The past few years I knew that I was suffering from burn out (this past school year being the worst of it) and I have been trying to find ways to combat it from many different angles. One angle that I was presented with came from one of my mentors. He suggested that I "hold my students more accountable." In this context he meant musically but he was right about this in many areas of my program. This fit right into a personal project of mine to make my gradebook more rigorous while still maintaining my own ideals about music education while being honest and realistic about how to do all of this while being far too busy with way way too many students for one person.
I came across an ad in one of our music education publications about Music First software. I had been interested in Smart Music because I really love the idea of managing student playing tests online but the cost was prohibitive. Music First was intriguing to me because not only the lower cost but all of different content in the product.
I will say that I have in NO way maxed out all the potential that my classroom and Music First can have together but what I will say is that I implemented something new this year and it worked and it made us better and it was easier for me! All I used Music First for this year was a little bit of Noteflight (which my students had before and now all of our software is in one place), recording playing test (either sections of music or the Rhythm & Scale Chunks by Richard Canter), or writing prompts (like post concert evals). Note: I highly recommend you check out Richard's book. Its really great to give you the 'what to test' for your ensembles.
And just using it for that made a world of difference. Grading the playing tests was so easy because everything was right in one place on the website in one format. It was easy for the students to access on their smart phone or tablet or a tablet that I provide (and it works on chrome books and ipads).
I felt like my students received the grade that they should but more importantly I saw so many students really and truly improve this year. With 60-80 students in a class this has been a great way for me to reach students one on one just listening to them play and then be able to provide feedback through comments with everything easily set up on the website.
The online webinars are great and I was able to figure out everything and I don't think I'm that tech savy. I'm looking forward to adding in more elements of the website into my classroom next year.
I'm going to take an online course this summer from Music First Academy and I'm looking forward to adding 1-2 more things that we can do next year.
To read an interview that I did for Music First's website check it out here and you can look around their website for more info. I have found their staff and tech support to be amazing. The site is new and continuing to improve. We have a great facebook community and the online content that is being constantly shared and uploaded for teachers to use (built in lessons etc) is fabulous.
Music First Interview with Julie Bounds from Santa Teresa HS (aka the Thrifty Band Director) https://www.musicfirst.com/about-us/news/santa-teresa-high-school