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.