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….?”



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Chase Mielke

Author. Speaker. Well-Being Expert.

How can the iPad and Technology enhance Music Education?

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