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Getting Those Great Performances Out to the World!

      In 1973 when PBS introduced Great Performances, it was for many people the first time they could watch magnificent performances that they would otherwise not be able to experience. Now thanks to the internet, we’re able to enjoy the arts in many forms. Art organizations of every scale can now share with the world with minimal equipment and costs. I got to see this first hand when Da Capo presented their Faculty Gala 2011 in June. When I heard about the Gala (most likely from Twitter), I suggested that they should live stream it. I’m so glad they took my suggestion! How else would I have had the opportunity to see the program and the high caliber of instructors associated with Da Capo? I live in New Jersey and was home with my family that evening, making live attendance at the event impossible.  Every moment, from the children to the instruments to the powerful, expressive moments of singing was quite a treat. My personal favorite was the final piece, Sonata in C# minor, Op. 27, No. 2 (aka “Moonlight”) performed in its entirety. The Da Capo students are very fortunate to have such talented leaders guiding them in their ongoing journey in the arts. If there is anything to be taken from this, it would be that we need to continue to support our local arts organizations. Without them, where would our future artists come from? Thank you Da Capo for a “Great Performance”! Bravo!



So summer is here and for us teachers, time to recharge those batteries, be the learner for a change and look to bring something new into next year. I know technology integration is high on your list (c’me on, you know it is) and you are wondering what are some good how-to places to go on the web to get down some basics! I’ve collected some here and I hope that these will help to spark new ideas into your teaching next year!

Don’t think you need to incorporate anything new? Start here: Staggering numbers …

Want more? Good. Here is a listing of videos made to spark educators thinking:

Speaking of videos, Common Craft specializes in 3 minute explanation videos: The animation is really interesting to look at as well.

Wolfram Alpha is a data search site that you can do so many things with. Here is an introduction to it: Try searching for your name, that’s my favorite!

If you teach geography or do anything with maps, here’s a step by step tour a great Google Earth feature, creating a tour: Also check out will also show you some unknown Google Map features.

Great list of websites that can be used to integrate tech into your classroom: bother? Here’s why:

4.5 million YouTube hits. This is a classic 

Some of today’s most interesting speakers

I could go on and on, but instead I’ll give you all my links. That’s right ALL my links:

Enjoy your summer and let’s get learning!

You are the ground zero of insanity

If you looked at the title of this post and thought I was going a bit off the deep end, you might be right. Not to say that I’m going, or have been, crazy. I’m talking about this well know quote:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein

We know Einstein was a smart man. A genius. But even Einstein participated in some trial and error. Clearly this quote of his complements a view that to achieve new goals, you must do things differently than you have been.

Recently I’ve been working on curricular units with some of my teaching colleagues. We, like other educators that I’ve encountered, have been incorporating 21st Century Skills into our units. Many states now have standards that relate to these skills, and it’s good that we are recognizing the need to adapt to a world that is so very different from the one that existed when we were younger. Look back even five years ago and think about all the informational technology that has emerged. We are helping to prepare students for a world in which we cannot imagine. Does this curriculum work really do our students justice? It can if we as the educators are willing to take charge of how we unpack them in our learning environment. We cannot layer these skills over existing lessons and expect that the outcomes will change. We cannot insert them into a document and claim “I already do something like that” and think we are reaching students.

We must look at our classrooms as the ground zero for 21st Century Skills.  Fight the attitude that this is “just another thing I have to do” or “my administrators are now having me do this”.  Don’t settle for doing things the same say you have in years past and expect to reach the students of today. Examine your room set-up, think about how old those lesson plans are, challenge yourself to teach in a way that doesn’t mesh with your learning style, make things more student centered and let go of some control. When was the last time YOU learned something new?  As you write new units of study, remember that we’re not teaching to the standards, we are helping students gain a set of skills that will enable them to thrive in a world of instant information and communication.  Are you preparing them for the future, or are you the ground zero of insanity?

Come On In, Make Yourself UNcomfortable

As you read this, do you feel comfortable? Perhaps you’ve got a really cozy chair, a cup of coffee, some time to yourself. When I think of comfortable I think of these types of things.  Merriam-Webster defines comfortable one way as “2 a : free from vexation or doubt <comfortable assumptions> b : free from stress or tension <a comfortable routine> ”  What I found interesting in that part of the definition were the words assumptions and routine, both of which can be detrimental to the learning environment we create for our students. We don’t assume, we assess. Instead of routine we should be flexible and able to adapt when needed.

So think about your classroom? What makes you comfortable there?

“I’m comfortable with the room set-up. I’ve used it for years.”

“I’ve become comfortable with the lesson plans, no need to rework them.”

“Only 10% of my students didn’t assess well on this skill. I’m comfortable with that”

Comfort does not equal competence.  Now I’m not saying that we should embrace being uncomfortable head on; clearly there are moments when such a feeling equals danger. We should however reflect on why things in the classroom make us feel that way.

“I’m uncomfortable letting the students use the internet. They seem to know more than me.”

“I’m uncomfortable with that room set-up. The students are grouped into different activities. How will they watch me at the board?”

“I’m uncomfortable giving the class different assignments at once. I guess I can’t differentiate this unit.”

So there are moments when we need to evaluate discomfort. Think of it as a wake up call. It might be time to learn a new skill, reach more students, mix things up or rewrite old lessons. So come on in, make yourself uncomfortable.


“comfortable.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2010.  Merriam-Webster Online. 26 June 2010


What inspires (or forces) change?

I’ve been thinking about change quite a bit lately. Mostly in reference to my classroom. Every few years I get inspired to do something completely different. One year I was forced to teach music on a cart. Thankfully I had a student teacher at the time and had some help pushing materials around (Sorry Stephanie). While I was observing her I had a chance to really look around at other classrooms. I remember thinking how I too could do a word wall, how I liked having the students in groups with their desks and the ever popular job chart. The following year when I got my room back it was a different place then when I taught there before. My principal and vice principal loved it! They even had the superintendent stop in.  I was told that it looked more like a classroom, not just a music room.  Hmmm….I know that was supposed to be a compliment, but we’ll let it slide.  Would I have made these changes without being forced into a completely different work situation of a year? Most likely not. Got lemons. Made lemonade.

Now I feel ready for some changes again. I’ve been eyeballing my room and I think I will mix up the student grouping to different places around the room, use the carpet for a  “Morning Meeting” style class openers , have more centers and individual time on the computers with the music software. I’ve been really inspired this year through differentiated instruction (DI) workshops (especially when I spent the day with Dr. Carol Ann Tomlinson), Understanding by Design and Twitter. One moment that I realized I had a change in mind-set was during a DI workshop I attended this year. Now, my district has been leading us in DI for a few years now, so this was not an introductory session for me. During one of the coffee breaks another teacher exclaimed “How are we supposed to do all this in 180 days?” My thought was “Then what the hell ARE you doing for 180 days?”

Oh boy.  That feels like a new room set-up.

Sometimes change comes from circumstance, sometimes we look for it, other times we trip over it.  Hopefully you and your students benefit from it.