Tuesday, October 7, 2014

First SmartMusic Assignment Is Out The Door.

I have my first SmartMusic assignment out the door for all of my students as of last Friday.

Because of the parent-student-teacher happening next week, I made it due this Friday.  I usually schedule these assignments with two weeks' notice, but it is very nice to have something to talk about with parents and students at these conferences.

I am also hoping that the short notice will be better for the first assignment.  In the past, the first one has been the hard one to get kids to turn in.  I'm not sure if that is because two weeks is too long or if there are some things that need to be set up for things to work right.  Getting software installed, an account open and registered for class seems like a lot of work for a middle schooler.  And every middle schooler  knows that there is no time like the future to do that hard work... they will get to it tomorrow (or the day/week/month after that.)

So I am thinking that after conferences there may be a little parent help with the missing assignments.

I do have some tips for making the load lighter on the students:

  • We buy SmartMusic for all of our middle school band students (it is rolled into their class fees.)  This is much easier than counting on families to visit the web site and purchase it on their own.
  • We entered the code for this bulk purchase as a class.  You can do this with any web browser, just visit SmartMusic.com page and follow the "redeem a code" link.
  • We have been doing this for several years.  So we have several classes of kids in the system already.  Instead of having the kids enroll for classes, import those kids into the next class.  That way, they end up in exactly the right class.  It is crazy the number of 6th graders who still think of themselves as 5th graders!
  • Pay special attention to first year kids.  Once they have an account set-up, they will have their information in there for the rest of their career.  I check the beginners' logins to be certain they work. 
  • We do a standard login e-mail address (Google apps for education) and the password is the same as that account.  Trouble-shooting gets easier when you set things up that way.  In the past, most of our login issues were related to email accounts that students no longer had access to or just forgot about.  Something standard helps.
  • Redeem a code doesn't mean they have enrolled in class.  Check the SmartMusic grade book against your class list. Make sure you have them all in there. 
  • Enrolled in class doesn't mean they have redeemed a code.  If you do the bulk purchase, check your active subscriptions against your class list.  If they have redeemed the code, they can login to SmartMusic from any computer that has the program installed.  Get them activated.
  • When kids go home all they should have to do is download SmartMusic from the site and use their login information that is already set up.  That's it.  That's the goal.
It is a little extra work to get this running smoothly.  But I think it is worth it to do the work up front.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

SmartMusic Enrollment Time!


(Background: At my middle school we are requiring everyone to have an account and we are paying for it with a student fee so students can access SmartMusic anywhere and not just on our practice room computers.  Talk to your SmartMusic rep for pricing as it is possible to lower the cost to families by buying in bulk.)

It is enrollment time for SmartMusic.  And all of our kids have been assigned Chromebooks.  You would think that is a combination that just doesn't work.  And you would be right.  SmartMusic doesn't run on the Chromebooks.

But "Redeem a Code"does.  If want to be sure that your students have activated their accounts so they can login to SmartMusic everywhere, the Chromebook can help.  Have your class fire up their web browser and go to the SmartMusic web site and follow the "Redeem a Code" link.  If they have had an account there in the past, they login as an existing customer.  New customers can start their account there too.

Some tips:

  • We were surprised by how many students do not know how to e-mail their parents.  Have a list of parent e-mail addresses handy.
  • Do have the kids do this exactly together.  Field by field.
  • Do have the kids use the save and save changes buttons.  We did have a hiccup with our internet service at one point and I was able to put the finishing touches on the data entry after the kids left.  Having something started will save you time and "cleaning up" the account entry will save time from the next class meeting.  I'm not sure how kids got around the save buttons, but there were a couple of cases of there was no information saved about their account.  Pretty sure those students missed a button or were waaaay behind.
  • If you have a projector, use it to show them how to fill this out.
  • Do walk around and look at kids screens.  That may mean getting some help because being up front working at the computer and in back watching the kids' devices is not possible.  Maybe you should pick a kid to fill his out on screen while you coach from the back of the room.
  • We use the school's street address for kids that don't know their own address when filling account info out. (I know!  Where do you live should be something in every kid's head.) This can be on the whiteboard before class starts.
  • We use the student's e-mail and have a consistent password figured out for the kids to use.  Our login is very much like their Google Apps For Education login.  This helps with trouble-shooting should something come up.
I know a bunch of that could have been written by Captain Obvious.  Hopefully, these tips are good reminders on how to teach with technology.  

Don't worry about cutting the parents out of the loop on this account.  MakeMusic will send them an e-mail informing them about the account if the kids are under 14.

This is the first year we have done this "Redeem a Code" thing as a class project.  You could just send some directions home, but I think this is the way to go.  You will know that things are set-up and ready to go for that first assignment!