District: Mt. Diablo Unified School District
City: Concord, California, U.S.A.
G.A.T.E. Class; Debra Faires, teacher
Their ages were: 8-11 years of age
Our community is located in the Diablo Valley area of Northern California. We are about thirty miles east of San Francisco. Our project focuses primarily on the suburban cities of Walnut Creek, Concord, and Pleasant Hill.
At our school, we used a Macintosh computer connected to the Internet through America Online on a regular phone line. The modem speed is 28,800 bps. Mrs. Faires is not a full time classroom teacher and she did not have full access to the school computer. Consequently, she entered the project on her home computer, a PC with a 14,400 bps modem, and uploaded the project via America Online's FTP service.
The first problem was identifying the music groups in our community. Originally, we planned to get a list quickly and assign student teams to visit rehearsals and concerts. However, we soon learned "a list" was no longer available in our area, due to library budget cuts. We overcame the problem by doing reseach and creating a list and making it available to our community. Since it is "published" as a web site, it can be continually updated as needed.
The second problem was reconciling the difference in the types of computers we were using. Files created on the home PC were difficult to view on the school's Macintosh, so the students could not see how our project was progressing. We partially overcame the problem by uploading our work as we went. Then we were able to view it online. This brought another problem: our online connection was with AOL during their period of constant busy signals. We learned to persevere and to keep dialing until we established a connection.
Our third problem was reducing the size of our sound files. We soon learned that sound files are very large and take a long time to access from a web site. We have looked into audio streaming and are still trying to add it to our site. For the purposes of this project, we have used wav files and kept the sound samples to approximately 6 seconds.
Woodside students have opened the door to a lifetime of musical enjoyment, not only for themselves, but also for their community.
This project was an outgrowth of our Visual and Performing Arts Framework. It also supported required areas of the Language Arts Criterion. Students learned by interviewing, observing, and then organizing information and writing to communicate their experiences. Evaluation in groups and revision work was necessary before final publishing. Collaborative work was a major part of the students' experiences. Since the class has students from grades 3 to 5, multiage grouping was used to strengthen each team.
One advantage of having our project on the Internet was that families were able to feel more involved. Parents usually supervised when a student viewed the site from home. Extended family members near and far (even in Croatia!) could view the project.
Students acted as ambassadors of Woodside Elementary School as they went out into the community in small teams on visits to the rehearsals and performances of music groups. They learned to show appreciation for the musicians by listening quietly while music was being played. As they spoke with the performers before rehearsals, they explained our project and interviewed the musicians. Those they spoke with expressed enthusiasm about the project and were often amazed at how “technologically advanced” it sounded. Students also made individual contacts as they worked to help create our “big list” of music groups. One student’s mother was working on costumes for a production at the Regional Center for the Arts. This student was able to go to work with her mother and talk to employees of the Center to get the names of several groups that had performed there. The head of our County Arts and Culture Committee was contacted by a student. She has expressed continued great enthusiasm and support for the project.
E-mail contacts were made through Mrs. Faires. When the site was nearing completion, we sent out notices to many organizations and individuals inviting them to view our project and make suggestions. A county librarian responded by writing that he had attended Woodside as a child. He added that when he was in school “...they sure didn’t have anything as exciting as this for students!” Most of those contacted about the project were very enthusiastic and helpful in offering expertise and suggestions.
Students also made contacts through the mail. Students helped prepare initial requests for information from each group. They wrote thank-you notes to those organizations who were kind enough to donate tickets or open their doors to us. They also prepared postcards announcing the completion of our project and inviting each music group to look us up on the Web.
Our students are happy they have been able to produce a project that can help our community. Years ago, budget cuts forced the library to stop producing a list of different kinds of organizations in the county. Consequently, no readily available list of community music existed. We have collected information from many sources and have made it accessible in one place. Our county library system plans to put a link to our project from their web pages.
The students feel our site can make a difference not only in our own community, but in other communities of the world. As people look at and listen to our web site, they will become interested in more types of music. This will help to broaden the musical appreciation of each listener.
The leaders of the music groups we visited were willing to let students come to their rehearsals and concerts. Diablo Symphony and DVC Evening Jazz Ensemble provided complimentary tickets to their concert. We also appreciate the responses of the groups who took time to send us information.
Special thanks to David Hartzheim and other members of the Diablo Valley Macintosh Users Group. I was first directed to Mr. Hartzheim through a series of phone calls I made asking for help in creating wav files. Through e-mail, he assisted us in several areas and helped us contact others when necessary. Each person I called was happy to spend time and share ideas with us.
Thanks to Tim Root for helpful instruction on optimizing graphics. I contacted him by e-mail after seeing a web site he provides for Blue Devils. He kindly responded with valuable information.
Ted Maddock, the teacher of our District’s technology academy, was most generous in sharing information and allowing me to observe his class. Teacher assistant Ken Hanse spent time scanning several pictures and teaching me about images on the computer.
Our principal, Gail Isserman, was supportive and enthusiastic about the project from the start. Mrs. Chafe-Powles was most helpful in letting us use her computer and in offering her expertise in using a Macintosh. Thanks to Mr. Housfeld, Mrs. Johnson, Mr. Ligouri, Mrs. Noble, Mrs. Ridgway, Mrs. Robinson, Mrs. Piazza, and Mrs. Takenaka for their participation. We appreciate Susan and Ginny in the office for handling so much of our paperwork.
The parents of the students assisted with driving to rehearsals and helping students write and revise their work. Dom and Bryan's parents helped with scanning images. Thank you all!
The students reported that one of their biggest surprises in preparing this project was discovering the large number of music groups which exist in our community. At first, we could think of only a few. As we spoke to others and did more research, we learned of more and more musical organizations. We are certain more will be added as we receive comments on our web site.
An important discovery we made was how willing people are to help with a project such as this. So many members of our community who were initially "strangers" to us have given time, shared information and helpful advice, and offered enthusiastic encouragement. We now feel we have more "friends" throughout our community.