Thursday, October 9, 2008

SmartMusic (11) in a Pervasive Deployment. Year 2. A great start!

Just in case you have just stumbled into this blog, I am a big SmartMusic and SmartMusic Impact fan.  We are requiring all our beginners, second year and third year students to use this program to document their progress and to encourage proper practice.
Other things about our program:  We are in the second year of having our sectional time cut.  We are funding this with a fee.  For students who can't afford the fee, we have a scholarship program.  (Thanks Boosters and PTO!)  Everyone needs to have the fee covered.  If you have no computer access at home, you are helping to cover the cost of the school machines.  For students with no internet connected computer, we have 3 practice room computers available before and after school and at lunch recess.  We also have 3 teacher stations that have SmartMusic on it as well, so we should be ok to handle a 6 person rush in a pinch.
Back to what is happening now.  We are expecting 180 installs this fall.  We are already at 55 in 2 days.  I would say that this is much better than last year.  I made an assignment on Tuesday and I have already had 7 already returned for review. (It is only Thursday!) If everything keeps moving at this pace, I would say that the second year goes much smoother.
Why is that?  That is hard to say.  The interface remodel has made things much easier for the parents and kids to understand.  These kids may be more the go-getter type.  (It's early in the year and I really couldn't confirm or deny that.)  What ever it is, wow!
The recordings that are in are much better in quality this year!  I'd like to think that I am a better teacher.  I'm pretty sure the mic set-up wizard is paying off.  There may be some under-the-hood technical reason for the better sound as well.  I like it!
Some ideas to think about and a few tips:
My teaching partner had a slip to hand students that did not have their fee paid that gently reminded their parents about the fee and the scholarship program.  If student didn't get the disc, they now knew the reason why and it was very carefully explained how to take care of this. Everyone got something or knows what to do.  I plan to steal this idea.
Microphones were an add-on to the fee.  The really expensive year is the first year when everyone needs a mic.  Unless the cat go it (and that happened to 3 mics!) you don't need to pay for it again.  First year kids with no older siblings probably do need the mic.
I like to keep the enroll in a class conversation separated from the program activation conversation.  Day One of the big disc hand-out we watched the Quickstart videos on the SmartMusic web site paying special attention to the installation and activation segments.  
Day Two of the big roll out, I printed out a screen grab of the first screen and drew some arrows to the enroll for class button.  Have the kids write what class to enroll in on this sheet and they should be able to get the sign-up done.  
I also wrote down on the sheet that it is best to use a real e-mail address and most of our kids were using their student id numbers as passwords.  I know the "obvious password" is a breach of security, but this password really just protects their privacy a bit.  These are grades and projects for heavens sake, not state secrets.  What is the worst that could happen?  Someone sneaks in and does an assignment for you?  I have had kids wait to finish their projects until they could get ahold of the password help in their parent's e-mail.
I have my own domain name/e-mail deal set-up so I could issue dummy e-mail accounts to kids who don't have e-mail.  Their mail goes to my junk e-mail drawer.  That way I can help with passwords and I am reminded who needs the in class reminders.  After I send a reminder, I check my junk drawer.
I haven't had to do this, but if you suspect fraud (like someone sneaking in and doing the assignment) the practice room computers would make a lovely pop quiz site.  The other defense is to have the kids say their name during the count off.  Kind of like signing their papers.
Well this is a wordy post.  I hope it has been worth the read.  As always, post a question if you have one.  I think the second year of pervasive SmartMusic use is off to a great start!

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