Tech tools often seem focused on core classroom subjects like math, science, and history. Many forget the wealth of webtools available for classes many schools call ‘Specials’–those that round out a student’s day and prepare them for college and career. Here are three life-skill classes and online tools that make learning more relevant and fun:
1. Physical Education
Coach’s Eye is a top app I heard about from lots of PE teachers. It is one of the leading video platforms to record an athlete’s performance for playback and review. It records the action and then shows the athlete how to, for example, refine a fastball, analyze a golf swing, break down a volleyball serve, improve soccer skills, or demonstrate proper weightlifting form. Recordings are available instantly, can be zoomed and panned, and can be compared with earlier videos of the student’s action. Users can draw lines, arrows, or any freehand marks right on the video, as well as add audio commentary and slo-mo. The results can be shared via SMS, YT, and FB.
LifeSaver is a free online simulation of a life-threatening occurrence where you (as the viewer) become the only one around who can help. You are asked questions and prompted to take the next step. Your answers play out on the simulation so you can see what happens based on your choices.
The video is powerful, professional, and pulls the viewer in as a critical part of the emergency.
Music is arguably one of the most important subjects taught in school, yet is often the first to be cut away when budgets fail. Thank you, Jane Sandwood, Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, for discussing some of the online options to make teaching music easier, more effective.
In a recent survey, 93% of Americans said that learning music is an important part of getting a well-rounded education. It is a subject that can also benefit many other areas of learning, including math and languages, by engaging many different hemispheres of the brain. Using technology to improve and expand teaching methods can help students learn about music quicker and give them a variety of different learning techniques.
Innovative Piano Apps
When you are teaching music, having a basic understanding of the layout of a piano keyboard can be extremely useful, especially when it comes to learning music theory. The piano is visually simple, making tones and semitones easily identifiable in a way that is difficult with other instruments, such as the trumpet and saxophone. By understanding the keyboard, you can also teach the concept of sharps and flats in a logical way. There are a number of innovative piano apps on the market that make this possible – you don’t have to have access to an actual piano. In a small classroom this is ideal and students can also learn at home on their tablets and smartphones. Simply Piano and Joy Tunes are two excellent piano apps that provide informative lessons and musical knowledge in a logical, step-by-step way.
Streaming live music
It is impossible to learn about music without listening to it. Using live streaming services in the classroom is an excellent way to expose students to a wide variety of styles and genres from baroque and classical, through to hip-hop, K-pop and dance. Live video streaming has meant that you can bring the largest concerts in the world straight into the classroom. Or you could watch an intimate performance of a jazz trio. One of the biggest benefits of this is to see professional musicians at their best and study the techniques that they are using. You can also use this as a basis for discussion about composition and how music has evolved over the centuries. What would Mozart think of the evolution of live streaming? It certainly would have brought the classical music of the time to the masses, rather than being something that was generally only heard by the aristocracy.
Fifty years ago, Albert Einstein warned ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge.’ The ability to solve problems by thinking creatively is more important than knowing how they were solved in the past. Now, in today’s connected classroom, creativity has become the newest transformative tool, the buzzword that indicates a curriculum is on the cutting edge, that teachers are delivering their best to students and differentiating for varied needs.
Art and music have long been considered the doorway to creative thinking. Here are three suggestions that will help you across that threshhold painlessly, even if you aren’t an artist.
I teach technology, so I asked Lawrence Auble, a musician friend I’ve known for years, what he uses for tutoring. His recommendation: Smart Music. It’s one of the 2014 category award winners by School and Band Orchestra magazine and the industry standard for teaching band, string, and vocal of all ages and all skill levels. The app gives subscribers unlimited access to SmartMusic’s extensive library of over 50 method books, nearly 50,000 skill building exercises, and 22,000+ solo and ensemble titles by major publishers.
Here’s how it works:
- Students sign into class and receive materials tailored to their needs by their teacher.
- As the music appears on the screen, students play or sing along with the background accompaniment.
- SmartMusic provides an immediate assessment.
- When satisfied, students send a recording to their teacher who can assess, score, and build a portfolio to track their progress over time.
It is available on PCs and Macs as well as iPads.
Do you want to learn how to play an instrument or sing? Your smartphone or tablet is your gateway to the world of music. There are plenty of apps that can help you get started, and help progress your musical interest and talent. In addition to the apps listed below, you could also find a music teacher to help advance your artistic abilities.
- Google Voice
- Email aliases
- Get Psyched music
Google Voice is a web-based phone service that works through your current phone or your computer. It’s free, and available through a Google account (if you have Gmail, you’re eligible). Incoming calls can be forwarded to your cell or landline (or both) or ring through your computer-based Google Voice account. Voicemails and text messages are transcribed and sent to your Gmail address. Outgoing calls can be made through the website or by calling your handset (smartphone or landline) first, then it calls the number you entered. Here’s what the dashboard looks like (intentionally blurred in spots):
Cognitively, we all agree music, math and education are interwoven. Whether teacher or parent, stakeholders in the college- and career-readiness of students agree that understanding one begets success in the other. And still, in the real world of K-12 education administration, that relationship takes a back seat to politics and oxymorons (don’t get me started). Music programs always seem to be the first excised when budget cuts arrive. I have no idea what should go first, but it sure shouldn’t be music (anyone out there disagree–please share. I’d love to understand this phenonmena)
Here’s a guest post from Sara Stringer with proof and some solutions:
It’s long been accepted that music education helps students become more prepared for a lifetime of learning. New studies now show statistical evidence linking music lessons to measurable gains in focus, discipline, and critical thinking, meaning the connection between music and learning is now stronger than ever.
This year, for example, cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham presented the results of his research indicating that music literally helps children learn to read. Willingham’s study included a chart showing that music lessons “rhythmic skills training, tonal/melodic skills training and auditory discrimination of timbre and sound intensity” improved single word reading accuracy in 159 German first-graders. To test whether it was specifically the music education that was important, or if any arts education would bridge this gap, another group of German first-graders were given additional instruction in visual arts but not in music; their single word reading accuracy did not show the same gains. Willingham’s theory is that the rhythms involved in music help children more quickly understand similar rhythms in written and spoken language, which in turn helps to increase reading accuracy.