When I began reading about the effects of mentally organizing knowledge and building connections between subject matter, I immediately thought about cross-curricular teaching in my music classes. As an arts teacher I feel that music offers an alternate way for students to reach that "aha" moment when knowledge suddenly clicks.
Connecting an abstract concept to a musical idea while building upon prior knowledge is often the combination students need to get the big picture. In my current long-term teaching position as an orchestra director, the students listen to a variety of musical styles at the beginning of class each week. The pieces are culturally diverse; today's listening was of a young hip-hop violinist who lives in the US but was born in Israel (Miri Ben-Ari). The students read an interesting article about the artist and you could see instant connections to their studies of current events involving Israel and the Middle East. This is an excellent way to build those clusters of knowledge that, in the long run, play off each other and feed the introduction of new information. Suddenly there is a personality and artistry attached to a culture, and this new role model performs with the same musical effervescence we are trying to draw from our young musicians. The combination of seeing her perform, learning her struggles as a young Israeli musician, and hearing her amazing performance with Kanye West creates the "aha" moment that connects a person they can relate to with the Middle East politics they've been reading about.
It doesn't always take music to generate such an association. As the chapter outlines for us, teachers need to take the time to review first and try to create knowledge organizations that match the task at hand (such as the way a test is administered). This takes time at the beginning of each lesson but may be well worth it in the end.
Concept mapping to outline knowledge clusters gives students the advantage of a visual image. Using Powerpoint to recreate the concept map found in our text was a great way to become familiar with the extensive image editing features available. These tools are something we will use frequently as instructional designers, since Powerpoint is a popular program to create those slides for various learning management systems.
This week's reading explored how students' prior knowledge affects their learning and ability to understand and retain new information. The authors suggest prior to lessons, making an assessment of which skills the students possess using techniques such as pre-assessments, talking to colleagues who taught the students the previous year, brainstorming with the students, observing patterns of error, etc. These are good suggestions, probably something that most experienced teachers are aware of but may not always put into practice.
As an instrumental music instructor, I can say we have the opportunity to review prior knowledge and skills every day during warmups and skill review. Most directors will incorporate rhythms, scales, or tone production exercises within the warmup. The students are reviewing basics on a daily basis which is not always possible in an academic classroom. In addition, instrumental music students usually have the same team of directors for a number of years, so they know what prior knowledge the students have been taught.
In setting up my Weebly website shell for this class, I found it to be extremely easy. I first used Weebly in another class and I have found it to be one of the easiest website platforms I have used. There are also great tutorials if you need help, and the topics of each are nice, short, and easy to understand. There is even a live chat/tutorial option.
Weebly's web design tools are, indeed, easy enough for young students to use in a class. I think it could be a very engaging way for them to create a web-based portfolio for their work while learning technology skills that will be valuable to them later.
The only negative I found with Weebly is that there doesn't seem to be an easy option for changing the font color in the templates. This would be a nice feature for teachers with visually impaired students. I plan to experiment with the HTML coding to make minor adjustments to both the text color and the standard templates.