Here is a quick review of the free video app from ABC. The video quality is excellent, and I'm sure many iPad owners are currently rejoicing in another media company's adoption of H.264.
Here is a new app that has a lot of potential if you prefer a more "newspaper-like" blog reading experience. It's called Early Edition and sells for $4.99. There are a few bugs/issues that need to be worked out, but a very nice initial effort that takes advantage of things the iPad does well.
Sorry for the low light iPhone video, but at least you'll will get the idea of this app.
Update: Bug regarding Posterous feeds has been fixed!
In about 45 minutes there is going to be a "musedchat" on Twitter regarding the values of festivals and contests. I know myself well enough to realize that I can't fully express myself on this topic by using tweets. So although I'm going to try, I figured I'd better get some clarifying thoughts written here first. I hope you don't think this is against the spirit of the chat concept, it's just a complex subject that I've been thinking about for decades. Please forgive the typos and poor sentence structure, I'm typing fast!
As I've written before, I do not think that competition should be a part of curricular ensembles. This is nearly unavoidable, since even the invited opportunities such as the Midwest Clinic or the National Concert Band Festival are competitive during the application process. I can live with that, but I cannot support the idea of a fully ranked competition. I want my students to be able to focus on (and celebrate) the manifestation of the music, and that just isn't realistic when there are ranks and trophies at stake. I just don't see the musical upside.
I also find the "Divisional Rating System" to be problematic, though perhaps marginally "less bad" than ranked competition. Playing for three band directors in a gymnasium is simply not my idea of an excellent performance opportunity. I have also found that I get input/criticisms that are far more beneficial to me and my students by inviting respected professionals to our classroom for clinics. It is amazing what a colleague can share with you and the students when they are not worried about stamping a rating on it.
Festivals (at least in Illinois) come in two basic flavors. The first is the "Honor" ensemble whereby each school sends a small number of students in order to form one large ensemble (and when I say "large" boy do I mean "large"). Typically students audition for these spots. These festivals can be a positive experience for some students, but there can also be a fair amount of disappointment for the students who do not place "high enough" in the section or do not receive a placement at all. I could go on at length about the actual festival experiences (whether single day or multiple days) which often lack a clear sense of philosophical grounding and therefore become "hit or miss" from year to year. I'm sure we've all had students return from these events only to proclaim that there experiences at home were more enjoyable and musically beneficial. If we're going to support these types of events, we need to think carefully about that.
The second type of festival is the format I vastly prefer, whereby groups come together to perform in a non-competitive, "comments-only" format. The National Concert Band Festival is a prime example. I especially like how the students support each other by serving as audience members. The main advantages of this type of experience are (a) your entire ensemble participates, (b) you are able to focus almost exclusively upon the repertoire, and (c) you are usually performing for a knowing audience in an appropriate performance space.
One idea we are starting to see in Illinois is the idea of sharing concerts between schools. For example, a trusted colleague and I rented a nearby college concert hall and we presented a concert, each with one of our bands. Then for the last piece we combined the groups and performed together. This gave an "off campus" opportunity for our students to work towards, there were no rankings or ratings, and we played in a marvelous hall. And the students got to learn about the musical approach of a nearby school and show support for each other. I found this to be one of the more significantly relevant endeavors we have ever done, and I look forward to making it a tradition.
Well, there are my thoughts. Clearly more than I could fit into a tweet. Your comments are welcomed.
Recently I stumbled upon a blog post by Will Richardson talking about professional development for teachers, specifically in the area of technology. In the subsequent comments under the post the discussion between David Warlick and a few others took an interesting turn from professional development to whether or not teaching iteself is a profession. David posted additional thoughts on his own blog:
If you think of teaching as something you do in one room, beside the room of another teacher, beside the room of another teacher, delivering content or directing skill development, checking off standards sheets, and doing pretty much the same thing year after year — then I would agree with Sheryl. Semi-profession might actually be generous. Much of the job, especially as addressed by NCLB, is more like being a technician, applying prescribed, researched, and government-approved techniques on students, based on high-precision measurements. I suspect that the term professional, has described teachers because they’ve earn a college degree, and years ago they were among the only people in many communities who were educated to that level.
I agree completely with the spirit of David's thoughts. Yet it concerns me that there is a tendency to use terms like profession, professionalism, and professional development interchangably. I know some may think it's just semantics, but I think there's more to it and we need to be more intentional about our word choice. Do some of us really believe that teaching is not a profession?
There is little question that there are some teachers who lack professionalism. Nor is there much doubt that some teachers need more professional development, especially in these times of exponential change. We've experienced administrators, board members, and legislators who may not treat teachers professionally. While a profession, the conduct of those within it, and the treatment of its members are certainly related, they are still clearly distinct. Furthermore, these are the realities of any profession. Can you think of a profession that does not have these same challenges? The bottom line is that the challenges we face do not change the fact that teaching is a profession.
"A profession is a vocation founded upon specialised educational training, the purpose of which is to supply disinterested counsel and service to others, for a direct and definite compensation, wholly apart from expectation of other business gain".
By any reasonable definition of the word (like the one above), teaching "meets or exceeds" the definition of a profession. We hold college degrees and state/national certification. We provide service to others, are directly compensated, and teach without expecation of "other business gain." If teaching is not a profession, what is it? And what careers are professions, if teaching is not chief among them?
Having said that, if someone is qualified to enter the profession, does that mean he will surely conduct himself professionally? Will she continue to develop her teaching skills throughout her career? These are important questions of conduct within the profession, or professionalism. We must not confuse the two, nor use the terms interchagably.
We can (and should) discuss educational professionalism without any doubt that what we do is a profession. Let's be sure we are choosing (and using) our words carefully. To my mind, teaching continues to be one of the most essential professions on this earth, and we would serve ourselves well to not only keep that in mind, but believe it to the core. If we don't, why would anyone else?
Midori: I think that every child should have the opportunity to play or explore whatever kind of music speaks to them and to take that experience into adulthood. The eventual manifestation could be as a devoted listener, a casual player or a paid professional musician; whatever that might be, simply having those musical opportunities as a child ultimately benefits the individual as well as the larger culture. No matter the level of experience or talent, I am always amazed by children’s capacity to love music and to embrace it. At the very beginner level, the focus should be on the individual and to nurture the child as a whole person, rather than focusing on a specific talent or skill. For instance, at Midori & Friends (my nonprofit organization in New York), we emphasize a process-oriented, rather than goal-oriented, approach to music education. As I mentioned above, whether or not this young person grows up to play the violin professionally or for fun or not at all, just having this exposure to the arts will benefit and enrich their lives tremendously.
This interview with Midori is worth reading. We had the opportunity to bring Midori to our school last year. Her commitment to music education is unwavering. Notice her statement about nurturing "the child as a whole person." That needs to be the core of our educational mission in this country.
This is a fantastic TED Talk given by author Elizabeth Gilbert in February of 2009. Since that time it has remained one of the most popular videos at ted.com, which is further evidence that creativity continues to be on everyone's minds these days. As you watch it, resist the assumption that ensemble music students are creative by default, and instead think about how you can empower your students to become more involved in the creative process of bringing music to fruition. Further, what does it mean for music teachers to be creative?
What do you think? Leave a comment, it only takes a moment.
Follow the link just below the video to see Eric's post which explains the process for stitching together his Virtual Choir.
Should You Get It?
So... you have a movie on your personal laptop and want to show it in class. Do you (a) email the huge file so you can download it to the computer that is attached to the LCD projector, or (b) hook up your personal computer to your LCD projector (wasting valuable time) or (c) stream the media from your personal laptop to the computer that is already hooked up to your LCD projector?
I'm going with C, and for about $129.
I'm starting a new association for music educators. We are going to meet monthly. The dues are one dollar per month, per member. However, each member will also receive one dollar for every member in attendance. So, if there are 100 people at the meeting, each member will give one dollar, but leave with 99 dollars. No strings attached. Pretty amazing model, wouldn't you say?
If that idea was guaranteed not to be a scam, would you do it? Of course you would! A one dollar investment that returns 99 dollars, every month? You would have to be crazy not to participate. So what is my point? It's this: although money doesn't work that way, ideas do. If, in a group of 100 teachers, each teacher shares one idea, everyone gets 99 new ideas.
Unlike money, educational ideas can be shared without losing their value.
And this is exactly what Professional Learning Networks are all about. The problem is, not enough teachers are sharing. They may think their ideas are not good enough. They may think they are too busy. They may be worried about being judged. All I can say is... if that describes you... get over it, and quick. You are cheating yourself, your students, and many other teachers (and their students). Teaching music is not a competition. All of our students deserve the best instruction.
My PLN lives in three main areas at the moment: A Facebook group of about 1,500; A Facebook page of about 600; and about 400 people I interact with on Twitter. It boggles my mind to imagine what we could do for students if each one of those people shared one idea per month. The number of participants in a PLN doesn't mean much if only a small percentage are sharing what they know.
You don't have to start a blog (but congrats to those of you who are trying it), you can simply start by posting a thought, idea, or link. Put it into the comments below this post, or post it on Twitter, or in your Facebook status. I can promise you that if we all share, we'll all get far more in return than we give.
So... do you want to be filty rich or not? Get your dollar on the table!