Wednesday, February 3, 2016

New Feature: Lesson Assignments!

Old School Lesson Notes
This morning I am thrilled to announce that the Structured Practice Method now has the ability to manage and display lesson assignments! Combined with SPM's practice structuring and statistical analysis capabilities, this could be a real game changer for any applied music studio!

Like most musicians, I spend a significant portion of my musical life giving and receiving private music lessons (in fact, the hand-written lesson notes pictured here are from my very first trumpet teacher back in Junior High School, Mr. Donald Schultz!). I've been teaching lessons at the college level for just over ten years now.

During my years as a private instructor, I've used several different methods of tracking and communicating lesson assignments for my students. I started, as so many did before me, with a simple piece of paper with a few notes scrawled on it as I taught. This system worked reasonably well, but if I had a dollar for every time a student showed up at their next lesson with an apologetic grin and "I lost my assignment sheet," well, I'd be doing pretty well.

Around ten years ago I began using a computerized system for lesson notes. At the end of each lesson, the notes would be emailed to the student, AND a copy was saved in the system. No more "I lost my sheet" excuses! This system has worked very well for me, but it has its drawbacks as well. A lot of students these days don't bother with their email. Also, with the limited amount of time available in lessons, sometimes assignments would be missed one week, and accidentally get deleted from the next week's notes.

I knew there had to be a better way.

Since the earliest days of the Structured Practice Method, I've felt that eventually it would include a lesson assignment component. It's a no-brainer, really. I already require all my college students to use the SPM. Having their assignments in SPM would give us all quick access to what they're working on, AND provide some accountability through its excellent record-keeping and statistical capabilities.

I'm happy to report that this is finally a reality, and so far it's proving to be everything I'd hoped it would and more!

The feature works best if both the teacher and student are SPM users with connected accounts. However, if you're a student and your teacher isn't on SPM, you can still use it to track your assignments! You could even have your teacher use your Structured Practice Method account during your lessons and have them update your assignments directly! It's all up to you!

To create an assignment, just go to either the "Manage" page or the practice page for the Practice Item you want to assign. Next to the name of the item there is a row of action buttons. The one on the far right, with the "plus" sign, is the one that creates an assignment.

 The assignment page looks a lot like the Practice Page, but instead of a space to enter a practice note, you'll see the "New Assignment" form. On this form, simply fill out the text for the assignment and select the due date (it defaults to one week in the future). The "Teacher" field may or may not be available. If you're a teacher and are driving your student's account, you won't fill that out, as it will automatically set you as the teacher. But, if you're the student, you have options. There'll be a drop-down menu to select any teacher you're currently connected to, plus an option (other) to write in the name of any teacher you'd like. The "Mark This Assignment Complete" box is for later. If you want to type in a note and at the same time take the assignment off the student's list, you would check that box.

Once you've created an assignment, a new entry will appear on the student's Main page "Practice Items Assigned by..."

There'll be a button at the top of the list to view all current assignments from that teacher, which will bring you to a page showing all the current assignments, along with practice statistics for the assigned material.

There will also be some new action buttons that will appear with the name of the item from now on:

The button on the left, in black, that looks like a list, will take you to the Lesson page, with it's list of all current assignments from the teacher.

The middle button, in orange, that looks like a pencil, takes you to the Update Assignment page, where you can add new lesson notes and/or mark the assignment complete.

The button on the right, in green with a check mark, is used to mark the assignment complete without adding any new notes.

Please note that the Update and Complete buttons will only appear if you have authorization to update the assignment... generally, if you create the assignment, you are the only one who can change it.

That should give you enough information to get you started using the assignments feature. I've been using it with my own students for a few weeks now, and it's really helping, both to keep my students on task and during the lessons as we analyze what they did in the practice room and how that impacts their results. I truly hope you find it useful in your own teaching and studying as well!

As always, if you have any comments, suggestions or ideas you'd like to share, please leave them in the comments, or use the "Contact Us" link above to share them privately!

Until next time...

"I'll see you in the practice room!"

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