Classics for Kids Podcasts

Have you ever had the Substitute Lesson Plan Quandry?

I know I have! As a music teacher, It isn’t always easy for me to plan lessons for another teacher to execute. I’m a pretty creative teacher who is likely to bring some ideas to a lesson and then take a lot of the student responses to these ideas which will help shape the musical creativity in that class. I don’t often have substitute teachers try to pick up where we left off and continue. I find that this leads to behavioral troubles and in general, a negative experience for both students and substitute. Worse, it leaves me with a mess when I return that often involves students writing apology letters to substitutes and dreaded discussions about appropriate behavior for guest teachers.

I came upon a great resource called “Classics for Kids Podcasts” sponsored by Cincinnati Public Radio. I often don’t delve deeply into historical composers, or their music unless it is serving as a model or inspiration for student creativity. This site provides a great option for a guest teacher to facilitate a manageable, engaging learning experience with the students surrounding this area of music history.

A substitute would be able to access a few links left in a lesson plan for different age groups and take them through a podcast listening experience and then use the supplemental materials either on a Smartboard or by printing out the actual papers to expand and reinforce the podcast’s learning.

Here is an example of a Classics for Kids Podcast about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

In conclusion, a podcast like this removes the responsibility of the substitute to provide the musical examples or content while at the same time providing an engaging and enjoyable experience about historically relevant composers for the students. A substitute lesson could take shape very quickly and the possibility of returning to a situation where the substitute felt uncomfortable and the student behavior went of the rails will decrease. Utilizing these kinds of resources keep substitutes feeling successful, the students feeling engaged and interested, and the regular teacher from having a problem upon their return. Everyone wins!


Flickr in the Classroom

Using Flickr in the classroom both F2F and online is something I’ve been doing and will continue to do into the future. The Creative Commons licensing and availability of media has made accessing and using someone else’s work, albeit under copyright, possible because they have offered it for use by anyone who would agree to comply with the stipulations of the Creative Commons agreement.

For educators that means we are able to use the work of amateur, and professional creators of original or adapted works who are sharing their work through Creative Commons without fear of breaking the law. This development in shareable media has enlivened (leagally) many lessons I’ve put together for F2F and online students.

In this example, Jake Shimabukuru, a native Hawaiian ukulele artist, is shown playing in a concert from 2012. The photographer, Joe Bielawa, captured this image and has shared it via a creative commons attribution license. I have used this image in introductory lessons for the ukulele because Jake Shimabukuru became famous via YouTube and many students are already familiar with his playing.


Joe Bielawa. (2012, March 8). Jake.DSC_0376-Cedar.12. Jake Shimabukuro, Cedar Cultural Center 3/8/2012 Photostream.  Retrieved from 

Using Flickr combined with the ease of searching for images shareable through Creative Commons licenses is fast, and relatively easy and has endless appeal for educators. The skill is easily taught to students who can then search for and use images and other media in their projects and do so legally.

Have you ever come across a problem with using media protected by copyright, or know of a story where someone has?


Wikis in the Classroom

The past few days I’ve had a lot of Wikis in my life. Two rather prominent Wiki presences that bear mention are Wikispaces and Wikipedia.

First, a Wikispace in my mind is a collaborative works pace of varied forms and shapes that provide content to be added and changed by multiple users in an online environment. This is a fantastic learning tool to incorporate into our learning activities with students online and in our classrooms.

They bring with them a lot of positive and negative angles that must be considered along with their implementation. When these factors are managed responsibly and with regularity, the negative aspects can be melted away and allow the positive results of collaboration on group projects that culminate in the sum being greater than the parts.

I really enjoyed exploring the Global Classroom and the great ways that teachers are able to connect and provide collaborative pathways and experiences with content for their students. I’m fascinated by the amount of work that goes into these projects and how rewarding things like this must be for teachers who may work in otherwise abject isolation to become a fellow among peers and make a journey with a colleague and their students in other parts of the country and/or world. And then I stop to think how simple are its origins!  It’s all happening because people in two different locations are contributing and collaborating through a Wikispace!

The second Wiki is that of Wikipedia fame. I actually wrote an entire blog post about how my thoughts are coalescing making me more of a supporter than a detractor. Check out Wikipedia: 7 Things to Respect.

The concept of collaborative, 21st century skills are readily apparent in Wikipedia. Of course it has certain pitfalls that must be avoided, but on the whole I believe in the vision of the organization and how the forward motion is heading toward its realization.

Wrapping one’s mind around the concept of Wikis in general is difficult because they are never the same things twice, but there is also a beautiful and enticing thing let go of the need to be able to describe then in a static state and just submit oneself to joining the experience as one more contributing participant.

Wikipedia: 7 Things to Respect

In this article, “Wikipedia:Ten things you may not know about Wikipedia,” written in on that site in celebration of their 10th anniversary and amidst what continues to be controversial times for this online entity, some points with real staying power are brought forward. Zooming in on a few of these, the vision of Wikipedia becomes more relevant in our modern, interconnected, and shrinking world.

Some validations of the oft maligned online behemoth and a few implications for our society in general:

1. Wikipedia isn’t selling anything. What? How can that be? They have a non-profit status.

Validation: A secular non-profit with an unmatched level of influence.

2. Wikipedia gives away its assets. Why? The cause they are promoting is shared information. There vision is to create shared knowledge.

Validation: A place one can contribute and benefit from information and digital media and use it without any financial burden being placed upon the user.

3. Wikipedia is multi-lingual in a big way: about 300 languages (as of March 2016). Whoa! Did you know that there are approximately 141 agreed upon language families in the world? Ethnologue ‘s “Summary of Language by Family” provides a great insight here. Wikipedia is expanding the number of languages with which it interacts at the same time the numbers of languages are shrinking. These numbers will continue to trend towards each other.

Validation: Geographic, and lingual barriers are minimized. Global accessibility and contributorship are expanding.

4. Wikipedia can be added to, but never delete from. The new record doesn’t replace, but is overlaid upon the older records.

     Validation: This creates a thread of development that preserved over time will be a traceable history of all things that influence human existence from 2001 to the current.

5. Wikipedia recognizes the shortfalls in consistency and accuracy. They say: “It is in the nature of an ever-changing work like Wikipedia that, while some articles are of the highest quality of scholarship, others are admittedly complete rubbish.”

Validation: This is reflective of our human condition and is reflective of recorded history which although claimed by various parties of influence throughout history as reliable and unquestionable, often times reveal bias and false information which can be seen to serve a political or academic agenda at some point in the resource’s history.

6. Wikipedia is growing, accepting of difference, promoting a culture of debate, and entirely self-governed. They aren’t afraid of disagreement, but welcome it and the growth it brings.

   Implication: This entity is not interested in centralized power or control, but rather the balance and growth that occurs through the tensions and releases of discord through respectful resolution.

7. Wikipedia is in it for the long game. They openly work toward securing and validating their longevity.

Implication: Knowledge and its power grows from the hearts, minds, spirits and imaginations of every human. They simply open a door for any who wishes to walk through it. The article closes with this invitation:  “We [Wikipedia] want you to imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.


Wikipedia has good intentions and remarkable forward motion. It also has the relentless fault of human error that it must work to reconcile. In all things human, it is impossible to see clearly through the dust kicked up by those moving forward until those on the journey have traveled far into the future. When history has a longer tale to tell of Wikipedia, it may be a noble epic, or a short encapsulated fable. If I were guessing, I’d venture to say that it is going to be somewhere in between. In the making of that story, as Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts,” now the whole world is writing the story, making entrances, sometimes many entrances in staggering detail on many subjects and ideas. These contributions may be good, bad or indifferent, on Wikipedia but lone fact that it is possibility and a reality is a reckoning inconceivable barely two decades ago and that is worthy of great respect.




Resource Page through Netvibes

A Resource Page is another fast and easy way to keep an organized collection of news from various websites in one place.

If you are finding yourself going to several of the same web resources or news outlets each day or every few days, you might consider collecting their news feeds and accessing them through a Netvibes resource page.

Here is an example of what one might look like.Resource Page

Here is a link to my Netvibes Public Page

I just started this one today, but it has some great possibilities for not only collecting professional resources but also, for sharing feeds with students and other colleagues. 

What is the use for this web tool in your opinion?



Social Bookmarking: Share the Web!

Social Bookmarking Plan: Using Social Bookmarking to Collaborate with Professional Colleagues and Students

I’ve just been introduced to Diigo, a social bookmarking site with some really powerful uses. diigologo_transparent

In this post, I’m taking a look at and making an outline for ways to use social bookmarking like Diigo to collaborate with my professional colleagues within my building, district, and beyond.

What does it do?

  1. Bookmarks the web: You may access the sites from any device as a web page.
  2. Tags: You are able to add tags to bookmarks you make to help you sort and search your bookmarked sites.
  3. Shares: This can save boatloads of time by sharing your bookmarks and all the relevant sites with others and they can share with you.
  4. Makes notes on the web: You can mark up a website in the way you might have done with a highlighter and a pen in the margins of a printed page. This saves paper, and allows you to digitally share this “mark-up” online.
  5. Read later: This give you the opportunity to save something you’d like to read for a more convenient time but not have to sort through your browser history to get to ti!
  6. The Diigo App: This is an iOS app that allows to you to search, annotate, and save sites but on your iOS device instead of a PC.
  7. Chrome Connection: There is a built-in browser extension that allows you to use Chrome, and instead of bookmark favorites, use the Diigo extension to organize and curate your saved websites.
  8. Twitter Sharing Capability: For those tapped in to the Twitter-sphere, it has options for sharing out information directly through twitter.

Source link to original material for this list

Here is a great place to begin to explore what Diigo can do as a tool for educators. 

As a first impression of Diigo, having only used this tool for a short time, here is how I think it might work:

At my School

To collaborate at my school with my colleagues is often very difficult because our planning time almost never coincides. There are times though that we do like to coordinate certain experiences for our students between classroom and music/arts teachers. A lot of times the experiences or materials from which we are all working are shared through websites, blogs, etc. Using social bookmarking, we could share a group of websites with information that is highlighted, and referenced with sticky-notes to help focus the instruction that we all would like to do. It will also provide a way to decrease the amount of e-mailing that we’d have to do on the subject which can become overwhelming in a short amount of time.

In My District

I work in nearly complete isolation being that I am the only classroom music teacher in my building. There are others in the district who teach the same subjects and grade levels that I teach, however, we may have the occasion to be in the same room at most only 4 times a year when we are all called to a department meeting. The meeting is never for the purpose of collaboration on a professional level regarding instruction.

The implications of social bookmarking in this situation would be to provide an opportunity for us to create a collaborative group and when we found interesting or meaningful information that was applicable to our classes, to actively share that out and make the information available to the other classroom teachers in our district as well. I could see this being an opportunity to spur conversation and inspire new ideas and help to diminish some of the isolation that the teachers who are the only ones of their kind in their buildings.

With Online Students

In the online courses that I teach, I would use social bookmarking as a way to create groups and share a collection of websites to those groups that provide resource information, videos, blogs, and imagery for exploration surrounding a topic, idea or skill I am hoping to help online students develop. The idea would be that there would be a bundle of information that I can share out with highlights and sticky notes attached, and the students could add to these annotations on their own, highlight for themselves what they thought was important and they could then add more sites that they find on subjects, or ideas and share those as well. The nice thing is that it creates a collaborative space on the website itself so that we aren’t creating our own new secondary, and less authentic collaborative spaces.

In Professional Organizations

I am a member of several professional organizations, and we are always trying to create and inspire new energy and direction from and within our groups. Having a shareable collection of web content that supports and edifies the work of the professional organization is an excellent resource that we could be offering through social bookmarking. The best part of this is that it takes the onus away from a web master whose job it would be to collect and curate the links and post them to a web page. Now that activity would happen naturally as the many members of the group would be continuously adding to the group’s collection.

While Doing Graduate Adjunct Teaching

During the summers, I travel to a few different places in the country to teach two-week long summer courses. These are intensive 10-day courses where the students are there for 8 hours each day and voluminous amounts of information are poured onto them every hour. Having a way to create a social bookmarking interaction with them would be excellent to help reduce the amount of sorting and link chasing that might go on if things are sent out by e-mail.

I’m thinking of the slide-show option that Diigo offers when you can share certain websites as a collection through an embedded code in a website or a blog. The fact that the website is actually live within that slide-show is even more appealing. I love that is bundles up all of those various websites into one neat, little place and gives you the tools to bring it to a student in a no muss, no fuss way. It reminds me of fiber optic cable which transmit enormous amounts of information from a focused little node at the end of a wire!

A second positive of this possibility is to create an opportunity for the participants who spend two weeks together to continue to collaborate and share information they find relevant to the course in a professional continued collaborative way once the course is over.

For Summer Camp and Planning Teaching  

Because I travel a lot in the summers, I am often not around to help plan the summer camp which I help to teach at a local community organization in my home town. This can be frustrating to my colleagues who help to teach the camp with me, but I can see the use of social bookmarking as an option for us to explore sharing ideas, and keeping and cataloging the ones we share along with our notes for quick reference. The thing I’m noticing about summer camp planning is that we end up throwing a whole lot of great ideas onto a table, and then selecting a few. The other really good ideas tend to float away and become distant memories. I’d like to have a place like this social bookmarking where we could begin when we plan as a repository for ideas, like a book shelf. Take the ideas we’d like off the shelf and use them, but save those others for next time with all of our notes “still in the margins.”


  • Organizes and easily shares web pages with colleagues
  • Can be marked up, highlighted and sticky noted.
  • Can be organized into a group to which others can add new web pages
  • Reduces the need for e-mailing links.
  • Uses tags that can be organized, searched and sorted.
  • Saves time not having to re-Google and sort through search results.
  • Adaptable to the uses that work best for you.

New to RSS Feeds


First I must admit that I have never understood RSS feeds, nor have I felt compelled in even the smallest way to investigate them until this assignment prompted me to take some initiative!

Big realization:

In general, the value in an RSS feed is like signing up for a digital mailing list with a special mailbox that isn’t mixed up with your e-mail.

Using RSS in the Classroom

I don’t see a lot of implication for myself as a music teacher in the F2F classroom to use RSS feeds. If I were doing music industry kinds of courses, I could see these being very useful for students to group together various aspects of music industry writings and gather them all in one place for quick access.

Using RSS as a Professional Learning Tool

The implications of RSS feeds as an educator are quite compelling to me, even dangerous if I’m being completely honest. I can see this being a place where there will be focused, meaningful content, completely relevant to my discipline in my profession from sources I have chosen and in an endless stream of fascinating post after post. You can see why someone with a bit of a nerdy bend might be worried! In just the last hour I’ve added something like 15 new blogs to my feed! I’m looking forward to the great ideas I may glean, but also I’m a bit concerned about where I’m going to be getting the time to read all of these posts!