Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Part Two: Visiting some classrooms

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I've been hanging out in some secondary classrooms. I also mentioned that there was a great irony in the music class - there was silence! This silence, however, was all about concentration on the task at hand.

This class is a Year 12, Level 2 NCEA Music class. It is predicated on students reading music, composing and performing. This is a relatively small class (about 13) and its students represent as wide a range of musical knowledge as you could possibly think of. There was the student who already is a competent player of two instruments and the possessor of Grade 8 music accomplishment. A couple of other students are close behind. Then there is the guitarist, who plays well, but doesn't read music the way he needs to for this NCEA class and its achievement goals. There is also the singer - a belting voice, but who is disorganised, doesn't concentrate, doesn't read music but picks up the music instantly to sing it. Another group are those who are keen on music, but can't read it and haven't been playing an instrument for long.

So this is a tall order to work with. The teacher decided that all of these students would aim to do the external achievement standards, so there was work to do to get everyone to that level. To that end, he has been getting these students to use the iPads available. On these devices, are a range of Apps that mean students can attend to their specific learning needs (theory, composition, musical terms, revision). They also had access to a browser-based site that helped them. That's why you could hear a pin drop in this class. For an entire hour, this diverse group focused on the music knowledge they needed to progress. The most able music student had her headphones on, and concentrated on composing. At times, you see her fingers on the desk, miming the piano keys she would be playing. Another was checking how well he could identify correct rhythm, using a scaffolded, mastery-level app that provided feedback on how close he was to the expected rhythm modelled. This also reinforced music note/value knowledge for those who were still learning the basics.

So why am I talking about this? I thought this lesson demonstrated the following attributes:
  • students were engaged in learning pitched at their correct level 
  • the variety of tools (browser-based, Apps) meant each person could address their own learning needs
  • the teacher could spend much more time one-to-one, addressing individual questions and just-in-time, just-in-need learning. 
  • access to the digital technologies afforded greater differentiation for learning.
Not bad for a Thursday afternoon! 

Have you had experiences where the range of digital tools available to students meant that they could take control of their own learning in a really meaningful way? 

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