Music4Learning #5

“Teaching is a passion. Don’t do it if it’s not.”

Wellbeing is underrated. So many people pay little attention to their own or others. Hardworking teachers and students crashing and burning their way through an academic week means there is little left for anyone else come the weekend. Teachers are victims of their own regime. The timetable creates a Pavlovian phenomenon of knowing exactly what you are doing and when. But this hamster wheel is where we lose the ‘why’ of teaching.

Let’s refocus on the ‘why’ then. Teaching is a passion. Don’t do it if it’s not. We nurture, guide and applaud young people. We push and pull, cajole and coax and equip brave young minds with resilience and tenacity. To survive this rollercoaster I need time to look after myself and my students. I need to know when I am pushing them too far. I use the music from I Can Teach to ‘chill out’. Generally, with no lyrics, the music allows me to refocus, to reflect and calm before the next onslaught. Try it before that ‘hard to teach’ class arrives. The effect is not short-lived. My favourite track in Chill Out has to be La Femme d’Argent by Air. You can almost feel the waves lapping around you and a gentle sea breeze keeping you nicely chilled. Follow this up with Homebase by dZihan and Kamien and you are in a different place – a different space. Northern Lights by Lux is delicious in its simplicity. You can melt away in this music.

So, you’ve tried the therapeutic self-awareness route and you are now confidently going to try it on that class of 8 year olds or 13 years olds that have bounced in after break. It works. It creates a calm, peaceful and purposeful atmosphere. It physically changes the chemical balance of hormones in the body. Calm teacher, calm class of learners. Greater focus means improved productivity and greater confidence. ‘Chill Out‘ does not mean ‘Doze Off’. There is an intrinsic purpose to this choice of music. It works.

ASAP Science: The Scientific Power of Music (2:00)

“More of the brain is involved in perception and response to music than to language or anything else.” – Oliver Sacks

Lastly, if you like the academic rigour behind all of this then check out Oliver Sacks – Tales of Music and the Brain. His site is here. Worth a good look.

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 #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.

Google Classroom

Google Classroom is the solution to so many classroom issues. Easy to set up and constantly in a beta mode so that everyone can add to its development. The key part is the means by which classes can be allocated either assignments (homework) or posts for information and announcements. It is easy to set a particular task to smaller groups of students and to provide separate copies of tasks to each student. Now, the best bit. They submit their work back to you ( turn it in) and then you can comment on it and allocate a grade. It uses the technology of Google Docs, sheets, slides etc, so you can find yourself commenting on or grading a piece of work in real time. So, the opportunities for quick, useful and meaningful feedback are obvious. The students can improve their work based on your critique and the essence of multiple drafting and redrafting is available. This leads to higher quality work by miles. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K26iyyQMp_g http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIfXzJMLsMQ

So, once the assignments have been set to a particular time and date, you can check progress along the way, offer significant and important feedback and critique and then give a final grade based on a rubric that you have already provided in an easily accessible location within the ‘classroom’. It is also easy to tell who has submitted their work or not. If they are late, I mark them down by 10 points: a grade. Once all the grades are entered, I can download a useful parents evening tool in the form of a spreadsheet, that gives all the grades for all the assignments since the beginning of time. Well, since the beginning of term. Its as powerful as having their books in front of them, as you can pull up evidence of submissions, feedback offered and improvements made. It’s a real time saver and with limited set up it rivals expensive options or iPad apps that need a great deal of time invested in them. The key part for me is the motivation for the learner. They can engage with it from any device at any time from wherever they like. They get feedback quickly and are then able to see specifically what they need to do to improve. From a teacher’s point of view, it’s an extra tool. It’s a good use of time and drastically reduces that time taken looking through books. In my view – well worth a look!

Games in learning

A look at how Kahoot might help you engage your students.

I have spent most of my years teaching trying to engage students. Some tactics have been more successful than others. The element of surprise has always been lurking and is often a winner, particularly as a science teacher. Expect the unexpected! So, best to be prepared then. Crafting a lesson plan is one thing but introducing the flexibility to divert and go with the flow is a tough ask and demands a little more resilience and adaptability. A significant part of my planning would be on assessing progress and demonstrating skills or knowledge that they didn’t have when they came in that day.

Using Kahoot https://getkahoot.com/ , the game-based classroom response system, which allows students to engage on a completely different level has changed the way I view assessment for learning. On a simple level, it’s a quiz. Everybody loves a quiz. Especially when you know the answers. The questions go up on the board and the students answer. Easy. What makes Kahoot so good is the technology. It’s nothing revolutionary but it makes the application of ‘checking progress’ look like child’s play. You need WiFi and you need a reasonable number of devices, preferably but not essentially handheld. You need to display the option choices. The key part of the game is that students can make their choices without putting their hand up or without shouting out. It’s ok to make a mistake. In fact, they will declare it quite vehemently under the guise of ‘pressing the wrong button….’. The risk of public humiliation is dramatically reduced. That is until the scores are revealed. The quicker the correct response, the more points awarded. The top five scores are displayed but every player knows their position and they know how far behind the next player they are. The teacher can control the pace of the questions, both in setting a time limit for response and manually between questions. This can create a furious-paced five or ten minute plenary or a slightly slower examination of right and wrong answers.

You can easily introduce literacy and numeracy. A key requirement is that students read the question. It’s easy to make the answers phonetically similar or group words of similar spellings. You can also involve students in creating the quizzes. They become researcher, collator, writer and developer in one part of the lesson and quiz master in the next. The metacognition involved in this process and the access to higher order thinking skills is tangible. Kahoot is as versatile as you would want it to be. You can add video clips and images to stimulate responses at the beginning of the quiz or in each question. You can also draw on other users’ quizzes. You might be able to copy and adapt these but also share yours with others either in your school or more widely. Have a look for quizzes on ‘Frozen’ or Logos or chemical symbols. What is undeniable is the sustained interest that is generated in the students. The elements of competition, pace and challenge combine to make this a real winner.

Some top tips for using Kahoot:

  • Keep it relatively short – 20 questions maximum and 10-15 minutes
  • Stick to real names on set up – it avoids subtle name calling
  • Involve students in setting their own quizzes
  • Take some time to add images or a video at the start
  • Make yours public and add some good tags
  • Use a flipped model of learning – set a video to watch first
  • Try with staff – it will transform briefing sessions
  • Use it across all subjects
  • Have fun with it