Technology Strategies for the Performing Ensemble Classroom By Ryan Rivers

The ensemble classroom is a complex instructional environment. For choral, band, and orchestra teachers it is expected of them to accomplish a multitude of tasks. These encompass both administrative responsibilities such as attendance and communication with parents, as well as instructional ones such as repertoire selection, assigning assessments, and lesson planning.

Additionally, teachers are constantly looking to improve the musical performance of their ensembles and further enhance their students’ musical skills. "Combined, these demands can be daunting (especially when compounded with ensemble performance obligations and school environmental dynamics such as testing, field trips, and assemblies), (nafme.org)." However, there is a way to be more efficient of maintaining a teachers commitment to their students. By harnessing the power and convenience of the technology already in use, and incorporating it into the workload that is done in the ensemble. There are many technology solutions available that can help teachers save time, be more efficient, and provide students with engaging instruction that connects to their twenty-first century worldview.

Technology for administrating ensemble.

"The administration of the performance ensemble involves managing many activities both inside and outside of class (nafme.org)." Communicating with the important people in the organization is a key factor to the success of theses activities. "Using technology to send and gather information can help expedite this as well as provide a digital place to store this information (nafme.org)." Paper forms are replaced with digital ones using cloud-based storage systems like Google Drive.

Some school systems are moving to this type of system, allowing teachers to create “digital classrooms” in their schools. Cloud-based storage servers such as Google Drive allows you to store files and share them (without having to send files via email). The Google Apps that complement Google Drive™ such as Google Docs™ or Google Forms™ allow you to send information in a format that can be changed by the reader and sent back, or simply filled out and returned (nafme.org)". This returned information resides online and then the data is placed automatically in a spreadsheet and processed into graphs and other visuals.

Here are some other web-based and mobile application that are recommended:

  • EmailMeForm – which allows you to create, distribute, and collect web-based forms (there are both free and paid versions)
  • Remind – allows you to collect mobile numbers from the members of your organization and send text message reminders (e.g. concert tomorrow night 7:30pm). This is free but you create an account.
  • Volunteer Spot-helps facilitate volunteer scheduling, sign-ups, and reminders. This is also free with the creation of an account.
  • Finally, Issuu is an app that allows you to publish and distribute documents digitally (e.g. Chorus Handbook), optimizing them to be read on tablets, computers, and Smartboards. There are both paid and free versions of this app. These programs will help you stay organized and be as efficient as possible.Technology for Instruction in the Ensemble

Technology for Instruction in the Ensemble

"In addition to administrating and collecting information, technology can be an authentic instructional tool in the performance classroom, used as part of the actual instruction (nafme.org)." "In musical performance, we see this with Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI) applications such as: SmartMusic, Music Prodigy, and Practice First (nafme.org)." These programs allow students to practice with an accompaniment SmartMusic, in particular has an Intelligent Accompaniment System that can speed up or slow down with the performer.

"Depending on the program, publisher repertoire libraries of choral, orchestral, jazz, and band music are available, as well as sight-reading, improvisation, and other exercises (nafme.org)." Some of these programs provide an online grade book area for teachers to assign, collect, grade, and return performance assessments. All of these programs are offered in subscription-based formats, and are available in mobile format.

"These CAI apps can be very helpful for reinforcing skills that are taught in a lesson, and offer feedback to students when the teacher is not present (nafme.org)." This type of program can really help motivate and enhance student practice and foster improvement. "Music Monitor by MusOpen is a free mobile app that allows students to record and send practice sessions and assessments from their mobile devices (nafme.org)." This provides an excellent method of assessing individual student performance. "Playing tests can be done remotely or in a practice room, sent via email, assessed, and then later reviewed together by both student and teacher (nafme.org)." However, no matter how many music computer programs and apps that are available it is always recommended that you choose a program that is right for you and your classroom.

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