Monday, February 16, 2015

Features for Teachers

I realized the other day that so far I've written nothing in this blog about using the Structured Practice Method as a teacher. There's also, so far, nothing anywhere on the main web page introducing the teacher-oriented features of the application.

This is a bit of an oversight, especially considering the fact that its usefulness for teaching is one of the main reasons I developed the SPM!

I use the Structured Practice Method with all of my college students (I teach applied trumpet at Wayne State University and Saginaw Valley State University), as well as a few students out of my home studio for whom I feel it could be helpful.

If college teaching has taught me anything over the years (and it has taught me plenty, actually), it is that everyone struggles with the same problems with regard to practicing at one time or another. Some struggle more than others, to be sure, but we all have battles with our practicing. Even Yo-Yo Ma, the world renowned cellist, talks about how hard it is for him to drag himself to the practice room every day.

One major issue many students have to deal with is this: Once they get past the initial hurdle of getting to the practice room and taking their instrument out of it's case, what do they do next? Somehow, through years of training, noone has ever helped them with HOW to practice. They know WHAT they need to work on, but I have yet to meet a college freshman who didn't need at least some help with how to "tackle the beast."

I truly believe that knowing what to do once you're in the practice room really helps with motivation to go to the practice room.

I've already written about how the Structured Practice Method can help you as an individual focus your own practicing (and I have more to say, believe me!), but this post is about how it can help you help your students, so I'll leave that subject on the table for now.

The SPM allows teachers to connect their accounts with their students' accounts. Once connected, the teacher can see statistics about the students' practicing, and create reports showing all their practice activity over any period of time they choose (In the SPM, select the "Teacher" menu item. You'll then see a card like the one shown below for each of your connected students. At the bottom of the page, you can send an email invitation to connect with additional students).


These features are great, and I use them every day in my own teaching. At every lesson I look over the stats and report, and discuss with the student what went right and what isn't working, in hopes that we can make the coming week even better.

But, as great as these monitoring features are, I found myself asking my students to log into their accounts during their lessons all the time so that I could help set up the structure of their assignments, and show them how to improve their notes and goals.

So, yesterday I added a new feature to the Teacher page: "View as Student." Basically, what this does is allow you to take control of your student's account at will. Now you can look at how they've set up a specific item for practicing, what they've been doing with it, AND now you can make changes to help them. You can change or add goals for practice items, enter practice notes, add items, move items, etc. Anything you can do on your own account, you can now do for your students.

This will make lessons a little simpler for me, in that I can now just 'drive' my students' accounts during their lesson without having to have them log in and type their passwords on my computer (I really hate asking them to do that).

This also makes it possible for me to check in during the week. If I see them struggling with something (which will be easier to spot with the new feature), now I can step in and help guide them in the right direction on the spot (and so can you!).

I often receive emails or texts from students between lessons with questions about specific things they're working on. Now it's easy to jump in and take a closer look at what they're already doing. Better information means you can come up with better solutions.

I've seen a real and noticeable difference in the results my students get in the practice room since implementing the Structured Practice Method with them. I truly believe it can improve the practicing and results for any motivated student. The benefits increase exponentially when a competent and caring teacher is involved.

Right now is a GREAT time to try the Structured Practice Method with your own students! Any new accounts created during the beta-testing process are free through the end of 2015, but we won't be accepting new beta testers forever.

So sign up today! You have nothing to lose, and a lot to gain!!

Until next time,

I'll see you in the practice room!

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