I have to say that December 31 is one of my favorite days of the year. Though I should be thinking about lesson plans as we go back to school soon, I actually look forward to seeing what the new year will bring. It is the day that ends one year and offers a new beginning and fresh start to the next year. In addition, since my girls were around the ages of 3 and 5, they have been able to stay up late and ring in the new year with us. We go to Party City and find some fun decorations, buy our favorite snacks, and watch their favorite shows or musical artists before we ring in the new year. I know that in a few years, this tradition will subside as they will go out with their friends on New Years Eve. However, until then, I look forward and thoroughly enjoy our annual celebration.

A few reminders…

This list is a good one, but does not mention every website that would be a great fit for every elementary music classroom. Please remember that this is just a list and one should experiment with a couple of websites from this list that meet their students’ musical goals. In addition, they should test out any tech before using it in the classroom and be ready with a Plan B if the tech does not work. As with any good lesson, when Plan A fails, there are still 25 more letters in the alphabet.

Websites That Showcase Students’ Works

There are numerous websites that students can use in the classroom to showcase their work with others from parents and caregivers to other classrooms around the world. I am going to write about two of the these apps, but there are plenty more.

When deciding on using a student digital portfolio or a social media platform to empower students’ voices, you should consider the following before you dive in:

  • Is there a platform already in place at the school(s) you teach? For example, are there many classroom teachers using Seesaw, Class Dojo, Flipgrid, etc? If so, then begin there because you automatically have a support system with the classroom teachers having worked out the kinks, and you have IT support as they most likely rolled out the platform.
  • If there is not a platform in use, do you have a teacher you can partner with to pilot the platform? It makes a wonderful and positive difference to partner with another teacher when piloting an app.
  • Does the platform have good support and social media group pages to assist you when you have questions? Do they have good youtube tutorials? Most do these days, but it is good to know this before going in.
  • What is your goal for implementing this platform? Is it to connect your students’ musical creations with their caregivers? Is it to connect your classroom with another music classroom from another area in the world? Set your goal first. Then you can choose the technology that best supports the goal.

Flipgrid

Flipgrid premiered new tools that were previewed at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference this past June. The new additions to Flipgrid will enhance students’ choices in how they showcase and reflect on their experiences of making and doing music in the elementary music classroom

Currently, I am working on my ISTE certification. This process is very thorough and intensive. It begins with a 2-day workshop, then proceeds to an 8-week online course, followed by a 6-month portfolio. From this process, I have learned that empowering students’ voices means giving them the choice of a tool that will help them feel successful and comfortable. 

Empowering Tools

When I present an elementary technology workshop or webinar, I always speak to the fact that I do not use technology every day. I use it when it is the best tool to help the students learn. The ISTE certification process shows me that there are times when I should give the students the opportunity to choose the best tool for them to use to showcase and/or reflect on their progress. There are numerous tools out there. The best ones to use are based on the following: 

  • Tools that you feel most comfortable using. 
  • School and IT support those tools.
  • Tools that other teachers in your school are using so you have support.
  • Ones that you can find support using through various PLNs.

Flipgrid

Here is a list of ways that Flipgrid can be used in an elementary music classroom:

Sharing your “Shorts”
  • Using the new “Shorts”, create a welcome “All About Me” video to introduce yourself to your class. You can share this in various ways from sharing a link to post on a classroom website to a Google classroom.

When using the “Whiteboard Mode” feature, a student can record themselves singing a simple song, an “Ask Me” song, a melody, etc, without having to video themselves.

White Board Feature used to Record a Song w/out showing student’s face
  • When using the “Whiteboard Mode” feature, a student can record themselves singing a simple song, an “Ask Me” song, a melody, etc, without having to video themselves.
    • By creating a “Grid” (a community), have the students leave videos of themselves singing a simple song. The picture above shows me using the “Whiteboard Mode”, but I turned it black. I then added the emoji and microphone stickers so I could record without having to video myself. 
    • You can also use filters to change the way a video appears.
  • The “White Board” also allows you to write and record rhythm patterns.
  • Promote digital citizenship by having students leave video comments on other student’s videos. These videos could be a video of a song, an orffestration, a musical creation (they record the incredibox music creation using the web-based extension of screencastify or the iPad’s screen recording tool and others comment on it), etc. Use the Design Thinking process of “I like…”, “I wonder…” “What if…” to leave a video comment. “I like your song. I wonder if you can sing it twice. What if you sang the song twice, the first time quiet and the second time with full sound?”
    • Edit the settings so that you must approve all videos that are submitted before they are posted.
    • Share the grid with parents, by clicking on the grid’s “Actions” and scrolling down to “Add Topic Guests”. This will allow guests a special code to access that one topic. 
    • Then, in guest mode, have parents video themselves singing the “Ask Me Song of the Month” in response to their child’s video. Encourage the child to teach the parent the song.
    • In addition, the “Mix Tapes” allows you to place any videos from any grids into this one “mix tape”. You can give access for others to only view this “mix tape”, which can be your mic dropping video moments from music class.
  • Create a grid with you or students playing or singing parts to a song. The students can access it and practice along at home. 
  • As seen in the pictures above, all Flipgrid response videos are now automatically transcribed and close-captioned by Microsoft Azure. The Microsoft Immersive Reader launches on every Flipgrid Topic and video transcript.
Settings for CC
  • The close-captioned tool can be shown in other languages than the one you are speaking. However, it is not always accurate. But, I like that I can video myself singing in English and tell the CC show the captions in Spanish (Mexico).
  • There are options to password protect your grid, set the grid to be accessed through the students’ email addresses, or set it up to sign in students through a QR code. The latter is wonderful for students without email addresses.
  • You can search #Gridpals to find that there are currently 139 gridpals who list elementary arts as two of their subject areas. Reach out to a gridpal and have the students in that class respond to your students’ videos and vice versa.
  • Searching the “Disco Library” for elementary music activities for the beginning of the school year will give you two ideas. Disco is short for discovery and helps you find ideas for possible grids

Seesaw

Credit: web.seesaw.me

Over the past four years, I have used Seesaw in my elementary music classroom and it has made a world of difference. One, I can now showcase my students’ musical works to their parents, caregivers, family members, and more. Two, I have an amazing tool for students to reflect and give them a voice in their learning. I have learned so much about my teaching from listening to them reflect. Three, Seesaw comes with numerous tools for the students to have choice in how they showcase their music. Four, it is free. Five, though 1:World is ideal, with my younger elementary, I use one device to work on their journals.

Since I have written so much about Seesaw over the years, here are links to my previous posts:

With my students using both Flipgrid and Seesaw in my music classroom, then they can choose the tool that makes them feel more comfortable when they perform. With Flipgrid’s video tool and Whiteboard options, as well as Seesaw’s numerous tools from video to drawing to recording to typing and more, my students will have the choice of tools that work best for them. They will feel comfortable and safe in my music classroom, as well as finding the best way for them to be heard.

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