Growing on Technology by Lauren Gruber

Hello everyone! Guest for EduTryGuys here and not a “guy” at all, Lauren Gruber. I am a colleague of the rest of the EduGuys and I teach orchestra. I have the best job in the entire world - making music with students all day!

I will openly admit that I was once a technology hater. In order to play the violin or any of the other instruments I teach in orchestra class you need to have both hands on your instrument. This generally doesn’t leave any room for smart phones or laptops or netbooks or iPads or any of the other things students try to bring to class to distract themselves from making beautiful music. I used to have a pretty strict “no devices” policy in my classroom. I would deduct participation grades for even daring to distract the musical process by bringing a screen in my vicinity. If we had a 60 minute class, you can bet that I expected kids to have instrument in their hands 58 minutes of that time (leaving one minute for setting up and one minute for cleaning up, of course). Other classes were for writing and pencils and worksheets and all of those other boring things; orchestra class is for making music!

And then my school went one-to-one. Every student got a laptop. My actual worst nightmare hit me in the face with a cold, cold reality. How was I going to keep up my “no devices” policy now that my administration expected me to be integrating technology into my lessons?  

It’s been slow. It’s been a process. There have been a lot of mistakes made. My students have tried so many bad “technology activities” and given me feedback on how to make them better. Slowly but surely and to my utmost surprise I started to find things that worked for me and my students. And not just things that worked because they fulfilled the technology requirement; I started finding things that could replace and make the things I was already doing better, faster, and easier. Who knew?!

Weekly playing quiz? Upload a video of it on your own time! Practice logs? Google form! Forgot to write down the whole board full of reminders? Canvas Announcement! Need a listening example of a piece we are playing? YouTube link embedded right on our home page! Keep losing your sheet music? Here’s PDF of your part I uploaded for you! And the list goes on and on.

I’m so lucky to have a really, I mean REALLY great group of teachers I can count on to give me guidance and help with ideas for integrating technology. Pretty much any activity I want to do in my classroom outside of creating music together can now be done using the technology available to me and my students. Everything that I used to do on paper, I now ask for help on ideas on how to put it on Canvas instead. Just this month alone I’ve created my first Padlet, Flipgrid, Office 365 Form, and module with video how-to lessons in Canvas and used them with students in a way that was important and relevant to the educational process. 

Technology has absolutely changed the way I think about teaching and it has changed the way I interact with students. I’m so much better at getting feedback to students quickly. Students are better at asking questions, mostly because they can ask at any time of the day and not just in the 200 or so minutes I see them in a week. I’m sending them content that’s a higher quality more frequently and they’re learning faster. In just a few short months I’ve gone from rolling my eyes every time I see a screen to almost constantly thinking about how I can make technology and music work together.

The great thing is I’m happier, my students are happier, and we are still making beautiful music.

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Lauren Gruber

Lauren teaches orchestra to high school and middle school students. She has two amazing pups named Delilah and Charlie. Find her at @GrubersOrch