Here we go!

“Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another” – John Dewey.

Thrilled to return to Cohort 21 today for the first face-to-face and be a part of this golden opportunity for authentic and collaborative professional learning.

Reflecting on my Action Plan: Experimenting with Multiple Tools in the Music Classroom

Action Plan Poster

This year, as part of my Action Plan, I asked my Grade 7 music students to compose a rhythmic variation based on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star using multiple tools.

My Action Plan Research Questions were:

• What changes occur when new technology is introduced to the classroom within project based learning?

Introducing these new tools allowed me to position myself as a learner among the students. When exploring these tools with students for the first time, many responses were heard in the classroom by both the students and myself: “I need help!”…“I’ve never done this before!”… “Try it this way” to “Wow, that sounds nice!”

• What happens when multiple technologies are synthesized during the PBL process?

Introducing new technology can be intimidating and scary – especially if the technology has not been used in a full-class setting. Questions and challenges can be expected. While perhaps the most challenging, this is also the most rewarding aspect of introducing tools that are new to both the teacher and the students. Students who engaged in this experience were encouraged to be curious about the capabilities of the tech tools and explore their own individual ability to create new music. The end results were encouraging in both aspects.

• What changes can be identified in teacher practice? In student practice/learning?

My role was essentially that of a facilitator or mediator. I engaged in active listening to better understand my students’ questions and to find sensible solutions to road blocks and challenges. Students also assumed this role – helping each other through the creative process.

• What can a reflective process teach?

It’s useful to turn to the Habits of Mind, Body, and Action to reflect on what was involved in this experience. While many Habits played a role, some were quite instrumental throughout the process:

  • Embrace learningHabits Pic
  • Question and be curious
  • Think creatively
  • Take responsible risks
  • Strive for accuracy
  • Find humour
  • Seek collaboration
  • Use past learning
  • Share what you know
  • Adapt
  • Respond with awe and appreciation

Another way I’ve reflected on this experience is captured in this illustration by Erica Sota of Think Link Graphics:

Action Plan Poster

In this poster, the experience is represented as a journey, with questions emphasized throughout. The warm and supportive climate of the classroom is captured with the silhouettes of students working collaboratively. The tools’ logos are represented and the vibrant colours in the poster capture the energy and diversity of the compositions. Click here for a Prezi that further explains my Action Plan.

Student Samples

Students’ Twinkle Twinkle variations in Noteflight:
Twinkle 1

Twinkle 2

Student examples of the Noteflight step and the GarageBand step:

Students have reported that this was a memorable, enriching experience and I had a lot of fun learning along with them! As a result of all this creative work, we have a better understanding of some composition tools and we also have quite a collection of Twinkle Twinkle variations!

Experimenting with Multiple Tools in the Music Classroom: Action Plan Update

As part of my Action Plan this year, I asked my Grade 7 music students to write a rhythmic variation based on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star using multiple tools. Here is an overview of this process:

Students used Breezin’ Thru Theory ( for audio examples and also to print out the original melody in its simplest form. From there, students explored different rhythms that would change the rhythm of the melody enough to make it sound different without losing the original tune. The variation still had to sound similar to the original.

Next, students used Noteflight, (, to compose and notate their variations. They had never used this tool before but quickly learned its capabilities through collaboration among other students and with some teacher assistance. Noteflight provided students with a visual sense of their rhythmic variations and also provided them with audio so they could hear what their compositions sounded like right away. This made editing easier and also helped reinforce understanding of beat and the relationship between notes and rests. When finished, the students saved their Noteflight piece as a MIDI file so that they could finish the last part of their project.

Each students’ original variation formed the basis of a GarageBand project. For this step, students imported their Noteflight file into GarageBand. Here they added beats, loops, and effects to further edit their Twinkle Twinkle in a musical style of their choice. Individual student choice helped shape the genres of their new Twinkle Twinkle pieces. From Hip Hop to Country, to dance – the students made their own Twinkle Twinkle take on a style and genre representative of their own musical taste.

For the final step, students presented their music in a mini concert that was held during class. Sharing their dynamic variations was an important last step for the students. All of their hard work was celebrated as a class. Since each students’ variation was also saved as an Mp3, the student work was easily shared with parents as well.

It was really neat to observe the effectiveness of using multiple technologies in music class. This experience kind of turned things upside down in the class. Many students discovered an interest in a music area that had been unexplored. This process provided students with an opportunity to expand their understanding and experience of music at school. Ultimately, through collaboration, problem solving, and creativity, the students achieved their individual goals and had some great music to share.

Action Plan: Experimenting with multiple tools

Action Plan Research Goals:
• What changes occur when new technology is introduced to the classroom within project based learning?
• What happens when multiple technologies are synthesized during the PBL process?
• What changes can be identified in teacher practice? In student practice/learning?
• What can a reflective process teach?

Student Focus:
• Students will use a cloud-based application to compose their own rhythmic variation of a popular tune.
• Once composed, students will use their variation as the basis of their own GarageBand composition project.
• Students should consider their audience – for whom are they composing for? For what purpose can this new music be used?
• Students will present their original compositions to the class and school community.

Teacher Focus:

• Document the learning process from a teacher perspective
• Record observations, student wonderings/reactions throughout the PBL process

Reflect on experience and share with colleagues.

How does the addition of new technology influence the important role that teachers play in PBL?

PBL Wordle

How does technology impact teacher practice?

Providing more individualized ways for students to express their understanding is important for student learning. Incorporating engaging, collaborative experiences into the classroom provides students with the opportunity to work with others to extend their understanding in areas that are of interest to them.

Some of the most creative ideas are born out of collaborative experiences. That’s why I love project based learning (PBL). Most of the research I encounter about PBL focuses on the many benefits for student learning, however, the important role that teachers play throughout the process is often overlooked.

I am interested in learning more about what it is, essentially, that teachers involved in PBL actually do. PBL assumes that teachers will provide rich, engaging opportunities for students to learn and these opportunities are associated with curriculum, teacher interest, and student interest as well. It’s a collaborative effort from the onset. Experience, attitude, and open-mindedness also play an important role in PBL. Without a doubt, teachers who provide opportunities for students to pursue their goals through PBL demonstrate both flexibility and creativity.

Technology can play a role in PBL – and at many levels. Technology in the classroom is not a new idea, but the types of technology that are available for educational use continues to grow and change at a rapid rate. Like PBL, we know that incorporating technology into the classroom also has the potential to positively influence classroom experiences– and not just for students, but for teachers as well. When teachers bring new technology into their programs, new conversations develop: between teachers and students, among students themselves, and between teachers and other colleagues. Teachers willing to try something new brace themselves for the unexpected and have a willingness to think creatively to find solutions to challenges as they arise. Teachers who are willing to try new technology in the classroom also demonstrate an adaptability and creativity that has the potential to influence learning for themselves and their students. For me, PBL is mutually beneficially for students and teachers.

Given the diverse approaches and focus of PBL and the many ways teachers go about providing these experiences for their students, I wonder what can be learned about changes in teacher practice when technology is integrated throughout the process of PBL? I wonder how technology affects the conversations between teachers and students, among the students, and among teachers and colleagues. How might the addition of new technology impact the important role that teachers play in PBL? What can be learned about the integration of new technology and teacher practice in this context?

I hope that through an examination and reflection of my own practice I will gain some insight into these questions. As I integrate and apply technology into my classroom experience, I plan to acknowledge and record any connections that can be made to my questions about technology and practice. Given the diverse nature of PBL and the many ways teachers teach, I will also seek out other teacher perspectives. Ultimately, I hope that this experience will help me gain an understanding of what it is that teachers engaged in PBL actually do.

Welcome to Cohort 21

Welcome to Cohort 21. This is the first post on your new blog. This journal is an integral part of your Cohort 21 experience. Here you will reflect, share and collaborate as you move through the C21 learning cycle towards your action plan.

Cohort 21 is a unique professional development opportunity open to CIS Ontario teachers and school leaders who are seeking to explore  what it means to a teacher in the 21st century.