I love working with teachers. Part of it is the importance of the work they do and the sense of satisfaction, both professional and personal, I feel when I am able to make them more powerful and effective. But another reason is that teachers are people who feel compelled to share their best ideas. And because of this trait, it is not unusual for a teacher, generally during a break, to come up to me and say, "Have you seen this Web site, Jim?" And then they give me a URL, and very often the site they pass along is great.
Early this past winter, in a session in a middle school in New England, I was eating lunch in the workshop room. Most of the participants had left the room for lunch, but a couple of teachers had also brought along bag lunches, and we got to talking.
During the workshop, we had been discussing the importance of teachers having classroom Web page, and one of the teachers wanted to show me her husband's -- he is a music teacher in a local elementary school. So I popped his page up on the big screen via the projector (see another of my Edutopia.org blog posts for more on the importance of large-screen projection), and I navigated through the site, one that was as impressive for the program it supported as it was for its technical strengths.
And this is where I discovered a link to the Web site of music educator Phil Tulga, which includes interactive tools that use music to support learning in many curriculum areas. The first tool I played with, and the one I now use to introduce this site to others, is his Unifix Cube Drum Machine.
Visually simple, this tool uses three colors of Unifix cubes (red, yellow, and blue) to indicate a loud strike, a soft strike, and no strike. Different rhythm instruments (conga, snare, shaker, and so on) can be toggled on or off, and the resulting rhythm can be played at varying tempos and started and paused using simple, large buttons.
Several preprogrammed rhythms are included, all customizable by clicking on the individual cubes to roll from red to blue to yellow to red. The rhythms range from regional beats from around the world to mathematical rhythms like 2:3 or 2:3:4 ratios. Imagine that -- listening to a complex mathematical concept to gain understanding.
Oh, and one more thing: This kind of tool is perfect for use by students and teachers on an interactive whiteboard with a set of speakers attached to make those rhythms ring out.
Ever since I was shown this site, I have enjoyed showing it to other teachers, and I am confident many have gone on to spread it further. Maybe the tool they highlight is the Morse Code Music Maker, used to help kids hear the music in a phrase, but whatever they demonstrate, the important thing is that it is another case of teachers supporting each other in a true community of learners. It's teachers teaching teachers.
So, what Web-based resources has a colleague shown you that you are glad to know about? Or what are the online tools you point others toward, sharing, at the same time, examples of how you have used them to improve teaching and learning in your classroom? Share it here, and you never know how many others you will have informed.
After all, teach a teacher a way to help more kids, and you know what they're going to have to do with that knowledge -- teach someone else.