Tuesday, November 18, 2008

SmartMusic, Impact and the PLC model

My district has gone into the Professional Learning Community (PLC) model big time.  We have even had the DuFours out for staff development.
Basically (and this is the REALLY short version) the program boils down to: 1.) What do we want the kids to know? 2.) How will we know they have it? and 3.) What are we going to do to help if they don't succeed?  4.) If you don't know what to do next, check with the other teachers on your team and figure it out.
Finally, the rest of the teaching world starts to work the way music teachers have for years.  Have you ever heard a group where someone wasn't getting it?  Not only do our students have to get it, to be really successful, they need to make it look easy.
There are some challenges to working in this environment.  I don't know about your program, but mine has looked like a good place to cut and my time to do #3 (help those that aren't getting it) has been cut by two-thirds.  Also, the common planning time (to do #4) didn't fit into the other building's schedule this year (we share teachers.) so not a lot of discussion this year.
So how has SmartMusic and Impact helped? 
Well, it sure has helped me figure out the big question-- who gets it?  No doubt with the screen shot and recording, you really know who is having trouble with the entry level rhythm and pitch items.  The recording is very helpful with the other artistic level items as well.
After an assignment, listen to your recordings (all organized in Impact) with your state's rating sheet and figure out what you really need to do next.  The results have surprised me.  Now I am in a spot to work smarter with the time I have.  
SmartMusic can also help students figure out how to help themselves for right note and rhythm issues as well as get students to practice on their spare time (it is fun to use.)  The additional practice on the days-off helps the rehearsals.
As far as figuring things out with my team of teachers, I can now do this asynchronously.  With  a quick, "Hey, listen.  What do I do to fix this?..."  Now, everyone I think knows the answer gets to listen to my problems on my iPod.  My team just got bigger as well.  If I see you at the music convention, be prepared!
No, I still don't think I have enough time to do music teaching right.  The kids deserve better and I am still pestering people until I get that for them.  I do think SmartMusic has helped me work better with the time I have.

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