For four days, teachers from Vermont and other states come together for professional development at the Music and Multimedia Summer Institute sponsored by the Vermont MIDI Project. They compose and share their work mimicking the same processes that they will use with their students. Here are some reflections by participants excerpted from their reflective papers at the end of the follow-up period of work at home.
From Carl Recchia, Champlain Valley Union High School, Hinesburg, VT.
As an example of a compelling and authentic reason to integrate technology into our teaching of music, I offer the following story:
I shared my excitement for Sibelius 5 and my newly acquired confidence with my 10-year-old son, Benjamin. He plays the whistle and a little piano, and was immediately excited about entering some of his tunes into the program. Reluctant to learn to read music, he figured out in short order the need to know and understand the language in order to accomplish his goal. He wanted to have Sibelius play the tunes back while he played along. (A sort of homemade version of Smart Music!)
All of this was done with very little help from me. Because he is 10, he is not intimidated by the software, and quickly learned to navigate the program.
This experience has been a daily occurrence since last week’s class, and has afforded us the opportunity to finally work together on Benjamin’s own music-making and learning without him having the feeling that I am the expert. In fact, because he knows he is more proficient at the computer, it lends an extra measure of confidence to his work!
I am, therefore, an official convert to this new and exciting way of reaching out to kids, grateful for the knowledge and insight to be able to do so.
Wanda Clark, Granville School, Granville New Hampshire
The more I worked with developing my arrangement and incorporating suggestions of others in my class, the more I began to parallel this work with that of the writing process. Students are taught the steps of writing, peer conferencing, peer editing, revision, sharing, group editing and self editing before establishing a final piece of writing. This process is very similar to the writing process. As we compose or arrange, share our work, peer conference and edit through responding to each others’ work on the website, revising our work after considering others’ suggestions, and finally presenting an end product … we arrive at a final project which includes ideas beyond the work of one; it represents input from a community of learners.
The deeper that I became entrenched in this process, the more I began to see how others’ feedback played an important role in the shaping and creation of my arrangement. As I reflected on this, I began to notice that my primary goal was no longer to focus solely on creating arrangements using Sibelius, but to listen to and consider incorporating the ideas of others in my work, and in extending this idea, when I begin composing with my own students, to teach them the importance of this process. Sharing and listening to each others’ work and giving feedback and suggestions to each other not only helps to see the piece in a new or different way, but allows students to practice critiquing musical examples.
Sue Persson, Barnet Elementary School
The three tenets of the MIDI Project began to gel for me as I visited the website and discussed the “sandwich” critiquing model so ably displayed by Erik’s comments to student composers. As my classmates and I began to post our work and comment to one another, I began to trust others to offer suggestions in ways that were helpful and constructive without being judgemental in any way. I found myself wishing there was more time to spend cruising the website during the week of the institute, since my classmates were posting some wonderful compositions. Mostly, I remembered that all these feelings were identical to the ones my own students experience when they are asked to perform similar tasks. For me, this is always one of the most important things I reflect on when I take a class myself: how it feels to be the student.
David Tisdell, Browns River Middle School
Being at the institute made me reflect on my own practice in teaching. One of the first things I will change is the number of opportunities I provide for peer feedback. In the past, I only did it at the end. I will try and do it a total of three times. Once just a couple of classes into the composition, once in the middle and again at the end. Since I started having students email me their pieces regularly, I feel like they get adequate feedback from me but the peer feedback can be more powerful than what I give them. It was the amount of feedback that struck me the most in discussions about composition at the institute. In my own personal experience on the web site, I found the early feedback quite helpful and really helped improve my own work. How much more so with kids? I also noticed other people’s work make dramatic strides after receiving feedback.