In Sync With Soundtrap

How is it possible that I haven’t blogged about Soundtrap yet?! Anyone that personally knows me will understand the ridiculousness of this fact. ¬†I’m here to remedy this absolute travesty. ūüôā


Soundtrap was first created by musicians for musicians in Stockholm, Sweden circa 2012. Increased classroom practices using this DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) has now transcended to all content areas, abilities and locations….what is this and why would we be using it in schools?! ¬†Soundtrap is an easy-to-use, online recording studio that can be used across any device to create audio without the necessity of being in the same physical space as your collaborator(s). No more anechoic rooms, mixing consoles, orientation
sessions or booking appointments.

That’s all fine and good for musicians and music producers, but what about this ‚Äúacross-content‚ÄĚ classroom business I spoke of earlier that is influencing our schools at exponential rates in 2017? ¬†Now that Soundtrap has put these once-complicated, hard-to-obtain tools in the hands of babes, babes can now benefit for the first time – from their phones, Chromebooks, computers or tablets. ¬†And those same babes can create in minutes (it’s that easy!) and invite other babes (from other schools, states, countries!) to collaborate on their project – in real, friggin’ time. I know, it’s incredible.

Basically this is a Google Doc for audio recording.  It has never been done and is now being done beautifully by Soundtrap.

What does this mean for our schools?

  • School districts can now connect and create with other school districts. Think about how impactful this could be to our rural districts.
  • Students can keep creating outside of the 45-minute class period – on their own phone or at home…as long as they have an internet connection. Heck, they could even work on their project from their dentist’s computer if it was online (and said dentist was ok with their computer being hijacked:-)
  • Budding musicians and music producers now have access to a very robust platform, bridging the gap between secondary and post-secondary school programs which will continue to cultivate their passions through school.
  • Speech Language Pathologists have an easy-to-use tool to capture and archive student progress, as well as have an opportunity to invite parents and teachers to access their audio growth portfolio.
  • Foreign language teachers have a slick way of recording their voice (or student’s voice) and inviting collaborators to add comments and/or edit in real time or¬†asynchronously.
  • Countless uses in music classrooms…rehearsal recordings to evaluate and reflect on, practice tool using accompaniments, audition recordings, composition projects, playing assessments, etc.
  • Interviews, podcasts, commercials….the list just keeps going on.


Soundtrap is about all about creating and connecting.  It is simple yet monumental, and this is the time to take hold and experience.  The most recent
NMC/CoSN Report: 2016 K-12 Edition, which examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and creative inquiry in schools, understands the importance. ¬†This report charts the horizon for emerging technologies in school communities across the globe by an organization that has the world’s longest-running exploration of technology trends in education. ¬†One major mid-term trend from this report that focuses on driving EdTech adoption in the next 3-5 years…..yep, you called it: Collaborative Learning. ¬†This social construct places the learner at the center, encourages interaction, group work and develops solutions to actual, real-world problems.

When applied in the spirit of deeper collaboration, technology can unite students around big ideas and projects, while integrating web-based resources that will expand their learning. Digital tools are fundamental ingredients in the facilitation of collaborative learning approaches, offering platforms for communication and activities in synchronous as well as asynchronous environments. Cloud computing has been particularly lauded for its role in bolstering collaboration as it instills unlimited potential for teacher, student, and parent communication. ¬†People can easily access and share learning materials with each other, making updates in real time….[encouraging] increased student achievement, discussion, confidence, and active learning. (NMC/CoSN Horizon Report, 2016, p. 12)

There it is.

And that, my dear friends, is why I shout Soundtrap from the rooftops.  


This post was republished by EdCircuit on 1.12.17

NMC/CoSN Horizon Report. (2016). 2016 K-12 Edition. Retrieved from https://www.nmc.org/publication/nmc-cosn-horizon-report-2016-k-12-edition/

 

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Check Yourself

I recently had an opportunity to listen to Mr. Kevin Brookhouser’s speak on the 20time Project at the Toronto GAFE Summit. His message: teachers who offer choice can meet learning goals while creating powerful experiences that lead to increased motivation, creativity and divergent critical thinking. Simple yet very profound. I wrote the following thoughts while on my plane ride home.

My teaching career started when I was in high school during a job shadowing experience. ¬†A real-world learning experience inspired me as opposed to memorizing facts and figures in my core subjects…who knew! ¬†Imagine 16-year-old me, I liked music, I was pretty good at it, the music rooms were my second home. When I had the opportunity to mentor someone,¬†it just seemed natural to shadow my band director.¬† I had my¬†‚Äúlightbulb‚ÄĚ a-ha moment when I was presented with an opportunity to teach a rhythm lesson to 10-year-old budding percussionist. I helped her through grasping a concept and when she got it, I got it…I want to teach.¬†

Little did I know, that moment would lead me down a very interesting path in education.  It has been a path that has engrossed me, a path that is unfinished, a path that if you squint hard enough drops off to…where?  

Prior to seeing clarity with the scary (yet awesome) realization that our 21st century educational thoroughfare¬†is being built as we travel it, I taught instrumental music in a very rural and high-poverty school for almost a decade.¬† I loved it, was good at it, and kids usually liked coming to my class.¬† Na√Įve-me thought their engagement in my class was a reflection on my teaching – ha!¬† I eventually figured out they liked coming to the band room for the same reasons I liked it when I was in high school – they enjoy music, they like playing an instrument, and my classroom felt safe.¬† One could argue that none of those reasons are because of me.¬† This is where my mother‚Äôs voice pipes up and says, ‚ÄúNow Meredith, they feel safe and secure in your room because you fostered that. They love music because you have inspired them. Etc., etc., etc.‚ÄĚ Ok Mom, I‚Äôll take a tiny bit of it but it really comes down to the fact that they felt empowered in my classroom.¬†

Learners felt safe – check.
Learners felt supported – check.
Learners were given autonomy – check.
Learners were given an authentic audience – check.
Learners were passionate and interested in the content – check.
Learners saw a potential future with the work they completed Рcheck. 

Here‚Äôs the kicker – my learners chose to be in my class.¬† That‚Äôs huge. It wasn‚Äôt until I was out of the classroom teaching teachers, facilitating professional learning, presenting to all content area educators that I realized most educators don’t get to experience the luxury of being an elective teacher and how absolute key that was to my (accidental) classroom success.¬†

Now and probably for the rest of my time on this earth, I will encourage all educators (and leaders!) to pattern after or emulate an elective class by giving student voice, choice, and ownership on their learning while also providing some authentic audience and networking outside of the classroom walls.  Technology obviously provides an accessible avenue to achieve this work.

I’ll sign off by asking one simple question: Do you want to take your class?

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In Memory of Anna Dewdney

My house is mourning a favorite children’s author – Anna Dewdney. ¬†Her Llama Llama books are some of our favorites in our library and when we got word of her passing, we were all very sad. ¬†Her obituary¬†ended with, “She requested that in lieu of a funeral service that people read to a child instead.” How appropriate and absolutely beautiful.

Morgan, my 7-year-old daughter, thought so too. ¬†That night, she decided that Ms. Dewdney’s books were on the docket for bedtime ‘tine (shortened from routine because at one time, one of our girls struggled with the word in its entirety and shortened it). During the story time section of our routine we were reading Llama Llama Made At Mama. I had a quick thought to record Morgan reading. ¬†I had my phone on me (sadly, this is typical as my phone is my crutch and addiction), I opened my Soundtrap app, entered the Studio and pushed the record button. 4 minutes later,¬†voil√†! I added a couple of beats at the beginning/end and had Morgan listen to it. Her face lit up and chest puffed out when she heard the recording. ¬†She was proud, happy and excited. ¬†All the things we want for our children, students, learners.

I’ve since passed the recording on via Twitter, text to Grandma and Grandpa, email to her teacher and now this blog post. Here’s my takeaway:

Personal Connection + Ownership + Authentic Audience = Awesomeness

Give it a listen (there may or may not be little sister Cameron asking, “to see da¬†pitchores”¬†around minute 1:25). ¬†Thank you, Anna, for inspiring me and my family today and future days. Rest in peace.

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Close to the Close

Passage, court, place, lane, path, arcade, walk, wynd, steps, yard, terrace, close…all of these are other words that can be used for alley in the United Kingdom. I heart the UK-especially Scotland-for this and many other reasons. My husband, Tim, and I fell in love with these passageways in Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh, when we first visited in 2010. We recently returned from our third trip and while there, managed to take a picture in front of each close on the Royal Mile. These small areas between roughly 400 year-old buildings pull at our heartstrings and we both feel a sense of magical unworldliness. ¬†We¬†had¬†made a vow to¬†explore each one in their entirety during this last trip, even if that included¬†a bit of trespassing! ¬†We found 70 but if we missed one, please tell us…we will immediately start plans for a return trip to capture the close. We would not want our collection incomplete!

 

Click here to view these pictures larger

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Let It Go

I am Meredith: Mother of Cameron & Morgan, Creature Who Carries Purse and She Who Sings Orders…you can imagine that Frozen’s Let It Go has not escaped my house. Rather, it moved in, does not pay rent and does not appear to be leaving.¬†However, these three words have resurfaced and this time, I am the vocalist. Below are a series of pictures from the South Second Street Lego Saga.

IMG_3885Picture 1: My OCD attempt to make order. All legos were separated by color and placed
into drawers. Big, ugly, plastic organizer was stored in the closet.

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Picture 2: Inevitably, the legos ended up like this and one of my
baking sheets was consumed by the closet (I did not bake for 13 months).

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Picture 3: One of the many creations that were hiding in the closet. First clue
I needed to stop suffocating their creativity by keeping it closet-bound and provide an accessible, convenient building environment.

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Picture 4: Fifteen minutes after relocation and drawer dumping.
Surprisingly, the mixing of colored blocks was very satisfying visually
and audibly to this left-brainer.

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Picture 5: My favorite. This is where I found them the next morning and have since been playing
here for hours. ¬†Note: check out my youngest, rockin’ the¬†bed head.

Simply put: Let It Go, Mom.

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364 Days Ago

“You need to start blogging.” These wise words, casually mentioned to me last summer, helped kickstart my documentation of an amazing year that has been filled with gains, losses, surprises and most of all – pushed me to reflect on my work (something I am finding is absolutely imperative to¬†the learning process). Thank you Scott for mentioning it nonchalantly last year at ISTE on our walk to the MLTS screening. Thank you Tim for reading my drafts and providing very helpful feedback (you are so smart). ¬†And thank you subscribers¬†for reading my two cents¬†every so often.

On June 26th, 2015 I bought msmeredithallen.org, subscribed to WordPress (a program I have spent countless hours you-tubing tutorials and learning more code I care to admit) and started my blogging adventure. ¬†Originally I thought my blogging¬†would be for others (naive thought – I know!) but blogging turned into something beautiful for me. ¬†It is now a¬†meditative exercise (although, like most exercise regimens, my consistency and discipline could be improved;-). I highly recommend this exercise and would encourage all educators to have¬†students¬†blogging about what is happening in the¬†classroom, their process throughout a project, their reading journal, whatever – expand outside the spiral notebook or Friday Folder. As a mother of two elementary kids, please. Please digitize more – less paper in my house would be fantastic¬†and I would love to share my children’s gains, losses, surprises, etc. with family and friends electronically.

One lesson learned fairly quickly – if you want people to read what you write, you need to promote your posts. The avenue in which I promoted depended on who my intended audience¬†was. ¬†I am sure the social media promenade will eventually change to¬†some other awesome program(s) but for now I use Facebook for more personal posts and Twitter for professional posts. And then there are the¬†posts that have never left¬†draft form…and never will. ¬†They are equally important (albeit one might argue more important) but not to be shared publicly. What I am getting at: I could do whatever I wanted in whatever way I needed. It is the beauty of creating original works. I own my writing….it only took 33 years to figure that out. Ouch.

364 days ago I started something that should have been encouraged, cultivated and fostered 10,585 days ago. One might argue that the technology was not available for teachers and students 10,585 days ago.  Ok, I will give them that but lack of technological opportunity does not apply to the here and now.

Ready? Set? Blog.

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A Dedication

This blog post is dedicated to the 2015-2016 Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency Technology Innovation Team.

From my first tweet, I have had a team Рmy tribe Рas a support system through my transformation from a classroom teacher to an instructional technology consultant. In addition to being a general resource for my many, many questions, they truly inspire me. This tribe always strives to #makeitbetter. Their patience with my naivety and ignorance to this new world has been unending. My tribe enveloped me from the beginning and their virtual arms of support are felt every day.

I’d like to give a quick shout-out to these amazing people.

First there’s Scott, alphabetical by last name but also because he’s been my leader. He believes in me, trusts me, guides me, coaches me and shows me possibility. Scott is leaving us for Colorado (Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Colorado-Denver) but what an impact he’s had on my path and to the education system in Iowa.

Julie would be up next, my ‚Äúofficial‚ÄĚ AEA-assigned mentor;-) So much more than that. From our first hotel stay together at #ISTE2015, I was impressed by her vast knowledge of educational practices, past and present as well as her keen ability to coach.¬†Textbook definition of mentor is: a person that advises…Julie has done that and then some by¬†enriching our discussions with her deep expertise in such a way that is suitable and helpful to my situation and practices.

Now I would like to talk about Erin…oh, Erin, I will miss you next year (she, too, is leaving the team to explore the path of Instructional Leadership)….she is always so loving and caring, arms (and heart) open for a hug. Erin impresses and inspires daily with her ability to transform written and spoken word into poetry, exquisite word choice that when put together is true beauty. Paired with her awesome ideas on lesson redesign, I could honestly listen to or read her work all day.

Last, but definitely not least is Leslie. CSPAN Fellow, IA Social Studies Teacher of the Year, PBS Innovator, ASCD Emerging Leader, NSBA 20 To Watch, ISTE Emerging Leader‚Ķ..enough said? No. She‚Äôs thoughtful and insightful. Leslie has been my ‚Äúunofficial‚ÄĚ AEA mentor with all things logistical and practical, a role that I‚Äôm sure is fairly thankless¬†(‚ÄúLeslie, what is appropriate to wear to this/that? Leslie, who is this person and what do I need to know about them? Leslie, what are your thoughts on‚Ķ.‚ÄĚ) The latter question being the one that I have gotten fascinating¬†responses. She sees potential, articulates her vision¬†exceptionally¬†and always considers the real-world application.

One might think our tribe is dwindling but these wonderful souls will always be connected and unbroken. States and contracts might divide us but my heart will always feel warm and full when I reflect on our work together this past year. Love to you all.

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“Saved the Day”

I put this title in quotations because 6 people think I saved their day from 4,057 miles away….Instead, I did what any high school (maybe even middle school) student could, would, and should do if given the access and reason.

Back story: Meet my parents – Robin and Steve. ¬†My mom is a retired English teacher and my dad is a farmer that will never retire. In 2011 they went on their first international trip to the UK. ¬†That was the first of many. ¬†My role has been their travel agent, something I quite enjoy. ¬†I get to surf the Internet for cool B&B’s, make reservations, map out pretty and practical routes and then live vicariously through them via their agenda and Facebook posts. ¬†They just returned¬†from their 5th trip, (this time going with 4 friends) which I had the pleasure of planning.

Break to: SUPERMAN JUMPS OUT OF THE PHONE BOOTH!!!  Or, rather, Meredith answers a panicked FaceTime call over the noon hour.

Robin: “Meredith, we have a problem. This B&B only has one room available for tomorrow night, we need three!” (First thought, uh-oh I messed up…mom assured me not, their mixup, blah, blah….second thought, maps.google.com).
Me: “Hang on mom, we’ll get it figured out – no worries.”
Robin: “Steve, look how cute she is when¬†she’s¬†concentrating.” (Remember, this was FaceTime, I was on a mission and these are¬†my parents)
Me: “Mother. ” You get the idea of how the rest of the conversation might have went between a daughter and her parents…

Fast-forward 15 minutes:¬†I had done a quick online search of the area they were traveling, found¬†the desired route for their next booked B&B (taking into consideration the roads my dad felt comfortable driving on), split the difference of mileage (based on how much drive time they wanted to get done the next day), clicked my favorite “Hotels Nearby” button, cross-referenced that list with tripadvisor.com (over 320 million user reviews of anything travel related-seriously, check it out), found two possible B&B contenders, viewed their respective websites, read reviews, made a decision, called the winner (using my computer I’ll have you know) and made the reservation with a very nice English-accented woman named Vanessa, whom the traveling party met the next day and adored!

Did  I remember the date of the signing of Magna Carta?  No. (June 19, 1215)
Did I remember the name of the current Prime Minister? No. (David Cameron)
Did I do a crazy algebraic equation to get my mileage? Nope.

What I did do was:

  • Apply critical reading and thinking strategies.
  • Determine importance of information and its relevance to essential questions.
  • Separate information and ideas into component parts.
  • Make inferences, identify trends, and interpret data.
  • Separate information and ideas into component parts.
  • Exercise flexibility in information seeking and collaborated with peers.

In shorter terms, I¬†analyzed, evaluated, interpreted, and inferred. All wonderful, great skills¬†we want our bright,¬†21st century learners to be practicing¬†and applying. I used what resources I had to solve a problem, a real problem. It wasn’t rocket science and it wasn’t fancy-dancy Academia stuff but those 15 minutes of clicking and surfing “saved the day” for 6 people on vacation. It put their minds at ease and I¬†played a role with that, which makes me feel good. ¬†

I want students to feel good about the work they are doing in schools. Are they helping someone or something? Are they solving a a real problem? What work are they doing in school to be part of a solution? What are you doing to be part of a solution?

 

 

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Playing With Circuitry

Math and Science were not my strong subjects in school. I gravitated more towards English, Social Studies and, of course, Band. Why do certain subjects resonate more with some students than others? Multiple intelligences, right vs. left brain dominance, disengaging or un-relatable instruction? Any, all, and other factors probably play a mix of roles with children leaning toward particular subjects throughout their schooling. Regardless, I do consider myself a life-long learner and have had some amazing opportunities to do just that through my position as an Instructional Technology Consultant for Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency.

One such opportunity to learn has been through recent circuitry “toys” and the amazing and incredible process of making the light light up or the fan to whir. ¬†My first experience was with littleBits (more to come on that later) at TICL last June and the list grows every day. ¬†I decided to offer a quick synopsis¬†of each one I have had contact¬†with so far. ¬†I tried to list them in a chronological order by grade¬†level but quickly realized that one “toy” can be easily adaptable to a wide range of ages, depending on the activity/learning goal. ¬†Here goes…

  • littleBits¬†– These Bits snap together with magnets, no soldering, no wiring, no programming. ¬†Color coded (Blue=power, Green=output, Pink=input, Orange=expands) modules lend for hours of exploration and limitless possibilities.
  • Snap Circuits¬†–¬†These components snap together instead of magnetize. Color coded as well but create circuit boards just like the ones found in electronic devices. ¬†The sets come with a project manual but the real fun comes when the user gets comfortable enough to deviate from the manual and make their own creations.
  • Makey Makey¬†– This video [2:12] captures the Makey Makey capabilities much better than I could – super cool.
  • Squishy Circuits¬†–¬†Using two different doughs (which the user gets to make!) as circuit building materials to connect the components (buzzer, LEDs, motor). Engineering students from the University of St. Thomas started this program and include lots of videos for classroom use here.
    • Ages: ‚ÄúAllows kids of all ages to create circuits and explore electronics.‚ÄĚ
    • Classroom Ideas
  • Arduino¬†–¬†A bit different than the above mentioned but still requires a shout out. This is an open-source prototyping platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software (I even managed to get the light to light up!) Users can study the hardware to understand how it works and make changes to it. The company encourages users to share under¬†their Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License.
    • Ages:”The 10 year old me would have been all over this!”
    • Classroom Ideas

It’s not about the “toy”…tool, program, app, whatever. It’s about the magic that happens when a student is allowed the freedom to explore, create, problem-solve, make something work, and relate it to the real world.

First step teachers: eliminate that worksheet activity you have done every year that’s getting stale. Instead, have your students “play” with a¬†“toy.” I recommend having¬†your students¬†reflect, document their learning/failing process and celebrate by sharing their learning/failing through your school website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, etc.

Enjoy the mind shift I promise you will witness and experience!

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Working Together ~ Achieving Success

The Laurens-Marathon School District has always been proud of “Working Together to Achieve Success” and Friday’s first elementary MakerDay was a wonderful¬†example of their building motto. ¬†After months of planning, preparing, compiling community donations of supplies and organizing helpers & volunteers, the day went off fabulously. I can’t say that there weren’t hiccups but as a whole, the day was very positive. Student engagement was near 100% and learning was¬†at a high.

What would one see if they walked the halls that day?

  • Students jabbering – lots of it. (“Did you see what happened when I did this?! Where do you think the marble will go if I do this?”)
  • Students are NOT sitting in desks in rows. They might be sprawled on the floor, in groups, running to keep up with their Sphero or jumping up and down in celebration (“My tower didn’t topple! My engineered car worked! Woo-hoo, my chariot can carry my Lego-guy!”).
  • Creating, lots and lots of creating (cutting, pasting, attaching, coloring, drawing, coding, the list goes on…)
  • The teacher is NOT at the front of the room lecturing. Instead he/she is off to the side, providing support and asking the important questions.
  • Students are asking questions AND teachers are asking questions.
  • Students were in groups, collaborating,¬†Working Together.
  • Smiles – happy students and happy teachers.

It was a beautiful thing.  Success?  I think so.

Not on Twitter but want to see images and videos of the day? Click here for our Storify!

 

 

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