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As I countdown to 2019, I am continuing with my annual tradition (OK, I only started this last year) of counting down ways on integrating technology into the elementary music classroom. Last year, I focused on 10 ways to integrate technology when planning an elementary music concert. This year’s countdown is a list of the top ten reasons to enhance an elementary music classroom with technology. When I use the word enhance, I am defining it as technology can assist the music educator or the students in making, creating, performing, or connecting to music in a way that traditional methods cannot or are not working as effectively. Please remember that this list is a buffet and to not try everything on this list. Choose one or two items. Finally, when we enter into 2019, there will be a free webinar showing the items on the list in action.
#8 Virtual Instruments to Assist with Students and Budgets
There are times when virtual instruments might be necessary. You might have students with special needs and accommodations because they cannot play instruments in a traditional way. Or you might need more instruments to accommodate your class size, but your budget lacks the funding. Here are some virtual instruments that can assist your students in making and doing music in the elementary music classroom.
- Virtual Orff Instrument – This .99 iOS app developed by Timothy Purdum is a virtual orff instrument that students can play with using their fingers. The app can be setup to emulate various Orff instruments as well as scales and letter names or solfege. The app has a great response time when the student taps the note.
- Virtual Boomwhackers – This “Play a Tune on Boomwhackers” website is published by Plank Road Publishing, the Music K8 publication. The link is for the diatonic set, but they also have a chromatic set as well. Both sets are monotone. They can work on any device that has internet access and a web browser. The student just taps the boomwhacker with their fingers (if there is a touch screen like an iPad, touchscreen chromebook, or interactive whiteboard) or tap the boomwhacker with the mouse. The response time is quick. This can be a great way to supplement another set of Boomwhackers into the classroom.
- Virtual Recorder – Music K8 also has a virtual, interactive recorder fingering chart that has a quick response time. However, it does hold the note for a good two beats. This is because it an interactive fingering chart. With this in mind, this could be used as a virtual recorder for those who cannot play the record traditionally. This website works on any device that has internet access and a web browser.
- The PlayAlong Recorder iOS free app can assist a student who cannot play a recorder traditionally. If the student has access to the iPad, then you can launch the app and show the student what notes to touch on the screen. The student touches the fingering charts or letter names and plays along with the class using a virtual recorder. The response time works well with this app.
- Virtual Keyboard – This keyboard works on a device that has internet and a web browser. You can add the sustain pedal and display the note names. The response time is quick.
- Virtual Drumset – If you have access to GarageBand, then their virtual drumset is great to use with students to create beats and make music. If your students have a device with internet access and web browser, then TypeDrummer, which has been around for years, is still one of my favorites. Students can create quick background beats to spoken compositions or rhythm patterns.
- Tip: These instruments sound better when the device is connected to a decent pair of speakers.
#7 Using Creating and Recording Manipulatives to Share and Level Up
When teaching elementary music, we encourage our students to create music. Some of the beginning musical creations involve stick notation and/or rhythm patterns. Popsicle sticks and magnets are wonderful manipulatives for students to use to create music. But what about leveling up the musical creation by recording it and possibly sharing it with other students or their parents and caregivers? Here are some technology tools that can enhance this process.
- Explain Everything – Explain Everything is an interactive online whiteboard that can be used in various ways. One way is for students to write rhythm patterns and record themselves playing them. Students and teachers share these via a student portfolo, email, a classroom website, etc, for parents, caregivers, and others to see and experience. Explain Everything is a paid subscription that can be accessed from most devices and includes all features. There is also a paid iOS app for one user that has limited features (it does not include real time collaboration or the clip-art library). Finally, one of my favorite things I can do on Explain Everything is I can create a video tutorial for my recorder students where they can see the fingerings and following the “bouncy ball” to practice their recorder music.
- Digital Learning Portfolio – Seesaw, and other digital learning portfolios, give the students the ability to draw and record their rhythm patterns, musical creations, and more.
- Show Me – This is very similar to Explain Everything. However, most of the shared work in within their own website. You can download it to your google drive, but it does not appear to app smash with other sharing sites as well as Explain Everything.
- Book Creator – I have used this app for years and my students love it. It is very intuitive for elementary students. Recently, my youngest students used it to create and record their own pitch explorations. We did this on one device where the students came up and drew the exploration and then the students recorded it.
- Tip: Most of these suggestions work well in a classroom with 1:1 devices. If your classroom is not conducive to this, then have the students use traditional manipulatives such as popsicles or paper and pencil. Then, record them performing their musical creations on your own school device. You can share it with their caregivers, via email, or a classroom website, or a student digital portfolio, etc.
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