Practicum – Get Through Challenges and Difficulties of Musical Education in the Pandemic Period

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Changes for Education – Everything Goes Online

Due to the Covid-2019, we had to stop social activities from the beginning of February including schools. Education has been facing the significant changes never happened before that learning and teaching practice had to be delivered virtually through various digital tools. Since we don’t have well-built online course system, it makes digital learning harder to implement. Educators need emergency professional learning programs to master skills and broaden knowledge to select and integrate appropriate technology tools to motivate students to achieve expected learning outcomes. Every teacher sent many educational technology requests and every request needs to be met in short time to make sure learning practice can keep moving forward.  I appreciate that my Master’s Degree in DEL (Digital Educational Leadership) program equipped me rich knowledge and skills to conquer this intensive period. As the instructional technology person in my school, based on ISTE Standards for Teachers and Students, I provided many professional learning programs and built PLCs and facilitated the use of digital technology to fulfill teachers’ different needs.

Challenges for Musical & Instrumental Education

I worked in a Conservatory of Music. When everything went online, the challenges for Musical and Instrumental education stand out. High sound quality is the key for instrumental learning. And most of the classes have high requirement of interaction and communication between students and teachers. And the orchestra performance is the important demonstration for learning achievement with high demand of collaborations. What digital tools are appropriate and how to leverage technology to meet different teachers’ needs to reach the ideal learning outcomes and provoke student inner talent is the biggest task in the special period for musical education.  

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Support Teachers to Get Through the Special Period

Technology coaches create and support effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students.

Depending on the ISTE Standards for Coaches, technology coaches should select and evaluate digital tools and resources, troubleshoot technology problems in digital learning environments and model collaborative learning strategies to support student learning; as well as expand opportunities and choices of online professional development for teachers. I chose online interview as the method to collect teachers’ specific needs which can make me understand content and knowledge learning in musical education better. I collected data from the interviews to determine the direction of professional learning programs I am going to plan. I created a group for instructional technology support to provide teachers an instant supportive platform to strengthen their confidence in this special period. I also created different groups depending on teacher’s diverse readiness and issues. 

During this pandemic period, everyone was seeking an effective and efficient way to implement online digital learning environment. As the instructional technology coach, it is important to have teachers know you are there for providing consistent help to fulfil their needs. We faced many technical problems we never had, such as different internet and hardware situation at home, different experience on using technology. Ongoing and immediate support is building teachers’ confidence and the confidence and positive attitude is the fuel to propel teachers to move forward in the digital age learning environment to benefit our student to achieve the expected learning outcomes. 

 Engage in continual learning to deepen content and pedagogical knowledge in technology integration and current and emerging technologies necessary to effectively implement the Standards•S and Standards•T

As the technology coach in my school, this is good but intensive time to deepen content and pedagogical knowledge in technology integration for musical education. In this period, technology as the necessary tool, all educators use technology’s basic function to build connections with students. Based on SARM model, I facilitated teachers to use technology effectively to strengthen content knowledge learning to reach A or R level to meet Standards. S- encourage teachers to pilot different digital tools to engage students to have creative communication and gain more agency to construct musical knowledge and produce creative artifacts to reach personal learning goals. Because instrumental instruction needs to be adjusted to accommodate students differences, based on Standard. T, I facilitate teachers to select appropriate technology and strategies to create, adapt and personalize student learning practice to lead deep and innovative learning. 

Image Modified from Original by Lefflerd’s on Wikimedia Commons

After evaluated our school’s digital resources, I suggest teachers use SharePoint and Teams to provide differentiate asynchronous learning and teaching practices; use Zoom to lead synchronous communicate and collaborative performance to demonstrate learning outcomes. Students created communication sites in SharePoint to share their artifacts with peers and wrote positive comments on peers’ artifacts to exchange perspectives. In this process, they learn how to communicate and interact effectively online and also deepen their understanding of digital citizenship.  Teachers created Team sites to engage students on different projects and share digital portfolios with students to keep them on track. In Teams, teachers created different groups to encourage student to collaborate with peers and provide immediate response on students’ questions to support online learning.  Students and teachers used Zoom to have real-time communication on brainstorm topics and students can get timely feedback on instrumental practice from teachers and peers. We also used Zoom as a creative approach to produce collaborative concert or orchestra performance to motivate students to demonstrate learning achievement. 

Educators facilitate learning with technology to support student achievement of the ISTE Standards for Students:
Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving, and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences.
Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.

In the whole learning practice, teachers as the facilitators and instructional designers engaged students on innovative projects to encourage them to set personal learning goals and lead student-centered learning using appropriate technologies; Students constructed knowledge and enriched learning experience by collaborating with peers in creative ways to reach learning goals. Teachers leveraged the power of technology in musical education that put students in the driver seat fostering independent learning abilities and develop artistic talent by creative and meaningful collaboration and communication.

Personalized Professional Learning Programs

Because of the special time, it is easy to be negative when normal life changed suddenly without preparation. It is hard for teachers to handle digital teaching and learning who have little experience on technology. I want to deliver a positive attitude to our teachers via effective communication through Zoom to have them know we can get through challenges together. This is the reason I chose interviews as the approach to understand their specific needs instead of sending a digital survey form. From the interviews, I collected data and planed personalized professional learning programs to meet the different needs. I practiced coaching skills during the interviews, and we had spent great time to share concerns and collaborate with each other to seek better ways using technology to accelerate student learning. 

 Coach Skills I used in the interviews

 Deepen understand the needs

 Different class has different situations. 

  • Composition class has high demand on real-time communication to brainstorm ideas on topics and teachers can provoke students inspiration by probing questions and provide guidance. 
  • Ensemble class has high demand on cooperation that each student plays the specific role in a performance needed perfect collaboration.
  •  Instrumental class has high demand on sound effect that teachers can provide purposeful feedbacks on students’ practice to help improvement.
  • Music Theory class needs students to conduct knowledge from teacher’s shared resources and formative quizzes are required to have teachers master students’ learning progress.  

Building Trust

I collected all needs from teachers and probed many questions on their situation and offered some suggestions to discuss with them. While we were working together towards to the same goals, our trust was building up.

Setup norms for Meetings

Depending on teachers different needs, I provided personalized online professional learning programs with flexible schedules to meet different time zones. We set up several norms that can help our coaching to be effectively and efficiently. 

1.    Inspire each other with positive attitude from the beginning 
2.    Get feedback for online course : their challenges, concerns
3.    Probe questions
4.    Bring up ideas
5.    Set the schedule for the next round
6.    Available for informal communication (Flexible schedule)
7.    Focus on improving student learning using technology

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Build Professional Learning Community for Teachers

The special situation pushed every educator to leverage educational technology to continue teaching and learning practice without readiness time. Teachers who were reluctant to integrate technology into class before need more support. Teachers always can get encouraged from peers and PLC is the best way that teachers who are good at using technology model peers use of new digital tools and teaching strategies to enhance student learning. Teachers get engaged and exchange teaching experience with peers to learn from each other to grow up on profession in PLC. Teachers have resonate on specific situation in musical education and they can spark ideas on teaching from peers as the power of the PLC.

Keep Moving On

Even though the pandemic time is fading out, we still need to implement digital learning for months due to the different policies between countries. I am glad to see that I can help our teachers to get through all difficulties through effective communication and collaboration. Teachers start adapting teaching using technology and they said they cannot imagine technology is such powerful to offer innovative learning opportunities in music education. We didn’t use technology only as substitute tools during face-to-face class is impossible, we also used technology in smart ways to enhance our students learning and our students produced many creative performances during this period. We still have lots of challenges in the next few months, but with the positive attitude and stronger skills and knowledge on technology integration, we will move forward on digital learning further which is paving the path for technology integration in the future.

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