The second day of the NJAIS Symposium 2017: Transforming Education with Technology, proved to be as great as the first day.

Breakout Sessions

The day began with breakout sessions. I had the privilege to attend STEAM Integration across the curriculum with presenter, Samantha Morra, Technology Integrator, from the Elisabeth Morrow School. She showed us and had us interacting with the coding app, Scratch, and the 3D printing app, tinkercard.

One of the items that I loved about Samantha’s presentation was that the focus was not on the apps, but on the students’ projects. She shared many of their 3D printing projects. One involved using to make castles as a cross-curricular connection. They could make a castle model, a magnet, or key chains. The process incorporated measurements with one student proclaiming that they needed to know the metric system better. Another student exclaimed, “I love my portcullis!” Another reflection from a student was, “This was my favorite project of all…no one can say if it was right or wrong.”

Using had its challenges. Some students stated that they did not like tinkercad, but they loved their castles. When the administration viewed the projects, they stated that they thought 3D printers were toys. However, when they listened to the students talk about their projects, it made them think differently.

The reflections showed how Samantha was creating a learning environment that will develop the knowledge, skills and mindsets for the future. Students were using science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) to design a castle that connected across the curriculum and was a project that they owned and could call their own.


During the unconference time, participants could pitch an idea to discuss in small groups. My colleague and fellow Seesaw Amabassador, Monica Lluch, asked me if we could hold an unconference session. Since she showcased Seesaw yesterday, she felt that this could be a great Q&A time and that we could show more items such as the blog feature, the skill sets, and what the family app involves. 

We had a wonderful turnout. We answered numerous questions from what does the parent see in their app to how to work with Seesaw during the timing of a lesson. We showed the new features in the family app and the class app. We also addressed the timing issue, which we felt that Seesaw is a tool that is used when it is needed. If a student has shown great progression in learning 3 digit addition, then this would be the time to have the student show how to solve the problem through adding a picture of the math problem and recording
themselves discussing the solution. Once the teacher and students begin using it, they enjoy posting often. In addition, the parents love seeing their work and the curriculum on their mobile devices.

Keynote Address: Innovation and Iteration in Education By Jaime Casap, Education Evangelist at Google

Jaime Casap began his address by describing his youth and learning from early on that education was the way to get you out of the neighborhood, which for him, was Hell’s Kitchen, NYC. He reminded us that as educators, we teach to generations that we will never meet. When we teach our students, we influence them. And those influences continue on to their children, and so on, and so on.

Jaime feels that education is not broken. It has worked for many. However, what is the education model that needs to be created for the future that we face? How do we take the best of education and bring it the next level?

Where are all the jobs? 

Jaime stated some eye-opening facts about computer science jobs in NJ. He showed stastics about how computer science jobs have starting salaries that double the average starting salary in other fields. In addition, there is a very small percentage of students graduating with computer science degrees. Furthermore, there is a low percentage of high schools offering AP courses in computer science. And the saddest statistic he quoted was that there was a very low percentage of females graduating with computer science degrees.

Technology has been in education for years. During the 30s, it was the radio. In the 50s, it was tv. In the 60s, it was computers. In this day of age, technology is finally at the point where we can bring education to the next level. However, this bodes the questions: What does good learning look like? How do we use technology to bring learning to life? What is it that we want to do and how can technology helps us to do that?

Generation Z


My daughters were born into a world with technology. My youngest daughter only knows a world with an iPad. Children have no idea of life where one would dial up to get to the internet, and then wait to see if the phone connection worked. We believe that children are tech-savvy. However, they only know a world with devices and internet. When we recall education where technology was not a dominant teaching tool, our students  think of learning in a different way  because they were born into a world of technology.

This generation does not completely understand the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Jaime pointed out that jobs are moving towards automation, robotics, and even self-driving cars. When one thinks about how toll booths no longer have a person at every booth or how an Amazon warehouses now have 45,000 robots working in their warehouses, one realizes that in the future, 50% of the jobs could be replaced by technology. Jaime pointed out that where he works (Google) did not exist when he finished graduate school. This leads to Generation Z asking a new question of, “What do I need to learn to solve that problem?” 

Current employers were asked what they look for in employees and their answers reflected what Kristine pointed out in the opening keynote: Problem Solving, Teamwork, Communication, CT, Creativity, Literacy, Digital Literacy, Leasdership, Foreign Language, and Emotional Learning. These traits are also very similar to ISTE’s standards. These traits should be addressed in education today. But, how?

Collaboration and a New Model

Iteration is the result of critical thinking. Constant moving.
Collaboration is how problems are solved. One of the concerns with education is it is set up as a single player sport. If students are taking a standardized test, they cannot collaborate because if they did, then they are cheating.

Real collaboration involves problem-solving, inventing, providing feedback, motivating, and building consensus. These traits, along with teaching digital skills such as knowing the difference between a sponsored site and a non-sponsored one, builds digital leadership.

Having student-centered learning in the classroom would be a new model in education. Technology supports the digital leadership skills described above. However, if we are adding technology to an old school model, then we are making the old model faster, but not essentially better. We need to ask, ‘what is next in education?’ We need to move from the traditional model and bring education to the next level where the students are engaged, collaborate, invent things, and where the teacher is less the director and more like the coach.

Trying Not to Romanticize the Past


These photos are of Google 18 years ago and Google today. It did not happen overnight. It took a lot of problem-solving, fails, communication, motivation, and collaboration. From 1995, where 1% was online, to today where 40% of the world is online, if we romanticized the past, this growth would have never happened.

In this picture, we see a train of people all reading newspapers. When looking at this picture, one can say, “the good old days before everyone was stuck to their device.” And there is a case for the fact that many are dependent on their devices, but if you change the photo to this: 

you  just have a different tool for gaining information. Ride the midtown direct and observe. People are not talking to each other. They are reading their devices. 50 years ago, riding NJ Transit, the scene was not much different. People did not talk to each other on the train. They read newspapers as they commuted.

Seeing Technology in a Positive Light

Technology is an amazing tool that can enhance the learning environment. However, for teachers to do so, they have to see it in a positive light.

There are times when we have termed some people as, “resistance to change.” However, Jaime gave a better description: “resistance to pain.” He used the analogy of travel. If you travel a lot on a plane for work, you adapt your plans to meet the needs of packing, security checks, etc. If your boss stated that you are traveling a lot and you should use a private jet from now on, you would not resist that because it is a better scenario. However, if your boss stated that you travel too much and therefore, should take a greyhound bus from now on, you would most likely resist the change or pain. When presenting this new educational model, when adding technolgy, and encouraging student-directed learning, we must see it and present it as the jet as opposed to the greyhound bus.

What does this all mean for elementary music educators?

First, collaboration is innate in music classrooms. When Jaime spoke of a group of four students needing to collaborate to make a project work, he emphasized that each student was a part of a whole. Each had a skill that they brought to the project. In our music classes, when are students perform in an ensemble or a play, they all have a skill that they bring to the music or show. This type of collaboration has been dominant in music classes for decades.

Second, when Jaime states being resistance to pain of a newer educational model, one that includes technology, then that is something that we can support in our classrooms. Technology integration can bring music education to the next level. As stated in the previous post, technology can enhance composition, music making, performing on virtual instruments for those who cannot perform on traditional instruments, assessing students, showing student growth, and so much more. It does not need to be used in every class. However, it can be used when it can bring your music class to the next level of learning. Finally, it can help you hook your students as they were born into a world with technology. They can relate to it. If you can hook them with technology so that they will want to learn more about music, would it not be worth it to try?


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