What Music Can Do For You

Chris's Transistor Radio
Chris's Transistor Radio

My family and I recently moved. After many months of unpacking, we are finally coming down to the last six or so boxes that need to be unpacked. Of course it’s those things that really don’t have a place. Those things that we really don’t use, but couldn’t bare to part with. Like my husband’s transistor radio.

I wish I could have captured on film the exact expression he had on his face when he unpacked the little white box the other night. Instead though, I asked him to tell me some stories about it.

Chris told me that he and his brother sometimes listened to the radio together. They would both put their ears up to it and talk about what they were listening to or sing along with the music.

Harry Harrison was the DJ that was on at the time Chris used the “clickwheel” to set his A.M. (as opposed to F.M.) radio to WABC, though he remembers ABC being the popular station at the time. He has no recollection of what was popular on the F.M. stations as he had no access to them. It was circa 1971.

If you look inside this portable media player (PMP), you’ll see that it ran on one 9 volt battery. Whoever gave Chris his transistor radio, was nice enough to leave him notes indicating how to correctly insert the battery. Not only did I notice that, but I opened the PMP without even thinking about it. I wanted to explore. I wouldn’t dare do that now for fear of breaking the tiny components of the electronic/digital gadgets my family has accumulated.

I listened to Chris’s stories and watched the expressions on his face as he reminisced. I rather enjoyed listening to him talk about something he seemed to have gotten so much pleasure out of as he typically tells me only stories of how horrible being the youngest of three brothers was. As I listened, I compared how he used his portable device back in the 1970s to how our students are using them today.

Volume & Station Controls
Volume & Station Controls

Chris told me he could take his radio anywhere. He could walk around holding it up to his ear. He could walk on the street. He could hide it in his backpack at school. And late at night, if his brother wanted to sleep, he could put his radio under his pillow to muffle the sound a bit. He could listen to the music that he liked (we have very different tastes in music) and he could listen to the news. He remembers his time with his transistor radio fondly.

Going into this year, with so many portable media players in school, we might want to consider thinking about occasionally just enjoying them for what they are. Children enjoy music. Some learners will even work more productively with music in the background. But music is a part of our culture. I know that in my family the songs that were playing at social events are part of the memory. I think that seeing the radio that brought him so many hours of musical enjoyment, most likely kept Chris thinking about his childhood for hours.

Here is a list of places where you can access and download free music for your students to enjoy:


Comfort Zones

roseLiz Davis and I presented three workshops together this past week at BLC. The first is one we have done many times together and separately, it comes as second nature to us at this point. The second workshop I developed almost a year ago, we just worked together to select the ed tech leaders we would showcase and who would talk about who. The third workshop was developed originally by Liz and is out of my comfort zone. This is the second time we have led it together and each time attendees have responded well and have seemed to really enjoy the activities, but in the hours and days leading up the the session, I definitely wasn’t into it. (And Liz called me on it the morning of the presentation.)

So, as I sat on the long train ride back to New Jersey sans wireless, I thought about some of the situations that take me out of my comfort zone. I thought maybe this might be a time in my life that I should face some of them and challenge myself to move past some of the more trivial ones. Perhaps, if I am feeling bold, I might even consider trying to overcome the more complicated challenges as well.

As we went to dinner each night in groups, some large and some small, I commented on the fact that I had never dined alone in a restaurant. My companions asked if I had ever been to a movie by myself, another trip I have yet to make solo and I realized that though I rather enjoy having alone time, it is usually in the privacy of my own house.

I prefer to sit either in the front or the back of a room. The details of left or right are irrelevant, what is important to me is that I am aware of who is around me and when I have people both in front of me and in back of me I find it distracting. (Not that there aren’t ten other things going on to distract me anyway.)

So, back to this last session that Liz and I led at BLC. It was the last slot of the last day. “Goal! Define Your Goals and Leverage Your Network to Achieve Them!” was how we intended conference attendees to leave BLC with a plan in place on how to achieve one of their goals and who was going to help them. Here’s some of the goals set by the attendees:

@Dunningk – I want to do a monthly vlog and post it to our website.

@shadowg – Send the tweet to all BA students and faculty.  Few people respond with ideas.  A few faculty send message not to tweet them, very upset with me.  Ideas from students start to form.  Block the upset faculty/students.  Students now are building ideas presented and working with the librarians and other students, such as podcasts, videos of how to, book suggestions,  library makeover ideas……

@nicolesandburn – I hope to start a wiki/blog/podcast for my French and Spanish class

@trinapaynter – I want to create technology playground days (workshops) for teachers to try out new technology tools.

@analogurl – Implementation of Scratch into Elementary school curriculum, to promote student engagement, collaboration, critical thinking, etc.

Well, after thinking about some of the trivial goals above and having all that downtime on the train (as many of you sat in airports), I have come up with these three goals for myself:

  1. I’d like to begin playing music – quiet, soothing music, as teachers are involved in hands-on activities in PD events. I saw this two times in different forms at BLC and I think it is rather successful for some learners.
  2. I plan on increasing the amount of time I have PD attendees out of their seats. This may also bring many out of their comfort zones, but so many educators at BLC complimented Liz and I on the fact that we get folks up and around the room, that I’d like to bring this practice into more of my typical PD.
  3. This is the toughest challenge for me. I’m going to ask educators to try some free writing in my sessions. I typically encourage attendees to multitask during a workshop and as we work together, feel free to check e-mail, Facebook, whatever they would typically do while they would use the computer at home. But, during this time, I would encourage attendees to put everything else aside and focus on visualizing our group goal and writing about it.

I took so much away from the four days I spent in Boston. I will be posting more soon, but I figured documenting my goals was a good place to start.

iTouch the Future…I Teach – Music

We know that Christa McAuliffe was not referring to the iTouch when she made that famous statement during her training for the early 1986 shuttle mission to the moon. Technology had come so far and she was preparing to be the first teacher to set foot in space. It was an exciting time. Ms. McAuliffe’s words have stuck with me all these years that I’ve been teaching and I revisited many of the articles written about her as I was waiting for my 32 gig iTouch to arrive. 

I’ve been teaching a session called “iPods in Education” for the Center at Rutgers University now for about a year. I’ve brought it into many New Jersey school districts as well as they begin buying iPods for their teachers and utilizing the iPods that their students already have from home. I love it! There are so many things we can do to integrate iPods into the classroom.

We spend the day checking out Discovery Education, Mogopop, iWriter, iTunes, RSS, Google Reader, Bloglines, Flickr-Storm, and many other sites and applications. But I’ve noticed over the last couple of months that in each of my sessions, there’s at least one person that either has an iTouch or an iPhone and I was unsure as to ALL the differences except the obvious – how they looked and the access to wi-fi.

Pictured to the left is my white, 30 gig iPod Video Classic, which I love. To it’s right is my new, black, 32 gig iTouch. Each stores music, video, pictures, will sync with my Outlook contacts and will store information in the notes section. Theoretically both should allow me to attach a voLook at the difference in the thickness.ice recorder to record and store audio directly to the hardware, but my iTouch is not recognizing my Belkin TuneTalk Voice Recorder. Read here.

So…..there is an awful lot you can do with the iTouch that you can’t do with the Classic. Too much to write in one post, so I’ve decided to write a series, categorized by subject area. Since one of the teachers I worked with this year on podcasting and using iPods in the classroom happened to be a music teacher, I’ve decided to start with the category of music applications:

By the way, I used a Google Doc to compile my list of music apps and then narrowed down the list as I accessed the Doc from my iTouch to see what worked well and what didn’t.
Here are the apps in no specific order:


  • Piano Chord Dictionary
    http://www.mdmalin.com/webapps/piano/index.html – hold your iTouch sideways to select and see finger placement for a piano chord, turn it upright for help
  • Bearden’s Music Terms 
    http://www.beardensmusic.com/musicterms/ – The first screen is the alphabet – click on the letter that begins the term you are looking to define and it will navigate you to it
  • iPhone Lyrics
    http://www.iphonelyrics.com/ – The first screen is the alphabet – click on the letter that begins the name of the artist or group you are looking for and it will navigate to a list of their songs

Please leave a comment if you know of any others and I’ll add it to the Google Doc.

Next time – iTouch the Future…I Teach – Math