Thursday, October 3, 2013

Collaboration and Letting Go

One of my goals this year was to find ways to work technology into my classroom as a tool to help students learn.  I often wonder what the real reasons are behind encouraging the use of technology in the classroom.  I believe that technology can be a great tool to assist the learning process but it is not the end all.  I don't think that technology should be used just to use it.  We need to ask ourselves how are the students benefiting from this technology and is it helping our students become better thinkers and innovators.  For some students, technology will definitely assist them in the the learning process.  For others, technology may be a distraction. For this particular project, I suspect that it will be great tool in collaboration between myself and my students.

This idea came to me the other day when I was taking a shower.  Most of my ideas come to me when I am taking a shower or driving to school-when I actually have a clear mind and time to think.  I am always trying to make my rehearsals as student centered as possible, which can be difficult to do in the traditional band setting.  Traditionally band directors stand at the front of the room and make the decisions about the music.  Traditionally students have not had much, if any, input.  I typically try to ask my students for the input as much as possible, but it often comes and goes without a ton of impact and with just a few students contributing their ideas.  I wanted to figure out a way for all the students to collaborate on rehearsals so that they could take ownership of the rehearsal.

I decided I would record the students playing straight through their pieces.  We have only been in school for a month, so the pieces are still quite rough, but I thought this would be a great starting point.  I recorded the pieces and shared the recordings through Google Drive.  I instructed the students in class that I would be doing this and that they are to listen to the recordings over the weekend and on a shared Google Doc for each piece, comment on things that are going well and things that need work.  I enforced using positive and constructive criticism.  I told the students that what they share and collaborate on the documents will ultimately guide our rehearsals for the next week-that this is becoming their ensemble and that their opinions do matter.  At our next rehearsal I will put their responses up on the overhead so that they can see what everyone wrote.  Additionally, I shared that this is what I do on a daily basis.  I reflect on the nature of the piece, what needs to be worked on-what we need to do to make things better.

So, the recordings and documents have been shared and within an hour of sharing, the responses have been pouring in!!  It's amazing!  Because this is a shared document it is "live" so I can see who is typing.  There have been some fantastic observations by this group and I am looking forward to using their thoughts to guide their rehearsals.  I will just be facilitating and guiding them through the process, but ultimately they will be making the decisions on what needs to happen.  How cool is that?!

The only downside of this project is that my recording equipment is pretty sub-par.  I told the students that the balance of the group will be pretty off since I had to place the microphone at the front of the band.  The recording quality isn't as bad as I expected; however, it would be nice to be able to give the students a higher quality recording to work off of.

The students were pretty excited about this and asked if we would do this more than once.  Absolutely we are going to do this more than once.  It is a great way for students to think about their ensemble and how do they really sound versus how they think they sound.  It is also a great way for everyone to have a voice and an opinion and be able to be heard.  I am looking forward to seeing how this develops for the rest of my ensembles.

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