Needed: More than Just 4-Walls

I wish I could physically welcome you into my teaching space. This year, my “home base” is unlike anything I’ve had in years past. For one period of the day, another teacher uses this room but, for the remainder of the day, it is very much a multi-purpose space in which I teach my classes, work one-on-one with students who need coaching, and do my own writing. If you asked me to identify the theme of what goes on in here, I would answer “we experience.” Most of those experiences are, of course, based upon music. On the outside, those experiences are pure…we just make music. For those of us who use this room, our experiences are more complex than that. While we do make music, we recall our history…we learn about the value of collaborating with others (even if we choose not to eat lunch together)…we experience the artistry of cultures that differ from our own…we replicate the work of the masters and mistresses who came before us…we venture out past their work while daring to create our own…we experience trust, fear, vulnerability, joys, disappointments, and beauty. So yes, life in my teaching space can be described as complex and very, very rich.

If you look through the photos I’ve shared in this post, you’ll notice a few points. First, you can probably guess that I still depend upon visual prompts to support the delivery of content and help with classroom management (I am also a Potterhead). Another point is the traditional desks set up in rows (neither is my choice). One of the most significant points in this teaching space is the limited amount of technology. The only technology that you’re able to find in this room are two laptops (one is mine and the other is school-issued), an overhead projector (yes, I still use transparencies), and a desk phone. My APMuTh students are expected to bring their own personal devices to each class. Our school is a 1:1 environment.

Let me say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading the 2018 Horizon Report’s report on trends expected to influence higher education environments. As I reviewed them, I was able to recognize more than a few that were already impacting work in K-12 school communities. Regardless of whether our schools are public or private, our goals include providing our students with superior educations while providing them with the tools (especially technological) needed to succeed in their future endeavors. Here’s the challenge: How do we accomplish this when faced with less-than-flexible instructional spaces? As I delved more deeply into the 18 trends listed in the report, the one that resonated with me most strongly was redesigning learning spaces. The other 17 trends were presented well, but the idea of actually redesigning the learning space in my classroom totally rang a bell for me. BTW, as a way of explaining why that bell rang as loudly as it did, I’m sharing photos of our space in this post.

Question 1 for this week: What technological trends do I absolutely want to include in my classroom space? That’s “easy” to answer. I want whatever will allow my students to Create, Perform, Respond, and Connect. Since my curricula are built upon these four standards, I will use them to guide my decisions on tech trends.

Teachers and learners in our space need to be able… To create: Give us devices with age/grade level software. We’re 1:1, so that’s an easy one to check off. To perform: Give us digital keyboard and playback capabilities (No, I’m not giving up my acoustic piano). To respond: Give us the ability to freely share creations with fellow classmates and, possibly, collaborative partners off-campus with the purpose of analyzing/critiquing. How about data storage and don’t forget connectivity! To connect: Connectivity, yet again, especially since we need to be able to research similar creative projects from different historic periods/cultures AND space in which we can discuss our work with one another (not all learning takes place in desks).

Question 2 for this week: What adjustments to this space need to be made to accommodate these trends? Researching the concept of providing an Active Learning Classroom (ACL) helped me to consider this question with an eye towards what my students actually need to promote their learning experiences. Why would any teacher prefer passive over active learning in their classroom? Shouldn’t I want my students to use my classroom to become more fully engaged…freely ask questions…want to continue asking questions about our topics even after leaving at the end of class? Just when I thought Bloom had the taxonomy market cornered, enter Andrew Churches and Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy! If I am going to infuse technology into our classroom, I absolutely want to make its results to be as effective and meaningful as possible. This updated taxonomy allows us to connect the dots between the original, well-known levels and what technology in an ACL has to offer.

Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy…like the original…only more “connected.’

Enter Makerspace.

I have to admit that prior to writing this post, I was unfamiliar with the concept of a makerspace. What I discovered was enough to help me realize that my students would benefit from having one as a part of our learning space, and also gave me a better picture of the implications of developing a makerspace. The University of Minnesota’s provides a clear inventory of the plusses and minuses of developing and using an ACL. If I use these to develop my own makerspace, the implications include… * Seating – Desks, as we know them, are no longer useful. We need tables that will permit us to spread out our work while having a safe/stable place for personal devices (including keyboards, of course). Will my students have enough room to work in collaborative groupings? What about the students who require fewer distractions? *Student responsibility – How will my students react to having more independence in our classroom? What is the best way to hold them accountable for time on task? *Focal point flexibility – My students will be dispersed around the room at different workstations. Where is the best place for me to stand? Will everyone be able to see me, especially if I’m demonstrating something? * Teacher-Individual Student interactions – What will my strategies be for times when one-on-one conversations between a student and myself absolutely need to take place?

The bottom line for me is complex. Even though I am still connected to my overhead projector and acoustic piano, I get the fact that technology is changing how my learning space and others like it should be put together. I can imagine writing a post on this same topic in 5 years (maybe sooner) and discovering that technology has turned another corner. This corner will likely lead me to visualize my learning space in an entirely different configuration…perhaps with Virtual Reality playing a major role. In the meantime, I will continue to adjust our space while keeping my students and what they will need to learn in ways that suit them as individuals and will serve their needs in the future. I know the advances that are available to us. I also understand the implications that accompany them.

6th Grade General Music is “organized” into houses a la Hogwarts.
In addition to the marker board in the front of the classroom, students have access to individual dry-erase boards and markers to increase participation (esp. for students who are shy) and daily assessments.
Unplugged. The pac-man themed word wall was inherited.
Small, yet functional. Coming soon…a hard-wired printer.
Watch this space: APMuTh Word Wall

Remember what you learned in Kindergarten…

This isn’t about your parent’s definition of sharing.

If you ever wanted to see an embodiment of Bob Dylan’s wisdom, I recommend a look at the art of composing. Truly, “the times, they are a changin’.” Obviously, this reflects an important piece of the puzzle we know as music.,..actually, creating it. Without the efforts of the masters (and a few mistresses) of the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Classical, and Romantic periods of our history, our performances will be, in a word, quiet. Twentieth Century composers began their creative periods in the same manner as their predecessors. With the arrival of notation software such as Finale and Sibelius, the creative processes (as we knew them) shifted. With these software programs and others like them, we developed the ability to do all of the regular tasks (sketching melodies, harmonizing and voicing them, etc.) formerly done with paper and pencil, but now on our desk or laptops. In addition to this sampling of tasks, we could easily convert these software files into pdf’s. If we wanted to send them off to someone needing them for perusal or rehearsal, easily accomplished…PLUS the added benefit of being able to send them mp3’s! The next natural step: taking a deep breath and sharing compositions/arrangements with everyone…anyone…welcoming in the age of Open Source.

In the spirit of transparency, I must admit that open source, and the mechanics behind it, was not on my radar until the past few weeks. I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn about it especially since this information has eased my anxieties about sharing music in an open forum…to an extent. Even as I write this week’s post, I realize that I’ve just tapped the wealth of information available about open source. In addition to this, I realize that information on open source is something that I should be sharing with my students. After all, Sir Francis Bacon was spot on when he said, “Knowledge is power.”

Here’s what I’ve learned so far: * * * defines open source as something that can be shared or modified simply because it is accessible to everyone. Sounds easy enough, don’t you think? Perhaps this was the case when this idea first took root. What originally dealt with software has grown to include more complex items of intellectual property and the relationships in which can be shared, such as: prototypes, formal collaborations, an equitable governance of shared knowledge or products, and so much more. * If a software program is considered to be open source, its code can be viewed or modified by anyone (I have to admit that I find this daunting). * Open source software can be used for commercial purposes. If I develop open source software, I can sell it BUT I cannot prevent anyone from buying it…even someone who would be considered “evil.”

Sharing (at least as defined by open source is not supposed to discriminate between good and evil.

In 1998, a community was established to support the sharing of unregistered intellectual property. Now known as the Open Source Initiative, this organized body is committed to promoting and protecting what has come to be known as the Open Source Definition (OSD)…the The 10 criteria stated in the OSD include guidelines for redistribution, clarity and ease of accessing the code (downloaded), neutrality towards the technology being utilized.

Open source as it relates to composers/arrangers/performers

This is what I want my students to understand. The software typically found in music studios, APMuTh classrooms, church music directors’ desktops, etc. is already in sync with open source (yes, this relates to Finale and Sibelius). If you’re not ready (or willing) to spend money for these systems, you can access free systems that will allow you to access the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) that can share your music (now considered to be data) to a colleague in the next room or around the globe. As I researched for this week’s post, I was especially excited to read about Cardiod, a startup credited to a group of college students. The purpose of Cardiod is simply to provide a means for collaboration in the creative process. Union scale musicians + studio time = significant expenses. In addition to providing a richer creative canvas (I invite you to revisit an earlier post, “Location, Location, Location“), such a system will also contribute to decreasing the cost of producing new music.

The more I researched open source, the more I appreciated what this could mean on a two levels: (a) nurturing a richer creative community; (b) reducing costs for developing artists. I found myself getting stuck on two more: (a) the requirement that sharing be done regardless of whether or not the person/agency on the other side of the equation was going to use it for positive purposes or something nefarious; (b) what would this do to the professional musicians who are dependent upon studio work as a means of their livelihood. Santa Clara University (SCU)’s tie-in to Ethical Decision Making has been especially helpful as I’ve tried to move between these opposing levels. It helped me to pause long enough to recognize at least one of the Jesuit values in the discussion of open source sharing: seeking justice. When considering open source, SCU refers to 5 perspectives: utilitarian, rights, fairness, common good, and virtue. Finally! In the thick of all I found on open source, this was helping me to reconcile what the positives and challenges I was seeing. Was it enough to clear away any of the cognitive dissonance I was experiencing? No. I needed more assistance.

I think I found it. The Ethical Source Movement (ESM) recognizes the value and, perhaps more importantly, power of open source. With that, ESM states 5 criteria for software to be considered an ETHICAL SOURCE: (1) free distribution (including source code) at no cost – similar to OSD; (2) developed for public and accepting of revisions – similar to OSD; (3) governance by enforceable code of conduct – not exactly the same as OSD; (4) right of developer to prohibit its use in cases of unethical behavior and/or violation of human rights – now, we’re talking; (5) right of developer to seek reasonable compensation from those who would benefit from the software – now, we’re really talking!

The research for this week’s post has provided me with an interesting (and challenging) journey. I expect to find additional resources to assist me in my own determinations about the whether or not open source is ethical. In fact, here are just a few. As a kindergartener, I learned about “sharing.” I’m fairly certain that we all did. I also remember learning that with freedom and responsibility traveled hand-in-hand. While I learned much about the technical aspects of open source sharing, my biggest take away will probably be the need for it to be framed by ethics, especially for those of us in the musical arts.

p.s. Kudos to SCU for actually having an app for ethical decision making!

Contributing to the Weave (in our own little way)

I just finished watching my APMuTh students slog through an exam. I spent most of the period sweating along with them while wanting to wag my finger at them for being less prepared than they should have been. Since starting to work with these particular learners, I’ve come to a greater appreciation of how different the process of learning has become, especially for Gen-Z’ers. I’ve totally gotten on the Google Classroom bus, and am so appreciative of the ability to post resources in a variety of forms. These days, my students can readily access materials ranging from pdf’s to YouTube links, and they regularly interact with Google Docs (“gold” for teachers who depend upon collaborative learning experiences). These tools contribute to our immediate network.

During a conversation with a coach, thoughts were shared on what we considered to be the end results of what we were supposed to be teaching. I’ve kept his words with me for many years…coaches should be teaching more than “x’s” and “o’s.” Of course, this made sense to me. While I’d love to imagine that the majority of my students will go on to major in music at a world-class conservatory, the fact is that very few of them will continue making music, even in a co-curricular setting, when they leave this school. They will take with them the music that is always inside of them (and that’s a great thing, don’t get me wrong), but what I really want them to carry away after commencement are the strategies they will have developed to live and learn.

“To learn.” These days, that is a rather heady phrase. For this generation of learners, it isn’t enough to process information in the confines of their desks or a carrel in the library. These learners are expected to discover and hone their skills in the accessing of content with the assistance of the internet as their teachers do their best to move them through Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning.

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning…just as effective in corporate settings!

With the degree of connectivity currently available in the majority our schools, the concept of “learning environment” has surpassed the confines of a classroom, or even a physical campus. With that evolution, learners (and teachers) are called upon to join a far richer community of peers. Kelly (2016, p. 272) attributes changes in the ways our organizations (of which I include classrooms) have evolved to our arrival at a “new level of organization.” When I considered my students and the differences in the way they are preparing for the APMuTh exam compared to previous generations, it wasn’t difficult for me to recognize the similarities.

Currently, my students are provided with free access to a wide variety of online resources. Most of these are quite valid. As I shared earlier, I regularly post sites and materials on our Google Classroom that we incorporate into our daily work, and are required for the completion homework assignments. In an earlier post on this blog, I shared the fact that we have access to tools offered to us by the College Board on AP Central. We include other open source resources including Teoria -an online tutorial program inclusive of ear training, harmonic analyses, rhythm drills, and more; Tonal Centre – great for aural exercises (at least 50% of the APMuTh exam); Émile – an additional, interactive site for rhythm drills (hosted by Ohio State University). Ohio State isn’t alone in its sharing of open source resources. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology provided us with an absolute wealth of free (and valid) materials. Fortunately for us, they are just two of many colleges and universities offering such resources. Although I post these sites and others like them on our Google Classroom, my students have free access to the internet on our campus to supplement the connectivity available to them at home. My students are used to searching for recorded music in iTunes, Spotify, and the like. Until now, they have not included resources relating to music theory in their searches. They’ve broken new ground for themselves. I’ll take this as a brave step outside of their comfort zones (you are invited to visit my post from November 7, 2019).

I don’t want you to picture teaching/learning APMuTh with the help of connectivity as an entirely positive one. Perhaps the most glaring downside (IMHO) comes when my students lean towards depending completely on the technology that is available to them. I agree with Jarche’s advice for us to actively seek ways to develop creative thinking and creativity in our students. That should be a given in an APMuTh classroom, don’t you think? Actually, it isn’t…at least not in 2019. I want my students to benefit from the richness provided to them by connectivity and technology. I don’t want them to become reliant on those resources to the point that any innate creativity is diminished. Perhaps the smallest indication that their creative juices are alive and well…actually using pencil and paper to notate music. I know. “We’re nearly a full decade into the not-so-new millennium, Nan.” In Smith and Anderson ‘s discussion of robotics, AI, and the view of jobs on the horizon, I recognized the mixed blessings found within my classroom’s technology. Personally, I’m a fan of Finale. For the non-musicians in my readership, this is equivalent to any software programming used for word processing. It is a practical tool for those of us who compose, arrange, work in musical theatre and, yes, teach. With that said, those of us engaging in those activities have already gained more than enough experience putting pencil to paper before moving on to notation software. We understand why we’re altering pitches…why we’re using expressive markings…how to transpose. Because of that time well spent, we’ve physically engaged ourselves in the creative processes that frame our art form. I will dare to pose this comparison. Learning how to write music (as a rank beginner) with the help of notation software = Learning how to write (as a kindergartner) with a laptop. My students are more than welcome to explore the notation software available to them but, while doing so, they are also being required to go through the processes included in the study of APMuTh by hand…showing me their work…explaining how they arrived at their answers. Shortcuts are great. In our discipline, there is definitely a place for patiently moving through the process.

Learn to walk…
before you run!

Unfortunately, my students and I haven’t discovered any ways for them to network with peers studying APMuTh from other schools. Instead, we have established a message group that the 5 of us regularly use. This allows them to work together outside of the school day, and to contact me with questions that pop up while doing homework, studying, doing research, etc. We have all found this to be very useful. I suppose we needed to find the connectivity that works best for us despite all of the other tools at our disposal. I have to admit that it does my heart good to hear that ping after school hours. I wouldn’t mind establishing a network for students like mine. I can’t help but wonder how challenging this would be (both positively and negatively).

I have a theory (pardon the pun) that all of us contribute our own unique threads to a master weave. Some weaves have more variety and cover more than others, but the contribution we make…regardless of how large or small…makes a difference. If one thread is removed, the weave is weakened. My students and I are contributing to the weave of APMuTh in our own way. While the fabric might not be as large as the “screen of all knowledge” described by Kelly (2016, p. 279), it contributes to a portion of our corner of the world. While they are definitely growing in their knowledge of APMuTh (today’s exam, notwithstanding), I believe they are also developing skills (research, coping, general creativity) that will benefit them after they leave my class. I agree with the coach…we must teach them more than “x’s” and “o’s.”

Since the wailers and teeth-gnashers left my classroom, I’ve been trying to figure out why they were having so much difficulty recalling material that had been carefully and thoughtfully laid out for them, not to mention the fact that all of the information had been backed up by multiple online resources. Is it possible that menu and its options had been too rich?

A place in APMuTh there is for patience, Padawan.

References Kelly, K. (2016). The inevitable: understanding the 12 technological forces that will shape our future. NY, NY: Penguin Books.

To Swarm or Not to Swarm: What an Interesting Question.

Last week, I described myself as a unicorn. In my teaching assignment, I’m the only one who teaches AP Music Theory (APMuTh). With that said, I strongly prefer to work collaboratively. I think I teach more effectively and am a better artist when I can connect my subject matter to disciplines other than Music. In 2014, the National Standards that guide our instruction moved us from simply creating, performing, and responding to include connecting. The developers of this document recognized that it wasn’t enough for our students to develop, recreate, and reflect on their music making. Now, we challenge them to find connectivity between their work and that of musicians who came before them, as well as greater society. As I view it, our students are now challenged to reach past their personal bubble of music-making. I don’t doubt that this could cause some insecurities…even anxieties. After all, our musicianship (to whichever degree it is expressed) is a personal quality.

Kelly’s (2016) discussion of filters as means of guiding our connectivity moves from the traditional (determined by degrees of gatekeeping, commercial specialists, marketing, civic legislation, cultures, relationships and to an extent, self) to the more personal (strictly individual taste, influence of our friends, items on our “bucket lists”). I rather like the concept of using those three filters as a means of determining what will be included on my “to read/to do” lists but, in reality, I realize that ship has sailed. Once I’ve begun to poke through the internet for new composers or authors to consider for my personal library, Google has collected that information and will begin to seed my online reading with related marketing. YouTube does it. So do J.C. Penney, Royal Caribbean, and Amazon. These days, our keystrokes are far from secure. Still, I appreciate what connectivity has given to me.

Even though I don’t like working in a silo, I recognize that it is part of my reality. I’ve made my peace with that…to an extent. When given the opportunity to break out of my silo, I take it. There are certainly enough resources available to me through research I conduct from the comfort of my study. In fact, that is the way I obtained materials for my university students and those from my earliest years of teaching APMuTh. The missing ingredient was/is the opportunity to network and the richness of intellectual exchanges. While I choose to network whenever possible (preferring face-to-face engagement), I know that I need to be more understanding (read, patient) with those colleagues who don’t share that mindset.

Definitely not my preference.

Over the past 11 years, I’ve been able to observe a close friend while he’s worked as a project manager for the tech side of a big pharma. I’ve found it quite interesting to watch as his workplace evolved from his desk at home to a return of an office-based environment, each of which serves a global network. As I read Schwabel’s projection of 10 trends in workplaces, I recognized more than a few in the evolution of my friend’s organization and his specific assignment, as well as agencies with which I regularly engage. (1) 1 face-to face engagement = 34 emails (2) No more remote-working for IBM (3) 2014 study: Gen Z’s and Millenials preference of face-to-face engagement vs. technology; corporate offices vs. telecommuting (4) Artificial Intelligence (AI) viewed as efficient partner for HR… (5)Not to mention, customer service (special shout-out to online library support) (6)Technology’s extension of the regular workday leading to employee burnout (7) HR’s absence from the executive table As I look back at this list, I’m seeing a mix of positives and negatives. I am able to recognize at least 5 in my own school community (impacting my students as well as myself).

This week, my questions are: (1) How can we prepare our up-and-coming educators for the impact technology and its accompanying networking will have on their classroom environments, teaching, and personal life? (2) Is it too soon to prepare our K-12 students for the same? The readiness needs described by Prince for K-12 and post-secondary education pressed my “up button” (thank you, Dr. Goodrich), so here is how I’m viewing them: For pre-service education majors (regardless of discipline): * Nurture the whole student. Help them discover their inner leader while training the future educator within them. * Offer internship/student teaching experiences that are comprehensive in nature. When possible, cross grade levels, seek diverse settings that will demonstrate “plenty” as well as “want”. * Encourage collegiality, especially in disciplines that are breeding grounds for competitive natures. * Tap into alums who can speak to the reality of life after college (even if that includes having to find a “plan B.” * Ensure that faculty will have ample opportunities to get into out into the field. Truly knowing school districts and cooperating teachers will be mutually beneficial for them and their students. For K-12 environments: * PLEASE do not hesitate to include social awareness (including Emotional Intelligence) in our classrooms. * Provide students with collaborative opportunities that will suit their learning modes while challenging them to move outside their individual comfort zones. * Be open to changing the flow within our classrooms to include more than “book learning.” * At first glance, interdisciplinary learning looks labor intensive. Not going to lie…it can be. On the flip side, it is well worth it when a student has connected the dots during a class discussion. * Take the time to find members of the community who have the skills/life experiences to enhance even the simplest unit of instruction (Build a bridge). * Don’t be afraid to find learning experiences off-campus.

While this might seem like quite the shopping list, (IMHO) it aligns with Prince’s 3 Levels of Readiness (self, societal, and emotional). In reviewing this theory, I was struck by the contribution of each constituent’s role towards the success of the others.

Now, about those bees… I’m fascinated by the impact of a single bee versus that of a swarm of bees on the production level of a honeycomb. Since I have friends who are beekeepers, I’ve become familiar with the importance of keeping the hive and its occupants as healthy and functional as possible. I found Schachter’s comparison of the beehive with the workplace to be especially relevant in discussing how the internet and its resultant networking has impacted where (and how) I work. It would be too easy for me be the single bee. After all, I am able to get my work done on my own (albeit slowly and with less yield). I hold firm to the belief that networking with others (including through the internet) enables my colleagues and me to strengthen our efforts while recognizing the value each holds within our community.

If you’re looking for me, don’t bother checking the silo.

References Kelly, K. (2016). The inevitable: understanding the 12 technological forces that will shape our future. NY, NY: Penguin Books.

Knowledge Management: Do I Really Have to Plant My Flag in Just One World?

It isn’t unusual for music educators to be singletons…to be the only ones teaching our discipline in our buildings. If we’re fortunate, there might be one of us assigned to direct choral ensembles, one of us responsible for instrumental groups, and somewhere along the powers that be who builds a class schedule, the responsibilities for classroom-based instruction are split between the two. This year, my teaching assignment includes Advanced Placement Music Theory (APMuTh). This is very much a “unicorn” course…an offering that appeals to a typically, small group of students with a very specific focus. Since the beginning of this academic year, my four students and I have been working on developing an academic community with one another. While I enjoy the environment we have established and appreciate the opportunity to individualize instruction according to their strengths and needs, I know that we would all benefit from opportunities to share with a community of teachers and learners greater than what we have in our immediate reach.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to participate in an AP Workshop along with approximately 10 other music educators. Our presenter was a college professor who has served as a head reader for the APMuTh exam. We were there to learn, but not just from the presenter. I found the opportunity to exchange thoughts with my peers to be a most energizing experience. Just ask my students about the energy level during class the day I returned to campus (those poor kids). My day away equipped me with a renewed commitment to contextual listening and finding ways to engage my students in finding samples that will be used throughout our year together. This is especially valuable since approximately 50% of the exam includes aural skills (harmonic and melodic dictation, sight singing, chord qualities). Collectively, my fellow AP teachers and I are faced with the challenge of taking a knowledge base that we typically take for granted (in this case, the music innately within and surrounding us) and breaking it down to reveal its elements in a theoretical (and potentially non-artistic) way. We are teaching them to communicate in a language other than their mother tongues.

In its great wisdom, the College Board recognizes that AP teachers don’t always have easy access to colleagues who speak the same “teacher talk” common to our distinct classroom environments. Not all AP teachers can get away to participate in professional development opportunities, especially those sponsored by College Board. While it isn’t brain surgery (no offense to neurosurgeons), it does require a unique skill set and, yes, mindset to effectively teach APMuTh. In support of this, the College Board offers us a number of resources, not the least of which is APCentral. In addition to having access to question banks and soft assessments, we have the opportunity to participate in the AP Teacher Community As one of the aforementioned “unicorns,” I have found this to be especially helpful. Since we are all required to submit our curricula, textbooks, and other supportive materials prior to being allowed to actually teach AP, this has permitted me to confirm best practices while having access to resources and strategies that are tried and tested in the field. AP Central and the AP Teacher Community, both forms of Knowledge Management (KM), are evidence of (what I view as) an increasing amount of common ground between education, corporate organizations, and non-profits. Walls between each of these “domains” are coming down…and for the better. When comparing the APMuTh format from when I first taught it in 2002 and its present iteration, I’m able to recognize the many changes made on both sides of the teacher-student equation. The extra gift

This week, I had the chance to consider the APMuTh experience through several lenses. It isn’t difficult for me to recognize how the overall APMuTh has moved through Nancy Dixon’s Three Eras of Knowledge Management during the past 18 years. The eras illustrate times of (a) gathering elements contributing to knowledge (Leveraging Explicit Knowledge); (b) a physical development of communities made up of practitioners (Leveraging Experiential Knowledge); (c) expansion of conversation past geographic limitations by social media (Leveraging Collective Knowledge) Harold Jarche’s concept of Social Learning resonated within me in a similar ways, but especially for its dependence upon the development of relationships to further desired communication. As I read it, Social Learning works because it calls for a breaking down of walls permitting a freer exchange of ideas between community members. All of this is wonderful. KM is certainly aligned with the leadership style and organizational structure that I prefer…one that is based upon trust, encourages collaboration and creativity, and develops leadership from the middle vs. top-down. As a result, I am attracted to taking advantage of KM and actively using it in my teaching and conducting.

As I write this blogpost, my brain is full of the benchmarks my students need during the coming year and the goldmine of strategies I received at this week’s workshop. I’m trying to view the progress made in KM in the most objective way possible. I feel as if I’m straddling two worlds. One foot is securely rooted in the traditions that have framed my chosen art form for centuries. The other is happy to be standing in an environment giving my students access to far more resources than I can give them on my own via hard copy, and encourages me to network with colleagues across the country and around the world. Here are my questions: Do I need to plant my flag in just one world? Does KM necessarily have to be an issue of leaving one “era” for another, or is there a way to encourage a bidirectional flow between Dixon’s Three Eras? Personally, I aspire to closing the loop of learning, as described by Jarche, so that each era or “state” can benefit from the others. My thought is that we will benefit from participating in Work Teams, Communities of Practitioners, and Social Networks without necessarily making any one exclusive of the others.

From a much earlier Era…the Guidonian Hand: an early “resource” for teaching music.

Index Cards 2.0

When last I was on faculty at my present teaching assignment, I was able to watch six “seasons” of students progress through a rigorous college-prep environment. It was common to see batches of index cards popping up during study halls, especially as our students were preparing for exams in vocabulary, history, the sciences and, of course, music theory. It didn’t take long fpr me to realize these students had adapted the practice of making their own review materials in a way that was portable and, when possible, could be shared with their peers. When I began my graduate studies, I decided to embrace this learning strategy. I still use it.

Fast forward 21 years and I find myself getting to know a form of technology used to format digital index cards for my students. Quizlet is the 10 year old brainchild developed by Andrew Sutherland when he, himself, was studying for a foreign language vocabulary exam. According to the statistics posted on its website, Quizlet’s mission, to help students (and their teachers) practice and master whatever they are learning and provide engaging, customizable activities with contributions from people everywhere, appears to be highly successful. I’m basing that on the reported creation of 335,784,000 study sets and its usage by over 50 million teachers and students. I think you’ll agree that those are pretty hefty numbers

As a culturally-diverse learning community, a fair portion of our students are English Language Learners; students for whom English is not their native language. Since beginning this semester’s study of Advance Placement Music Theory, I’ve come to realize that my students are best served when I use everything in my teacher’s toolbox to tap into their individual learning modalities. In honesty, I was hesitant to learn Quizlet, despite the fact that my students were asking for it (I’m hanging my head in shame over this). As I’ve dug into this app more deeply, I now understand that it is… (a) no more labor intensive than creating the hard-copy tools that I typically include in my class materials… (b) provides my students with a resource that can be tailored to their individual learning styles (and preferences)… (c) provides me with regular opportunities to collaborate with thousands of my colleagues who wouldn’t normally be in my professional circle. Quizlet provides me with options to either develop my own review materials or tap into what has already been developed by my peers. This app is about more than creating flashcards, as is evidenced by opportunities for my students to work collaboratively in the classroom and online with peers in remote locations. I view this as ways in which they can further develop their critical thinking and response skills.

This would be a good time to say that I really am a fan of technology. I’m not afraid of it (unless it is a robot). I actually enjoy learning how to use it. I am now asking myself why I was so hesitant to incorporate Quizlet into my AP Music Theory class. I also have to be honest and say that I am a purist when it comes to putting pencil to paper. As a musician, it is always pencil…never a pen. My expectations had been for my students to do the same with their work, including their review materials. Our academic discipline is steeped in tradition, and that includes having pencils readily available for marking our scores, jotting down motifs, etc. New discoveries that have piqued my interest and are on my “to be added” list: The Henle Library – a digital repository of urtexts that will permit me to edit and mark them in the same way I would with pencil.

NotateMe – an iOS app that has the same functions as The Henle Library but will also permit me to scan and upload music for the purpose of developing my own library. As I consider the resources that we could incorporate into next year’s AP Music Theory class, these are high on my list of possibilities. Of course, the major determining factor is cost.


While technology upgrades for classroom use have been on an upswing, they have taken teachers and their own learning curves along with it. Most recently, our faculty and staff was notified that we will be able to interface our Google Classrooms with our Rediker Portals. While reviewing a listing of 2019’s top 200 tools for Learning, I was prompted to find additional apps that might suit the needs in my classroom. Kahoot is similar to Quizlet in that it provides an online environment for collaborative learning.

Can/should apps such as Quizlet, NoteMe, The Henle Library, or Kahoot be viewed as panaceas for the various and sundry ailments in education? That is a tough question to answer. As I stated earlier, Quizlet and NotateMe are very useful when trying to overcome language difficulties or differences in learning modalities. While I’m actually excited about incorporating Quizlet into my classroom this year, I worry that having such immediate access to thousands of pre-gathered pieces of information will prevent my students from exercising their own research skills. Would this app give them an excuse not to read an assigned chapter in our textbook? Would it weaken their ability to outline their readings…identify the salient points in each unit of study? Once again, the word balance comes to mine. Offer hard-copies of texts and online resources…model ways in which each can compliment the other for my students. Those are my goals as I weigh options to upgrade technology for my students, as well as for myself.

As I delved more deeply into The Inevitable, I found Kelly’s (2016) descriptions of the way in which technology evolves to be especially resonant. As much as I am been considered to be tech-savvy by those around me, I have come to realize that I am (and will likely always be) a newbie in educational learning environments. Perhaps, this is a good thing…a sign that I should actively pursue ways to continue my development into a lifelong learner. The protopia described by Kelly (2016) reminded me that learning, whether it takes place in in our classrooms or in our students’ study spaces when they’re back at home, is an evolutionary process. As an educator, I recognize that it is my responsibility to be open to what members of the teacher-learner dyad need to make the most of our exchanges while building upon them.

References Kelly, K. (2016). The Inevitable. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Location, location, location…

As I write this, I’m considering the types and degrees of changes that have come about in my present work setting since I left it in 2004. I recently returned to it after full-time graduate study and some contrasting work assignments. My full-time teaching positions required me to be physically present in brick and mortar classrooms with my students. In those settings, I was given opportunities to utilize a web-based teaching tools known as Blackboard. While we used Blackboard on a daily basis (posting and grading of assignments, provision of enrichment materials), we participated in face-to-face, real-time engagement. Facebook had become a popular social media for college-aged students (and younger). Twitter was still on the horizon.

These days, I am again meeting my students in a brick and mortar environment. The difference lies in the variety of teaching tools that I have at my disposal This generation of learners is hard-wired (excuse the pun) to expect an increase in the amount and type of technology provided for them. As the first marking period has closed, I am still honing my technological chops as I become more adept at using the Rediker portal and Google Classroom. I suppose this truly is confirmation of the fact that we are all life-long learners. Both of these platforms are considered to be staples in the way we communicate within our academic community.

I recently read a synopsis of Thomas Friedman’s, The World is Flat. In it, the author describes 10 factors contributing to the reduction in the geographic distances that separate us from educational, business, and familial connections. Beginning with the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 through the current proliferations of personal digital devices, Friedman credits these benchmarks with promoting a more global sharing of intellectual properties and international commerce. He sees these as representative of positive changes in the world’s “landscape” while others are less than positive about their flattening effects. In The World is Spiky, Richard Florida conversely views the results of this flattening as contributing to an increase in disparities in a variety of settings. These differences include a widening of gaps between have and have-nots around the world, a reclustering of populations in cities serving as labor, technology, finance hubs.

Fourteen years after Friedman’s publication, the question remains as to whether technological advances can and should be viewed as either positive or negative in our world. My question is whether or not these advances need to be one or the other. As we are well into the 21st century, shouldn’t we be able to use the technology we’ve developed in a way that will best serve the needs of our world without developing additional social strata? I view technology through the lens of an educator. With that said, I have come to realize that inviting my students to enter into a 1:1 environment will work best if I frame that environment with a sense of shared responsibility. Is it possible to share that mindset on a more global level? Ignatian spirituality invites us to infuse a work vision into the efforts we contribute in our communities, nation, and world. This vision focuses upon making choices based upon our values.

What I see when look at technology in my life: I see validity in the arguments posed by Friedman and Florida. I’m not prepared to abandon all of the technology that I use at home and in my classroom. I also appreciate the differences global technology has made, especially in the areas of research and general communication. Are there times when I feel overwhelmed by the amount of technology that surrounds me? Yes, and this is especially true when I come face to face with the unit of AI pictured below or my smart phone intuitively tells me where I’m heading and how long the trip will take without me asking. Nick Bostrom‘s recommendation makes sense to me. It will be worth the effort for us to think ahead and anticipate the positives and negatives that accompany advances in technology with an eye to value-based choices.

It begins.

Finding the edges of my day…oh, there they are!

“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” ~ Alexander Graham Bell

Are you the kind of person who struggles to find time for themselves? Do you feel as if you have a message to convey, yet can’t find the time to express it? I’m fairly certain that you’re not alone in this feeling. I can tell you that I’m right there with you. The late Toni Morrison once shared, “Write at the edges of the day.” I’m going to take Ms. Morrison’s advice to heart and use the edges of my day to speak through this blog. Listen closely and you’ll typically hear me speaking while the early morning coffee is brewing or in the late night hours when the only other creature stirring in the house is my cat, Finn. I hope you and I will mutually benefit from this humble sharing of thoughts, questions, concerns, and humor. Until next time, I hope you’ll succeed in finding the edges of your day, as well!