Ready, Set…Innovate!

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As promised in a previous post, I have a plan. Below is my detailed innovation plan for an online technology-assisted music course, designed both for students and their teachers, as a way of fostering creative skills, developing and sustaining a growth mindset, and just letting everybody express themselves a little differently.

Technology-Assisted Music: Creative Education for Students and Teachers

In a world increasingly hemmed in by standardized testing and educational systems designed for maximum efficiency and conformity in a previous century, our students need avenues to satisfy and develop their creative skills. They need more options to pursue the arts, individually and collaboratively. They need to develop and embody the growth mindset, and nurture the creative skills that today’s world is demanding.

Meanwhile, our teachers need to develop and embody the same creative skills and growth mindset. Just as our students need creative and collaborative skills to solve problems in their worlds, our teachers need those same skills to solve problems in their own worlds (classrooms). What’s good for students is good for teachers. In addition, as our students are required to do more and more work online, our teachers need experience and training operating in that realm. Experience on the student side of that equation will enable them to be more effective when they’re on the teacher side of it.

In my original proposal (found here) and my literature review (available here), I have described the philosophical rationale behind my innovation plan and examined some of the research that supports it. Below is an in-depth implementation outline for the first two phases of that plan, followed by brief explanations of the next two phases.

PHASE 1: Teacher Version

Initiation Date: Spring 2019 (beginning of course availability; teachers may begin the self-paced course at any point in the spring or summer)

The teacher version of the course is designed to help teachers experience the benefits of creative exploration and to apply that experience in their own classrooms, no matter what their teaching discipline may be. To that end, the professional development course will pay particular overt attention to the growth vs. fixed mindset concept and to the creative process, both individual and collaborative. In addition, the teacher course will include a reflective unit for teachers to focus on ways to apply both the technological and the extra-musical lessons of the material with their own students. There will also be reflection on the advantages and challenges of online learning that the teachers may have experienced in their roles as learners, and how those experiences might help them work more effectively with their own students, whether online or face to face.

It is important to note that many of the course concepts are not directly related to technology, but to the creative process and learning process in general. It is by deliberate choice that the course is not called “Music Technology,” but, rather, “Technology-Assisted Music.” The technology is not the purpose of the class, but a tool for reaching the learning goal.

Teachers in the course will undertake a self-paced, condensed version of the material that students in the full-length course will eventually take on. Concepts explored will include:

  • Growth vs. fixed mindset (innate talent vs. effort, feedback and revision as a growth tool, etc.)
  • Scientific fundamentals of sound
  • Rudimentary music theory concepts (rhythm and meter, pitch and harmony)
  • Critical listening (identifying and evaluating what we hear)
  • Fundamentals of digital music (MIDI, digital recording and editing)
  • Basics of musical composition (musical form and structure, genre and style)
  • Collaboration skills and processes (working with creative partners, giving and receiving feedback on creative work, organizing and executing long-term projects)
  • Applications of music and sound design and digital recording (music recording, film scoring, podcasting, other real-world audio applications)
  • Reflection: Applying the learning experiences of the class in other disciplines and with other learners

The teacher version will launch prior to the student version, for two reasons:

1) The startup and approval process for professional development is much less calendar-dependent than the process for implementing a high school course; by beginning in spring 2019, both teachers and their students will hopefully begin enjoying the benefits of the course as soon as possible.

2) Having teachers try out the course ahead of the new school year will allow any necessary technology troubleshooting and curriculum adjustment to take place before beginning a full rollout with students–a “dress rehearsal” of sorts.

Materials/Funding: Teachers will use CCPS-issued faculty laptops (or personal devices of their choosing) and their CCPS G Suite accounts to access the Blackboard learning management system and the Soundtrap digital audio workstation platform, which are both part of the district’s current digital infrastructure; as such, no need for new materials or funding is anticipated for phase 1 of this plan. 

Credit: Upon completion of the course, teachers will be awarded professional development credit; the number of hours of credit will be determined by the Curriculum and Instruction Performing Arts Specialist in conjunction with the Office of Professional Development.

PHASE 2: Student version (High school credit)

Initiation Date: Fall 2019 (full-year high school course, running concurrently with traditional academic year)

After any adjustments or revisions are made following feedback and reflection on Phase 1 of this plan, Phase 2 will bring students into the full-year version of the course. Content units and concepts will be similar to the teacher version, with the following modifications:

As the course will be designed to fit more into a full academic year, rather than part of a semester, many of the units will be able dive deeper into the content: more projects, greater time for collaboration, etc.

Students, like their counterparts in the face to face version of the course, will have the opportunity to explore more than one software tool for digital audio work. This is in keeping with helping students learn not to use a particular tool, but to learn the concepts applicable to all tools in the field.

The focus on growth vs. fixed mindset will, by design, be less overt, i.e. students will spend more time learning to live in a growth mindset and somewhat less time exploring the metacognitive aspects of it. These elements will still be there, but will be less of an explicit focus (since, presumably, the students chose the course because their primary goal was to learn to make music).

As would be expected, students would not have an entire reflective unit on bringing the lessons from the course into their own classrooms, although reflection on applying the course material in other areas of their lives can and will be part of the course.

Materials/Funding: As with the teacher version of the course, students will utilize their CCPS-issued Chromebooks and G Suite accounts to access Blackboard and Soundtrap, thereby eliminating the need for new digital tools. Depending on other software tools chosen (Soundation is the current choice in the face to face version of the class), small per-student subscription fees may be incurred. The current per-student outlay for Soundation is approximately $6.00 per year–depending on student enrollment on both the traditional and online versions of the class, this cost may be brought down.

Credit: Upon completion of the course, students will receive 1 fine arts credit; this course also serves to satisfy the requirement that each student complete at least one online course to receive a high school diploma.

PHASE 3: Eportfolios for coursework

Initiation Date: Spring 2020/Fall 2020

This is a logical first step in promoting the value of the eportfolio concept to the district as a whole. A class focused on producing creative works is a natural choice for implementing an eportfolio. Students demonstrate learning both by what they choose and do not choose to share. Teachers who experience this as students in the class and/or see their own students’ portfolios will see the benefits firsthand and may be convinced to adopt the eportfolio concept in their own classes.

Materials/Funding: This will depend upon what form the eportfolio program takes. Further exploration and discussion will be necessary based on the outcomes experienced by the first cohort of students.

PHASE 4: Online learning to blended learning

Initiation date: Fall 2021

Students will make use of spaces beyond their Chromebooks to further their creative efforts. Partnerships with local studio and production spaces, theater groups, etc. as well as public makerspaces and school-based specialty center facilities will enhance the authentic learning element of the class. The ultimate goal is for students to obtain real-world experience doing creative work with the assistance of music technology–further education in music and sound design and/or internships and employment are ideal possibilities.

Materials/Funding: This will depend upon the actual collaborations established. Ideally, these partners from outside the school system will provide many of the required resources.

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  1. Peer Review 1

    What a creative proposal you have outlined here. I would thrill at the opportunity to take the teacher course. I am impressed with the way you are weaving the big-ticket learning items from the DLL program (ePortfolios, Growth Mindset) into your course. You are smart to start with the teacher course first to get a handle on lessons learned. I'm daunted just thinking about the bureaucratic hurdles that you'll have to overcome to get the student online version of this course approved (down, fixed mindset!). Perhaps it wont be that bad; I have no experience with that process. This is very ambitions, but the reward for establishing such a course will be huge. Good luck. Go get 'em.

  2. Peer Review #2


    I like how you formulated your plan with the initiative with the teachers first as well as providing opportunities for profession development hours. Also what a great idea to create a eportfolio that leads to online blended learning.

  3. Bryan, great plan, and I love how your plan allows for teachers to pilot it before it gets rolled out. My feedback would have to be also implementing the program throughout the summer for other teachers? Also, how are teachers selected to pilot the program? Will all students use the program, or will you test a small subject first, then continue to roll it out to other grade levels? Just some things to think about, but overall great plan.

  4. The goal is that teachers select themselves and can sign up for the course at any time, including summer, since the teacher/PD version is pretty much self-paced. Thanks for pointing that out–I'll make that clearer in the final draft.

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