February 22, 2018, marked the seventh annual Digital Learning Day. Digital Learning Day celebrates the use of technology and innovative practices in student learning. Many teachers, myself included, incorporate digital learning strategies on a regular basis. My students have school-issued iPads they bring to class each week. To clarify – I teach elementary band and orchestra. The focus in my class is definitely on making music, but we use technology to enhance and personalize student learning. I knew I wanted to do something for Digital Learning Day, but since digital learning takes place daily in my class, it needed to be something different. So instead I decided to have my students move from being the digital learners to being the digital teachers!
Students were instructed to think of something musical that they could teach other students via video. There were no restrictions put on what they could teach, only that it had to relate to their instruments. What happened next was great! The students immediately started brainstorming what they could teach; some working with partners, others individually, to come up with their plans. Students recorded their tutorial videos on Flipgrid. Flipgrid is a tool we often use in my class, so I knew students would not have to worry about learning a new app and could focus on what they were teaching. I also wanted a platform where the videos could be easily viewed by students in multiple classes. Flipgrid worked out well for these purposes.
The student videos were great! Some chose very basic topics, such as how to assemble their instruments, while others discussed more complex skills like how to play specific notes or perform various techniques. Giving students a choice in what to teach allowed them the opportunity to pick something they were comfortable with, but through the act of explaining it to others, higher level thinking skills came into play. Several times students had to re-record their videos after discovering missing information or moments that were not clear. Seeing this self-evaluation was encouraging. Yes, there were a few instances where I had to question students for clarity, but in almost all cases they were able to fix the issues. Some students chose to continue the project at home, and created more videos that evening and into the weekend. I will never complain about students extending learning (and teaching) into their own time!
While this was a project for Digital Learning Day, it is one that I will definitely repeat before next February. Students can learn a lot by teaching their peers, and giving them the opportunity to do it digitally increases the impact they can make. In fact, next month I plan to collaborate with a teacher in another state on a similar project. My students will create tutorial videos for her (younger) students as they prepare to learn their first instruments. Students learning from students is powerful for everyone involved and it’s my hope that this will be the first of many similar collaborations to come!
Instrumental Music Teacher
Arlington Public Schools