Ukulele Rock Stars!!!

Playing a song using the video

I cannot say how much I have loved the Kala app. It was well worth the $5.99 for a month subscription. I have been using it independently and in my classroom. Last post I showed some of the features of the apps, and I think the feature I like the most is the background music that plays during the song. It has really helped me keep time and it makes it sound more like the song since we are just using a simple strumming pattern. My class has absolutely loved playing the songs from the Kala app. We have been spending at least 20-30 minutes a day (sometimes more) playing our ukuleles. The first time we played a song using the video, my students thought it was too fast for them! The beauty of the Kala app is each tutorial video has the option to change the beats per minute. So I recorded a few songs with a slowed down tempo to ease the students into it. By the end of last week, most of my students were saying that the songs were too slow! So, we started to play some songs that have a quicker tempo and they are doing awesome! Here is a short montage of me playing some of the songs.

Unfortunately, this past week was a crappy week for getting anything done outside of school, so I wasn’t able to practice playing songs that use a different strumming pattern. I have been able to practice strumming the “Shoot ‘Em Ups” pattern and feel comfortable with it. The next step will be to start playing different chords while strumming the pattern.

This coming week I am going to make sure I carve out more time to work on my ukulele outside of school. I am also going to look into different apps that may be available on my phone or websites that have songs available on them. So far, I have been relying mostly on the Kala app. I am going to move away from pop music and learn some rock songs! Rolling Stones here I come!

Merlot…a fine wine???

Last week’s class was all about Open Education Resources (OER) and Open Education Practices (OEP). Like I said in my last post, I wasn’t really sure what OER’s were and didn’t have much experience using them. Our group last week mostly looked into Khan Academy during our time together and I have used that website quite a bit for math. So this week, I spent some time looking into Merlot. The MERLOT system provides access to curated online learning and support materials and content creation tools, led by an international community of educators, learners and researchers (taken from Merlot.org). I am not going to lie to you, I picked this particular website because of the name. I was really hoping that the website was going to be like the fine wine I like to drink, and not like the carbonated (although still tasty) wine. After looking through the website a bit, I quickly realized that it is not a resource that it was not going to live up to my hopes. The home screen of the website is neat, organized and user friendly, but once you move past the home screen, there are so many steps to take to find useful resources. I really like Daina’s comparison to the tedious process of shopping at Value Village. It takes a long time to work your way through this website to find a good and valuable resource.

The home screen has many different options for the user to search for resources. SmartSearch allows the user to search for open education resources using keywords, titles, URL of a website, ISBN or author. There is also two different ways to browse for resources on the home screen. Users can use the drop down Browse tab or scroll down and click the Browse by discipline button. This part of the search is easy to do, but I found the next part of the process to be pain staking.

When I started to look into the website, I decided to do a search for resources related to “gender identity”. I chose to look for resources on this topic because it has been a topic in the news a lot lately, and it is also one that is discussed in my classroom quite a bit. I was hoping to find some resources that would help me in my classroom (Quiet Elementary classroom with students in grade 7 and 8). I typed gender identity into the SmartSearch and 82 results popped up. Just for the sake of easiness, I clicked on the first resource on the page. The next page has the details of the material, which includes a description of the resource. To actually get to the resource, you need to click more buttons and warning about a new page opening. It is far too many steps to go through to actually get to the material. Also, like Mateo stated in his post, many of the resources that I clicked on were no longer available or had broken links.

I also agree with Mateo about the rating system on the website. Every time I was directed to a new website, Merlot would ask me to rate the material once going back to the website. I could have rated the material with 5 stars after only reading the title of the material. It makes me question the validity of the ratings.

The last thing that I would like to include in my review is that Merlot is not geared towards elementary schools. The materials that are gathered on Merlot would be useful for secondary and post-secondary teachers and schools. I may use Merlot for my university classes to help find resources that would be useful. I unfortunately did not have time to look into added materials, created materials and the course e-portfolio options on Merlot. I would hope that the process would not involve as many steps and searching for them. Has anyone out there used the other functions?

All About that Ukelele!!!

I am not going to lie, over the last couple of weeks I have been having flashbacks to hearing recorders squeaking in the classroom. Some days learning the ukulele with my students has been a little painful. However, each day we are making progress.

I know my students are starting to get sick of playing Let it Be, but there has been quite a bit of improvement. I hope you can hear how well we are doing too! Next week, after Remembrance Day, we are going to move on to learning a Christmas song. I would love to have my students perform for the school, but I know that would be very difficult for my kiddos. So, I am hoping to at least make a video of our class playing songs that I can share with their families on Seesaw, and maybe at the winter concert.

On my own, I have been using the Kala app to learn more chords, songs and about strumming. I downloaded an app on my phone that let me record myself using the app. Here is a short video showing of the options within the app.

Like I said in the video, when you play along to a song, it kind of feels like you are playing a video game, and I thought that my students would really like to try the app. Using the screen cast app on my phone, I recorded a whole song, and projected it on the whiteboard this morning for my students to try. They really loved it! The app allows you to change the tempo of each of the songs, so I am able to slow the tempo down a bit. As we progress, the tempo of the songs can increase. One of the biggest issues that my students have with reading the chords off of paper is they lose where they are in the song. The app makes it easier for them to follow along and pick up where they are in the song if they make a mistake.

We have picked a few other songs that they would like to try. I had a video of me playing my ukulele last night, but realized when I went to upload it that there was no sound. So, a video of me playing my ukulele is still to come. My goal for the next week is to move from simple strumming to using different strumming patterns within songs. I plan to use the Kala app on my phone and a website that I found. Maybe some day I will be able to throw a dance in there as well.

Better late than never…right??

My thoughts on open education are coming to everyone pretty late, but that cold that is going around really kicked my butt! Before taking this class I didn’t think I knew what open education was, but I realize now that teachers use open education with each other all the time. BC Campus Open Ed defines open education resources as “teaching, learning, and research resources that, through permissions granted by their creator, allow others to use, distribute, keep or make changes to them”. In my 12 years of teaching I have never met a colleague this is unwilling to share their resources. In my opinion, this is one of the best parts of the profession.

When I started in Regina Public I was coming from teaching high school (which is what I specialized in) to teaching a grade 6/7 split. I got hired a week before school started and had no idea how different teaching middle years was from high school. Luckily, teachers are amazing people and are more than willing to help the newbie out. I would not have made it through that first year in the crazy world of middle years without the willingness to share resources.

The short Vimeo video was very good at explaining what open education is and gave quite a few websites for students and teachers to use. One thing that I have noticed is that most of the websites listed on the Vimeo video are geared towards post-secondary education. CK-12 is one of the website that has materials that could be used in elementary school. The site is American and wouldn’t completely correlate to Saskatchewan curriculum, but there are many different subjects that I could use in my classroom, especially in Math. The work is easy to understand and my students would have no problem working through them. I used Screencastify to show an example of one of the grade 7 math questions that is available on CK-12.

Another site that I have used for resources in my classroom is Khan Academy. They have really good videos, especially for Math, that students can watch. Sometimes I struggle with explaining how to do math concepts in a different way than how I was taught. The videos on the Khan Academy website can my students and myself to see how to master a concept.

I agree with Nancy, and really liked Ze Frank’s video My Web Playroom. He is so creative and after watching the video I feel like the possibilities are endless in using open education resources. Sometimes it is so easy to get stuck in a rut and stick with an assignment or lesson that you have done before. I really love a part of Nancy’s blog this week when she stated “This theme of being willing to experiment and try new things.  To remix what exists with something new.  To share with others and have their input on your ideas was the consistent theme in many of the videos from this week’s course materials”. I think that I need to start using more of my students ideas in my classroom. My students are so creative and I think that their input into assignments, lessons, technology and tools would yield amazing results. A couple of years ago when I was teaching a grade 6 classroom I had quite a few students that were very good at math. These students always finished their assignments very quickly and I was always finding “busy work” for them while the rest of the class finished the work. That year I had attended the middle years conference and there was a presentation about using math rotations in the classroom. The presenters used math rotations in their math class and they had the students that completed the work quickly create tutorial videos for each of the outcomes. This was their assignment that showed mastery of the skills and then the teachers had a bank of videos that other students in the classroom to use in case they needed extra help. I tried to implement this into my classroom, but I had issues with where to store the videos after students created them. The students really enjoyed making the videos and was a great way for the students to apply the knowledge that they learned. Has anyone used students to create/use open education resources in their class?

Slow going….

Sound clip of Let it Be

I am not going to lie, life kind of got in the way of working on learning the ukulele this week.  My class only had a little bit of time to spend on lessons, but we are showing some progress.  We started to sound much better playing Let it Be, and this week we have learned a few more chords.  So far we have learned C, G, Am, F, D, A, E and Em.  I have decided that I really do not like playing the D and E chords as my fingers seem to not want to cooperate.  My teaching partner has been very helpful and patient with me and all of our students.  Some students are progressing quicker than others, but they have all been doing really well and the ones that have picked it up really quick have been very patient with the rest of us.  Our second song that we have started to learn this week is Monster Mash (a very basic version), which seems very fitting for Halloween next week.

I have also been using the app that came with my ukulele to help me.  It has tutorials for each of the chords and different types of strumming.  I wasn’t able to find a way to download any of the videos off of my app and wasn’t too sure about the copyright of the videos, so I have included some screenshots of the different videos and features of the app.  In the chord tutorials, they show you where each finger should be placed on the ukulele.  I haven’t spent much time learning different strumming patterns because I am still trying to master just strumming downwards.  The tutorials for strumming show videos and direction arrows to follow (Photos taken from the Kala app).  Kala’s website also has a lot of resources for learning how to play the ukulele.   

The app also has many different songs that are free and ones that could be downloaded. The format of learning the songs reminds me a lot of playing Guitar Hero or Rock Band. The chords move up the screen and show when you are to play them. The screen also has shows what frets and strings are required for the different chords. At the end of the song you get a rating out of 3 stars and it shows you how well you were able to strum the correct chords. (Photos taken from the Kala app)

I have also been using some lessons by Andy Guitar that I found on YouTube. He has many beginner lessons and gives suggestions of songs that beginners can practice and play. I really like how he explains the chords, chord changes and timing of the songs. He also talks about how to hold the ukulele and different grips that can be used, especially if you are a child. The series that I have been watching is a how to play in 10 lessons.

All in all, my students and I have been learning how to play the ukulele for two weeks. I can definitely seen and heard improvement in this time. I hope to be able to play one of the songs on the Kala app and receive 3 stars soon!

A look into Movavi

I knew that I was going to be taking a lot of video of myself for my major learning project, so for this week’s post I wanted to look at video editing programs. Movavi is one of the programs that I found and as I was playing around with it, I really liked how easy and straightforward it was. I was easily able to edit the videos from my first week of learning the ukulele.

Some of the features in the program include:

  • Slide transitions
  • Filters
  • Music
  • Edit video
  • Photo slide show
  • Stickers
  • Text/titles
  • Credits
  • Export to Youtube, Vimeo or Google Drive
  • Record audio
  • Voice over
  • Many different file extensions for saving projects
  • Quick video editor

One downside of this program is you need to buy the software in order to use all of the features, like exporting the videos to Youtbe. I decided to buy the video editor because I know that I am going to use it a lot throughout this class and in my classroom.

I found this great tutorial of how to use Movavi and all of the different options that the program offers. Videos is not the only media that can be used within Movavi. I think that Movavi would also be a great tool for my students to create a photo slide show. It could be a great way for my students to research and present on a topic that they feel passionate about. I also have a lot of very artistic and creative students, so I would love to see them use Movavi to display their artwork. Being able to uploads pictures will be useful for my major learning project too. I haven’t fully decided if I want to include videos of my students, or if I will just take pictures of them with the ukulele and record audio only. Which ever route I decide to take, Movavi will allow me to create videos to show our progress. Does anyone have any other suggestions of how to use Movavi in class?

I used some video of me trying to tune my ukulele for the first time to make a quick and easy video.  This was the first time I used my new cell phone tripod and I was trying to tune it while my teaching partner was tuning the ukuleles for our students.  We have such an awesome classroom and have a ton of fun with our students. I used some of the different functions that are available with this program. I added text to the video, I added filters to some parts of the video, I added transitions and I also was able to take the sound out of parts of the video. I really like that I can take out some or all of the audio in the video if I need to, because you never know what is going to happen in an elementary classroom!  

From Noise to Music???

This past week our class set of ukuleles, and my ukulele, were delivered and we were able to start our lessons.  Most of my students are really excited to be learning how to play the ukulele and we have actually started to sound more like music than noise.  I will admit that the first day we started lessons I was wondering why we though learning to play the ukulele as a class was a good idea.  However, by the end of the week, we had already shown quite a bit of improvement.  One of the challenges we are facing in class right now is managing the different experience and motivation levels of the students.  We have some students that have a little bit of experience playing the ukulele, and others (like me) who have never played.  There has definitely been some frustration in the lessons, but everyone is trying their best.  This past week we have learned the different parts of a ukulele, how to tune a ukulele, how to read tab charts, seven chords, how to strum and have even started to learn small parts of a couple of songs.

If you interested in learning what the different parts of a ukulele are, here is a link for a website that explains them.  The head of the ukulele is where the tuning heads are.  When tuning a ukulele, the top string (when holding it) needs to be tuned to a G, the second string a C, the third strong an E and the fourth string an A.  If you are not musical (like me), you can download a tuning app or use a tuner that clips on the ukulele to get the strings tuned.  Here is a fascinating video of me using my tuner to tune my ukulele.  

The neck of the ukulele is where the frets are.  The frets are the metal bars that run perpendicular to the strings.  The space in between the frets are where your fingers move to play different chords.  We are learning to play the ukulele by reading tab charts instead of music notes.  The tab charts usually show four frets (lines running horizontally) and the four strings (lines running vertically).   The vertical line on the left is the G string, then the C string, then the E string and then the A string.  The dots represent where you need to place your fingers.  So far, the one that I find the most difficult is the D chord.  It is a challenge to get three fingers lined up in that one fret!  We also learned how to strum.  Before starting this process I would never of thought that strumming would be a challenge, but now realize that it is not as easy as it looks.  It took a while to find the right balance between being strumming too light and strumming too hard.  It also took a few different tries to find what part of my hand/fingers was the best to use.  Once our class learned some chords and strumming, we were able to start practicing switching between chords.  The following videos are mostly of me throughout the week.  It was hard for me to add these videos on my post because I am a perfectionist.  I struggle at times when I don’t pick up on something right away and am very critical of myself.  I want to use this experience to remind myself, and my students, that the process is what is important.

We started to speed up our chords and add more on each day.

Our next step was to learn some beginner songs that used the chords we had learned.  The first song we learned was Baa, Baa Black Sheep.  The first video is my teaching partner playing the song in class.

The next video is of me playing Baa, Baa Black Sheep.

The second song that we started to learn is Let it Be by the Beatles.

For the first week I only used the lessons I was receiving from my teaching partner.  I hope to explore Youtube and the app that came with my ukulele to help me this next week.  The app has lots of tutorials to help to learn new chords and learn new songs using tab charts.  I’m looking forward to learning more and improving on my skills.