Friday, June 24, 2011

Song Structure

I've been listening to a lot of country music lately (It's summer!).  While listening, I've noticed a new song structure that perhaps is growing in popularity?  It's a subtle difference that fixes one of the annoyances I've had: the repetitiveness of the double chorus at the end of every song.

Wait. You lost me... What is song structure?

Well, all songs are broken down into blocks or chunks of different types. Typically we call these chunks verses and choruses. Other types of blocks exist too -- such as a prechorus, a bridge, an instrumental or solo, and the infamous "tag" which is a line or two that is said repeated at the end of song.

Anyway, when you're a band leader, you notice these chunks, and you use them to describe the direction a song will go before you play it.  For example, for one of our praise team songs at church, we'll probably plan on the following (we call it a road map): Verse 1, Chorus, Verse 2, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus, Chorus, Tag, Tag.

In fact, that is the most popular roadmap of a Christian praise songs.  Think of Blessed Be Your Name, Better Is One Day, or How Great Is Our God as some examples.  It's pretty popular among pop and country music too.  Unfortunately, it often adds to the stereotype that Christian praise music is unoriginal, or repetitive. Some complain that it get's old to sing the chorus that many times at the end.

 I've written several songs, and three of them fit this mold perfectly.

Well, the new pattern I've seen lately is a subtle variation of this. Several songs popular in country music use two different choruses.  Then, at the end of the song, instead of singing the same chorus twice, they combine the two choruses.  Thus you get a roadmap: v1, c1, v2, c2, b, c1, c2.  I like this as it is still predictable (I'm of the mindset that leaving a known pattern too much causes a song to be too "different" to be accepted) yet adds enough variance to be unique and stand out.

An example is Blake Shelton's current #1 hit, Honey Bee.  I'm not a huge fan of the lyrics, (a little too sappy and frankly, too 'country' for me).  Also, You Lie by The Band Perry has the two different but related choruses-- thankfully they only sing one at the end though.

I like the concept -- hope to hear more of it in both country and Christian music.  Spot another example?  Leave it and a link to the lyrics below in the comments.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

TI-84 Emulator from WabbitEmu

Just added a program that I plan to use while making videos, a TI-84 emulator.  This program will do everything you can do on a Ti-84, including working with and saving variables and lists, programming, and drawing and analyzing graphs.  It looks just like a TI-84, and works by clicking on the buttons with the mouse, or by typing commands on the keyboard.

I already regularly use a TI-84 on a projector, but am excited to use this in my classroom as well, mostly because the students can literally see what buttons I pressed, instead of just relying on hearing and seeing what shows up on the screen.

This program also includes built in tools to take pictures of the screen and create GIF files, or create small animations of the screen.  Coupled with multiple skin variations, and the ability to type commands on the keyboard makes this a great find.

I can't wait to have my students use this on the SMART board this coming fall, where it will probably be about 4ft tall on the wall!  It will be sweet!

To download legally, you will need to own a TI-84, as well as have a USB connecting cable for it.  Downloading and installing the calculator was a bit of a challenge -- but I think the steps below summarize my efforts:
 1. Download the TI-Connect Software if you haven't already done so.  Connect the calculator and computer, install any necessary drivers, and be sure the computer and a TI-84 you own are communicating with each other.
 2. Download the Wabbitemu open source file
 3. Run the Wabbitemu installing program.  It will ask you to upload a program onto a TI-84 that you own which will create a ROM file.  This will then need to be transferred back to the computer.  Work with TI-Connect to transfer the programs and files to and from your calculator.   

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ten Marks Math Program

Just read about Ten Marks website in the Free Tech For Teachers blog that I subscribe to.  I've never used it before, and certainly don't have time to fully check it out and make a complete recommendation, but the concept seemed really cool.  It looks as though students log-in regularly to practice math objectives.  They are given a series of problems which are linked to our state objectives.  The problems provide hints if the students are stuck, and best of all, links to videos teaching them how to do the problems.

The website can also give parents updates on how the students have done, and the progress they have made, and even set up a rewards program for motivating their growth (as if doing math for the sake of doing math isn't reward enough!)

Check it out if you're looking for more practice: Ten Marks

Saturday, June 18, 2011

First Vodcast - Using Camtasia

This is my first go around at making a video using Camtasia.  It sucks.  The video that is, the program is actually pretty cool.  I would have had a video yesterday, but my computer does not have a good microphone, and the microphone jack on this computer doesn't work either.  I had to borrow my friends usb microphone headset, which works great I think.

The program automatically converted my voice into close captions, see if you can turn them on.  The close captions are not even close to what I said, I think it might have 30% of the words right?  But supposedly I can train them and they will get better.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Attending a Webinar

Just spend the second day of three attending a flipping your classroom webinar.  Learned lots of interesting things.  I have to admit that as much as I learned from the presenters, I probably learned twice as much from the other attendees of the conference.  We used Adobe Connect to attend the seminar which has a chat window next to the video where we can discuss what's going on and ask questions of each other.  It was here that I learned about dozens of resources, like the ones posted below. Of course, we did our fair share of joking around as well.  For me, attending has been a blast!

Information about the webinar:

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Another tool that I had used before but was reminded of at the conference today was Prezi.  This was my initial attempts at building a map of physics.  You can click through it one step at a time (linearly) if you'd like, but you may also zoom out and then click on a particular concept and it zooms in to that point of the conference.  I think one of the best uses for prezi (although probably not yet fully realized) is the ability to create something that is both linear, and not at the same time.

By the way, you can embed pictures, videos, or text into prezi's.  Perhaps other web2.0 tools too like polleverywheres or answergardens?

Google Search Stories

Today in a conference about flipping your classroom, I attended a seminar with lots of different Web 2.0 tools.  You may have seen the superbowl commercial about a man who moved to France and fell in love, where the whole story was told via Google Searches?  Well, you can make your own Google stories, which I created below about my intentions about flipping my classroom next year.

Answer Garden

Learned about another tool at conference for flipping your classroom that I thought I would try out.  You can post a question or writing prompt and then have people respond and their answers are summarized below.

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