Sharing My Project With Others:

In doing research and reading for the creation of this project, I challenged myself to really work out of my comfort zone in preparation for asking my students to do the same. This included trying to get to know how to use as many digital tools as I could during the design of my project. I certainly got my feet wet, but I also recognize how much further I still have to go.

My purpose in setting this personal goal in the first place was twofold: Firstly, I want to be able to model (at some level) how to effectively use technology and digital tools in the same ways I expect my students to be able to do. And also, I know that some of these things (like blogging, embedding video and audio files, creating wikis, using social bookmarking, etc) are not so much difficult as they are time consuming to learn in the beginning. Since the text was so supportive in providing opportunities to learn about how to use these tools during the design of the project, I challenged myself to see how much I could fit in.

But the work isn’t done. As a formal part of sharing my project with others, I’m going to stick to the paperless production I’ve managed thus far and see what I can do online. I currently have many pending requests to join collaborative online communities where teachers already share project-based and 21st Century digital learning in K-12 classrooms around the globe. Although only one of these sites is specifically oriented to music educators, I look forward to continuing to participate and read about what other educators are doing in the hopes that collaboration opportunities and new ideas for use in my own classroom will present themselves through the process.

Informally, however (and still in a paperless format), I plan on “talking up” my new experiences, thoughts, and plans for incorporating and learning about more of this kind of teaching when I meet with fellow music educators and ask questions about the kinds of things they’re doing, or are interested in trying when I find myself at music department meetings, professional development sessions, and music festivals around the state and county. I look forward to the conversations I may have with new colleagues I’ll inevitably meet at this year’s Winter NYSSMA conference, especially after sitting on a panel discussing innovative teaching with great minds and people I respect, and how this fits in with what else music educators are doing to keep our profession relevant and transformative.

Becoming a Resource for Other Music Educators

I do intend on publishing my project in a way that allows other music educators to use and adapt the ideas and resources I’ve put together for use in my classroom. In a small way, I have already started this process by using the internet to document, research, write and reflect, plan, and compile resources for this project. By joining my classmates' wikis and linking to all of their blogs and webpages on my own blog, we have a small network in the making. Most of our projects are in some form on wiki pages that we can all access. Personally, I would like to draw up a more formalized looking “lesson plan” that is more user-friendly for say, a preservice teacher or other music educator outside of this class to be able to more readily navigate and understand at one glance. While I value the use of the wiki in organizing my own thoughts and planning stages for this project, I still need to learn more about how to set it up in a way to be able to do that. In the coming weeks, I plan on researching existing successful wikis (like those used in Flat Classrooms) to see how other educators are doing this.

In the long term, I will be building a class webpage using Edublogs to both manage and publish my project once I get started with my students in the fall. By then, I will have written something intended for other people (such as parents, administrators, and community members) to read about the kinds of work we’ll be doing in guitar class. From there, I’ll be able to show fellow music educators everything from links to my original plan and wiki page to samples of current work and finished assessments, writing prompts, and publications that I don’t currently have in a finished format. One the most important pieces for others to see (and that I can’t even predict) is what the learning will look like and the kinds of ways students choose to exhibit and publish their own work. More than any planning I do, I believe it is the students that translate the vibrancy, engagement, and creativity when immersed in the work that makes it most exciting for other teachers to “get hooked” on 21st Century educational techniques and co-curricular, project-based learning.

Insights on Project Learning & Contemporary Learners

I wonder if contemporary learners’ musical interests and their social-musical involvements are terribly different things to begin with. Or at least, they are integrally related to one another. The fact that today’s students regularly find, make, listen to, share, and create music completely independent of formal instruction is ignored at our own peril, as music educators. Finding ways to use project learning in combination with what are clearly motivating and interesting ways of learning on their own and inviting them into the school atmosphere will allow us to both recreate our roles as music educators by joining our students on an exciting journey into the future while valuing the knowledge and skills they already bring to school and building on them.

Too often, students feel like failures in school because they encounter activities and content that have no relevance to their life, or that are presented in such a fragmented manner, that they struggle to make any sense of the information or care about it beyond getting a good grade. Giving students the opportunities to be leaders by honoring their natural skills, talents, and inquiries into the world around them using the newest technology not only makes them feel smart, it makes them smarter. By incorporating project learning and 21st Century practices in our classrooms that include using students and their prior knowledge as valuable resources, we make learning relevant and worthwhile to them. And when observing students in action in these kinds of collaborative environments, you don’t need research reports to tell you that students are clearly capable of teaching each other, and even the teacher, something new.

I would think every educator would welcome such an exciting opportunity to share in learning side by side with their students, and guiding them in the exciting pursuit of new knowledge. I mean, we all went into teaching in some part because we love to learn, right? If this is true, then there is no need to fear iphones, facebook, video games, or any other portal to students being excited about learning. Or even to be open to being perpetual students ourselves.