Tuesday, March 6, 2012

APP Review: My Story iPAD APP

By Mark T. Burke

Storytelling, the predecessor to formal education, takes center stage once again. Storytelling has a history that goes back to the very first human communications.  In early cave drawings, isolated images are rare.  Rather, drawings depict events, stories, beliefs, instances of great complexity that only a story can convey.  I believe when man first put rock to wall, he had to be thinking, "How can I share this story?"

In an interesting twist, storytelling led to formalized instruction.  Over time, education circles realized that students learn best through teaching others.  But, HOW we guide them to teach others is critical.  Should we teach students to lecture?....uh...NO....Should we teach them to read to others word by word from a book?...again, no.  What about creating stories for others?  YES!

Guiding students through the creation of stories is certainly not new.  Computers provided some significant enhancements from the techniques used during the days of Rock-to-Wall composition.  But, think about the world of story creation before computers.  Rock-to-Wall, Ink-to-Parchment, Pencil-to-Notebook, Typewriter-to- Paper, all pretty similar in terms of story development and delivery options. Enter, the tablets.

We've had tablet created and delivered stories in the past.  But of course, tablets of stone have some limitations. Technology-based tablets offer a set of amazing tools, including drawing tools, cameras, audio recording, playback templates and sharing tools (Cloud and Social Media).  Additionally, the portability of tablets ensures story creators aren't tethered to a desk.  The devices can be taken into the field providing remote access to a full tool set.   

My Story is a great APP for early learners through junior high.  The APP provides three easy to understand screens.  The first provides an interface to view and access the pages of a new or existing story.  Stories are created in the form of Books.  Each book can have as many pages as needed.  Each page can contain a variety of resources including custom drawings, photos, audio recordings, imported graphics and text.

I gave the APP a test drive and actually had a lot of fun creating a few pages.  My story was titled Bandatar.  Being a HUGE Avatar fan, I imagined my story taking place on a foreign planet called Bandatar.  Of course, it was covered in beautiful blue oceans, green mountains and silky sand beaches....hummm...maybe I need a little vacation :-) .  Anyway, even with my limited drawing skills, I was able to create a few pages within minutes.  I even recorded a little audio file to go along with one of the pages.

Sharing the book was as easy as emailing it or sending it to iBooks.  In iBooks, the book could be viewed like all others, just flick, flip and play. 

Storytelling is a key skill for musicians.  I believe kids benefits when they learn how stories unfold.  Listening to Ben Zander's "One Buttock" playing always reminds me how musical line is so, so critical.  Musical line unfolds like a story.  When stories successfully engage an audience, the audience doesn't feel the pulses of the story, they only hear, envision and feel the flow of the story line.  While we can certainly attempt to teach students about the story flow of music, which is rather metaphorical, why not provide a more concrete activity, such as creating and sharing stories? 

The iPAD once again proves itself a significant asset to the musical classroom.  Not all APPS that benefit students will be musical.  As you seek out tools to help students, think about non-traditional, but directly applicable tools and teaching strategies that can greatly increase student's musical abilities. 

My Story is available on the Apple Store at:  http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/my-story-book-maker-for-kids/id449232368?mt=8.  The current price is $1.99....a real bargain. 

Enjoy!  Oh...if you create your own stories, post here! 

Musical Dream Classes

By Mark T. Burke

The other day, a friend of Music Within Me's Facebook page, Mike DePalma (eLearning Developer, Designer, Leader, and general do it all guy), shared Seth Godin's new eBook "Stop Stealing Dreams."  Last night, I started reading and couldn't put it down.  I'm looking forward to getting back to it today.  Seth's mission is to get us all thinking about educational revolution, how school's MUST change since our audience, our kids, jobs, social needs, family needs, WORLD needs have changed so drastically since the school model was developed.  At the core of the developing educational model on day one was a very real need to turn students into obedient, compliant line workers.  In fact, the key skills requiring mastery at that time were..."Be on time, do what you are told, sit up straight, don't talk out loud."  Schools actually did quite well at instilling those skills.

I don't need to give you a summary of the eBook, you would be better served by reading it for yourself.  But, as Seth said, asked....pleaded, we must take lessons from his words and apply them to what we do each day, in our classrooms, in our boardrooms, and for us, in our music rooms.  Where do we start?

If the new goal of school is to create something different from what we have now, and if new technologies and new connections are changing the way school can deliver its lessons, it’s time for a change.

Here are a dozen ways school can be rethought:

Homework during the day, lectures at night
Open book, open note, all the time
Access to any course, anywhere in the world
Precise, focused instruction instead of mass, generalized instruction
The end of multiple-choice exams
Experience instead of test scores as a measure of achievement
The end of compliance as an outcome
Cooperation instead of isolation
Amplification of outlying students, teachers, and ideas
Transformation of the role of the teacher
Lifelong learning, earlier work
Death of the nearly famous college   ------ Section 17 of Stop Stealing Dreams, Seth Godin.
 How can this list apply to what you do?  Do you meet any of these criteria?  Many?  All?  How so? 

Mark Burke is the CEO and Founder of Music Within Me.  Music Within Me provides beginning level music courses for online study, in-school program development and program supplement.  In addition to his work at Music Within Me, Mark is the author and developer of EYE, the Entrepreneurial Youth Experience, an online entrepreneurship program for high school students developed in partnership with BLaST IU17 in Williamsport, PA.  Mark is an advocate for innovations in education, including Hybrid Learning, as expressed during his recent TEDx Talk.  (http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/TEDxWilliamsport-Mark-Burke-H-2).  Mark's next appearance will take place on March 16th at the Fashion Institute of Technology's EdTech Day, Teaching, Learning and Sharing in the Cloud. (http://www.fitnyc.edu/11511.asp) Following that presentation, Mark will provide two sessions at the March 29th, Sax Days at Lycoming College.  Sessions include "Where Do Entrepreneurs Come From?" and "Creating a Culture of Innovation in Music Education" (http://www.lycoming.edu/music/saxophone.aspx).

Friday, March 2, 2012

Defining Cooperation

By Mark T. Burke

Cooperation...the core of every musical performance.  Players must cooperate during, before and after performances in order to create a lasting, musical experience. Cooperation is such a powerful byproduct of musical education that we count on the benefits to justify our programs and their place within our schools. But how do we teach the concept of cooperation?  Generally we just tell students to "do it."  "If your group would have cooperated, you could have finished the project on time."  Sounds familiar, doesn't it?  Cooperation is a difficult concept to conceptualize. In fact, cooperation is difficult to recreate at many levels.  What is real cooperation and why is it so hard to explain, teach and model?

Those who know me know I am a TED lover. TED, Ideas Worth Spreading (www.TED.com), has been a idea sharing forum since 1984.  TED = Technology, Entertainment, Design.  This week, TED 2012 took place.  Joining with 178 other communities, I took part in TEDxWilliamsport, a live, one day webcast of TED 2012.  Those in attendance viewed the webcasts and shared the new ideas, talked about our perspectives, and began forming ways of harnessing those ideas through new partnerships...new COOPERATIVE opportunities.  Cooperation seems hard to some.  Maybe it's the musician in me that simply doesn't understand why that is, but when I see something that exemplifies cooperation, I really get excited.  When I see something that can help me explain to others what cooperation is, and even better, how we may be able to TEACH cooperation, I get even more excited.  This presentation by Vijay Kumar...well, see what you think.  Especially important is the section that begins around 8:21...but, to understand the technology, start from the beginning. 

During his talk, I thought how powerful this video would be in a classroom.  The cooperative relationship between the robots helps create a visual representation of the concept of cooperation.  The concept of non-centralized control in a group always blows my mind.  How many band directors have tried starting a group and just letting them perform...tricky right?  But for groups that achieve this level of interaction....wow!

Vijay's TED Talk lays out a few fine points that help define true cooperation:

1.)  Non-centralized understanding of the task at hand.
2.)  Proximity awareness
3.)  Non-specific neighbor interaction
4.)  Defined parameters of action and reaction
5.)  Neighbor to neighbor task completion awareness

What do these terms mean?  Ask students to watch this video and have them define each.  Then, ask them to apply these same terms to what they do in their music ensembles.  What a great way to teach cooperation.  Imagine the benefit of taking this approach as compared to continuing the same old expectations each day...that kids will just COOPERATE.

I'll leave you with this.  Each and every day, I look for ways to learn more about how to educate.  I feel strongly that teachers should and must be connected to resources such as TED.  As music teachers, we can bring great benefits to our students when we seek and interact with resources beyond the music room.  Another great talk from TED 2012 delivered the lesson of "Fear of failure is a good thing.  Without failure, we never go beyond what we can do."  I want all of my music and general ed teacher friends to experience the thrill of trying something new, of failing, of asking more of themselves in order to deliver more to their students.  While it saddens be to meet tons of new and old friends who still remain unconnected to great communities of learning through technology, I have hope and see growing evidence that some are coming on board.  I want to see more sharing though, more creation of content and original ideas, more application of resources typically thought to be irrelevant.  I want to see more appreciation for the abstract so that our collective, collaborative minds can unite.  We must get our kids thinking, sharing and solving the complex issues of our time.  We simply must. 

Cooperation....a beautiful thing.

Monday, February 27, 2012

APP Review: NOTION Notation and Composition APP

By Mark T. Burke

Notion for iPad is one of those APPS that just feels good. No, actually, it feels GREAT.  The graphics are excellent, the UI is intuitive, the work flow, well, works, and the output is fantastic. There you have it, my shortest APP review ever :-)

Maybe I'll add a bit more. Notion is a musical notation APP for the iPad.  It provides the tools to setup a score quickly.  Just choose instruments, or sets of instruments and you'll be composing in minutes.  Now, there is one thing I don't like.  I don't like having to buy things within APPs.  Now, I get WHY this has to happen, but I just don't like to.  And, using a school iPad, restrictions can keep additions from happening all together, so I wish adding voices was not handles this way.....(More on that when I talk about the download time).  Being a saxophonist, I was eager to setup a score for our sax quartet...not so fast...I had to buy the saxes.  The thing is though, you're buying the voices, not the ability to compose for saxophone. Notes are notes after all.  Keep that in mind as you setup your scores.  If you find yourself having to buy a voice, you can just choose another instrument and change the key to match the instrument's key.  That's what I did for saxes. I just added flutes and then changed the key.  I will have to experiment a bit more, but I at least wanted readers to know that NOT buying instruments was not a show stopper.

With the score set up, your title and composer's name in place, you can set all the standards like key and meter.  Then, you just start composing.  I've actually not used another tablet composing tool, so I found the touch environment very inspiring.  It felt more organic than using a mouse to add notes to the staff....for some reason. 

All the standard notation tools are available including text/lyrics.  Output is in the form of MusicXML, MIDI, PDF and native formats.  You can also save to Dropbox.

Overall, Notion is a very impressive APP.  It feels professional, yet would be right at home in a classroom of students.  The format fits nicely into the iPad environment.  The download is lengthy, notice it is a 1.12 GB APP....ouch!  This is why many of the instruments are ad-ons no doubt.  Once the initial APP is installed however, it operates flawlessly.  Now, I just wish I was actually a composer who could really make good use of this APP.

Here's the link on the APP store:  http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/notion/id475820434?mt=8

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Gallup Poll: ALMOST Half Say Better Teaching is Better...ALMOST half!

By Mark T. Burke

Almost half?  ALMOST half of the respondents said they thought a better teacher, who taught online trumped a less effective teacher teaching face to face.  ALMOST HALF of us said better teaching was better?  WHAT?  Better teaching IS better..period...right?  

After reviewing a great student Prezi presentation, made available on Twitter by Dr. Joe Pisano (http://mustech.net/2012/02/school-attitudes-pinterest/), I decided to review the Highlights of the 2011 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll; What Americans said about the public schools.  

I hope you visit each link and especially take some time with the Prezi....students work hard, we should spend time with their work!  Then, read the summary.

One paragraph in particular really caught my attention: 
We asked Americans if they favor using a more effective
high school teacher who would offer instruction over the
Internet as opposed to a less effective teacher who was
physically in the classroom with students. Almost half of
Americans are open to the idea that higher quality instruction
trumped having a teacher present in the classroom.
Have we lost sight of what teaching and learning is about JUST so we can stick to tradition? Do we really support our kids being taught by less effective teachers...period, regardless of delivery?

The issue for me is not the format...the issue is the acceptance that we would answer this question any other way than to choose the most effective teachers.  Are we really saying that if we had a choice between our students working with a teacher who has won recognition and awards as a great teacher, we would choose NOT to have our students work with them if given the choice simply because of the delivery option?  

Monday, February 20, 2012

APP Review: Dr. Seuss Band for Elementary Music

By Mark T. Burke

I learned of Dr. Seuss Band from the Technology in Music Education Blog, by Dr. Christopher Russell. While I've struggled to figure out the main musical objective of the APP, I keep finding myself "playing" it.  I say playing because this APP is really a game. The beauty of the APP is that since no-one really reads directions, Dr. Seuss Band is intuitive to use and should suit the target audience's desire to just jump right in.

As you can see from the picture, the APP uses common instruments such as the Fish Bowl-a-Phone...available in the paid version.  The free version includes a similar looking instrument with a few customizations possible.  But, the point of the instrument is that is plays tunes that the player must react to in time.  Notice the colored notes across the bottom and the color "stripes" falling toward them?  Well, the goal is to react to the falling colors by pressing the notes at the right time and for the correct length of time.  When done correctly, the song being played sound like it should AND the user scores points.  The more accurate the selection, the more points.  Scoring points opens more difficult songs.

The free version includes several different songs and a Free Play mode.  Users can also change octaves on the colored keyboard and change the sounds a bit according to the different instrument options chosen.  Now, on to the musical confusion....for me.

I am just not sure what MUSICAL value this app has.  If anything, if can teach BEAT and RHYTHM ... to a degree.  Since the scoring is based on how well the user reacts to the falling color blobs, there is one issue that confused me. At times, I caught myself wanting to press the colored keys BEFORE the color fell on top of them...maybe that is the result of the games from my childhood..  I found the falling color blobs and the use of the colored keys a bit ... well, odd.  But, that may just be me.  The more I played the game, the more I got over it and just played.

For free, it is worth a download.  You'll have to get it in the hands of your students.  If they love it, there are pay options for releasing additional songs.

Check it out at the APP store:  http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/dr.-seuss-band/id474940131?mt=8  

Thursday, February 16, 2012

EYE About to Launch! It's Red Carpet Time

By Mark T. Burke

Introduction:  In addition to my work at viaAcademies, I've been working on a long term project around youth entrepreneurial education.  While not an offering of viaAcademies, I wanted to share this update with everyone. Ensuring our communities remain strong means we need to foster creativity and innovation in all areas of life.  With that vision, I've given the past two years to this effort.  Musically, students can benefit from experiencing the entrepreneurial spirit, but we must be prepared to help them.  EYE can help.  Thank you for reading and sharing. -- Mark

EYE, a two year project is on the launch pad and nearing takeoff.  I am so fortunate to be working with an AMAZING team at  BLaST IU 17 including Jerry Christy, Lydia Comerford, Wade Spenser, Chris Johnson, Whitney Kline, Brian Driscoll and of course the entire Administration including Bill Martens, Gary Nuss, John Brenchley and Cori Cotner.

I can't thank  Dorie Henrie enough for her Instructional Design and Development work. She has kept me on task throughout the effort and continues to do so each day. She is a passionate educational developer, business owner and healthy eating guru.  She's kept me on track in more ways than one on this project.  I am pretty sure I may have GAINED weight without her on board.

There are many community members to thank including the our steering committee and especially our EYE Coaches, Don Brown, Katie Bell, David Stone, Jim Shillen and Kevin Langdon.  Their work with the students has paved the way for a new class of young entrepreneurs.

I also have to thank the pilot team, including Matt Fisher, teacher at South Williamsport and all of the 15 students who participated. Thank you to the administration at South for your support throughout the effort.

Over the past two years we've also had help from several others including those who helped with our commercial including Jacquie Engel from the CTL and our student actors, Ryan, Katie and Tess. I also have to thank Kirsten Labant, intern at that time from Lock Haven for all her work on our early outreach efforts.

EYE 3 Movie from BLaST IU17 on Vimeo.

So what is EYE?  EYE stands for the Entrepreneurial Youth Experience.  Youth based Entrepreneurial education is hard to find in small communities.  So, two years ago, we put our heads together and began work on an online offering.   But, we wanted the experience to be larger than just a static online course.  We added EYE Coaches who visited with students, we involved the community in the construction of the course including folks from colleges, universities and many companies throughout PA and elsewhere.  The content is also unique, no boring multiple choice questions.  Every assignment is a component of a larger project...sounds like life, right?  Don't let the phrase "online course" scare you away classroom teachers.  We piloted the program within a classrooms and WOW!  The program provided a complete educational plan that goes far beyond the entrepreneurial education standards in PA.  The online nature of the course allows teachers to FLIP the classroom (want to learn more about flipped classrooms, visit my blog http://blog.viaacademies.com/search/label/Flipped%20Classrooms).  If we want to inspire kids to think outside the box, we must too.

The launch is firing up now.  We're forming a strategic partnership with Economics Pennsylvania (www.economicspa.org).  EconPA works tirelessly throughout PA to bring economic education to every school district.  We're also putting the finishing touches on the course and will be doing so over the spring and summer.

If you're interested in learning more and want to prepare now to offer EYE for the summer (Hint...we're planning a summer camp for 2012) or 2012-13 school year, let me know.  We need creative, innovative, entrepreneurial youth and we need to them to stay in our communities.  Contact me if you would like to be involved in our efforts.  We're always looking for enthusiastic people to join our efforts.

Help spread the news...share with your friends.