Technology only comes to life in the hands of talented educators guiding engaged learners who feel a connection to their learning. We asked Stacey Buckalew, District Instructional Technology Coach for Marietta City Schools in Georgia to share her school’s experiences fostering digital collaborations in music class (both during school and at home). Over to Stacey!As the District Instructional Technology Coach, I am tasked with collaborating with various stakeholders across the school system. Marietta City is a small school district with almost 9,000 students. We are a Charter System, an IB World School District and have a STEM program for 3rd-8th graders.
STEM becomes STEAM at MCAA
Marietta Center for Advanced Academics (MCAA) is the STEM Magnet elementary school in the district. It is the first STEM Certified School in Georgia, a National Blue Ribbon School, and a SMART Showcase School. The school is also a 1:1 laptop school with a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) initiative. Over the last two years, the school moved to integrate the arts into the current STEM structure. The artistic habits of the mind are used as a framework to successfully integrate art into all core content classes as well as art, music, PE, technology and STEM classes. MCAA has elevated arts instruction across all disciplines to spark continued learning in all students. Teachers are expected to integrate STEM into the home rooms. The fine arts are supported through professional learning, an arts integrated specialist and grant awards. The music program at MCAA has been a unique one for over a decade. It is not just about singing at MCAA — students are researchers and curators of their own content which is an overall goal of the school.
Harmonizing student ideas through better collaboration
This year the school employed a pilot of the new collaboration tool, SMART amp software, in all homeroom classes. To see this process in action, check out what students had to say about SMART amp at our school.
A few months into the pilot, music teacher Kevin Sanders felt that this was a program that would benefit his classroom as well and inquired about extending the amp pilot for his classes too. Mr. Sanders contacted me and we sat down to see how the platform could enhance what he wanted to accomplish in his class.
One project he was planning was for students was a digital music history assignment. Mr. Sanders usually had the students Google their famous musician and then use something like Publisher or PowerPoint to create a concert poster. However, this year we decided that SMART amp would be a more collaborative way for the students not only to do their research but to present their project as well. We created the workspace with one of the templates from amp and added numerous Discovery Education links to famous composers for the students to research.
Students worked from school and from home in groups of two or three. They ironed out project responsibilities in the chat feature. The single sign on option for SMART amp and Discovery Education made it less cumbersome for the students to get started.
More productive project collaboration
“Students were not having to remember more than one username and password, since we only meet one a week this allowed the students to spend more time on research and less on signing in and waiting to get into the programs.” Mr. Sanders noticed.
“In addition, my students were more productive and less argumentative about their work in SMART amp,” specified Mr. Sanders. “The students were able to complete their research with pictures, videos, and web links from Discovery Education. They were also able to collaborate and communicate in one workspace,” he observed. “This made the time more productive and as an additional benefit, the final coursework was interactive for the viewers.”
Students in the music class at MCAA could continue to work in the manner in which they were used to learning. Groups could meet during the 45 minute time spot one day a week. “The SMART amp environment was perfect for the digital music history project I assigned my 5th grade students. Being able to see what each student was doing in real time was invaluable for providing feedback that shaped the final product,” concluded Mr. Sanders.
Does this project inspire you to try out a collaborative project in your class? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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