Music4Learning #4

“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.” – T.E. Lawrence

Ever seen a bunch of 16 year olds dragging their knuckles, bringing last Wednesday’s clothes and smell with them, complaining of bright lights and too many things to do before sunset? Ever opened your classroom door to a sideways glance from a teenage girl who has scrunched the last bit of chew from a stick of gum and just about managed to string the words together: ‘Hope we’re doing something fun today!’? The joys of high school or secondary school bring tears to most teachers eyes – and for so many reasons. It is the age of consolidation. The voyage of self-discovery and the trials of adolescence.

My learners enter the classroom knowing there’s going to be some music at some point. Here’s how I use the Wake Up section on I Can Teach. The chemistry has to be right. Imbalance between the two hormones melatonin and serotonin can cause a delay in waking and difficulty getting to sleep. So there are times when music can help. He’s a Pirate by Klaus Badelt (from Pirates of The Caribbean) is a rousing bit of music. Use it to introduce a topic, a speaker or get people started on an activity.Can’t Stop Movin’ by Sonny J is just the ticket for a ‘moving’ activity but at the right volume sits just underneath constructive conversation. Choose carefully between tracks with lyrics and without. The temptation is to ‘hook’ into the lyrics and this can work to improve productivity, focus and concentration. The beats per minute is also important. Too fast and you lose the effect. Our brain is too busy interpreting and following. Watch this from Jessica Grahn (she’s a hip neurologist who knows her beats) to give you an idea of how it works….

The William Tell Overture by Rossini is a classic piece of music. Throw it into the classroom and watch students become productive, busy, sociable bees. Tidy up time never happened more efficiently. Use it as part of a routine and Pavlov’s bells start ringing – students will tidy up without even asking! There’s a good selection of beats, sounds and styles in Wake Up and they all work in different ways to achieve the same effect. Whether it’s early morning or early afternoon, there’s a place for some upbeat ‘wake up’ music. The results will speak for themselves…..

Music4Learning #3

“I look into the window of my mind; reflections of the fears I know I’ve left behind. I step out of the ordinary, I can feel my soul ascending, I’m on my way, can’t stop me now and you can do the same, yeah……what have you done today to make me feel proud?” – Heather Small

Music4Learning is all about learning.  It’s the complex connections that we make when we learn something new. Music is such a powerful addition to the process that it reinforces it in so many different ways. The TEDx talk by Jessica Grahn at Western University highlights the proven links between brain activity and music.

The opportunity to use music for reflection is so important in my classroom. I use the Think section in I Can Teach as a powerful tool when considering heavyweight topics such as world poverty, migrants’ struggles, pollution, natural disasters and the list goes on. I might use Reuters Images as a starting point – add the music in the background. It might be Elegy by Lisa Gerrard and Patrick Cassidy or it might be Cahuita by Oystein Sevag and Lakki Patey – both incredibly powerful. How about an assembly or a lesson on James Mollison’s photo series on Where Children Sleep – I used Adagio for Strings in G Minor – Albinoni – alongside these photos. The connections in the brain are stronger and reinforced.

Much of the music in the Think section, contains lyrics designed to provoke thought. So why not use it to do exactly that. Use the lyrics for analysis in English and as a form of expression and theatre in Drama. Use it in Religious Studies to consider compassion and understanding. True Colours by Cindy Lauper is a familiar and well-used classic piece of contemporary music. What do the lyrics mean? How can we make society fairer and more understanding? These are real questions for real learners.

My students show a greater understanding of ‘big issues‘. They can articulate their feelings about homelessness and famine and pollution. They report on issues that affect them. This is not a ‘citizenship’ lesson or ‘personal and social education’. This is real learning and music is integral to their progress. They tackle new challenges with greater confidence because they have better self-esteem and understand their own issues in context with those of others around them. They are better at learning and metacognition and make great progress as a result.

Finally, try this: Ludovico Einaudi – Nuvole Bianche (White Clouds) running alongside ‘The Mountain’ – if you haven’t seen it – it’s worth a look.

Music4Learning #4 will be about using the Wake Up section of I Can Teach. It does exactly what it says.

Music4Learning #2

A gruesome eye dissection in class always grabs most students attention. Even the ones that are covering their own are fascinated and can’t resist a peak. Give a class a set of scalpels and one beady sheep eyeball between two would be opticians and let them go for it. Now the music: I Can See Clearly Now by Jonny Nash.

“I can see clearly now the rain has gone. I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind…..”

I sometimes go for the blindingly obvious. This is an example. Another might beSpeed of Sound by Coldplay during part of a lesson on sound. I used Around the World by Daft Punk with an animation on the Carbon Cycle. Jaws by John Williamscould be used for all sorts of things but I used it whilst studying classification of sharks with an Arkive resource. There’s always a chance to play Celebration by Kool and the Gang, even it’s just for 10 seconds. Sweet Home Alabama by Lynard Skynard at the end of a day is always a good note to leave on. All these pieces of music are powerful and instantly recognisable to most. These are all in the ‘Enjoy‘ section of I Can Teach. They are there to enjoy and have some fun with.

So what’s the link with teaching and learning? Learning is a multi-sensory, cognitive and emotional process – a journey. Memories linked to music are generally more powerful and more detailed. Given the neuroplasticity of the brain and the fact that emotions are tagged in our most primitive limbic system, we naturally learn better when we are engaged, happy and motivated. So if learning is considerably enhanced by the use of music, then teaching using it must be fun too. It draws teachers into creative and collaborative planning (use Google Apps to do this too!) and allows engagement with students on a much more multicellular and organic level.

Two observations here:

  • The choice of music can be down to students or teachers. Choice often brings devolved trust and confidence. If it’s innocuous background then it may not matter.
  • This music is designed to enhance the learning process. There is strong evidence to show that during recall, silence is better.

All our music is licensed. You stream it and use it as you wish. In Music4Learning #3 I will give you some ideas about using powerful and emotive music from the ‘Think‘ section of I Can Teach.

Enjoy!

Music4Learning #1

Tips for using Music4Learning. Research attachments too.

Do cows produce more milk when they listen to music? Research suggests they do. Do shoppers spend more money when particular types of music are played? Some businesses think they do. Do students learn better when music is playing? There’s a great deal of research to suggest it has a significant impact.

“Music is the most powerful sound there is, often inappropriately deployed. It’s powerful for two reasons: you recognise it fast and you associate it very powerfully.”

Julian Treasure of The Sound Agency http://www.thesoundagency.com/ (quoted from his TED talk on how sound affects us), tells us that productivity can be massively increased by the correct and thoughtful use of music or just the removal of the open plan office idea. He illustrates the power of music. A couple of bars of the theme music from Jaws is instantly recognisable but the second example is the first chord from A Hard Days Night – a Beatles Classic. You need to have a particular date of birth to get it without thinking.

Nina Jackson, a distinguished and well known education consultant, has drawn together her love of music and extensive research in her book ‘The Little Book of Music for The Classroom’ (available here http://www.crownhouse.co.uk/publications/product.php?product=365 ). So you can take a classroom situation and enhance it, flip it, break it and jazz it up in a number of subtle or less discrete ways.

The Wellcome Trust in the UK have also brought together a number of thoughts about the benefits of music on health and wellbeing. It’s not just the Mozart Effect you know. Take some time to find out about the cows and milk production. Professor Adrian North did and he swears by it. I have added some links to studies by scholars and esteemed Professor Susan Hallam of the Institute of Education on how music, behaviour and progress are all linked. It’s the very nature of the subjectivity and the cognitive functions of the brain that we haven’t quite got to grips with but with every new study that uses MRI and CT technology we can get a glimpse of what’s going on up there.

“Do cows produce more milk with Mozart or The Rolling Stones?”

I am constantly on the lookout for new music to use in the classroom. I stumbled across ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’ by Aaron Copland and the London Symphony Orchestra. No pressure but what a great way to introduce a new speaker to a classroom or start a class assembly. And there’s only one volume setting for this track: Loud. Throw in a bit of the Radetzky March Opus 228 by Strauss performed by the Winer Philharmoniker and you’ve got quite a show.

I’ll reveal some great ways to use music in the classroom in some moreMusic4Learning episodes but if you can’t wait then take a look at I Can Teachhttp://www.icanteach.co.uk where there are plenty of ideas. Links to the research I mentioned are below. Feel free to add your ideas in to the comments below and share with some of your colleagues.

Wellcome Trust: The Big Picture – Music and Health http://www.icanteach.co.uk/_resources/Wellcome_Trust_Big_Picture_Music_Mind_and_Medicine.pdf

The effects of background music on health and wellbeing http://www.icanteach.co.uk/open-resource/resource-id=214

Five Studies on the Effects of Music on Behaviour http://www.icanteach.co.uk/open-resource/resource-id=215

Do you Google?

Bringing Google Apps for Education to schools is one thing but making it work depends on commitment from staff, good training and support and a willingness to try something new……

So I was surprised to hear a good friend and former colleague from another school say that he didn’t trust Google. Google was filtered. Searching on Google was banned. What on earth!

I tried to explain the direct links between using Google Apps for Education and improving his results in English and Maths; greater collaboration, maximum productivity and opportunities to become producers rather than consumers. He seemed interested in Google Classroom – the place to link teachers, assignments and learning (for free).

It was a battle to open the door and I was certain that I was going to keep it at least ajar. Google Docs would allow departments to share resources with a click. Collaboration on schemes of work and lesson plans would be a piece of cake. Sharing them with Faculty Heads for commenting and feedback – easy. Students sharing work with each other and teachers would allow powerful peer critique. It opens doors. Concerns over coursework? Over generous feedback? Just tailor the share settings or create the environment where that doesn’t happen. Let’s face it if students have a ‘cheat’ mindset, they will find a way. Google Apps create the environment. It’s our job as educators to teach young people how to make the most of it. Haven’t we all been watching something or mid-conversation and the urge to ‘Google it’ wells up in our finger tips? Use the research facility in a document and cite your work with one click.

Google Chrome is a web browser providing all sorts of extensions and apps to make the classroom interactive, intuitive and engaging. Pixelate, animate, calculate and integrate as you like it. The Webstore https://chrome.google.com/webstore/ brings you apps like Evernote Clearly – strips blogs and webpages down to the basic text and images. Great if you are a page jumper and you need to focus. Improving literacy

Google Sites takes the learning onto the world stage. As soon as students know that someone other than their teacher is going to scrutinise and criticise every inch, they up their game. Publish student work to the class, the school or the parents and the whole world. A game changer. Use it as a place for students to upload their work. Easy to click through their webpages, based on a template, to see their efforts.

Google Drive brings all this together. Upload files and folders. If you don’t convert them to Google Docs then you can add terabytes of the stuff. The power comes in the collaboration, the ease of sharing and the security of knowing that you can search and retrieve previous versions with just a couple of clicks.

So, we are planning to meet and discuss training for some key staff – champions if you like. A short presentation to the Head and her team and a chance to look at simple integration into the classroom. My next mission is another school, a little further afield, where the Curriculum Deputy is keen to see staff working together and sharing precious time more productively. An open mind is all I need.

Google Apps for Education is a suite of tools to improve collaboration, creativity and productivity. Patrons report feeling happier and more willing to share resources and chocolate. They talk to each other. Achievement and progress follow. There’s a link for techs and people that need to know how here: http://www.google.com/edu/products/productivity-tools/ .

I also explain to people that I don’t work for Google. I am not sponsored by Google. I just help people become more digitally productive.