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My CIG created a survey regarding motivation to practice, which I had recently given to my students. The results were expected.. they are not really interested in rewards, probably due to their age group. However I’m sure they would not turn down award money! Most of their answers consisted of creating art that is more interesting, more cutting-edge, and trendy. However as I am wrapping up my ceramics unit, I am finding that students working on the wheel are highly motivated! Students who caught on to throwing pots can’t get enough. They would be in my classroom working all day if their other teachers would let them! Ceramics is not a new concept and is not cutting edge, it is an ancient art. The students are excited about doing this art because they’ve succeeded with a new skill. With consistent practice the students realized they can improve and they then became determined to create and to experiment. So it’s not necessarily the cutting-edge concepts, but having some success in a new skill that enhances their motivation.


After much discussion, the class and I came up with two rewards for the proficiency tests. One would reward individual achievement on a weekly basis, and one would reward collective achievement over the remaining weeks in the school year.

For individual achievement I spoke with the president of our parent organization about helping me develop ‘Band Bucks’ that could be redeemed at the school store. Band Bucks come in two amounts, $1.00 and $.50. For the collective achievement I spoke to our principal about organizing a band party the last week of school. We will order pizza and soda and listen to music.

In both cases student achievement will be based on their score on the weekly playing test. I designed a rubric in which students are given points in four categories, 1.) If they have their book and instrument (3points) 2.) Rhythmic accuracy (4 points) 3.) Melodic accuracy (4 points) and 4.) Reasonable tempo (4 points), for a total of 15 possible points. In order to receive a $ 1.00 band buck the student must earn 14-15 points on their playing exam. In order to receive a $ .50 band buck the student must earn 10-13 points. If the student earns fewer points than 10 they are not eligible for a voucher. In addition to earning points for band bucks I am also logging the students’ scores into a weekly ‘star’ poster that I designed. The poster has each student’s name and remaining weeks in the school year. If a student earns at least 8 of the 15 possible points they are given a star for the week. If every student in band is able to collect 10 stars (out of 14 remaining weeks) they will earn the pizza party. However, if even one student comes up short, none of the students will earn the party.

I believe this rewards system holds students both individually and collectively accountable for making sure that they practice on a regular basis. The students accepted the terms of the rewards system and we have begun to implement it. More to come about the results.

            I began this year’s foray into inquiry with a pretest regarding student practice, that my CIG designed. Upon reading the results I learned several things about my students. One, they are not practicing enough. I knew that already, but I now have written proof. Two, they felt that some kind of reward system would motivate them to practice more. I hate this idea, as a musician, because I feel that improving your skills should be the ultimate motivational tool. But, my goal is to motivate students to practice more and I will do what I have to. Three, many indicated that they wanted to be “pushed” more and “challenged” more.

            After taking some notes, I spent the next class period going over the results of the pretest with the students. We discussed each question, the results, and what those results mean in terms of improving the collective motivation of the class. The two points we discussed at length were the rewards system and the class’s desire to be challenged from week to week.

            At the end of class I talked to the students about inquiry. I told them that I would like them to form a line of inquiry that we could use to serve as the basis for a research project about student motivation and inspiration. I gave them some examples of inquiry questions, and after several suggestions we settled on one that I thought appropriate for our class, “How will giving us rewards for practice make us better at playing our instruments?” I revised the language slightly and we are now operating under the following inquiry question, “How will implementing a proficiency rewards system impact individual student practice habits?”

            Our next step will be to define the particulars of the rewards system and implement the system into our weekly routine.

As I read some of the blog posts that ArtsEducato2.0 participants are writing, I find myself curious about how technology is embedded in their practice? And how technology supports their work with students?

At the last ArtsEducator2.0 meeting, Donna Fox shared how her students are collaborating with her in a class wiki. Other participants have written briefly about technology embedded in classroom experiences over the last few years and about the potential for others. For example, Bethany Hughes wrote about the potential for mobile devices in one of her posts:

“I think that there are many activities that I could offer students if they were allowed to use their phones, mp3 players, etc. in my class.  In this time of the availability of  information, I feel like my phone, or other mobile technology could help me provide students with new and changing information, as well as, the tools for students to discover this information on their own.”

This makes me wonder what other ways participants are using technology to inform their inquiry work this year? Is anyone blogging with their students? Where? Does anyone have any other examples of how technology is supporting inquiry work and student learning? How would we access them? Or maybe there are other thoughts participants have around technology?

Cory and I had a challenge described in this post in adding the “Itsy Bitsy Blogger” mp3 file to the blog because it was too large for the WordPress blog. After doing some research after the suggestion from Mary Elizabeth about compressing the file, I found some solutions. My friend Jordan also helped with some specific instructions on one way to compress a large file:

“I have always just used iTunes. Under Preferences>Advanced>Import, you can set the bit rate/overall file type compression to lower the quality. You can then, under Advanced menu at the top of the screen, reconvert any file you like to make a smaller size. Unless you’d prefer to just ‘Compress’ the file (or archive depending on which term you use)… this will create a zip file you can then upload.”

However, now I have discovered that only the following file types are allowed to be uploaded to a WordPress blog:

“jpg, jpeg, png, gif, pdf, doc, ppt, odt, pptx, docx, pps, ppsx, xls, xlsx”

Because of this, I decided to just add a direct link to the mp3 music file I have added to the ArtsEducator2.0 wiki, so now you too can sing along! The lyrics are there also. Thanks to David Berlin and Cory Wilkerson who were instrumental in this composition! And to Bethany Hughes who also consulted with us!

During the holiday I read selected chapters in the book The Mastery Of Music: Ten Pathways to True Artistry by Barry Green. Barry Green teamed up with Timothy Gallway who wrote the Inner Game books and Green’s first book was the Inner Game of Music.

In Chapter 7 of The Mastery, the topic is Concentration: The Spirit of the Zone, there are several quotes I find meaningful to the focus of the Inquiry of the Independents.

1. The brain is the key to the state of peak performance, in music and in life.
2. Green believes that mastering three Inner Game mental concentration skills i.e. being in the zone is as essential as mastering the physical technical skills of playing any instrument.
3. The three challenges to achieving mastery are defining the zone, getting to the zone and staying in the zone.

It seems to me this can be an avenue for me to explore and experiment through observation of students engaged in specific activities through helping them to balance awareness, will and trust in an effort to understand “the zone.”

In my thinking, being “in the zone” is being independent.

We have been encouraged by our administrators to apply H.E.A.T. In our teaching. I will explore whether there can be a convergence between the zone and H.E.A.T.

On another front the Fiddle File wiki has provoked many responses from my students. The discussions are focused around a list of essential questions. I hope to be able to post some of these samples on the Independents wiki as soon as we complete our winter performance next Monday evening.

January 13, 2012

Perhaps there are others who are spinning plates – – -so many plates. There is the usual e-mail, curriculum writing, graduation projects, concerts, concerts, concerts, orchestra rehearsals for the musical and adapting parts to the level of the players, budget meetings, the arts festival, the usual grade book maintenance and lesson plans, and tech-flex sessions to learn more and more technology applications. Right now I am on a technology/curriculum overload.

So then, I created what I think is more of a platter for my students. We have been using a wiki called the Fox Fiddle File. I asked the students to respond on the discussion page to the question “Why do you play your instrument? I included the responses in the December concert program for the audience to see. I continued to post interesting finds from the internet. One of those was the Copenhagen Symphony playing Ravel’s Bolero in the railroad station and another was a list of essential questions for the students to consider. Students responded with some comments that prompted others to respond. Then the students started to post items of interest and topics for discussion.

Spinning this platter has increased the discussion and sharing by the members of the High School Orchestra, who frequently shrink from in-class discussion. As time has progressed the students have begun to post topics of interest. There have been 277 postings to date to the two dozen topics on the discussion page to date.

My group inquiry is all about helping students to become independent learners. I strongly feel that this is linked to student engagement. Getting the students engaged in their learning will encourage them to become independent due to their motivation to learn! How much better would life in the profession be if the kids really liked coming to school and enjoyed learning because we allowed the process to include and validate their interests and goals? This article says it all. ARts ED 2.0 from the beginning has encouraged each of us as educators to be creative, to push the curriculum to include the arts – the creative aspect of learning. WE have been working in CIGs and now we are encouraging the students to work in teams, partners, to push and encourage each other and develop the skill of team work for their future.

Yakman states, “The magic sentence is science and technology through engineering and ars all through mathematical elements; those are active ways at looking at what we have to create a new world. That is STEAM, as I see it.”  My goal is to add Social Studies to this definition. Why not have students take what has happened in the past, what is happening in the present and determine what could happen in the future.  Adding to my goal is what Brazell says, ” Creativity is not a department down the hallway. Our ability to create, make and design is what makes us human… and it’s what will make us prosper.” Social Studies is all about economics and how it spurs events in history.

One last element I want to take away from this article is the project that the 5th graders in Chenoweth Elem. do in 6 weeks. Their film festival uses subjects “from a list of core content topics including everything from the water cycle to alliteration to fractions.” I like the idea of a film festival, and giving them a list of core subject matter to use as a topic for their film! Great idea for my communications class project that my sub has started. 

FYI I go back to school on Feb 9! Yeah – I am going back to my life!!!

From STEM to STEAM: Adding the Arts
 By Naomi Dillon

“Disconnect” is one of the most commonly uttered refrains in the discourse about what’s wrong with the U.S. public school system. Students are bored by today’s curriculum, schools are out of sync with today’s job market, and the existing talent pool is ill-equipped to compete on a global scale.
To face these multi-pronged challenges, many education reformers and pundits have pointed to science, technology, engineering, and math as the fields that will help America maintain its position as an economic and intellectual force to be reckoned with.

The focus on these disciplines, known as STEM, has spawned a plethora of magnet schools, national conferences, and federal programs.
In practice and in research, however, a growing number of educators are coming to the conclusion that something is missing from this acronym, which is to say something is missing in the way we educate and train the next generation of workers.
“We hear a lot from businesses saying ‘Kids are coming out [of school] unprepared, they don’t know how to work in teams, they aren’t creative, they don’t know how to think critically,’” says Georgette Yakman, who discovered a different way to think and connect education’s most critical lessons.
While a graduate student at Virginia Polytechnic and State University’s Integrated Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics Educational program (ISTEMed), Yakman embarked on an extensive research project to figure out how the American public school system got to where it’s at and how STEM came to be its roadmap to the future.
“I was trying to figure out how the subjects fit together and I had this incredible a-ha moment,” Yakman says. “I found not just a way for these subjects to physically interact with another and be cross-taught, but how all the disciplines support each other.”
She called this approach of adding arts to the curriculum STEAM.
“The magic sentence is science and technology interpreted through engineering and arts all through mathematical elements; those are active ways at looking at what we have to create a new world. That is STEAM, as I see it,” says Yakman. She has slowly pushed this holistic model of education through papers, presentations, and a fledgling consulting firm.

Rather than being at the center of a major reform movement, however, arts is often marginalized and shut out of key initiatives and discussions on building a world class education system.
That’s a big mistake, says Jim Brazell, a technology forecaster, strategist, and public speaker who has spent much of his career speculating about the next big thing in industry and society.
“The first thing people are missing when it comes to the arts in the world is that arts are a huge component of our wealth creation,” Brazell says, noting that U.S. creative industries, which includes the software, film, and publishing, as well as architects, advertisers, and designers, accounted for more than 6.4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2007.
“There’s real wealth here, but if you go into schools today they are cutting the arts,” Brazell says. “Creativity is not a department down the hallway. Our ability to create, make, and design is what makes us human … and it’s what will make us prosper.”
While a focus on the STEM fields makes sense as digital literacy has become a required skill for all jobs, along with higher math and reading skills, schools do the next generation of learners a disservice by excluding the arts.
“You can look at arts in different ways; as a discipline, as a commercial sector, as a philosophy, but it’s also an economic model,” Brazell says. “We are shifting from a classical economic model of creating products to creating ideas. What we’re talking about is the ability to innovate and be creative.”
And arts are the conduit, the glue, the agent through which all great ideas begin and end.
“The problem is we want to break arts down rather thinking about the connections,” Brazell says. “Many European and Asian countries don’t make the distinctions we do here; they don’t draw the line where we do. In England, they have the foundation for the science and arts.

Consciously and unconsciously, however, the silos between science and art seem to be softening in the U.S. as well.
The National Science Foundation has hosted and funded a number of recent conferences and workshops, including last year’s “Bridging STEM to STEAM: Developing New Frameworks for Art-Science-Design Pedagogy,” which brought together top scientists, artists, IT experts and educators at the Rhode Island School of Design to develop ways to support these interdisciplinary connections.
While it may not be explicitly stated, such linkages are being made at Kentucky’s Jefferson County Public Schools, which was a host site for a 2011 TLN Education Technology site visit and a former TLN Salute District.
“We don’t say anything that says this is specific to STEAM,” says Sharon Shrout, the director of computer education support. “But anytime, kids are creating regardless of which tools they use, there is an arts element to it.”
That can be seen in a number of programs and classroom activities that proliferate throughout the district.
Each spring, for instance, fifth-graders at Chenoweth Elementary complete a six week multi-media project culminating in the Chenoweth Film Festival. Students choose their film’s subject from a list of core content topics including everything from the water cycle to alliteration to fractions.
Students are responsible for everything that has to do with their film including researching, writing, filming, acting, and promotion. They also create their own movie posters and their soundtrack using Microsoft software and MIDI technology.
“It honors the different talents that kids bring to the team,” Shrout says. “It really helps to build the whole 21st century student because it’s that whole child and that whole education that we want to serve.”
Naomi Dillon ( is a senior editor of American School Board Journal.

My substitute and I discussed how to move on from the survey results. I thought that it would be really important to go over the google docs graphs from the survey. He put them up on the interactive white board and went over each question.

What surprising conversation issued! Most of the students thought that the questions were very “random” and unimportant. The questions on homework and studying for tests meant nothing until he asked the students who do homework what their grades were, and the same for students who don’t. Students who were more “independent” and worked on their own began to explain how easy it was. Very obvious discoveries were discussed about raising grades easily by doing assignments and studying for tests. The “non-independent students” really didn’t think that it would make much difference until this discussion. 

The other part of the survey was about what artistic skill they would like to learn more about.  Results showed that the students were very interested in learning about things that they did not already feel skilled in. They were especially interested in video editing, acting, and creating visual art. Can’t wait to make their wishes come true!

February 2012
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