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New stuff on my Resources page

September 9, 2012


Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve noticed a sharp increase in the number of downloads for my Vivaldi analysis and Elements of Music packages. I thought I’d upload a few more resources from my collection in case they might also be of use.

I don’t tend to do a lot of PowerPoint these days, but I do have a number of them lying around in various stages of construction. I’ve uploaded six which seem to me to be the most complete, succinct, and/or potentially useful for other music teachers. I’ll upload others as I get around to fixing them up.

You’ll find them on my Resources and Lesson Plans page, under “Various Music PowerPoints”. The ones I have in the collection so far are:

  • Doctrine of Affections
  • Grunge Music
  • Hip Hop
  • Music of Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Renaissance Music
  • Tones, Semitones, and Scales

All of them are easily editable if you need to change or add anything.

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Stars are spinning around my head

February 29, 2012


That’s the image of me which you should have in your head right now. We’re just over halfway through the first term, and the workload has been massive. This has been my first opportunity to poke my head out of the water and say “hi”.

So, hi. ūüôā

It has been an exhausting first half of term one. I’ve been asking colleagues whether they’ve been feeling the pinch as well, just to make sure it’s not my imagination, and they confirm: the last five weeks have hit us all like a freight train.

One of the (several) new things going on lately has been the recent roll-out of laptops for students in years 9 and 10. For those year levels, we have therefore been in the process of adapting to the delivery of a 1:1 curriculum. Some of us are finding it easier than others.

Oddly enough, I find myself being extremely conservative and cautious at this initial stage. So far, I have had only one lesson where I have allowed my students to use their laptops, and that was on a day where I was absent and I set some work online. That was for a music class. For maths, I haven’t allowed it yet at all.

It’s not that I’m against 1:1. Are you kidding? I’m a total geek and I love working with technology. I really look forward to using laptops in lessons when I feel that I’ve laid enough of the proper groundwork. But I don’t want them to totally take over and be used indiscriminately, as a be-all-and-end-all.

Part of the problem is the fact that it’s early days. We’ve never had this before, so it’s all still novel. As far as many students are concerned, we’ve just handed each of them one more way to “plug in” and feed their addiction. Getting some of them to think of a laptop as a learning tool and not just a mobile entertainment unit can be quite a trick.

So I’ve been working on instilling this expectation in my students: have the laptops there, ready and available, but only for exercises and tasks which I specifically set. Part of that process has been to require students to have their laptops with them but closed, for whole lessons at a time.

So what’s the use of having them there? Plenty, but I want my students to have the habit of not expecting to stare at a screen all lesson.

Working with laptops seems to be much like working with glockenspiels. Anyone who has ever tried to teach with thirty glockenspiels can attest to this fact: as long as you’re talking to the class, those things need to be closed. Not “there and open”. Closed. They get opened and played only on direct instructions.

Laptops are also extremely noisy, though not precisely in the same way. In fact, the very nature of laptops means that they can each be fifty times as noisy as fifty glockenspiels put together, yet not make a single sound. They are capable of creating all kinds of mental – and emotional – noise, which makes it next to impossible for a student to concentrate on anything you might wish for them to learn.

So my exercise with them lately has been to start by filtering out a bit of the noise.¬†I guess what I’m trying to teach them at this early stage – while it’s all still a novelty – is a measure of self-discipline. I have students who sit down and automatically open their laptops, and they are told very firmly to close them up.

They must find that frustrating, to say the least. The addictive nature of technology for those who are susceptible has been documented, and statistically there’s a good possibility that at least one or two of them must feel like they’re breaking out into a cold sweat.

So be it.

Not that I don’t sympathize. Skyrim is my personal fix at the moment. There are times when I really do have to grab myself by the scruff of the neck and force myself to turn the game off so I can get lessons prepared for tomorrow, or just so I can get a good night’s sleep. It can be hard to do: slaying dragons and defeating deathlord draugrs feels so much better than marking test papers or doing laundry. I feel way more powerful when I can fire ice spikes or balls of flame from my bare hands to kill a frost troll. Somehow wielding a red pen just doesn’t feel quite so…cool.

As far as laptops in the classroom are concerned, I still feel the need to prepare myself further for 1:1 delivery before I let students go ahead. If laptops are going to be used, the purpose needs to be clear, and the content needs to be specifically created for delivery through technology in its original form – not just a “digital version” of something I can find readily available elsewhere.

I’m waiting with bated breath for Musescore, Staff Wars, and Acid Xpress to be installed on them all. I’m looking through my links library and putting together a suite of web resources which don’t cause too much hassle for the school’s network filter and download speed. I’m also nosing around for some good maths and logic games and tools for my maths class (if you know any good ones, please pass them on!).

Once these are in place, hopefully together with some expectation on the part of the students for purposeful, balanced and discriminate use, we can open up the laptops.

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Evaluating and Planning

December 6, 2011


It’s the last week of the school year. I’m in the middle of taking stock of everything I’ve done (or tried to do) this year, and making plans for next year.

Lots went on for me in the first two thirds of the year. In the last third, innovation was put on the back-burner for a while and other things took over, like surviving the final exam season and getting our seniors through to graduation.

Now that I once again have some time to think, I’ve been looking over the units I’ve taught this year. I’m going to completely rewrite a couple, as I’ve been teaching them for a while now and I’m getting quite bored. I’ve been looking through some of the sites in my library for ideas, and I’ve found some more useful websites so I’ll put those in too.

I’m glad to see that the resources I uploaded are getting some good use. I see a number of people have been downloading my PowerPoints on the elements of music. When I get around to creating some more, I’ll add them to my uploads as well.

In the meantime, I actually lost my password for my email account for a while, and finally found it again today. So if you went to my “Contact Me” page and sent me an email anytime in the last three-ish months, I haven’t been purposely ignoring you, I promise! Anyone who sent me websites for me to look over and add to my library, I’ll be checking them out and putting them in the appropriate pages. Thankyou to those who sent them. If you have any more, please pass them on and I’ll add them…more quickly this time.

I’m thinking of creating another blog, as a sister to this one, dedicated to mental health and relaxation. Neither of these are my strong suit at the best of times, and teaching doesn’t tend to be one of the more relaxing jobs out there. As a person who has suffered anxiety and depression, I know the importance – and the difficulty – of maintaining good mental health. Maybe I’ll add a page to my library dedicated to mental health links, to begin with. What do you think? Good idea?


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My Library of Links: updates and rearrangements

August 6, 2011


My main aim in setting up this website was to create a resource for music teachers, through which lots of other useful stuff could be found easily.

To that end, I created the LINKS library (top menu). This library is the main raison d’√™tre of If you haven’t yet checked it out, please do so. You’ll find heaps of great resources created by educators and specialists from all over the world, and I update as I find new stuff.

I’ve rearranged a few things today. Music Technology, Music Software, and Mobile Learning have now all been shifted to the Music Teaching Resources category. So if you’re looking for them and can’t seem to find them, mouse over that link in the top menu, and they’ll show up there.

A couple of new links have been added today to Music Software. Wendy Strauss brought my attention to Mario Paint Composer and Jam Studio, so these have both been added. Wendy’s own fantastic website has also got its own spot under Music Teaching Resources:¬†Theory and Reference.

If you know of any good websites I can add, or if you have one yourself, please let me know about it by emailing me through the¬†Contact¬†page. I’ll check it out, and most likely it will find a new home in one of the library’s many categories.

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How gaming can make a better world

April 26, 2011


“If we want to solve problems like hunger, poverty, climate change, global conflict, obesity, I believe that we need to aspire to play games online for at least¬†21 billion hours a week¬†by the end of the next decade.”

(Jane McGonigal: Gaming Can Make a Better World, 2010)

This is a funny and fascinating talk given by game designer Jane McGonigal, who’s goal for the next decade is “to try make it as easy for people to save the world in real life as it is to save the world in online games.”

I love games, but I don’t play online very much at all.¬† I do spend heaps of time playing them, though, and I know tons of people who do the same with online games like¬†World of Warcraft.

I also have a couple of junior music assignments which focus on composing music for games, since this is one industry which always needs good composers.  Some games have got the most stunning music in their soundtracks.  Case in point: God of War, a personal favourite of mine.

During her presentation, McGonigal shows some crazy stats, like:

  • today’s average young person living in a country with a strong gaming culture will have spent 10,000 hours playing online games by the time they’re 21 years of age (10,080 hours is the amount of time that a young person in America spends in school from fifth grade to graduation, with perfect attendance).
  • the number of years we have collectively spent playing¬†World of Warcraft¬†(5.93 million years) is also the number of years that have passed since our earliest primate ancestors stood upright.

Read that last point again.

She talks about why so many people spend so many hours playing games, how playing games may have helped an ancient culture survive a famine and rise to become the Roman Empire, and how she is working to develop games which help us solve the world’s most pressing problems of today and the future.

Very cool.  Go look.

TED Talk: Gaming Can Make a Better World (Jane McGonigal)

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How gaming can make a better world by Gabrielle Deschamps is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available by contacting me.

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Spotlight: e-learning resources

April 19, 2011


E-learning resources¬†is one site that every music teacher should visit. ¬†Allan Melville and Miranda Myers put together this fantastic online resource for use in schools, which has a whole stack of material for music classroom use, with more being added regularly. ¬†Here’s their content snapshot:

You get a teacher’s login password, and all your students get a student password (the same one for the whole school). ¬†With that, both you and your students can have access to the site 24 hours a day, from home or school. ¬†One yearly subscription fee covers the whole shebang. ¬†There’s a 7-day trial, but they’re not stingy: if you don’t get a chance to have a look in that time, they’re happy to extend it.

I’ve spoken to Allan on a few occasions about this site. ¬†He’s absolutely lovely and can’t do enough to help. ¬†Something I haven’t had the chance to do yet (but I will soon Allan, I promise!) is sit down with him so he can take me through all their new updates. ¬†Once he’s done that, he can give me a certificate for professional development to add to my ongoing registration requirements. ¬†How cool is that?

I’ve used this site for teaching analysis, setting homework, and exam preparation. ¬†I haven’t yet used it nearly as much as I would like, but with our new computer resources which have just arrived at my school, that will be changing very soon. ¬†Go check this one out. ¬†It’s very well worth it. ¬†To get there, click¬†on the banner below:

e-learning resources banner

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Spotlight: e-learning resources by Gabrielle Deschamps is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available by contacting me.

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