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Thomas J. West Music

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The Blended Music Performance Classroom - A Brave New World

Posted on September 15, 2011 at 9:15 PM

music plants

My school has a professional development plan that I particularly enjoy. Based on the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching, our faculty sets professional development goals for themselves for each marking period and reports on them to department chairs. The goals can be on any of the major domains of the Framework, and all that is required is documentation or some kind of evidence that we are pursuing that goal. Goals can be met, revised, or extended each marking period.

My goals the past several years have centered around developing the curricula required for the rather unique teaching setting I work in. I teach instrumental music, both winds and strings, in a 6th through 12th grade elective performing and fine arts program. This performing and fine arts center is attached to a K-12 cyber charter school. Now with around 2,200 students in enrollment from all over the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the 200 students that attend CPFA commute as much as two hours one-way to attend a full day immersion in their choice of music, art, drama, and dance. Students can also take art and music performance courses online as part of our Remote Access program.

I have been developing the curricula for both the on-site instrumental music program and the remote access music program for the past four years. It has been challenging and rewarding work.

This year, my professional development goal is to make my instrumental music program a fully blended learning environment for every student. I am accomplishing this primarily by using web-based music resources that students can access from their school computers at home to complete asynchronous assignments either in class or at home.

The three main online music tools that I am using to accomplish this blended learning model are SmartMusic, Noteflight Classroom, and Theta Music Trainer.

Because of our unique environment, I have several advantages to establishing a blended music performance classroom. First, all of my students complete the bulk of their academic coursework online as part of the cyber charter school, so they automatically all have functioning computers with internet access, a webcam, microphone, and printer/scanner already in their home. They are also all computer savvy (there are always exceptions of course) and tend to have parents who understand e-learning, even if they don't navigate a computer well themselves.

Also, I have excellent IT support at school that can get me set up with just about anything I need, including access to anything on the web.

Starting next week, my students will begin using Noteflight and Theta Trainer to expand their skills with both basic music theory and ear training - something that is often neglected in most secondary performing music classrooms. SmartMusic will be used primarily with my online-only students to submit assignments, but my on-site students will occcasionally make use of it as well. I have found SmartMusic to be most effective when used to assess basic tonal and rhythmic literacy.

In this new Blended Learning category of my blog, I will be reporting throughout the year on the successes and challenges I will be facing as I fully adopt this blended learning model. I look forward to sharing the results.

This article (c) 2011 Thomas J. West. All content on ThomasJWestMusic dot com is licensed under a Creative Contributions Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. Please contact the author before publishing on or off-line.

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Categories: Music Education, Music Technology, Blended Learning

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