Music Education Blogs: More Than Just Diaries
By James Frankel
By now, you have probably heard of blogs – short for weblogs. Your students certainly have. Blogs are hosted on websites and usually contain journal-like entries from an author on a wide variety of topics. Some blogs are personal diaries, and some contain political views and opinions (made famous during the 2004 Presidential election). Some blogs are all about food, and some are focused on education. Blogs can contain text, hyperlinks to related websites, visual images, and short audio (often podcasts) and video clips. Anyone can create a blog – often for free – and anyone can read it. Additionally, most blogs allow readers to post comments -often creating an interesting dialogue between the author of the blog and the community that reads it. Readers can also subscribe to a blog by creating an RSS feed (similar to subscribing to podcasts) so that they get the latest postings. While there are many blogs out there about music, only a few are specifically focused on music education. The following is a listing of some of the best blogs about music education.
A Quick Word of Advice
Because blogs are hosted on web servers, almost all of them are accessible by anyone. Always bear in mind that what you write in your blog can be read by anyone – including fellow teachers, students, parents, and administrators. There are many stories of teachers who have posted things on their blogs about administrators and students who have been dismissed when the person mentioned discovered them. Most blogs are searchable on Google. Don’t think your students don’t Google you…they probably do. Be smart.
The Music Educators Network
This website, created by Evan Tobias and Ted Love, is perhaps the best Music Education blogging websites out there. It is part of the Music Educator’s Network that Tobias and Love created a number of years ago to give music educators a community to share teaching ideas about music education, technology, and many other related topics. It is an extremely well run website with fabulous blog entries from a number of talented music educators. While the main website (www.musiced.net) is currently undergoing some updating, I strongly urge you to check out the blogging component of the site and consider joining the Network. By joining the network, members can create their own blogs and have access to server space to host their own music department websites. I have found that all of the entries (especially in Tobias’ blog – http://etobiasblog.musiced.net) have been extremely well written with many links to other relevant websites and articles. Check out the site, post your own comments, and join The Network.
Music Education Blog at About.com
This blog is hosted on About.com – a website that’s been around for a decade has over 500 “Guides” who post daily blog entries and help visitors navigate the Internet to find the meaningful content they are looking for. There are many different “channels” on About.com, and one of them is on education. The Music Education Blog on About.com, guided by Espie Estrella, contains daily posts on a wide variety of relevant topics – everything from music for young children to sheet music and music theory resources. One great feature is “This Day in Music History” which lists important events in music history – everything from birthdays to premieres. Another feature lists “Music Education in the News” – a great source for news stories about music programs across the country. While there are many advertisements on the site (which help to support it), the content is excellent. There are many different topics to choose from, everything from each containing great articles and links to relevant websites. Best of all – it’s free!
The Future of Music
Gerd Leonhard is the coauthor of the Future of Music: A Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution. His blog, titled The Future of Music, covers the convergence between music, media, entertainment and technology. There are many very interesting posts focusing on the latest news in the world of music, media, and the Internet. At the time of this writing, Digital Rights Management (DRM), blogging resources, and the acquisition of YouTube by Google, are some of the recent posts – with links to articles and related websites. This is a great blog for anyone who is trying to stay ahead of the game in technology – especially how it may affect music and the way we teach it.
The Midwest Clinic Blog
The Midwest Clinic is one of the best conferences for band and orchestra directors in America. Held each December in Chicago, the Midwest Clinic features fantastic performances by some of the country’s best bands and orchestras, and clinics by some of the nation’s top educators, conductors, and composers. This year, the Midwest Clinic has added a blogging component to their website, hosting blogs by all of the directors of the ensembles featured at the conference. These blogs will detail their experiences at the conference. Eventually, the Midwest Clinic will expand these blogs to include the experiences of the teachers and students who attend the conference as well.
Music For All
The Music For All Foundation hosts a blog about its latest news on the music advocacy front. The mission of the organization, which has recently merged with Bands of America, is to expand the role of music and the arts in education, to heighten the public’s appreciation of the value of music and arts education, and to create a positive environment for the arts through societal change. The blog entries on the website detail these efforts.
The Digital Music Educator
This website, run by a Florida band director named Owen Bradley, is focused more on the technology side of music education. The site has many entries about specific technologies and how they can be utilized in the classroom. For example, in a post dated November 1, 2006, Bradley discusses how a student in his marching band came up with a novel way of teaching rhythms using the popular video game Dance Dance Revolution. In another post he lists links to interesting articles about various types of technology. It is a great example of what music teachers are doing with blogs.
There are many different ways to start your own blog – and now is the perfect time to get blogging. You can visit a number of different websites that offer free space on their servers to blog. These websites include:
You can also blog on social networking sites like www.myspace.com, www.friendster.com, and www.facebook.com - but I would be cautious with these websites as your students are probably already members. Finally, www.musiced.net offers free blog space on their server to any music educator who would like to start blogging. I would strongly recommend checking out this option. Each of the websites mentioned has detailed instructions how to set up and maintain a blog.
As music educators, I believe that we all need to share our expertise with each other. Teaching music is a very noble profession, but it is also a very complex one. Blogging is one way to share your ideas with others, and a great way to get teaching and project ideas for your classroom.
I have been blogging since this past September and I am thoroughly enjoying it. Writing your ideas down makes you think about the craft of teaching and the issues surrounding it. Reading comments from other music educators about your ideas is a very powerful interaction. I have titled my blog All Things Technology, the focus of which is the integration of technology into music education. There are tech tips, product reviews, and other musings on a variety of related topics. Please visit my blog at: http://jamesfrankel.musiced.net. I welcome your comments and suggestions. Happy Blogging!