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Technology and Formative Assessment

In formative assessment, “Oops” is OK. In the General Music classroom, among the various subjects that we cover is the study of the Piano-Keyboard. Students get two marking periods of Piano Keyboard Skills Class in 6th grade and then again in 7th grade. Much of our time is spent on the fundamentals for many reasons. First, in 6th grade, most of the students have never played before. Second, in 7th grade, by the time they play the keyboards it has been approximately 6 months since the end of their 6th grade study, and a lot of forgetting occurs. Third, it is a group class, not individual lessons, so I commonly have 18 to 20 kids playing at one time, which is not a lot of time for correcting individual learning issues.
Formative assessments can be a means of giving the students the feedback they need to correct any playing issues, and point out where concepts may be misunderstood and need re-teaching. I have found three technology based formative assessment tools that can enable me to keep track of student progress and give the individualized feedback they really need. I’ve created a Storify to tell music teachers about three easy to use formative assessment tools.


Music Theory.net is a free customizable web-based tool for students to be able to practice their note reading skills on both the treble and bass clefs, as it relates to the piano keyboard. Once the students have mastered the basic skill of note reading/naming, it is time to figure out where that note is on the piano keyboard. This tool allows the drill and practice needed to accomplish that task. The customization options allow the choice of one or more clefs, selecting a note range to practice, and one can opt in or out for sharps and flats. Another nice thing about this tool is that it generates a score that the student can email both to themselves for personal use, and to the teacher for data collection. Here is a tutorial I found for how to use the Reverse Identification exercise on Music Theory.net:

Note Works Free is an app available for both iPad or for the Android platform. Note Works Free is a video game that students can play to reinforce note names and their locations on the keyboard. The students get the fun of playing a game, while getting the immediate feedback they need to know that they may still be lacking skill in reading notes on the staff. The game can be set to slow, medium or fast speed, and the students get a second chance on missed notes to get the right response and move on. For those who need it, there is even an option to play with hints, so everyone has some level of success. I have made a tutorial for how to use this game on iPad, and most of the information should still be true for the game on Android platform.

My third formative assessment tool is Audacity. This is an audio recording tool. I can use this to record my students playing the piano, and I have a few options for using this. I can give verbal feedback at the end of the performance on the recording and email the recording to the student. Even better, I can email the saved recording to the student and they can listen to themselves and do a self-assessment/reflection on their own performance. Self-assessment allows students to take ownership of their learning. A self-assessment rubric for piano performances can be found here.
Another possible way to use Audacity is to play some of the examples anonymously to the class as exemplars, and have the students take the role of teacher and assess others’ performances. Here is a tutorial I found for how to use audacity:

From the Technology Tools for Formative Assessment video, I also learned about other free online formative assessment tools, including the tool Kahoot, which is a game based polling application tool. Kahoot allows the teacher to ask powerful questions in a fun way. Another polling tool is Socrative. This tools allows the teacher not only to do exit polls, in class polls, but to create and store entire quizzes, that can give immediate feedback to students, which is one of the most valuable formative strategies. I have found that my own students enjoy using Socrative, and the room is filled with their reactions to the feedback they get from their responses.
A behavior management tool called Class DoJo and several tools that enable differentiated instruction were also presented.

Formative Assessments can help teachers and students make adjustments that move the student toward the intended learning goals. Why not try one of these free online tools to help you get started?

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