A Technology-Assisted Assessment

This post is to document a lesson plan which will include a technology-integrated assessment.  I will be facilitating this next week.

Here is a break down of the lesson:

State Content Standards:

  • 4.1.1 Perform melodic notation for simple songs in major keys.
  • 3.1.1 Perform simple rhythmic patterns using eighth notes, quarter notes, half notes, dotted half notes, whole notes, and rests.


  • The band students will accurately read and perform music that has quarter notes and eighth notes.

Lesson Abstract:

  • I will begin by reviewing quarter note rhythms.  Then, I will assess student knowledge of eighth notes, by asking them to clap rhythms that have quarter/eighth note patterns.
  • I will introduce the concept of eighth notes, explaining that they are half the length of a quarter note.
  • The students will be instructed to open their band books to an exercise with quarter/eighth note patterns.
  • The class will clap reach measure of the selection, one measure at a time.  I will demonstrate for the first two, and ask the students to figure the following measures on their own.
  • I will give the students 90 seconds to review the pitches and practice the note fingerings for the exercise.
  • We will make our first attempt at playing the exercise on our instruments.  I will facilitate corrections as needed.
  • Each students will play the exercise for me, as I record them with a tablet.
  • We will review some of the recordings and make critiques.


The students will perform the exercise, which will be recorded.  As a class, we will review some of the recordings and make observations–praise and critiques.  he focus for this lesson will be on playing the correct rhythm.

Technology Tool:

This assessment will require a tablet with recording capability.

PSA Assignment

I am working on a public service announcement (PSA), as part of the course I’m currently enrolled in.  My PSA is going to be about promoting music education.  So, here are some photos I have taken for the PSA.  The idea is to draw the viewer’s attention to the theme of music in school.  Some of these shots use lines, symmetry, and depth of field to make, for instance, the strings of a violin or guitar prominent.  Some of these images use field blurs to draw focus on smiling music students, to demonstrate how music education brings joy, and also discipline and accomplishment.  One shot uses an element of pattern to illuminate the challenge of reading music.

Technology and Assessment

Tests are not the only objective assessment of student learning.  However, tests do have a function in the process of teaching:  When effectively implemented, they provide an accurate indicator of how well students grasp the material being taught.  Also, tests can be useful when trying to gain a sense of student comprehension of specific concepts.

However, there are countless objective assessments of student learning.  In a band class, students might make videos of their practice sessions throughout the year.  These videos would offer an objective assessment of their learning as it pertains to playing an instrument or singing.  Another objective assessment of student learning would be e-portfolios.  An e-porfolio is a digital collection of artifacts that demonstrate learning over a period of time.  So, although testing has a role to play in education, it is by no means the only objective assessment of student learning.

Here is another example of objective evaluation that is not a test, in the traditional sense:

The Technology-Infused Classroom

The above video is a testimonial about the virtual classroom service “Edmodo (link)” and “Infuse Learning (link)”.  This service lets the teacher interface with students via the internet using a variety of formats.  Services such as these are on the rise.

So, what will a classroom look like, when it is infused with 21st century technology?

  • Inter-connectivity–Students will be interconnected with their teacher, peers, and possibly other students from around the globe.
  • Enhanced communication–Teachers will be able to communicate efficiently with parents and students.  Web conferencing, virtual classrooms, instant messaging, among others, will change the way teachers communicate.
  • Breaking down barriers–The language barrier will begin to be broken down, thanks to highly advances translation software.  Students will soon be able to communicate across the globe regardless of language.
  • Special needs–Students with special needs will have access to a cornucopia of technology to meet their needs.  Teachers will be able to better differentiate instruction in order ot reach all students.
  • Collaboration–Technology will change the way students collaborate in the classroom.  Shared document editors like Google Docs will allow students to work together from anywhere on projects.
  • Common skills–Skills like word processing, emailing, and searching the internet will be as common as handwriting, perhaps even more common.
  • Assessment–21st century technology will change the way teachers do assessment via online tests, virtual classrooms, assessment software, tablets, smartphones, and more.  Students can take a test from home, create a video as a form of assessment, or join web conferences to take an oral exam.

Consider the image above.  This is how I would like to infuse my classroom with technology.  Students in this classroom are engaged in a variety of ways.  The teacher is no longer the center of attention.  A wide array of technology is being put to use.  The classroom is divided into stations, each with a different technology at the student’s disposal.

Visual Literacy

In the video above, George Lucas makes an interesting comment on visual literacy. In a world where visual media is everywhere, shouldn’t we emphasize the rules of visual communication alongside language literacy?  What would that look like in the classroom?

First off, let’s define “visual literacy.”

The Center for Visual Literacy (see link below) says, “We’ve all heard the old adage ‘A picture is worth a thousand words.’ Learning to read those pictures gives us advantages in both work and life.”

Essentially, visual literacy is the ability to identify, interpret, and understand images.  With the emergence of Smartphones and web 2.0, society is becoming more “image saturated.”  Anyone with a smartphone has a high resolution camera, a buffet of photo editing apps, and a video recorder.  Students need to understand the language of images.

In the Classroom

Visual media is a form of communication.  We spend a lot of time in schools teaching children the rules of written language–how to read and write, what each letter means, what words mean, how to order them, how to put together sentences and paragraphs, and how to understand those sentences paragraphs.  The classroom should also engage children in interpreting images.

So what does that look like?  Well, teachers can relay information using graphics organizers, then ask students to interpret the image.  Teachers can task the students with creating visual representations of a concept.  By doing so, the delivery of content will also engage visual literacy skills, which are highly relevant in today’s image saturated world.  Moreover, by creating an image-rich learning environment, teachers will be able to reach a more diverse group of unique learners.

The Value in Variety

When facilitating learning, teachers have a lot to consider–auditory learners, visual learners, tactile learners, English learners, learners with special needs, learners from different socio-economic backgrounds, introverts, extroverts, left-brained, right-brained, and so on.  Teachers have little to no say in what types of student will be enrolled in their classes.  Therefore, a teacher who is not well-versed in a variety of instructional strategies will not be equipped to meet the needs of every student.  An amazing lecturer will reach the auditory learners, but what about the kinesthetic learners?  How can instruction be differentiated to meet the special needs of certain students, such as those who are learning English as a second language?  How can the teacher ensure that each student is receiving meaningful instruction?

How do I reach every student in my classroom?

The answer, though manifold, can be summed up in a word:  Variety.

In order to meet the variety of unique needs encapsulated within a typical classroom, teachers must possess deep knowledge and skill at implementing a variety of instructional strategies.

For the sake of example, consider the following scenario:

Student A and Student B are attending Mr. Example’s band class.  Mr. Example has been teaching a new concept:  16th notes.  To teach this content, Mr. Example employs a behaviorist educational strategy (i.e., showing the students a note pattern, demonstrating the pattern, then drilling and practicing the pattern).  Student A quickly grasps the concept and is able to apply the learning to new music. Student B, however, cannot apply the drilled & practiced behavior to new music.

What does Mr. Example do?  Does he continue to employ the similar strategies?  Not if he is well versed in a variety of instructional strategies.

Stepping back, and taking a cognitivist perspective, Mr. Example now aims to determine what kind of learner Student B is (e.g., with which strategy is Student B more likely to make the necessary cognitive connection).  After a few moments with Student B, Mr. Example noticed that Student B described 8th notes as “two sounds in a beat”.  It was then Mr. Example realized that Student B is more likely to learn the concept through oral explanation.  In other words, Student B is an auditory learner.  So, Mr. Example explains that 16th notes are “four sounds in a beat.”  Student B quickly grasps the concept and is able to apply it to new music.

Let’s extend the scenario further:

Mr. Example facilitates a playing test.  Student A and Student B do well.  However, Student C is shy, and refuses to play individually.  Does Mr. Example shrug Student C off, and simply issue a low grade?  Not if his repertoire of instructional strategies is varied enough.

When asked, “Why not?”  Student C’s response indicated insecurity, because the other students can produce a better tone quality.  Mr. Example decides to apply social psychology to his instructional strategy.  At the next playing test, Mr. Example has the entire class applaud and offer praise after each student performs.  As a result, the learning environment becomes more positive.  Any perceived threat of ridicule is removed, and Student C feels more secure in playing alone.  The class applauds Student C’s efforts afterwards.

This example illustrates a small portion of the vast spectrum of unique learners.  For each unique learner, there are instructional strategies that will meet their needs, and instructional strategies that won’t.

But what about technology?

Today’s society is technology-rich, and it’s only becoming richer.  Consider this graphic:

And this one:

Source:  Statista

Given the rapid emergence of new technology, every student has at least one need in common:  technology in education.   When considering the role of technology in education today, one only needs to examine the role it has taken in society.  Imagine going on a trip without your smartphone.  Imagine having to conduct research for a college-level essay without the aid of computers.  Technology has taken such a prominent place in society, that life without the internet has become difficult to fathom, even for those of us who were born before the internet’s emergence.  Ken Robinson (see the embedded video below) summed it up well when he said, “Technology has changed the entire context of education.”

Because of the ubiquitous role technology has taken in society, and the rapid rate at which new technology is emerging, the context of education has changed.  As a result, teachers must be tasked with designing instruction which incorporates cutting-edge technology in meaningful ways:  Ways that align to the ISTE standards (see the link below), that teach students to harness new technology for collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical thinking; ways that teach students the impact technology will have on their futures.

How can that be achieved?  Simply put, by using the technology.  Is your class working on a project?  Incorporate shared documents.  Let the students collaborate via Google docs create their presentations.  Are you employing a drill and practice strategy?  Find a piece of educational software to facilitate the drill and practice.  Are you planning on engaging the students in a class discussion?  Create a forum, and let the students discuss online.  Teachers in the 21st century should be equipped to facilitate these types of learning experiences in a safe, effective manner.

In conclusion, teachers have a lot to consider when designing instruction.  The needs of each student must be met.  In order to do that, teachers must be well versed in a wide variety of instructional strategies.  They must be knowledgeable about student diversity, and skilled at discerning which strategies to employ.  Furthermore, teachers must learn to incorporate technology into their instructional design.  If they can achieve these things, teachers will be able to equip every learner, not just some, with the knowledge and skills necessary to compete and thrive as adults.

Further reading:

http://www.iste.org/standards – The International Society for Technology in Education