are other tools like FaceTime that also work well.
- A computer/laptop/tablet that has an internet connection, a microphone, and a decent set of speakers. It is also beneficial to hook it up to a screen, TV, or interactive whiteboard.
- Meet with the educator before to test everything and to plan out how the lesson will occur.
- Communicate with all teachers involved and the administration so you have their support.
- Communicate with your IT personel so you have their support with setup and any technical issues that could arise.
- Plan B if something goes awry. I was going to write “if the tech fails,” however, it might not be the tech failing that could cause you to go to Plan B. It could be a student getting sick in the middle of the lesson or a very young student “baptizing” your music carpet, etc, that could cause you to use Plan B.
Overall, the experience was a wonderful learning tool and very successful for the students. My one con was how low the resolution was that was being projected onto the screen so it was difficult for the students to see each other clearly. However, they heard each other beautifully and it was a tremendous learning experience. One I hope to have again in the near future.
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, Indiana, St. Maarten, and Australia. She is the recipient of the 2005 TI:ME Teacher of the Year Award, the 2016 NJ Master Music Teacher Award, the 2016 NJ Governor’s Leader in Arts Education Award, and the 2017 Non-Public School Teacher of the Year Award. You can find out more about Amy at her website: amymburns.com