Apps come to music classroom in Quaker Valley school

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A music teacher at Edgeworth Elementary School in the Quaker Valley School District is starting a new kind of recycling program using iPod Touches and iPhones.

Erik Kolodziej is asking for the devices so that his students can use them in his music classes, which typically involve students moving around the room, singing, playing instruments and creating music.

Lately, Mr. Kolodziej has been supplementing the instruction with music learning apps on iPads, iPhones and iPods.

Mr. Kolodziej came up with the idea after learning through social media that other music teachers were having students use apps on iPads. A colleague of his also was using apps with band and strings students.

"I figured they had good ideas, so why not try it out myself?" he said.

Mr. Kolodziej started last year with one iPad provided by the school district, but found it difficult. This year, he started using his personal iPad and iPhone, projecting them onto a screen so that the entire class could play at one time. Then, he decided to take it even further. A few weeks ago, Mr. Kolodziej purchased four iPads and one iPod for students to use in his classroom. The children take turns using the devices in small groups.

Students "love it," he said. "It is fun, and they know their way around a device like nobody's business. Technology is where kids are right now," he said. "Why not meet them where they are? That's what I am doing."

"The light bulb went off in my head," he said. "Why not see if others have devices that are not used anymore but still in good condition and then repurpose them for student learning?"

His goal is to collect unused (or gently used) iPhones and iPods. He realizes that iPads are "big-ticket" items to ask for. "That is why I am asking for the smaller devices," he said. "These are easier for people to part with and to donate."

The iPhones should be Generation 4 or later, and the iPods should be Generation 2 or later. The used devices also should be able to turn on and off, have their screens intact and have working chargers. Once collected, they will be wiped clean, reset and loaded with the apps.

Mr. Kolodziej's goal is two students per device to ensure more time for practicing skills and cooperative learning.

Fourth- and fifth-graders are using the apps. Third graders will have a chance later in the year. He uses the apps with students once every few weeks to check up on their music literacy skills.

Students are using an app called Flashnote Derby. With it, students can practice their note-reading skills, "which are very important when it comes to reading, creating and making music," Mr. Kolodziej said. Not only that, he said that the app is fun for kids.

"In Flashnote Derby, students are horse racing," he said. "A note pops up on the screen, and the students must choose the correct letter name of the note." The more notes that the students get right, the better their horses do, and the better their game scores.

His students used to practice identifying note names with flash cards, playing Around the World. The students enjoyed it, but "just two times through with the flash cards and student interest was down," he said. Now, "kids will play app games over and over again."

Other apps that he hopes his students can eventually use are Note Squish, Rhythm Cat, Blob Chorus, NoteWorks and Screen Chomp. He said that these apps can help with things like rhythm, identifying note names and ear training.

The times that he has used technology with the students, they have been "spread around the room in groups, helping each other, laughing and smiling at getting a good score with the game."

The apps are helping students to practice skills in many ways, he said. "A teacher always needs a large bag of tricks to vary activities and keep class relevant and exciting for the students."

However, Mr. Kolodziej does not believe that he is replacing himself as a teacher with the apps.

"We still make music by doing with our voices, bodies and instruments. These apps are allowing students to practice the skills I teach," he said. "I prepare the kids, I present the material, we practice through active music-making, and then this technology is the icing on the cake."

To donate a new or gently used iPhone or iPod Touch, drop it off at the school, 200 Meadow Lane. Information: 412-749-3608 or

Shellie Petri Budzeak, freelance writer:

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