Connecting the Dead & Avoiding Butter Bone….Thank You Technology

Some people (ok, most people) might not know that I have an unusual interest in archaeology. This obsession started when I was a young child while reading a book on ancient Egypt…I felt a connection to the characters in the story more than I had with any other book. This motivated me to read more on the topic and research Egypt. At one time, I even vowed to pursue Egyptology as a possible profession. However, the extent of my formal Egyptology studies was one Level 400 college course on the History of Ancient Egypt (my only non-A grade on my transcript…yeah, I don’t want to talk about that, wink.)

Fast forward a couple of decades, life happens and I now feed my interest once a month when my Archaeology magazine arrives in the mail. Reading those magazines cover-to-cover is a highlight of my month. This past issue I had two reflective moments whilst reading completely different stories in the May/June issue, both of which relate to the role technology played. I have summarized below:

After the Battle of Dunbar: Legacy of a Lost Scottish Army” When researchers concluded that the recently-uncovered mass grave in Durham, England held the remains of the soldiers of The Battle of Dunbar (an amazing story of fighting, death and survival) they were surprised by the increase in online traffic from hits on America’s eastern seaboard.  The influx was coming from Battle of Dunbar survivors! Motivated by this, a number of the aforementioned researchers traveled to New England and thus presented their findings to a packed room of descendants who were VERY interested in finding out more information and meeting others of the same ilk. The researchers connected these people through their information and presentations.  What I found extremely interesting was the decision to present based on heightened online traffic from a particular area! It does leave me asking a lot of questions (which is always good!) and wondering how this technology can/will influence education. Are we teaching our students to use tools to be collaborative and make connections using technology? Are we inspiring our young learners to think big-picture? To critically think through real-world problems and find solutions? At this time, I don’t know.

 

I continued reading through the issue and found another awe-inspiring article. This one was entitled “The Ghosts of Kangeq: The Race to Save Greenland’s Arctic Coastal Heritage From a Shifting Climate.” Kangeq, a settlement in southwestern Greenland, hosts a layered index of human occupation that covers at least two millennia. Fluctuating weather patterns are melting the permafrost and accelerating natural decomposition. This means a plethora of amazing items found in these midden sites (preserved wood, bones, feathers, baleen, antlers, leather, fur, human hair) will soon turn to mush, or as archaeologists refer to it: “butter bone.” Greenland’s current capacity for managing archaeological sites is limited as the coastline alone stretches over 27,000 miles.  Although archaeological teams will tend to the sites that are identified the most vulnerable, they will still need help to cover ground and acquire pertinent information. The plan is to tap into local expertise and crowdsource the information. “Modern Greenlanders are frequently very familiar with changes to their hunting and fishing grounds from year to year, and we want to figure out a way to capitalize on this local knowledge,” states Bo Albrechtsen, Deputy Director of the Greenland National Museum. This will most likely take the form of a mobile app to document and record important information on threats to coastal archaeological sites. The sum is greater than its parts. I love it. And in regards to school and education (as I like to put that lens on just about everything I do and read)….the teacher doesn’t hold the knowledge, the students do.

Image credits:
www.flickr.com/photos/thenationalmuseumofdenmark/11815294835
commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cromwell_at_Dunbar_Andrew_Carrick_Gow.jpg

 

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Student Radio at The Pingry School in Short Hills, New Jersey

Written by Meredith Allen, Soundtrap Educational Ambassador
Cross posted at: http://edublog.soundtrap.com/2017/04/05/student-radio-at-the-pingry-school-in-short-hills-new-jersey/

I recently met Mr. Thomas Berdos at the Texas Music Education Association annual convention in San Antonio. Mr. Berdos is an 18+ year music educator at The Pingry School in Short Hills, New Jersey. We chatted about a recent cross-curricular project he and his colleague, Jill Driscoll, had been working on.

This particular project which spans grades and ties together numerous classrooms and subjects, relies heavily on Soundtrap for audio capture and execution.  I knew as soon as I heard about the magic that was happening at Pingry I needed (and wanted) to share it with other educators asap!

Project: WSHR Radio was created when Music, Library, Language Arts and Technology classes were combined in a unit for the Pingry 5th graders.  Students listen critically and research pieces of music. They write and record a narrative, splice the commentary with important parts of their chosen music and celebrate the created audio files by having their radio segments played over the PA in the hallways of the lower elementary at the start of each day.  These fantastic 5th grade students have now shared their knowledge & interest of music with the rest of the school, leveraging technology in a really awesome way while connecting to their language arts and library classes. I decided to ask Mr. Berdos a few questions about his and the student’s experience thus far.

Meredith: What motivated you to organize this student project?
Mr. Berdos: I have always wanted to find ways for students to see music through the filter of other disciplines. One day on the way to work I was listening to my favorite classical station in the car. As I entered the building, I thought it would have been nice to hear the last selection I heard in the car playing in the hallways of the school, along with the show host’s commentary. It came to me that we could do this with students doing the commentary. Our radio station, WSHR, was born.

Meredith: How did the other teachers in your district react to this project?
Mr. Berdos: Very enthusiastically! Pingry is an independent, private school with a unique and successful learning culture. The faculty members are encouraged to collaborate. So the collaboration of the WSHR unit between numerous disciplines was natural and easily gained traction.

Meredith: Did you encounter any roadblocks?
Mr. Berdos: When we started the WSHR unit, we broadcasted with a small bluetooth speaker on top of a cabinet in the hallway. We have “graduated” to a state-of-the-art bluetooth sound system installed in the ceiling of the hallways, which makes for wonderful sound fidelity. We originally used Audacity for the tech piece of the project. It was more complex than our students needed and we found Soundtrap to have the right mix of capability and user-friendliness. Switching to Soundtrap proved to be the right way to go forward.

Meredith: How did the students react to this project?
Mr. Berdos: Students are very interested in doing the project. All students in the school hear the music in the mornings. The fourth graders look forward to “next year” when they do the broadcasting. Students enjoy being assigned pieces of music, and learn not only about the music, but about their own capacity to appreciate new styles of music. Recently I heard from a student who was in our program a number of years ago, and he still remembers and enjoys his WSHR assigned piece. So the program has a lasting value on our students.

Meredith: How did Soundtrap aid with completion and success of these student projects?
Mr. Berdos: We could not do the unit without a program like Soundtrap. The fifth-grade students can record their own voices and also splice in their music all with little trouble. The recording part of the WSHR unit brings all the learning to life.

Meredith: Did using Soundtrap inspire you, or other content teachers in your building, to attempt or plan to attempt another outside-the-box student project using collaborative audio recording?
Mr. Berdos: I know that since we started using Soundtrap for the WSHR unit, the foreign language department has used Soundtrap for their recording needs.

Lesson & Class Details:

  • General Music – Students learn the skills necessary for listening critically to music and to make observations on the musical characteristics of the piece.
  • Library – Students research their assigned musical selections. They gather information about the piece: when it was composed, for what occasion was it composed, how it fits into the music of its time period, etc. They also gather information about the composers: when/where they lived, and interesting highlights of their lives.
  • Language Arts – Students create narratives based on their research. In addition to standard rules of grammar and punctuation, they learn the skills necessary to quote musical examples, italicize foreign language words, etc.
  • Technology Class – Students learn to use the online digital audio workstation Soundtrap to edit recordings. After their narratives are written, they record them and insert their recordings into the audio project of their piece. The finished product is a narrated mp3 to broadcast which includes the research, in their own voices, to share with the Pingry community.

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Find Your Tribe and Fly

“The easiest thing is to react. The second-easiest thing is to respond. But the hardest thing is to initiate.”

Simply stated by Mr. Seth Godin and resoundingly true. For the majority of my 33 years on this Earth, my default was set to react. Recently my needle has shifted to responding more, and now I even initiate on occasion. Shhhh, sometimes I don’t even ask permission! I owe a large part of this transition to the people I am surrounded by, who have given me a sense of belonging. My beautiful tribe. My tribe is connected, we share an interest and a way to communicate.  

This tribe has formed over time and is organic and malleable – it grows with me.  Through a series of very fortunate events in my professional career, I have recently experienced an AMAZING tribal community. After teaching music for nine years, I landed a position as an Instructional Technology Consultant on a rock star team with a stellar reputation. I immediately started “schooling up” on all things ed tech, an infinite subject with limitless information, data, and resources. Two other imperative factors can be attributed to my successful tribal acclimation.  The first: I joined Twitter. My network now transcends classrooms and reaches countries all over the world. The second: I left my comfort zone.  I started presenting at conferences on topics I felt passionate about, meeting & working with amazing people.  Clicking “Submit” for my first presentation proposal was terrifying and life-changing. (Pictured: Laurens-Marathon High School Band, 2015)

This team I speak of – seriously, rock friggin’ stars.  Not only are they experts and leaders in this exciting new tech ed world I was acclimating to, but awesome people in general.  They wrapped their arms around me and welcomed my inexperience, sometimes even celebrating it!  This is when my needle started shifting.  When I had been teaching full time with very little professional support system, I felt the presence of a ceiling, a limit to the learning. Now, fast forward to my first team meeting with my new team…No question – I was now a 100% vested member, my voice mattered, our combined vision (#makeitbetter) was priority and I now belonged to something bigger.  Our work focused on shifting the traditional education system (limited, in-the-box thinking) to encouraging best practice for our 21st century learners. Let us leverage the available technology to be creative and innovative.  With that comes the ability to work collaboratively (face to face and globally) and use critical thinking skills to work through real world problems. How can there be a limit or lid on that kind of learning?!  The roof was raised! (Pictured below: The 2015-16 Prairie Lakes AEA Tech Innovation Team)

I have worked harder the past 16 months that I ever have in my life and not because I needed to keep up, but because I now belonged with this team.  This work, this bigger thing…obliged me to want to keep up. Insert: fire in belly. My transition is a great example of an empowered, passionate learner versus a compliant learner.  

Once support was in place, I also gained more confidence than I ever thought I was capable of.  I started presenting locally and that quickly shifted to presenting globally. The small groups I started presenting to (3,4 or 5 participants) has now grown to upwards to 700!  I recently quit my stable “safe” job to pursue work I am even more passionate about.  I talked my husband into putting our house up for sale so we can move to a city with more opportunities for our children (keep in mind, we’re country bumpkins!).  And just this week, I pulled a stick out of my parent’s Irish Wolfhound’s paw with pliers.  These are just a few things that I wouldn’t have had the guts to do prior to 2015.  

There was a recent online student chat focused on How Teachers Foster Belonging in Schools…great questions were discussed and I have initiated a spinoff set of questions for the “me’s” of the world. (yes, I initiated!)

  • What actions can we take to create stronger bonds with each other?
  • How can we help address real-world issues with each other?
  • What can we do to encourage all to speak freely?
  • How can we facilitate healthy discussions about different forms of oppression and their impact?

I leave you to reflect on the following: Are you reacting, responding or initiating?  Are you celebrating one another in your workplace, family, etc.? Do you empathize? Encourage? Are you learning from others?  Have you hashed something out with another to #makeitbetter?

Seth Godin: “The cost of being wrong is less than the cost of doing nothing.”

Our world needs you to initiate and encourage others to do the same. Sign up for Twitter, push that “Submit” button, expand your network, reach out, meet, greet. It’s your turn.  Find your tribe and fly.

Proof of me speaking in front of a large group of people! #nerves

***This post was cross-published by Sevenzo. Access here: https://medium.com/@Sevenzo/find-your-tribe-and-fly-4a2d7f7027fc#.et29a8fsu

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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. 🙂


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 “across-content” 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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The Art of APEX

Earlier this week I had an opportunity to visit an extremely forward thinking school in the Des Moines area, Waukee APEX (Aspiring Professional Experience). After circling the downtown block with the correct address several times, I finally committed to parking… “Really? This is the school?” There was no school signage, business people were going in and out, and there wasn’t a student in sight (at least, upon first assumption). My world was about to be rocked. Inside was, indeed, a business. Most of the people I saw were employees but mixed in were junior and senior students from the Waukee school district, dressed and definitely acting the part of an employee.  Their “classroom” is housed the business space of DLR Group and without prior knowledge, one would think of these young individuals as paid employees doing regular work.  They was 17 students, an instructor and a buzz of activity. This particular course was Designing Communication Solutions which is within the APEX Business, Technology & Communications Strand (other strands can be found here). Throughout the semester, these students are paired with businesses to complete requested projects and work for a few hours every afternoon instead of attending conventional, bell-to-bell classes.  I would normally put air quotes around work but I can’t, they are doing real, actual work for real, actual businesses.  They have clients to consult and deadlines to meet. Sounds familiar – like my job – but they are high school students. LOVE!

Through inquiry-based learning and authentic experiences, students build skills in key areas: productivity/accountability, complex communication, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and flexibility/adaptability. They are featured below (graphic art/design credit: Brandon Vacco, APEX Student).Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 12.33.09 PM

As a mother, educator, community member and regular ‘ol human being – I want this opportunity for ALL kids. Rural or urban. Small or large district. Financially stable or financially struggling. How do we make this happen? If you are a parent, ask your child’s teacher what real-world applications are happening in your their classroom. Volunteer your business or expertise if you see a fit.  If you are an educator, keep doing awesome things but #makeitbetter – there is always room for improvement. If you see an opportunity to work outside the 4 walls of your classroom, take it! Only good can come from students seeing the relevance and real-world application of the work they are doing in their classroom. And if you are removed from the local educational institution for whatever reason (kids have graduated, etc.) – get back in there, attend a school board meeting, ask questions, offer your services, listen, volunteer, be active! It takes a village.

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