Spruce Up Your Teaching Routine With This Fun App (+ Creative Ways to Use It!)

Spruce Up Your Teaching Routine With This Fun App (+ Creative Ways to Use It!)

We all get into ruts in our teaching from time to time.

With all the planning and preparation that goes into teaching week to week, choosing repertoire, dealing with the administrative responsibilities, and all the other things that come across our plate on a given day, there’s only so much time you can spend planning, crafting, and creating innovative lesson plans and teaching strategies.

The struggle is real, y’all.

A few weeks ago, I was in the midst of planning my first studio class for my piano students and searching for a fun game/musical activity that would get everyone up and moving and work for students at different grade levels.

Enter the Decide Now! app.

5 Digital Worship Planning Resources

5 Digital Worship Planning Resources

For many of us, worship planning is a big part of our jobs. It's creative and fulfilling, but it can also be tedious and a little time-consuming.

Plus, the more people that are involved in your worship planning, the more complicated it gets:

Susan coordinates the lay leaders
Chris oversees the audio/visual team
The pastor plans the Scriptures, prayers, and sermon
And then there's all the music in the service...

Good communication is key to planning and leading worship services and having everything go smoothly.

The Ins and Outs of Using Evernote

The Ins and Outs of Using Evernote

Paper clutter. Even in our modern, digital world, paper clutter is still a problem. There's that note a parent left on your desk last week. That receipt from your most recent music purchase. That Post-It you wrote to yourself reminding you to call the piano tuner. A draft of Sunday's bulletin. Unopened mail.

The problem is that paper clutter equals mental clutter.

Researchers suggest that when your home or work space is cluttered, it hinders your ability to focus. It also limits your ability to take in and process new information (source). 

Though it might seem innocent enough, clutter can become a distraction, overwhelming your brain with visual and tactile stimuli, and may lead to feelings of guilt, anxiety, and frustration (source).

Sherrie Bourg Carter of Psychology Today noted: "Clutter inhibits creativity and productivity by invading the open spaces that allow most people to think, brainstorm, and problem solve."

What if I told you there was an easy, free way to save papers, notes, photos, business cards, receipts, Post-Its, and even web clips in one convenient location? Stay on top of projects. Keep everything organized. Make collaboration a breeze. Keep good records. Never lose a piece of paper on your desk again.


Look at me writing a post from my phone!  That’s right – you’re looking at the newest member of the iPhone club!  From FaceTime to iMessage to real-time traffic reports to web-surfing that’s faster than my laptop, I am a huge fan.  I can keep up with my emails on the go, update Twitter and Facebook in one fell swoop, and of course, write these fun updates for y’all while I’m traveling!

In addition to the personal and professional benefits, I’ve been experimenting with the iPhone as a teaching tool.  Last week, I introduced “Model T” from The Music Tree: Part I to a student for the first time.  We identified the rhythm and tonal patterns but when it came time to put everything together, I realized my student didn’t know what a Model T was.  Have no fear, the iPhone is here!  I quickly looked up a picture and a short Wikipedia article to share and discuss for a moment.  Following this teaching moment, the tempo indication, “bumping along” made much for sense!

A few days later, I had a high school student working on “Minuet en rondeau” by Jean-Philippe Rameau.  “Keyboard music from this period would have been written for what instrument?” I asked.  After a moment of thought, she shrugged.  “The harpsichord,” I said.  In order to dispel the notion that the harpsichord was played vertically like a harp, I quickly pulled out my phone, looked up a picture, and found a video performance of a 2-manual harpsichord so she could see and hear the instrument in action.  This opened the door for a conversation in stylistic interpretation, articulation choices, and the historical differences in instrument construction.  Now she recognizes that the ornamentation has a practical benefit as well as a decorative one.

Tonight, I plan to bring this recording of “While By My Sheep” into choir practice.  I think I’ll use my iPhone.

Image Credit: Jen Shenk

First Day of School

It's my first day of school today - second year as a professor!  What a different world it is to spend the last few weeks of summer checking enrollment, revising a syllabus, triple-checking all the technology in the classroom, and writing lesson plans.

There's something very exciting to me about this world of academia.  Students criss-crossing over the quad; tall, ivy-covered buildings; libraries full of books; the voices of lecturers drifting through the hallway.  The pursuit of knowledge can be a very exciting one if you put your mind to learning.  As I approach the academic world from "the other side," I feel like one of my primary goals as a teacher is to inspire learning.  I want my students to succeed and do well but I want them to truly desire learning most of all.  As I told a student today, I truly believe you can be as successful as you want to be.  How do you teach this level of commitment and strength of will?  How do you develop independent learners?  So you see, even professors have much still to learn.

This afternoon, I'll meet the five bright-eyed students currently enrolled in my class (as of 10:19 p.m. last night); dive into our thick, spiral-bound textbook; and pray for no major technology failures.  However, seeing as how technology is not always on our my side, the backup plan is to play "air piano" and play multiple rounds of "rhythm editing" - a sure crowd-pleaser.  Don't you wish you were in my class?!

Image Credit: personal