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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Launch Grant 2012-2013: Using iPads to enhance 2nd grade music class

Below are comments about a variety of apps I found on iPad.  Some I used in 2nd grade classes.  Others I might like to use next year, and some are better for younger children.  There are many fun ones, and some very sophisticated.  My goal was to try to help the 2nd graders do something they couldn’t do without an iPad.  I think that goal was achieved when the children played music on iPad instruments.  I plan to continue using iPads next year - there is more to do!
Apps used in class:
Learning about instruments:
MSO Learn from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Kids can hear an entire orchestra play, and then listen to each section of the orchestra playing the same piece. Also has bits played by each instrument solo, and recommendations for further listening available on iTunes.
Super Flash Musical allows kids to identify musical instruments by sound, as well as through pictures.  Free, or can upgrade for more instruments.
Learning Music History
Classical Kids Student's Edition.  Stories about famous composers.  2nd Graders  listened to "Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery", a story set in 17th century Venice, and told from a child's point of view.  This had been part of the 2nd grade curriculum for several years using a CD.  It was helpful to the children to have still pictures to enhance their ideas of the period, and the vocabulary they heard.  Several other composers’ stories are available as apps, but the amount of time it takes to listen makes it prohibitive to do more than one story a year.
Making music:
Toca Band - experiment with different characters in different “jobs” in a band.  In each level the character’s sound becomes more complicated until, at the top level, the character is the soloist. Lower levels include bass line, harmony, rhythm. The children who tried this loved it.  They suggested sharing their “bands” with the class by plugging in to the interactive whiteboard.  The board does not have an interface with the app, but it does project so that the whole class can see what the individual student does on the iPad.
(Dr) Seuss Band.  Learn to play songs by touching colored dots that float in the rhythm of the song.  Change the sound of instruments at will.  Earn more levels of difficulty and more songs.
The kids who are taking piano lessons like this one a lot.  The song that the app plays is introduced at various levels of difficulty.  Fun!
Music Sparkles allows kids to create songs on a variety of instruments. Choose other instruments to accompany. Try to play with the beat of the accompaniment.  Find and remember a sound combination you like.  The second graders loved this app, but it would have been great if they could have jammed.  The only approach I found was to have them work with a partner, listen to what that partner did, and try to add something to it.

Apps not used by the children this year:
Smule - this is an amazing app, but needs more support than our present iPads offer.  There are several different “instruments” available.  The piano is played by tapping colored dots that float rhythmically down the screen (similar to Seuss Band).  An ocarina can be created using an iPhone.  By blowing into the top of the phone the sound is produced.  The fingering is on the screen held between the two hands with 2 or 3 holes on each side.  The app offers several different popular songs, and individuals can join the band.  As with Garage Band, the person playing along has to be quite competent on the instrument in order to play at the proper tempo, with the proper pitches and rhythm.  Smule is another way to “Jam”.  
Garage Band (see apps used by the teacher)  The instruments available in garage band are incredible. They can be set up and played in ways that would not be possible on a non-digital version of the instrument.  Given more time, 2nd graders could play endlessly with the sounds on Garage Band.  Similar to Music Sparkles in the creative arena, but with the sounds of real instruments.  
I watched the entire instruction series of youtube videos to get a grasp on how to Jam using Garage Band.  It would require more equipment than we have at this point in time, and would be difficult to do with most second grade children.  Better for middle or upper school students - or their teachers!
Monkey Drum have the monkey copy your rhythm.  When my 9 yr old grandson got hold of it he had the monkey spinning it’s head around.  This app is ready for any age!
Singing Fingers - finger painting with sound.  As you make a sound you also draw on the screen.  The sound is saved, linked to the drawing.  Playback occurs when you touch the picture drawn - can be reversed, scratched.  The sound follows your finger.
Piano Pad - records songs on a keyboard labelled with letters for each key.  Shows the notes being played on a staff simultaneously.  Lots of options for playing with the song recorded.
Pitch Painter - by Morton Subotnick  Draw a melody with your finger.  Then play with it - invert, play backwards. Global music component allows choosing instruments from different parts of the world.  Change one “painting” to instruments from different continents.
Go Go Xylo - choose a prerecorded song.  The app shows how to play the song on a colorful xylophone.  The notes for the song are highlighted in music notation.  With or without singing the words and/or accompaniment.
I Can Xylo - leads you through playing a song by highlighting the note to press on a xylophone. Good for younger kids, or anyone inexperienced on a xylophone.

Apps used by the teacher:
Garage Band - this is a handy recording device for live recording of children’s performances, using the microphone option. The file can be sent via e-mail to a computer where editing can happen.  I haven’t determined whether there is a music editing app for iPad, so I edit the files on my computer using Audacity, a free download.  Little children love to hear themselves singing, so I recorded various different class throughout the year, and they enjoyed listening.  Sometimes the recordings are used for performances in the gym where it’s nice to have the security of the students being able to sing with a recording of themselves.

-Ada Park Snider

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