Technology + Musical = Awesome

We are up to our necks in rehearsals for our Grade 6 musical, Once on this Island, but I had to share the role of technology in making the musical run smoothly. Honestly, I don’t know how we ever did a musical without it. Here’s what we’ve been doing so far:


YouTube now provides us with access to other schools/theatre groups who have performed the same musical. The Director (my husband Miles) and the backstage crew have trawled the web for the best examples of choreography for each song, and we have ‘borrowed’ the bits we like to supplement what was already in our minds. It has saved a lot of time, and we can watch the videos as many times as we need to get a particular set of moves down.

Video Trailers

Every Grade 6 student has a role to play in this musical, and we simply couldn’t do it with our backstage crew. A couple of them have created video trailers for the show to promote interest, and one student is producing weekly videos for our school newsletter to keep the community informed of our progress. These have proven to be engaging and above all, entertaining, for the grade 6 students and our school community. We have used iMovie extensively for this purpose.

Screen shot 2011-06-03 at AM 09.40.45


Our talented backstage crew are also helping out with filming rehearsals, and assisting our Digital Media Specialist in manning the cameras for the actual performances.

Google Apps

The backstage crew have created surveys using Google Forms to source costumes, and have used Google Docs extensively to organise and share resources. A spreadsheet was created with a cast list and costuming needs, as well as documents with videos for choreography (including how to learn to waltz for one particular scene), images for face painting ideas, and a list of props needed for each scene. The shared editing feature has been invaluable for backstage organisation.

Screen shot 2011-06-03 at AM 09.41.10Tickets & Posters

Students have produced tickets and posters for the show using Pages, which have helped publicize it around our school.

I am proud of the way students are taking ownership throughout the show, including taking on the roles of stage managers, lighting, sound and PR. This is what we want our Middle School students to be doing, and technology is helping them along the way.

Self-directed learning with YouTube

This tweet from @pluke17 got me thinking…



He shared a link to this photo of his son Declan’s art work:

I thought it was a pretty amazing drawing, and I was equally impressed that this 11-year-old had found something he wanted to learn and knew exactly where to find the information that would help him.

I personally use YouTube a lot for learning all sorts of things, including new recipes, using new software, and looking for help with existing software. I remember when I first discovered how useful it was – it was a revelation!

I put the call out on Twitter to see what sorts of things other people were learning, and I got lots of interesting responses:


This is just a sample of the suggestions my PLN came up with – the Tip of the Iceberg (if you will excuse the pun).

It’s obvious great self-directed learning is happening at home for many people, but are our students, parents and teachers aware of what can be learned through YouTube?

Jeff and Kim at ISB had parents search ‘how to’ videos on YouTube for things they were interested in during a parent workshop on Social Networking. What a great way of informing parents about the potential uses of YouTube!

It would be great to see students have an opportunity to use YouTube to help further their learning in a variety of areas too. There are videos about spelling rules, times tables, taking action, learning French, learning the recorder, learning punctuation, how to cook, throwing a rugby ball, how to draw cartoons, how to make stop motion animation… The list goes on. Why aren’t we encouraging kids explore ways to help themselves?

I suspect people are worried students might come across an inappropriate video in their quest for quality information. Even though this may occur in some instances, I feel it is a perfect learning opportunity for students. Two questions immediately spring to mind that I would ask the students before they even touched the computers:

1. What should you do if you come across something that makes you feel uncomfortable?
2. How can the careful selection of keywords help you find the most relevant content?

Here are some other ways YouTube has been used in classroom settings:

  • Hot DogsOur Grade 2 students inquired into the origins of food products for their unit From Field to Table, and watched YouTube videos of  how different foods were made (such as this one on Fortune Cookies) to augment their print research. It was especially good for those who had difficulties reading.
  • Kathy Epps at ISOCS has YouTube playlists for videos that highlight the PYP Attitudes, e.g. this playlist for Respect. There are lists of books suitable for the PYP out there, but it’s great to see YouTube being used as a resource in a similar way.
  • Many of us use the Common Craft videos on YouTube to introduce applications or ideas to students or staff. Their simple and effective method of explanation appeals to all.

How have you used YouTube as a learning resource? Would you encourage students to head to YouTube to learn more about things they are interested in?

I look forward to your ideas!

Media + election = new lesson

Monica (Grade 3) comes into my lesson after lunch and says, “Mrs Beasley, can I share with you something I’m really proud of?”
“Of course, I’d love to hear it,” I reply.
“Barack Obama won the US election and he is the first black president of the United States!”
Well, when you have passion like that, you can’t just ignore it! I popped the MSNBC website I’d been following up on the IWB and we checked out the results. When we looked, it was Obama 333 and McCain 156 (if memory serves me correctly). It updated while we were looking at it, and that was even more exciting for the class.

Politics – Political News & Updates- via kwout

Not having any firsthand experience with a US election (what with being a Kiwi and all), I nabbed our teacher librarian Katie for an expert opinion.

She directed me to the common craft video below, so we played that to get a general understanding. It linked well to the MSNBC site, as it made sense  of the ‘value’ of each state, and the numbers that each candidate had to their name.

Midway, our (British) Vice-Principal walked in and shared his thoughts on the election. He emphasised the historical nature of Obama’s victory and the significance of him being the first black president of the USA.

What I loved about this day was the ability to go with the children’s interests, draw upon the expertise of other colleagues and find something to help illustrate the event at a moment’s notice. It certainly wasn’t what I had planned for the class that day, but hopefully by going with the teachable moment, the students will look back on this historical day and remember where they were and what they were doing at the time Obama became president.