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This past month has been a wonderfully busy one as I prepared sessions about iPads, internet resources, and technology integration for the elementary music teacher for three difference state conferences. After my presentations, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting numerous music educators at various tech levels. Some described themselves as novices, some as “dabbling with technology,” and some that are very tech-savvy. As I listened to their questions and/or comments, it got me thinking about an idea which led to this post.
When an elementary music educator decides to add technology as another teaching tool, there are a lot of things to think about. As much as we wish everything would be simple, when we approach something new that will bring about a significant change, we have to accept that there will be challenges along the way. I am hoping that this post is proactive in helping elementary music educators find ways to overcome some of the new challenges that technology could bring to a music classroom:
- MAC or PC? You decide to incorporate technology into your classroom and you are deciding if the computer or laptop you will be purchasing should be a MAC or PC. On one hand, you use a certain platform at home. And on the other hand, you have heard that at one time, one platform towered over the other when it came to music (not so much anymore). The answer to this question is you go with the platform that is supported by your school and that your IT people know how to handle because ultimately, you will be calling those IT people to assist you when you need assistance.
- You have a tech problem and your IT personel come to fix it. When they come to your room, write down what they are doing to fix the problem. It is best to learn what they are doing to fix some of the simpler problems, i.e. the projector stopped working because the adapter slightly disconnected. When they are simple fixes, you can look back at your notes and fix it faster than waiting for the IT.
- Start small with tech. If you feel a website could enhance your current lesson, then that is a great place to begin.
- If you are utilizing certain software, have their websites bookmarked so you can go to them quickly when you have a problem. Many times, you can find the answer to your problem in their FAQ sections.
- Get on the good side of your IT personel. I always say “bake your IT brownies.” It does go along way to be on their good side. They will assist you more often.
- I also see IT as a type of teacher, though many of them have not had any educational training and can lack patience. However, they expect you to learn when they are there. If you have great IT (for the record, mine are great), they will work with you slowly and show you what they are doing. However, if you have an IT that is overworked, he/she might quickly run through things expecting you to be learning as you watch. Again, take notes and show the IT that you are interested in learning. That is much better than expecting the IT to be there in a moment’s notice to fix the same issues or to hold your hand continuously.
- Take pictures of tech setups. If your room is used by others, then your setup is moved around a lot. Having pictures of what cord goes where is very helpful.
- If you start using tech and show some successful outcomes from it, your IT might begin giving you some of the newest tech tools to use in your classroom.
- IT: Your IT might be a teacher who has to also be the IT or an outsourced company that works a few days a week or one person who works at five different schools.
- These situations are tough and they can discourage you from utilizing tech. However, if this is your situation, then join a free group like the Facebook Music Teachers Group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/musicpln/) so you can ask tech questions. There are currently 2,540 music educators in this group and when you ask a question, you can receive up to 40 comments.
- Please also considering joining TI:ME (http://www.ti-me.org). They are the leading music education/music technology organization and their membership fee of only $50, goes a long way. You can find numerous resources on their website to assist you in integrating technology into the music classroom. Plus, their tech courses are written for music educators by music educators and are extremely helpful from a novice tech user to an advanced tech user.
I hope that this post helps you with some of the details if you are trying to get started with tech in the classroom. Remember that tech could be adding a sound system to your classroom, or purchasing an iPod touch so you can organize your classroom music libraries, or integrating a website, or composing music in the cloud, or trying to use your interactive whiteboard for more than a projector. Whatever it may be, I hope that I have addressed some of your concerns and given you some solutions. I felt that I needed to write this post when I met many who had these types of questions and were having difficulties finding the answers.
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