DML 2013 Day Two

Yesterday, day two, was another great day hear at DML. I had the pleasure of having lunch with another music educator I’ve met here, Chris Amos. Chris is the Director of Educational Media and Technology for Carnegie Hall in New York City. Needless to say, this was a great opportunity for me as this sector of music Ed (school and community outreach for performing arts presenters) is something I would potentially be very interested in after graduation. Chris has a great job where he gets to work on all of this music and performing arts outreach work and try and make it as innovative for students as possible. His main project is a social network managed by Carnegie Hall called Musical Exchange. In musical exchange, students ages 13-25 can register and complete educational modules within specific interest groups (ex. Classical, Musical Theater, Song Writing, Hip Hop. Etc). For each module, participants are asked to upload and showcase videos or recordings of their work. The really powerful thing about this model is two fold. For one, these students are actively commenting and critiquing each other’s work in very powerful ways. We know that when students work is “out there” they take more ownership and the quality increases. These students are all over the world and in some cases chip away in these groups on their own and in some cases are asked to upload for feedback by private instructors. This all gets at the passion based learning…and boy are these kids passionate. I know I plan to have some of my private students get some work up there! The other extremely powerful component of the network is that for each interest group, Carnegie Hall has teaching artists that are outside professionals and contribute instruction (the modules) and feedback to the students work they present. For example, the teaching artist for Musical Theater is Leslie Stifelman (music director and conductor for Chicago on Broadway).

One last interesting component that the folks at Carnegie Hall are implementing through the network is group listening for these students. The Hall live streams select performances and hosts live chat (back channels) for the students and teaching artists as they listen to the live performance.

I think this project has such great potential and I can’t wait to see it continue to grow!!


DML 2013 DayOne

Yesterday was day one of the DML 2013 conference that I’m attending in Chicago. Needless to say, it’s very exciting to be at a national conference that is this big. I’ve even managed to cross paths with (most likely) the only other music educator here! Yesterday’s opening keynote was focused around students as agents of social change and what that looks like in the 21st century. Also, how can educators channel that in their classrooms. The keynote speaker was Ethan Zuckerman from MIT. The session I really got a lot out of yesterday was a presentation by educators and students from the Digital Youth Network school here in Chicago. This school is a very very cool concept! The school is for students in grades 6-8 and really works on a passion based learning model while making sure students build their digital skills and literacy before moving on to high school. Students are in the building for the school day, and for very specific after school clubs and activities. The whole idea is that the school day is for standards based learning, while after school (really a second school day) is for passion based learning. After school, students work with both teacher mentors and outside professionals in the given field in projects and clubs that focus on video production, music production, spoken poetry, etc. I was so excited to hear about this model, because just as much as I see myself as a proponent of instructional technology, I am such a proponent of passion based learning. Ken Robinson’s book, The Element, gets at this concept.

The digital aspect of this school is intriguing as well. The students work after school in their interest area(s) to learn and build their digital toolbox so that they can seamlessly learn these tools in this classroom during the school day. There is also a social aspect to the (many times very profound) products that they create after school. DYN has engineered a custom social network for their students, mentors, and educators. Students are required to share their work on this network and it is viewed and praised by their peers, teachers, and many outside professionals that the school has asked to join. The students spoke about the importance of having their music videos, slam poetry, documentaries, etc online for many people to see.

The last part of their experience that we heard about was what it was like for the students to go on to a high school that wasn’t as centered around the digital age. All the students on the panel spoke about the unbelievable benefits. To hear how innovative and self directed these students had been through high school in their learning was very, very cool! For some of them, they are the only students in their schools who use these tools and have to convince their teachers to in fact use them as an alternative to the poster project or written report. First, the fact that these students are advocating for their own education is phenomenal. Furthermore, they’re in a way fueling a grassroots movement in their schools as they inspire teachers and classmates to think about how they can use technology more in their schools.

More to come on day two later today!

Chicago Tomorrow!

Tomorrow I head out to Chicago to attend this year’s DML Conference.  DML2013 focuses on “Democratic Futures”.  I couldn’t be more excited to spend the weekend focusing on how we can increase student voice and involvement in education.  Lately, I’ve been very much into the whole notion of facilitating students on a pathway of discovery/learning as educators rather than teaching “at” a classroom.  This trip was made possible for me by a generous fellowship grant from the George Mitchell Institute.   I’m fortunate enough to be able to call my self a Mitchell Scholar, and both Mitchell Scholars currently in college and who have recently graduated have the opportunity to apply for fellowships to fund professional development endeavors.  I am very grateful to them today!

My goal going forward is to write on this blog once a day starting now.  Tomorrow I have a free day in Chicago, so I should get some great photos up.  Then it’s three days of inspiration packed posting through the DML2013 conference!  Looking forward to a great long weekend in the windy city.

Glee for All in Miley Cafeteria

Excuse my corniness when I remark that I witnessed something tonight that was truly remarkable.  Miley Cafeteria at Salve Regina University (where I currently go to school) is not usually a very exciting place.  Over-tired, worn out, college students rushing in and out to get a quick meal is usually the social scenery of the scene.  However, tonight’s dinner was a bit different.  Thanks to a new speaker system in the cafeteria, the dining room manager is now able to play music over the whole space.  Tonight, she picked a Pandora Radio station of oldies tunes that everyone could sing a long to…..and boy they did!  Almost everyone in the cafeteria was singing along to tunes such as Sweet Caroline, Build Me Up Buttercup, and Here Comes the Sun to name a few.  This conveniently aligned itself with the first day of Spring.  What impressed me the most, as I sat back and watched classmates beaming as some belted it out while others quietly hummed the melody, was how incredibly transformative this music was to the atmosphere of the cafeteria.  It reminded me of the truly aesthetic and emotional component to music and why it is SO important to expose every single child to this same exact thing.  It also reminded me that common experiences, such as this, are what make any kind of education community (or community in general) special and unique.  People were walking out of Miley tonight (still grinning from ear to ear) talking about how fun going to get food was tonight.    I’m pretty certain I was probably the only music major in there tonight….just goes to show how music can really touch everyone.

In fact, to just drive my point home a little more, I’m sitting in the music department office right now, and a classmate of mine just walked in and asked what I was writing about.  When I asked her if she was in Miley tonight, she replied, “no…but my roommate was.  She told me all about it.  Sweet Caroline, right?”  Glad to see that people really are talking and excited about it.  And OVERJOYED to see something as simple as a good sing a long oldie lift everyones spirits so instantly.  Truly, made my week.

Blast from the Past!

Just came across this…a video of me and classmate/friend/collegue of mine, Ben Nickerson, starring in a iMovie project we created for a class assignment in 8th grade.  Crazy to see the great work my school district was doing even (what now seems like) so long ago.  Ben and I (The Bens as we’ve been dubbed) have interestingly enough done a lot of work together on educational technology….have attended many a conference together and hosted our own student webcast through high school.  More info on that at and you can follow Ben Nickerson @ben_nickerson

New England 1:1 Summit

This past Saturday, March 10, I was lucky enough to attend and present at the first annual New England 1:1 Summit hosted by Burlington High School in MA.  BHS is a 1:1 iPad environment, and they served as wonderful hosts for this great conference.  Educators and administrators from all around the country attended this conference.  I presented on two topics: my use of the iPad in college and why I believe a 1:1 learning environment in high school is incredibly valuable in preparing students for higher education and the “real world”.  After reflecting on the day and reflecting on my presentation, I walked away with a thought I had never had yet.  In thinking about education on a larger scale, we all know that a 1:1 environment is not attainable in every school, in every classroom, in every community.  However, what is possible is to implement a school culture that I believe has grown out of the 1:1 movement.  Culture is the first building block for any learning community in the direction of a 1:1 program or really any kind of 21st Century instruction.  Culture comes before machines.  This is so incredibly important to remember.  In my home district, we are fully 1:1 in grades 7-12.  However, in grades below 7th, we strive for the same culture that we do in our 1:1 grades.  This includes many things.  One is assessment oflearning objectives.  This means, when assigning a project, teachers look for mastery of content and allow students to take ownership of how they present that content.  A teacher may ask students to demonstrate their knowledge of photosynthesis, but rather than give them a specific means of doing so, will allow the students to use any available resources to do so.  This not only gets the students innovating more as they navigate through this task, but more importantly makes each student’s experience unique and gives them ownership over the product they produce.  Some students may make posters, some a voicethread, some a powerpoint or prezi, but this should be no problem for the educator as they are assessing on mastery learning objectives and not actual means of presenting them. 

It became clear to me that more and more schools, with far less resources than a 1:1 learning community, can make a move in this direction.  Students need to be pushed in the direction of innovation, increased collaboration, and communication with their classmates and community.  Taking advantage of any resources we can, this is attainable.  It’s amazing what 21st century skills can be fostered in the classroom just using the smartphones most kids have in their pockets these days.