Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Getting Your Students Into SmartMusic Gradebook



We have been using SmartMusic Gradebook for several years now.  It is a HUGE piece of our SmartMusic everywhere plan.  The Gradebook is an excellent way to send musical assignments and collect them from individuals.

But the trick to using the SMGB is getting kids to set-up an account, login and register for class.  I guess that is really three tricks.

There are two obvious ways to do this.  You could send the instructions home and hope the kid is a good reader (or has help) and gets it done that way.  Or, you could take class time to do it.

We have tried it both ways and have found both methods have their upsides and downsides.

With the send it home method:

  • Upside-- You probably will get parent support.  Kids probably aren't allowed to install software unsupervised at home.  At least they aren't at my house.
  • Downside-- You may wait for months for this to happen!
  • Downside-- You might not have students registered for the right section.
  • Upside-- Parents will actually be aware that they have the program.
  • Upside-- You will hear from the parents that it doesn't work on their computer if it doesn't work on their computer.
  • Downside-- You will hear from the parents that it doesn't work on their computer if it doesn't work on their computer.

With the use class time method:

  • Upside-- You will have everyone registered for class.
  • Upside-- You will have little time spent tracking down the laggards.
  • Upside--  It will be the right class.
  • Downside-- You may be surprised by how many kids don't confidently know their contact information.
  • Downside-- I have yet to meet the music teacher with enough rehearsal time.

If at all possible, I would recommend the do it in class method.  Yes, you loose some of the parent involvement, but it saves you time in the long run.  You can be sure that everyone is registered and you can check to be sure the student is registered for the right class and fix it right away if they aren't.

I wouldn't do this with out some preparation.  At the bare minimum have students bring their e-mail address to class.  They will also need their address and an e-mail for parents.  Our fifth graders are pretty bright, but they haven't had to fill out this kind of registration form before and it takes a while.  I think we have it down to 40 minutes per class. 

If kids forget their home address, we use the schools address for creating an account.  

You need a plan for siblings that share e-mail accounts as well.  Parents could set-up e-mail addresses for the kids or you could use a bogus e-mail address for the login and have real parent contact addresses inside of the SmartMusic account.   

We just got Google Apps accounts at school for our students, so the individual e-mail address was easy for us.  

Everyone's situation is different.  We have access to computer labs and that makes having everyone do this at the same time possible. If you want to use a lab and don't want to install SmartMusic on all the computers, point your favorite browser to https://gradebook.smartmusic.com/ .  This address will let you use the browser to set-up accounts and register for class.

You would be crazy to do this in a lab setting without an interactive white board or projector.  Walk through it once with a dummy student by yourself.  Show the kids once using a dummy student when they aren't watching their computers to walk them through the process as well.

We used our IWB and had students very carefully follow us every step of the way, one step at a time.  Starting with opening the same browser. Have kids triple-check entries.  This is a situation where one misplaced keystroke will slow everyone down while you trouble shoot and fix things.  It is very important to get the login right as well.  How else are students going to get in to do their assignments?  Grandpa always said, "Don't hurry into trouble."  This is one of those times to listen to him.

If you have just one computer in your classroom, you could train a student to supervise the others in registration.  If you use the send it home method, this could be the way to clean up the late or poorly done registrations.

After setting up the accounts and registering the kids for class, I would make sure that they have written down what their login address and password are.  This could be the one piece of paper that should go in an instrument case.  Having watched our practice room computers for several years, I know that the number one login problem is forgetting the login info.

I would also aim to do this in-class process very early in the year.  What else are you going to do on the first day?  Talk about a bunch of rules?  This may also be the least valuable rehearsal day if you are concerned about that time issue.

This process sounds like a lot of work but it is worth it.  It gets easier with each section of kids you work with and kids with existing accounts will breeze right through this.  

SmartMusic Gradebook is THE way to keep tabs on your students and help them grow as musicians.  It will also help you to improve your teaching as well, just listen for trends of what to fix.  Getting them logged-in and registered is worth every minute.

This is harder for students who haven't had an SmartMusic account before.  If they remember their account login info and password from last year, registering for this year's class is a breeze!  Figure half the time on this project for the experienced users.  I would still have them register for class as a group.  Nice to have them all in the gradebook.

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