Two months since MTEC 2011: An Update

Two months ago, I attended MTEC 2011 in Sydney. Two months later, so many things have changed for me professionally, that I barely recognise myself. So I’m taking a moment to pause and reflect on all the changes, and how well they’re working so far.

The first thing, and probably the biggest thing, has really been this blog. Not only has it been a great way for me to reflect on my teaching practice and gather up a whole stack of teaching resources into one place, it has enabled me to get in touch with other music teachers and share it all with them.

That networking has worked wonders for my whole outlook on teaching, which I found quite lonely before. Being the only classroom music teacher in a smaller rural school, it’s easy to feel a bit cut off from everyone else in my field. I no longer feel that way.

In terms of resources, MuseScoreand O-Generator have both been installed over the whole school network. The students have responded very positively to the new software on the whole. My first composition assessment task for O-Generator (which my year 8s especially are finding “totally sick” – I think that means good) has just been completed this week.

MuseScore has been wonderful for teaching music theory, and a small number of students are engaging with it quite enthusiastically and using it to compose, even preferring it to O-Generator. We’re all wondering how I’d never heard of it before two months ago.

I finally have a full midi station set up in our classroom, with Pro Tools, M-Box, and an Avid KeyStudio. This PC also has Sibelius 5, Acid Music Studio, O-Generator and MuseScore all installed. Acid seems to be the most popular choice at the moment with the students so far.

Acid Xpress has experienced a few technical snags and we haven’t managed to install that one on the school laptops yet, but we’re working on it. If only we could get this one past the networking glitch, we’d be home and hosed.

There’s also some starter hiccups going on with Pro Tools: the keyboard will talk to the M-Box, the M-box will talk to the PC, the PC will talk to Pro Tools, but Pro Tools won’t talk to the speakers or headphones, so no sound comes out, even though everything else seems to be working. Hmmm.

Jing has been a useful little tool. I found out about this in one of Katie Wardrobe’s workshops on making video tutorials. Jing is a great software application for capturing images and screen shots, and making little 5-minute screen-capture films, very handy for “how-to” videos. I haven’t made any of those yet, but I have been able to make a “how-to” worksheet in next to no time, using image-capture.

Creative Commons has been a focal point in my teaching over the last two months. My 9s and 10s are just finishing up a composition task, part of which includes licensing their work under Creative Commons. I am also endeavouring to increase my students’ awareness of fair use and best practice as far as copyright is concerned.

I haven’t yet been using ipods as much as I would like, mainly due to a policy which restricts their use by students during the course of the school day. I’m working on that one. In the meantime, I use my ipad a fair bit in my senior class, most often for YouTube.

Two things I was already using proficiently before the conference, were an interactive whiteboard (not Smartboard or Prometheus, unfortunately) and an online virtual classroom (VCR) for my senior class. With the addition of resources since the conference, I’ve been able to get the students actively involved in using the IWB, and I’m looking at ways to extend the VCR to include my junior students as well.

The main thing which has restricted the VCR to my seniors so far has been the time it takes to set one up and manage it thereafter. I’m hoping that the added resources, plus practice, will shorten the time factor and increase my ability to run a set of VCRs more efficiently.

One of my quirks is that I tend to go through phases of intense concentration on a particular thing, for days at a time. My latest “thing” has been Acrobat X, and I’ve been spending long hours making interactive pdfs in the last week or two.

So far, I’ve made the reflection tools I mentioned in my last post, and some lesson and unit planners. These incorporate Essential Learnings and the Senior Music Syllabus (2004) from the Queensland Studies Authority, and the Dimensions of Learning framework developed by Robert Marzano et al. I’ve uploaded them on box.net for interested Qld music teachers and pre-service teachers (and anyone else who wants them) to download if you like. You can find the link under “Professional Practice – Planning Tools” on my Resources page.

The biggest change for me since the conference by far, has been my self-confidence. Daily online contact with other teachers in my field, constant new discoveries in resources and teaching strategies, and regular reflection through blogging, have literally helped me become a different teacher.

Last year I was studying with a view to leaving the profession. Now I’m thinking of redirecting my studies to further my teaching qualifications. I’m excited about teaching again and more confident in my abilities to make a real contribution. All of that has been thanks to the MTEC 2011 conference and all the contacts I have made since then. That, dear reader, includes you.

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About Gabrielle Deschamps

I'm a secondary music teacher, interested in music technology and its integration into classroom pedagogy.

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8 Comments on “Two months since MTEC 2011: An Update”

  1. colin Read Says:

    Hi Gabrielle
    Great to hear your feedback and comments on mtec2011. I’m particularly interested in your use of Creative Commons in the classroom. Did you make it to the session about RIP Music – one of the soundhouse.org.au side projects? If you’re after a place where you can access a range of CC and Royalty Free Loops, Stems and Music it’s worth dropping by and signing up as a teacher. Once you’re verified with the Teacher User Role, you can create student user accounts for your students, they can upload their original works, comment and vote on other works, create polls and a range of other things, including remix challenges using REM and Phoenix full song stems. Worth dropping by…

    Reply

    • Gabrielle Deschamps Says:

      Unfortunately I didn’t. I do still regularly use the files on the USB that we all received though, so I’ll look up the notes for that one. Who was the presenter? I’ll definitely check it out.

      Reply

  2. aftertrace Says:

    I’m so pleased the conference meant so much to you. I adored it, even though I hardly slept for weeks, and was usually too busy to go to sessions. Such a vital 3 days. It sounds to me like we should include you in the planning for 2013 – better talk to Katie 😉

    J

    Reply

    • Gabrielle Deschamps Says:

      Wow…I would be both humbled and very, very honoured to be included in something like that!

      And yes, it meant the world to me. I decided back in 2009 that the MTEC conference would be a permanent part of my PD plans, for the long term. That’s still my position.

      The plain fact is that I am an entirely different teacher, and a far more competent and confident one, as a result of MTEC and the contacts I’ve made since.

      Reply

  3. john biddle Says:

    Hi Gabrielle, what a wonderful turn of events! Congratulations!

    Your story is inspirational and quite probably typical of many rural schools in Australia.

    You are a pioneer!

    Now I may be able to help you out with your protools problem.

    It sounds as though your outputs on the M-Audio Interface have not been congifured as yet.

    I have a digi003 and a delta 66 with omni break out box. I have never used the m-audio interface before but most external audio interfaces require configuration before use.

    Before you even open protools, the two main outputs to the m-audio box should be plugged to your amp then to your speakers (if your monitors are passive) or directly to your monitors if they are active (self powered)

    Then the m-audio box should have a control panel somewhere that allows you to set where inputs and outputs should be routed. Make your main outputs “Output 1-2” and your main inputs “input 1” and ‘input 2’ for mono track recording. Unless you are using two vocal mics, stereo inputs are not used. There maybe other options for outputs (ie external effect sends etc) on the m-audio but ignore them for now.

    Now the headphones are automatially routed to your main audio outputs so you do not need to configure the headphones.

    If thats all been done, plug a mic or instrument into the first input plug on the m-audio. open protools and add an audio track. switch the input to ‘input 1’. Set the output bus to ‘output 1-2’. Then arm the track button (R button should turn red)

    you should see signal coming through on the meter and if configured correctly, hear the sound as well.

    Good luck

    John
    SoundHouse Auckland NZ

    Reply

    • Gabrielle Deschamps Says:

      Thankyou for that. I was fiddling around with the configuration before, but I’ll have another look and try to do what you’re describing here. Is there a way that I can get in touch with you if I’m still having problems?

      Reply

  4. aftertrace Says:

    John Biddle asked us to pass this onto you:

    Very inspiring stuff! Im not sure if Gabrielle is able to see this as I tried to comment on her post but Im not sure if that worked.

    This is in regards to her protools problem.

    If signal is coming into protools fine and you can see the meter bouncing around, then you need only configure your outputs.

    Im not sure how this is done on an m-audio but on my digi003 (connected by firewire to MAC Probook) it is automatic as long as you have the monitor cables plugged into your main outputs ‘output 1 – 2’ If you are plugging the headphone into the m-audio (not the computer) then the signal is automatically routed to your outputs regardless of where you send the main signal or monitored outputs. You just plug the monitors (speakers) into the correct output plugs ‘Main output Left and Right’ or ‘Output 1-2’ for stereo outputs. The label for the main outputs will depend on the hardware.

    I also have an older delta 66 PCI with an omni break out box on my PC platform. This requires manual configuration so if this is the case for the m-audio, you may need to find a control panel type thing and manually configure outs to ‘output 1 -2’ and inputs to ‘input 1’ and ‘input 2’ both mono inputs so that you are able to use the first two inputs on the m-audio to record.

    Plug a mic into the m-audio ‘input 1’ or first input > open protools, name new session> add a mono audio track > from the input drop down menu select ‘input 1’ > from the output drop down menu, select ‘output 1 – 2’> arm the track (R button should turn red) and test the mic, you should have signal coming through on the meter, you should also be able to hear the mic through the monitors. If not then it may need to be re-configured.

    Good luck with that

    John (Auckland)

    Reply

    • Gabrielle Deschamps Says:

      Thanks for passing that on, James. I got John’s original comment too. 🙂

      I’m going to have another shot at adjusting the configuration later in the day, so I’ll let you guys know how I’m getting on.

      Reply

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