Allowing students to create content not only fosters creativity, but also makes learning engaging and meaningful. Many of my teachers at NMHS embrace this ultimately rewarding challenge. Joe Andolino (Applied Music Theory teacher at New Milford High School) and his class routinely hit upon a subject that every teen is interested in: cellphones. In previous classes the students created their own original music tracks. Building upon this experience they wanted to have ownership of something that is in their everyday lives. Mr. Andolino devised an innovative a way to connect with sound on a portable level by challenging the student to apply what they had learned in class to create an authentic ringtone using Mac Books and web 2.0 applications.
In creating a custom ringtone a few parameters should be kept in mind. Mr. Andolino highly recommends creating something that is not too long or that has an elaborate, busy musical arrangement. It should be identifiable and catchy. Due to the mono nature of most cellphones, a clear simple track should be produced so that the sound projects. Students also needed to consider looping the song piece so it repeated for up to 30 seconds. If one desires you could even add your own voice! Several audio techniques can be used to develop the tone. Transfering the tone to the phone can have some variables depending on the phones capabilities. Specifically, iPhone and iPods are great and most phones accept Mp3 files. Check out two student ringtones created by Gerwin Marca and Brian Drew that were eventually uploaded to their personal cellphones. Brian actually came to my office with Mr. Andolino to share the ringtone with me that he had created. If you could only have seen the joy and pride on his face! Now this is what learning is all about and the reason why we decided to pursue a career in education!
The graphics department at NMHS, led by Walt Pevny, has long been a hotbed for student-created content as a means to demonstrate conceptual mastery and learning. Mr. Pevny extends his expertise well beyond the courses and students he teaches to other disciplines. Using Adobe Creative Design Suite, specifically InDesign and Photoshop, students from our Holocaust Study Tour work with him to create a reflective book documenting their learning experiences. You can view the book that was created last year HERE. This particular book was created in Adobe CS4. With Adobe CS6 now available for our students Mr. Pevny and I can only image how awesome upcoming books will look.
Give teachers the tools, freedom, and support to be innovative and they will develop learning activities that allow students to demonstrate mastery of concepts in a creative fashion. Yes, this type of learning can be messy at times and not always work out as planned. However, the result will be something that stays with them for years to come and could possibly be a catalyst for even greater things....a love for learning.