Springfield Township Middle School

Amy Benton teaches general music (grades 6-8), directs two choral ensembles, and also serves as the drama teacher for her school, where she’s taught for the past two years. With such a busy schedule, Benton needs to make efficient use of her time and that of her students, while keeping up their interest and engagement levels—no easy feat! MusicFirst, in conjunction with a pilot program at her school that made laptops accessible, has offered the support and resources she needs to focus on job number one: teaching.

The combined use of technology has propelled Benton’s class forward. She explains, “MusicFirst has enhanced my program immensely. This past year, my school piloted a one-to-one program in which all students had access to chrome book laptops, which made using the Online Classroom a breeze. It allowed me to give students independent time to work, whether on the lessons within the software programs, or on their own compositions. It also allowed me to figure out the areas in which students were struggling, so that I could go back and reteach specific topics or break the class into smaller groups.”

Another benefit to a cloud-based system is the flexibility it gives not only to Benton, but to her students as well. She explains, “I love that the classroom is cloud-based. This means that even if a student is absent or missed a class, they have access at home or on any device, and the lessons are always available to them!”

Benton talks about the MusicFirst software programs she makes use of, saying, “Although I use several programs in my Online Classroom, the one I use the most frequently is Focus on Sound. I use it for many things, but it’s especially helpful in teaching music theory to my eighth grade students when we discuss melodic composition, as well as for my sixth grade world music unit, since there are many lessons designed around those topics.”

She continues, “In addition to Focus on Sound, the other programs I have and use are Noteflight and O-Generator, both of which I think my students enjoy.” These programs assist students with music creation and performance, which hold a special place for Benton, who—in addition to teaching—spent time as a professional choral singer in Philadelphia. “For me, I like that I can use the programs to assign lessons to students—some with quizzes embedded—and have the grade go directly to the grade book, which I can easily transfer later on to the school district online grade book.”

As for the students, MusicFirst provides options that allow them to get the most from their learning experience as well. Benton notes, “Overall, I think my students have reacted very well to the use of the Online Classroom and the added technology. I think it offers them more opportunities to be exploratory and creative. I also believe they enjoy being able to work independently at their own level. I am excited to try new and different ways to use the software tools now that I’ve had a year to experiment with it and test it out!”