Chromebooks in Band Class

As I start my second full year working with Auburn School District educators in what they call their Auburn Teacher Leadership Academy 2.0 (ATLA), it’s aways great to hear that long-term professional development really works.

For context, I meet with the ATLA group 5 times throughout the school year. Each training builds upon the one before giving depth to the professional development you just can’t get at a conference or one-day PD session.

This is where my focus with school districts is right now. If we’re going to make actual lasting change in schools with these powerful connected tools, then we need to make sure we have professional development plans in place that help teachers learn how to use them in truly meaningful ways.  –Jeff Utecht

The following is reposted with permission from Auburn School District.


Last year when I received my Chromebook at ATLA (Auburn Teacher Leadership Academy 2.0), I didn’t see how it would benefit me as a band teacher. After all, band is about having students blow air through instruments, not typing up a summary about a music history assignment on a glorified typewriter. But after graduating from ATLA, I realized that there had to be ways to use technology to support my students that I didn’t realize.

auburnbandYesterday was our first day of Chromebooks in the band room and I was blown away. I realized that the little laptops give all of my kids instant access to digital keyboards. After a brief survey, less than 5% of my students could name the notes on a piano. Now 100% of my students can.

That simple lesson is going to lead into much more complex musical theory discussions in ways that we could never have had before. In this way, the Chromebooks took us beyond supplementing what we were doing because it wasn’t feasible to provide access to pianos for all my students.

Now the Chromebooks offer us a quick and portable way to do so. And the software! Instead of just presenting information to students, they get to practice! Repetition is a key to student growth. Today I am out of the building and my students’ Do Now is to practice naming piano notes for 50 repetitions!

Currently, we are in the process of buying Flat, a simple to use music notation program that will allow our students to become composers. I’m excited by the cross-curricular benefits my students will enjoy as they try to divide 6 quarter notes by dotted 8th notes.

Before easy-to-use student notation software, kids didn’t get the instant feedback when they tried to incorrectly assemble measures of music. Now, not only will they be practicing math, but they will be able to connect the songs from their cultural backgrounds to their instruments at the same time!

bandchromebookI know that students have to play their instruments to improve, but the Chromebooks are helping me fill in the gaps of basic music education in an interactive way that they weren’t getting before.

Yesterday at the end of class a student came up to me and put his hand out as if we’d never met before. When we shook hands he said, “Thank you.”

However, my evaluation goes this year is immaterial. For this kid, I just passed it.

On behalf of my students I’d just like to thank Auburn for giving us what we didn’t know we needed.

Orlyn Carney
Music Teacher
Olympic Middle School
Auburn School District
Auburn, WA