Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Don’t all schools already teach students music?

I have spent so much time talking to other teachers, parents, students and student teachers about classroom music. As teachers, we all believe that our own subject is the most important. Parents usually believe that the academic subjects are most important.
But I have spent many hours of my time defending music in the classroom, in schools. So many people honestly believe that it is a waste of time money and effort: That the students fail to get anything out of the subject other than to sing a song, or be able to clap in time with the music.
But it is so much more than that. What about the students who excel in music, and not in any other subject. Others have their time to shine in English and Maths and Physical Education. Why can’t the minority still have their opportunity to shine if music is the area where they are naturally gifted.

Music gives as another medium of communication and a way to share ideas and stories without speaking or writing a word. Key social skills can be learnt throughout a music classroom. Collaborative learning, independent learning, the list goes on and on.

Then there is the argument about not only the complete lack of funding, but in many government schools, the fact that it barely exists, or fails to exist at all.

On the Music Count Us In website the following is said in response to the title “Don’t all schools already teach students music?” 

Not really, no. The key with meaningful music learning, as the Review says, is that it has to be ‘continuous, sequential and developmental’ for students to benefit. We know, for example, that as few as 23% of government schools are able to offer their students a music education which fits that bill - they would like to, but they lack the resources. In private schools, the number leaps up to 88%. The numbers vary greatly from State to State, but that ‘23% compared with 88%’ statistic reflects the national average. Music: Count Us In is about saying that ALL kids deserve, and can benefit from, music.

Music count us in are using the ICT in a simple way, using the Internet to share PDF and audio files, to assisting in creating opportunities for music to exist in even more classrooms around Australia.  
If you are interested in finding out some more information, or want information about how you can include music in your own classroom setting, see their website:

Saturday, 28 May 2011


Before the workshops for creating a website, I was interested in the process, but had little idea about how it happened, and not convinced that I would ever need to do so in my method area of music. Why would a teacher need their own website? I thought to myself, 'what a colossal waste of time and effort!'

However... like the interactive whiteboards, the more time I spend in the classroom and think about alternatives to the way I currently think and teach things, I find myself challenging myself to find new ways to do things. And, possibly more importantly, find a way that will connect with the ever bored teenagers who believe that me, at the ripe old age of 23, is old and unable to keep up with the technology times...

I am very much looking forward to developing my own website in the coming months to assist me in compiling my teaching resources for both myself and my students for the years to come. 

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Listen up! — Podcasting in secondary education

This post is a collaboration with Sara-Jane Smith from Heck Yeah ICT! as our seminar for Assignment 2.

Listen up! — Podcasting in secondary education
Three pairs of white iPod headphones dangling in front of a black background
"iPod Headphones Collection" Some rights reserved by williamli

What is it?

The Oxford Dictionary defines Podcast as a multimedia digital file made available on the Internet for downloading to a portable media player, computer, etc.

There are two main ways for using podcasting in education.

  • To deliver content to your students ( a lesson to take away )

  • To showcase students work ( student creating podcasts for assignments or class tasks )

  • This could encompass a number of areas including: news (school, local, interstate and international); audio books; instructional guides; interviews (with staff, students, members of the community and school visitors); audio revision notes (made by students or teachers);

    Vodcasting is taking off and becoming as popular, if not more than podcasting. It is simply adding video to the podcast rather than it being purely audio.

    How to create your own podcast

    There are vast number of websites and blogs dedicated to showing you step by step how to go about creating your own Podcasts and Vodcasts.

    This is a basic outline to give you an understanding of what you would need and how to go about creating a podcast.

    The Western Australia Department of Education and Training offer the following three steps on their website here.

    1. Recording. You will need a microphone and software such as Audacity (cross-platform) or GarageBand (Apple) to record your sound file. A number of sites on the Internet offer tutorials for using the software, such as this one on setting up and using Audacity by Jake Ludington and Apple's page on using GarageBand for podcasting.

    2. Publishing. Once you have created your audio file and saved it, usually in mp3 format you need to upload it to a webserver. Many sites on the internet, including Blogger offer free podcast hosting services. Make sure you read the Terms of Service.

    3. Publicising. Having created your podcast and uploaded it to make it available to potential users you need to provide a way for users to access your files. This may be as simple as providing a link from an existing webpage or more complex, such as creating an rss feed document which will allow users to subscribe to your podcast. Depending on the traffic your webpage receives, and the intended audience for your podcast, you may also choose to register your podcast. A comprehensive list of Podcasts Suitable for Educators, Schools and Colleges is maintained by RECAP.

    The benefits of podcasting

    The amount of research going into podcasting is increasing by the day. As ICT races ahead in leaps and bounds, teachers are doing their best to keep up.

    There are a number of learning benefits that can come from using podcasting in the classroom. These include:

    Students and staff are able to listen at their own pace when and where they choose.

    The processes of recording and editing can increase the students’ comprehension and understanding of the topic being covered.

    It allows children to improve a number of key skill areas including writing, listening and speaking skills.

    Students can listen as many times as is necessary for the information to be understood and comprehended.

    There are opportunities for student voice, peer assessment and collaborative work.

    Where it’s happening in schools in Victoria

    There are a number of Victorian schools getting on board and using podcasting and vodcasting. For a look at how it is currently being done in schools in Victoria, check out this website.

    In the USA there are two teachers teaching science who have revolutionised the way science is taught in their school using pod and vodcasting.

    Here are some videos that take you through what they are achieving. It could be the way to revolutionise education into the 21st century with technology minded students.

    Using podcasts in the Music classroom.

    Music is a class that is often missed by students in junior high school to go to other meetings and often instrumental lessons as classroom music is often deemed by others as “not as important as other more academic subjects”. To have a system where the work that has been missed or a concept that wasn’t understood by students could be revised at home so they are up to date and understand then they come to the next class. This would allow for a much more productive use of class time, especially in a subject like music where we sometimes only see our students for one or two periods per week.

    So much of what we do at a senior level in VCE is theory and aural based, taking away from valuable practice time where teacher feedback is critical. To incorporate a learning style like of Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams the way music is taught in schools could be revolutionised.

    Performance class – record performances and give aural feedback in the session, so the students can go home, download and take more time to think about the feedback given in the lesson.

    To be able to put together required listening components into one file with aural notes the students need to learn that they can annotate their own scores with. This could then be done at home, and not take valuable class time.

    With Podcasting, the possibilities are endless!

    Using Podcasts in Media and Drama

    Podcasts seem like a perfect fit for Media — students can choose “sound” in Unit 3 & 4 VCE (though very few do) but students could be making amazing podcasts that would also score very highly in assessment. I also think that the New Media outcome in Unit 1 would be the perfect opportunity to spend some time with podcasts. I know Media teachers do use podcasts as a resource (particularly the Media Watch and Hungry Beast podcasts) but there is so much more scope than that. I love the concept that is brought up in this post about teachers doing essentially “Director’s Commentary” so students can watch texts again and reinforce the key ideas of studying screen texts.

    The fit with Drama and Theatre Studies doesn’t seem as perfect but there are definitely ways of using podcasts in these classes — reviews, rehearsal recordings, publicity, radio plays — and I actually think that podcasting is a way of allowing students to break out of the ‘standard’ written drama assessment.

    Potential issues in classroom podcasting

    Heilesen (2010) identifies classroom podcasts as existing in three forms — “substitutional (documenting or substituting classroom teaching), supplementary (providing summaries of classroom teaching or additional materials), or creative (productions by learners)” (2010: 1063) — and it is the supplementary and creative podcasts that are most commonly seen in secondary education. There are a number of potential issues that are common to both types of podcast which are important to consider when thinking about bringing podcasts into your classroom:

    Time and effort

    There are countless demands on teachers’ time as it is and whilst it can be pretty simple to get a podcast going, you do still need the time to make and edit it — important as good/meaningful podcasts are well-edited, bad podcasts are rambling stream of consciousness — as well as time to roll it out to your students.

    There is also a fear that teachers will go to this effort and students either don’t use or start using it and stop coming to class. However, the majority of research (see Vajoczki et al. 2010, Heilesen 2010, Walls et al. 2010) shows that these are unfounded fears: generally students are willing to take up podcasts and, against the students’ own predictions, there is no rise in absence in class. However, it needs to be remembered that there have been no longterm longitudinal studies on the educational efficacy of podcasts at this stage and very little research done in a secondary education setting.

    Support from KLA, School and Department

    This is an issue not just with podcasting but with all PD and new projects that we want to try out as teachers. As discussed above, there is a definite time commitment with podcasting and it is important for your colleagues to understand that there is an actual educational rationale for the work and that you’re not just messing around with microphones for fun. Also, as with most things, making and distributing ‘supplementary’ podcasts will only become more intellectually stimulating and rigorous with input and discussion from a range of people i.e. all Year 9 English teacher collaborating on a podcast about the themes of a text.

    In terms of department support, the DEECD does have a short explanation of podcasting but it is put to shame by the information provided by the W.A. Department of Education and Training. It is possible that there is a heap of information hidden away in ePotential but, as student teachers, we can’t access it.


    Copyright law and obligations are critical to consider: who will own the content teacher and student produced podcasts? Can you happily (and legally) use other people’s podcasts in your classroom? What about third-party content you use in your podcast?

    Luckily. the Copyright Advisory Group provide excellent information about copyright in Australian schools and have two specific podcasting documents: creating podcasts and using podcasts.

    Ultimately, any podcasts that you (as the teacher) make becomes the property of the relevant educational body (i.e. DEECD, CEO, individual school) and, legally, you must have permission for any third-party material you use in your podcast.

    Any podcasts your students make, however, are their property and if you wish to use it, you must obtain their permission to do so.

    Equity and access

    There is a couple of really obvious issues with podcasting: access and equity. Yes, the majority of students have MP3 devices, computers at home and internet access these days but that isn’t the case for all of them. With ‘supplementary’ podcasts, these students would be put at a major disadvantage as they aren’t able to access the material. How do you make this equitable and accessible? Andrew Douch, from Wanganui Park Secondary College, uses podcasts as a major component of his VCE Biology class and, with support for the school, put ‘MP3 player/device’ on the students’ booklist for the class. He claims to have never had any complaints about this policy but it is a pretty huge ask.

    Similarly, there is an equity and access issue for teachers depending of the school’s ICT capabilities. Shoddy networks, slow computers and bad microphones are going to make podcasting difficult for both ‘supplementary’ and ‘creative’ podcasts.


    So what happens if you manage to make the time in your schedule, learn the skills, get the support you need from your peers, sort out your tech issues and spend the time reading about fair use and dealing and then there doesn’t seem to be any real engagement and/or academic improvement from your students? I don’t think podcasts are the secret key to engagement, learning and integrating ICT into classrooms. In some ways, they require a complete reworking of how to teach - the content is still the most important factor and conveying that to your students is what the focus should be. However, we have to be willing to take risks and resign ourselves to the fact that sometimes things just don’t work or, more hopefully, don’t work right now or in that particular style. We encourage our students to take risks (it is right there in the VIT Standards) and so, surely, we should too!

    Helpful websites for more information about podcasting

    Educational Technology: What Is a Podcast?

    Wikipedia “Podcasting”

    Podcast Directories

    The Education Podcast Network:


    http://www.apple.com/itunes (Free; go to Music Store and search for Podcasts.)


    http://www.ourmedia.org (offers free syndication)

    Podcast Alley:



    Podcasting News (Education):

    Podcast Recording Software


    http://www.castblaster.com (offers free trial)

    Apple’s GarageBand:

    Audacity (free, open source):

    Sony’s Acid Music Studio:

    Podifier (free):

    Podcast Factory:

    http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/PodcastFactory-main.html (contains software, microphone, USB audio interface)


    Anderson, L S. “Podcasting: Transforming Middle Schoolers into ‘Middle Scholars,’” T.H.E. Journal. Dec. 1, 2005.

    Borja, R. 2005 “Podcasting Craze Comes to K-12 Schools: Educators discover value of internet audio programs” Education Week, Vol. 25, No. 14, p. 8

    Chan, A. & Lee, M. 2005 “An MP3 a day keeps the worries away: Exploring the use of podcasting to address preconceptions and alleviate pre-class anxiety amongst undergraduate information technology students” Good Practice in Practice Charles Sturt University

    Copyright Advisory Group 2008a SmartCopying: Podcasts - creating Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs: Canberra

    Copyright Advisory Group 2008b SmartCopying: Podcasts - using Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs: Canberra

    Department of Education and Early Childhood Development 2010, Melbourne, Podcasts, viewed April 28 2011, <http://www.education.vic.gov.au/studentlearning/elearning/technology/podcasts.htm>

    Department of Education and Training 2011, Perth, Podcasts in the Classroom, viewed May 18 2011, <http://www.det.wa.edu.au/education/cmis/eval/curriculum/ict/podcasts/>

    Douch, A. 2006 The benefits of podcasting, viewed May 18 2011, <http://web.mac.com/andrewdouch/Site/Video.html>

    Douch, A. 2008 “A full dress rehearsal . . . alone”, Douchy’s Weblog, viewed May 20 2011, <http://andrewdouch.wordpress.com/2008/12/11/a-full-dress-rehearsal-alone/>

    Douch, A. 2010a “Podcasters of the Lost Ark”, Douchy’s Weblog, viewed April 28 2011, <http://andrewdouch.wordpress.com/2010/05/07/podcasters-of-the-lost-ark/>

    Douch, A. 2010b. “Phonecasting with iPadio”, Douchy’s Weblog, viewed April 28 2011, <http://andrewdouch.wordpress.com/2010/02/27/phonecasting-with-ipadio/>

    EduCause 2005, 7 things you should know about podcasting, viewed May 18 2011, <http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7003.pdf>

    EduCause 2006, Podcasting in the Classroom: EduCause Pocket Edition #3, viewed April 28 2011, <http://www.educause.edu/blog/dianao/PodcastingintheClassroomEDUCAU/165531>

    Flanagan, B. & Calandra, B. 2005 “Podcasting in the Classroom” Learning and Leading with Technology, November 2005, pp. 20-25

    Heilesen, S. 2010 “What is the academic efficacy of podcasting?” Computers & Education, Vol. 55, pp. 1063-1068

    Huann, T. & Thong, M. 2006 “Audioblogging and Podcasting in Education” Ministry of Education: Singapore

    Smart, M. 2008 Listening to Themselves: Podcasting takes lessons beyond the classroom, viewed May 18 2011, <http://www.edutopia.org/podcasting-student-broadcasts>

    Selingo, J. 2006. “Students and Teachers, From K to 12, Hit the Podcasts.” The New York Times <http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/25/technology/techspecial2/25podcast.html?ei=5070&en=2e0c1d3f90ddd228&ex=1138856400&pagewanted=print>

    Vajoczki, S., Watt, S., Marquis, N. & Holshausen, K. 2010 “Podcasts: are they an effective tool to enhance student learning?” Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, Vol. 19, No. 3, pp. 349-362

    Walls, S., Kucsera, J., Walker, J., Acee, T., McVaugh, N & Robinson, D. 2010 “Podcasting in education: Are students as ready and eager as we think they are?” Computers & Education, Vol. 54, pp. 371-378

    Monday, 16 May 2011

    Interactive White Boards

    I have been quite anti-interactive whiteboards in secondary schools for quite some time. I have spent a lot of time in primary schools, and I have seen first hand the advantages that IWB bring to their learning experience. Until a few weeks ago, I couldn’t see the point of an IWB in the secondary music classroom, asides from being a glorified projector screen.

    However, after the lectures on IWB and the more time I spend in classrooms, the more I hear myself saying in the back of my mind, “If I had in IWB I could do it like this instead…” I never ever thought I would hear myself say, or even think those words…

    I now have a whole list of things that I teach, and how I would change the teaching if I had access to an IWB in my classroom.
    Teaching the music software we use – the possibilities with that are endless…
    Creating a class assignment with a program like Sibelius… where it could be done digitally and instantly heard, instead of the tedious task of writing on the whiteboard and then having to play it back on the piano.

    Sadly, spending money on in IWB is probably up there with the three least things likely to be purchased for a music classroom. In many schools the music department is barely holding on to funding to be able to purchase instruments to be able to run a sustainable music program. There is usually not enough funding to be able to purchase the things wanted, let alone have any left over to be able to splurge on things like an IWB…

    Wednesday, 16 March 2011

    VELS and ICT

    This post is directly linked to the following statement:

    ICT provides a rich and flexible learner-centred environment in which students can experiment and take risks when developing new understanding.

    As a subject, music has a history of being one of the most boring, “bludge” subjects that exists in some schools. I know that the school I went to it was exactly the same. Music in years nine and ten were where you spent your electives time if you didn’t want to do much. But as ICT grows and becomes more readily available in schools, there is the opportunity for students to learn a great deal in music and do it in a fun, hands on approach. With things starting as simply as having the ability to share a website on a projector screen or Interactive Whiteboard, to having digital instruments that link to computer programs and the internet! There are now endless possibilities in the music classroom through ICT.

    A standard music assignment is to write a melody and an accompanying bass line. For many years the only way to hear that melody was to have it played on the piano. To make changes, it was back to the paper copy with an eraser. Now, with music programs such as Sibelius and Finale, with just a few clicks of the mouse, you can hear it played, make instant changes then hear it again. These programs are simple to use and the students have the ability to produce their assignments in a way that is comparable to industry standards.

    There is the ability for students to download programs to teach them to play instruments such as the guitar. There are also numerous CD’s and DVD’s also available to learn almost any instrument. An entire class can learn to play the guitar at their own pace, able to cater to the learning needs of each individual student, yet also being able to pay music as a whole class in an ensemble situation with all students involved.

    There are also institutions that have set up ICT access for those students who are in schools that don’t have the funding to be able to implement large scale ICT programs. Places such as The Soundhouse have studios with digital drum kits and keyboards that allow for the hands on, student based learner. For more info see their website http://www.soundhouse.com.au/

    The Arts Centre also has music education programs that vary from learning about the orchestra to their new Digital Learning Hub Music Technology & New Media. Taken from the Arts Centre website, “this exciting venue boasts high tech learning labs, world class vocal booths and recording studios, a full video editing suite and green screen capability.”  For more on the Arts Centre Hub see their website http://www.theartscentre.com.au/discover/education/digital-learning-hub.aspx

    Through projects such as these, the students can take not only risks in their learning, but also greater control of their learning in a practical approach through the use of ICT.

    Thursday, 24 February 2011

    Facebook and social networking in a school environment.

     I heard on the radio the other day that there was a couple in Egypt who had named their newborn child, Facebook. This prompted a major discussion on the social networking site that has taken over the world. The website's membership was initially limited by the founders to Harvard students, but was expanded to other colleges in the Boston area, the Ivy League, and Stanford University. It gradually added support for students at various other universities before opening to high school students, and, finally, to anyone aged 13 and over. The information that was originally designed to be shared between university students, is very different to the information that is now being shared through Facebook, with an audience of followers that now varies in age from 13 (and younger for those who lie about their age…) to those who are old enough to be my grandparents. What are our students risking but putting their personal information on such a social networking site? What are we risking by having our own personal Facebook (or other social networking site) accounts as teachers? Do we really want to allow our students even the remotest possibility of being able to access our personal information?

    Then I began thinking about some of the endless possibilities that could come from tapping into the generation that learn to be tech savvy by the age of three. What if you set up a separate Facebook page that is designed for school purposes? Use your teaching name, and allow the kids to add you as a friend. You can then use this as a tool to communicate with them in a way that is familiar and comfortable with them. Create events for homework assignments. Send them a message to remind them that their project is due in two days. This would also allow teachers access to their Facebook profiles. Is it an invasion of their privacy if this happens? Or does it allow another form of supervision and the possibility to prevent and monitor cyber-bullying? By having this second created page, are the kids going to be less likely to go looking for your private page, satisfied that you are already ‘friends’ with them on Facebook?

    While setting up something like this would need to be approved by the powers to be in schools, I honestly believe that there could be some good come from the evils that are so commonly associated with social networking sites.