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This is the first post in a series of adding Chromebooks to your elementary music classroom. This post focuses on assessment.
This year, our students in grade three and above now have access to Chromebooks or old Mac iBooks that were turned into Chromebooks. It is a 1:world approach, as referenced in Alan November’s 2013 article titled, “Why Schools Must Move Beyond One-to-One Computing”. The students in grades K-2 have access to iPads. In our current situation, the students can bring these to the music classroom if I request it. However, my classroom has three Mac iBooks and five iPads (3rd generation) that I share with my music colleague. I find that when I want the students to work in small groups for music creating and composing, these devices work very well. However, there are times when 1:world is ideal, for example, when I am assessing my students. For years, I have written about wonderful tools that elementary music teachers could use to assess if they had access to one iPad, a few iPads, or 1:world iPads. This can be seen on my website as well as my free ebook. However, what about elementary music students who have access to Chromebooks? What tools are out there to assist with assessment?
From presenting various elementary music technology workshops in numerous schools to attending the November Building Learning Communities (BLC16) conference this past summer, it is becoming a “norm” that more schools are purchasing Chromebooks for students in grades three and above to use daily in their classrooms. Chromebooks are basically small or thin client laptops that run Chrome Operating System (OS) as its operating system. The Chromebooks are primarily used while connected to the internet and most of its data is saved to the cloud. Unlike traditional desktops and laptops, Chromebooks do not traditionally have any software loaded onto them. Most of its applications are based on the internet using the Chrome web browser and the Chrome Web Store. In addition, Chromebooks are very low in cost. The one I am using to write this blog post is a Lenovo N22 with the rotating camera, which cost under $200.
Advantages of Chromebooks with Elementary Music Students:
- It is more cost-effective to use Chromebooks for the purpose of making a school 1:world. As reported in December of 2015, Chromebooks now make up half of the US classrooms devices sold.
- Since it is all internet-based, most any website you use can be accessed on the Chromebooks. I write “most” because this week, some of my third graders Chromebooks did not have a flash plugin and they could not use Incredibox (http://www.incredibox.com).
- Using Google Classroom as the classroom learning management system (LMS) on the Chromebooks works naturally to keep your online classroom organized.
- In the summer of 2016, Google added three creativity apps as a bundle for Chromebooks: Explain Everything, Soundtrap and WeVideo. My elementary music students have used Explain Everything on the iPads for years to create the following: pictures of musical form that they can add recordings; to write, perform, and record rhythm patterns; to write, perform, and record vocalizes; and so much more. My elementary students have used Soundtrap (which is GarageBand in the cloud with the ability to collaborate with other schools when using their EDU version) to create and share music. The older students are going to use WeVideo this year to create music videos.
- Chromebooks have access to the Chrome Web Store apps. Many of these include the three listed above along with Flat, a cloud-based music notation app that allows you to create and share music scores. There is a free version, but you can also explore the paid individual version as well as the EDU version for $1.50 per student.
- MusicFirst: If you are in a 1:world teaching situation, then you should explore MusicFirst or MusicFirstJr. I feel that MusicFirst was made for Chromebooks as they base all of their programs in the cloud. MusicFirst and MusicFirstJr both are supplemental music curriculum along with assessments, lesson plans, apps for music creating, music recording and more, and an LMS. I feel that it is a low cost for all that you get and you can pick and choose the apps that you want to use in your classroom.
- Portability: I read an article the other day that one of the great advantages of using Chromebooks is that they are portable and lightweight. I had to admit that I see the Chromebooks as heavy laptops, but they are not. The students can easily move around the room with them, which is nice when you want them to spread out for recording or taking an assessment.
Challenges using Chromebooks with Elementary Music Students:
- The mouse is not ideal. I watched my five-year-old struggle with the mouse and continuously ask if she could have a touch-screen iPad because “it is so much easier to use Mommy.”
- Band-width. If your school’s internet is weak, it will only be weaker when all of the students are using the internet with their Chromebooks.
- Money. Many of the apps you would like to use as the EDU versions require the school to purchase them at a fee per student. That makes it difficult for you because you must advocate why the school should spend money on a music app. This is where you talk about standards, creativity, integration, and more.
- Chromebooks are not laptops. They are not fast. The mouse needs time to get used to or a bluetooth mouse is required. They do have a USB port, which is nice so you can add USB devices to the Chromebook.
- Camera. The Lenovo I am using has a 360 degree camera, which makes it so nice when students use an app like Seesaw, a digital learning portfolio. If it did not have this 360 camera, the students have to physically pick the Chromebook up to take pictures of their work or record video.
- Apps, or lack thereof. Currently, I can access apps from the Chrome Web Store. iOS apps that I love on my iPad, like many shown in my book, cannot be accessed from the Chrome Web Store. However, at some point in the next year, the following Chromebooks will be able to access Android apps, which should open up a lot more music apps to the Chromebooks.
- Socrative: This week, my 3rd graders came to class with the iBooks that were turned into Chromebooks, and took a music pre-test using Socrative. This worked very well. I logged into my free account (I have not gone to the Pro Version) and created a pre-test using music pictures (I found through a google search) and their multiple choice function. The students needed no email addresses. They launched socrative.com from their web browser, clicked student login, typed in my classroom name, and typed in their names. From my desktop, I had launched the pre-test and watched as they answered questions. When they were finished, I could see their results. I set the pre-test so that they could pace themselves through the quiz and so that there was no score when they finished. It worked extremely well and when they were finished, the data was on my desktop screen that I could easily share to admin if needed. This also can be done with Kahoot and I believe, Google Forms, which now has an auto-grade function.
- Seesaw: Seesaw is a digital learning journal. Music educators can sign up for free and create ten classes for students to use and record their work. If you have more than ten classes, you will need to purchase a subscription or have your school purchase a license. Students login with a code or scan a QR code. They can add work to their digital portfolios by taking pictures of their music, recording their music via audio or video, drawing rhythm patterns and recording themselves performing them, taking pictures of their songs and recording themselves singing or performing them, and so much more. If you would like to see a webinar I recorded of how to use this in your classroom, please click here.
- Explain Everything: As I wrote above, there are numerous things you can do with Explain Everything and assessment. You can have the students write and record melodies and rhythm patterns, record and perform on their instruments, create patterns and form of music, and so much more. The hardest part I have with Explain Everything is if you have a pre-made assessment, you need to get it on their devices in Explain Everything. You can do this through a few ways: 1) When you have created the assessment in Explain Everything, drop it into Google Drive, create a shared link, use that link to create a QR code with http://www.qrstuff.com/, and have the students use a QR Reader on their devices to scan the QR code to allow it to open up in Explain Everything. The pricier versions of Explain Everything (the white icons) make it easier to share the content and have the students collaborate.
- Voice Recorder or AudioRecorder: If your students are bringing chromebooks to your classroom, you can have them perform simple audio assessments using either of these apps. AudioRecorder automatically saves to the students’ Google Drives. Voice Recorder saves to a folder that they choose (or you set up) in their Google Drives.
As I was researching on this topic, I came across Dr. Christopher J. Russell’s slides from his presentation, “Chromebooks and Music Education”. I encourage you to click the slides link and look through his presentation. He makes some great points about how chromebooks achieve the SA in Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model of using technology to Substitute, Augment, Modify, and Redefine certain aspects of your lessons. He also points out the advantages and challenges of the chromebooks from his research. He does also show case studies where the chromebooks were advantageous in the music classroom.
Later this week, I will present the next post in this series: Using Chromebooks and iOS devices to “flip your music classroom”.
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