Sunday, September 25, 2016


I always struggle with grades.  I also struggle with the sheer load.  I carry (depending on how you count it) almost 170 students per semester.  If I give one minute per week to each student I am hitting 3 hours just on grading.  Thats not sustainable (both the 1 minute--and the 3 hours).

We also know that Level 4 of the all important Danielson Rubric requires Student Assessment, Student Rubrics, and Student Designed Learning.

In a music class which is very teacher centered by nature I am making a big leap to give students control of their grade this year.

I will establish five assignments in my gradebook:

  • Performing/Responding (40%).  This is all the instrument specific stuff and the listening/writing/responding.  
  • Sight-reading (20%).  Sight-reading tests, ear training, and dictation.
  • Music Theory (10%).  Vocabulary, chords, scales, harmony, etc...
  • Concerts (20%)
  • Participation (10%).  I felt strongly I needed a column for professional responsibilities which might include having your instrument, designing a practice plan, supporting classmates, etc..
Now here is where things will get crazy:
  • Every two weeks the student will summarize their learning in each category.  They will review teacher based assessments, student designed goals, and assign a grade.  I will review and conference with student if needed.
  • This grade will be put into the gradebook.  The gradebook will reset each marking period.  
  • So...the assignments will be static--but I will edit the grades bi-monthly with the student assigned grade.
  • There will be a ton of assessments archived in MusicFirst, Google, etc... We will assess constantly--but grade only every two weeks.
Some things I hope:
  • That students begin to create their own assessments and learning.  If I was a player in a great band the band director would lead rehearsal--but I would lead the learning.  I would figure out what to do be ready for next rehearsal.
  • That students and parents have a much better understanding of what they are doing in class.
  • That we do not let school "run us over".  That students realize they can control so much.
This is a grand experiment.  I am sure I will screw up something.  But at least we are trying!

Friday, September 23, 2016

MusicFirst--Post #3

Here we #3.

I am getting a bit more used to MusicFirst.  But...

  • Discussions Tasks does not work at all.  There is no "Discussion" as we understand it in Facebook or Edmodo.  A student will submit a comment--but nobody else in the group can see it.  It is very confusing.  They have to choose "reply".  Not intuitive (based on the fact that 1/2 my students did it wrong)
  • I can "attach" a rubric--but I can't save it or add it to my favorites.  I have to retype it each time.  Even worse--I can't USE the rubric.  It does not come up when grading the assignment.  This is an online classroom.  It really needs checkboxes on the rubric to go straight into gradebook.  The rubrics need to be saved and viewable by the students, otherwise--what is the point?
  • When grading a submission I have to make four clicks to get to the next assignment to grade.  Why not have a "Next submission" button?  
  • MusicFirst connects to Musition and Auralia and you can load assignments and quizzes, but you can't include them in categories on your gradebook.
  • Every time someone turns in an assignment I get sent a message and I CANT TURN IT OFF.
  • I need to be able to assign things to multiple classes.  Every other software can do this.  
So, is it working? I think so.  Is it efficient? Not at all.  Not yet.

Friday, September 9, 2016

MusicFirst: Work in Progress

I am a few weeks in on musicFirst.  I am more convinced that this is a pretty good idea--that isn't quite working in practice.

  • I assign a lesson from Musition.  Two parts.  First part is "Introduction to Terms" which is basically just a list of vocabulary words.  Second part is the assessment.  In the student view the "Introduction" does not show up on their task list.  You have to go into their class calendar to find it.  So they just see the quiz.  In teacher view I am thinking I gave some work, then an assessment.  Students just see assessment.
  • Also, if you place "Introduction" on September 8, it disappears for the student on September 9.  They can't use the resource to study for end of unit test.
  • How the "Units" work in Musition and Auralia is really unclear (see above).  Do I just assign a Unit and everything takes care of itself?  Do I need to go into each lesson and assessment and mark due dates?
  • If a student actually takes the assessment it is not graded correctly.  If a student gets an 11/11 they get 11% in the gradebook.
  • Musition assignments can't be put into categories in the gradebook.  THATS annoying.
  • I really wish they placed "Announcements" on the landing page.  
  • There is no "Check" for students that they read/opened an announcement or reading assignment.
  • I still need to learn how to really get Sight Reading Factory rolling.  It seems like Level 1 stuff is a bit too hard for absolute beginners.
  • I don't get the sample lessons on my splash page.  How do I assign them?
  • I can't figure out at all how to get student work into my portfolio.  It seems like all the work I assign has no option for that.
I am getting better at it and hope after a few more weeks I am an expert and the software makes more sense.  All the above stuff is fixable--or I am just doing it wrong (perhaps more likely). 

A few other notes:
  • Messages is working well for me.  If we could merge Messages and Discussion that would be great.  One place!!
  • They say the true/false or MC tests are graded automatically now.  Not in my experience.  Not sure where/how I am supposed to make this happen.
  • The Support lady who reads my emails has been really good.
In short--this is a pretty good portal to software.  If it is going to be an "Online Classroom" (that charges good $) we have some work to do.