Greetings to you!

Today I am presenting at the MMEA (Minnesota Music Educators Association) Mid Winter Clinic.  This is a big step for me – as scary as the time I let 8th grade boys decorate for a Christmas concert!  (I will never do that again!)

My presentation is called: iEnsembles!  The materials will introduce you to what I have learned in five years of ipadedness(made up word- but I like it) and will hopefully give those present ideas of ways to use the “fun” ipad apps to enhance and sometimes teach music concepts.

The presentations I have often seen are fraught with technology “blips” due to the room and technology setups so here are the materials that will be used.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me for additional information or if I can help you figure something out.

MMEA 2015

Isle of Tune



Stuck in the middle with you…

My apologies if I just planted an “earworm”– but that song is stuck in my head after something I read yesterday .  I attended the AMLE (Association for Middle Level Educators)  National Conference in Minneapolis.  My school district sent all of our middle school teachers for a professional development day. It was an interesting day!

There was really nothing there for music education so I had planned to attend the Tech stuff.  Music was represented however: there were several middle school music ensembles and soloists performing throughout the day.  I do appreciate that music students are being recognized and celebrated (my Harmony group performed as part of a keynote speaker presentation a few years ago) but there is a part of me that is bothered by the idea that music education was represented only in the form of entertainment. But that is a discussion for another day….

Some takeaways from this conference for me:

  • The success you will have  using technology is very dependent on being prepared –  this came from a technology educator from Kentucky.  She was demonstrating some of her projects and explained what she did to prepare for the students’ technology uses.
  • I am glad I know a lot of education jargon…. it was everywhere.
  • Teaching middle level students continues to be a challenge and no one has the answer.  There were many, many sessions on how to “deal with” adolescent brains and behavior.
  • One thing I was hoping for:  an efficient way to manage digital documents and assessment with 500 students.  Oh, well.  I guess I need to keep looking for that!

The best part of the conference:

I met up with Dr. Chris Russell (Technology in Music Education) and am glad I  got to meet Kim Cory from Red Wing.  Our discussion was wonderful and by far was the best takeaway of the day.  The conversation started with:  “How do you…..?”  and we talked as much about apps as we did about managing ipads in a large ensemble.  I really appreciated our time together – I have all sorts of ideas I want to try.

Apparently our conversation was overheard because later yesterday afternoon I received an email from a new teacher  (6th grade science) from Illinois who overheard the name of my school and looked me up because she wanted more information.  Her biggest question:  how to get kids in her class off of the ipads?   I shared a few of my tricks because I discovered early on in my teaching career how important routines are with large groups and that transition times are really loud!  These routines have saved my sanity more than once.  I have quite a few “built in” competitions in place in my room:  whenever I have to pass out paper – it is a contest to see which row can do it the fastest without anyone talking and no papers get messed up.  Dismissal is by row: the first row completely quiet.  Many of my transitions involve a backwards countdown from 10 to 1.

I still believe that the networking that happens is by far the best part of any conference. My newest thought is that those of us  who are teaching our large ensembles with the use of ipads and technology should put some presentations together… our insight is appreciated. This new teacher was so thankful for my insights that it has brought forward this thought in my mind:

Our colleagues in other content areas would benefit from our experiences using technology with large classes full of middle schoolers – the first session could be: “How do you….?”


What I Am Doing Now

Welcome back!

So… it was my plan to have regular postings.  But as the saying about best laid plans goes…… I think a lot about what I should do and say- I just wish  I had more time to do it in. I am going to try this again.

My first post was about how I got to this stage,  so my second post : What I am doing now…
Surprise, surprise!  Most of the time I feel like I know what I am doing with ipads in choir.   My most used app right now is “Explain Everything” .   I think it has made a huge difference in teaching my students how to read scores.   I started my 5th graders out with some rounds – scanned a few to use and have a project called Warmups.  I use the arrow option most – sometimes I use it almost like a bouncing ball to show my students how to follow along.  The first arrow almost always points at the repeat sign – I put a new round up yesterday and one of my students reminded me that I needed to point to the repeat sign.  Progress!  Today I took the round singing to a new level – I drew phrase marks on the page.  Instant understanding!  I have each of the current repertoire songs scanned in  to start teaching how to read a score.  I have keynote presentations that I use to introduce new learning targets – the daily plan (Pages) is displayed as students come into the room.  I might wear my homescreen button out switching between apps that I project.

My students are using SAS flashcards to learn choir vocabulary – their favorite part is finding images that help them remember the words.  When I put something on the board that I want them to keep track of – they form camera lines to take a picture.  I do this in “concert formation”  and it doubles as walking on and off risers practice.  I am using Schoology more and more often for simple assessments and I think my students are becoming “googleform experts”. 

What I am looking for next…

I am searching for a way to assess each student using a rubric and to have an easy way to communicate that with them instantly.  I have 480 choir students and emailing each of them an individual document would be so cumbersome.  I’ll keep working on that.

I have quite a few apps on my ipad that the students don’t have though.  One is a score reader…. I am still giving my younger students paper scores.  It’s tough to remember good posture when you are holding up an ipad.  My older students save their scores to iBooks and so far they have been read only.  I am going to try and have them open them in neuannotate to start doing score markings. I need to find the best solution for this. 

What I think about…

I am in such a different world now than I was back in the days of handing out scores that “fall apart because they aren’t stapled”,  and expecting students to lightly mark the score in pencil so we can erase them later.  I learned how to explain things well in the old days but I really like being able to use the visual. 

One of my former students is now a teacher in my building.  She was standing in the door watching me today as I started explaining the parts of the score to my older kids.  Her comment:  “Wow – if we could have done it this way when I was in choir – we could actually have figured it out”.  That’s good to know!





Where I’ve Been and Where I’m Going

If you had told me three years ago that I would be writing a blog about using iPads to teach in a middle school choir room, I would never have believed you. My name is Susan Bujold and I teach choir.

Four years ago I was teaching choir to to fifth through eighth graders in a first rung suburb of St. Paul. I was dealing with a rapidly changing student population, worrying about my next concert, trying to find materials on a limited budget, wondering whether it was my middle school ear (hearing it the way I wanted it to sound) because I thought my kids sounded pretty good.  I considered myself pretty good at computers – I could do what I wanted and needed to create written resources for my kids and then I would march down to the copy machine in the office and make hundreds of paper copies that I had to carry home when it was time to grade them.  I had dabbled in GarageBand and felt comfortable enough to teach my students how to do Magic GarageBand .
I was competent enough with computers that colleagues would come to me for help with their Mac issues.  I would text now and then but I did not have a smart phone… yet! I didn’t even have an iPod. Then came the announcement at school that we were applying for a federal grant to become an Environmental STEM magnet school.  My principal  bought our teachers iPod touches because – we needed to start getting into some of the innovative technology available.  I took my iPod home and dutifully downloaded all (yes all) of the music apps available.  I think there were maybe 30 or so?  That spring we bought a set of 15 iPods for the music department.  The kids were having fun with them but I am not so sure they were really learning much.

Realization One:  For every app you find that is useful- there are a bunch that aren’t very useful and you will spend a lot of time trying to figure it out.

Next announcement- as part of the grant each one of our students was going to have an iPad to use at school and home. We were the only middle school in the country that was doing this.   Made sense,  we were an environmental school,  this would save us lots of money on paper.  I was pretty excited and started doing research on ideas for how to use the iPad in choir. I had my iPad roughly two months before my students had theirs.  My plan:  Jump In and Figure It Out as I Go

Realization Two:  In my research I found that there were lots of ideas – but that’s all they were, ideas.  I could find Music/Technology ideas, but they were for computers in dedicated music tech labs.  Good information – not what I needed.  My principal was telling me we were groundbreakers – he was right.

Three years ago was a big year:  I got the iPad 1.  This time when I started checking for apps it was in the hundreds and it still took a long time to figure out which ones are useful and which ones are a waste.  I also started buying an iTunes card as part of my weekly grocery shopping. I also learned to read reviews and go to developer’s websites for information before I downloaded apps – it is much cheaper that way.  I needed to figure out how to do this before the kids did.  When the students received their iPads I spent most of my technology time teaching them how to do the basics:  use email, remember passwords, what a url, that random tapping doesn’t always get you results.

Fast forward to now:  My school is now an Apple Distinguished School. My students each have an iPad to use and my “jump in and figure it out as you go” philosophy of teaching with technology has become so much more refined – I still do a lot of figure it out as I go but I do a lot more plan it out because I know what I am doing. I use my iPad every day at school and at home. I use Google Forms and Docs, I have pdfs, I use groups to manage my students work on gmail.  My students use their iPads in choir nearly every day.  I make only a few paper copies of anything.  I have learned how to be an Arts teacher in a STEM school without compromising any of my passion for music education or the quality of my program. I teach choir.

In my new technology life:

  • I text as often as I talk
  • I have several Twitter accounts
  • I’m Linked In
  • I follow blogs
  • I have more than one Facebook page
  • I have several email accounts for the different parts of my life
  • I don’t laugh when someone says iPadagogy
  • and the best part is that all of my calendars are synced

I do almost everything on a device. My handwriting is rapidly becoming horrible because I barely ever write anything anymore and I wish there were frequent user points for Apple device users. My life has changed so much that a when colleague recently suggested that I print something out for data comparisons,  I was aghast: print something? – a waste of paper and I am not sure I have enough ink on my printer.

Realization 3:  Others think I am an expert at this iPad music technology stuff and ask me questions. There really aren’t very many schools that have 1-1 iPads and many large ensemble teachers would like help implementing them in their choirs, bands and orchestras.  At the TI:ME conference in Kentucky last year and at MMEA this year, music teachers wanted to know:  what I do, how I do it, how will they do it, what not to do and the list goes on.  A music technology contact said I should really start a blog – so here I go……


Purpose, Perspective, and Perseverance for thriving in a challenging world


How can the iPad and Technology enhance Music Education?

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