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Building an Advanced Music Lab in Your Classroom, Part 2: MusicFirst

Like many other teachers, I have been exposed to learning management systems (LMSs) through professional development, online courses and even some face-to-face coursework. Early LMSs were a neat new technology and they certainly piqued our interest, but they were also fairly clunky and difficult to use in the early stages. A new LMS called MusicFirst is about to change that!

As the “made for K-12” LMSs started to appear, I eagerly jumped on board and actively test drove several of them in the classroom. I was impressed with the ease of use, the students’ responses, and the way they allowed me to manage my classroom. They gave me a better handle on where each of my students was and fostered communication with individual students much better – but there were still issues, and they were certainly not ready for the K-12 classroom.

Things have changed, and improved versions of these LMSs are now being used in classrooms at an increasing rate. They allow a teacher to plan lessons, communicate with students and parents, create projects and assessments, score rubrics right within the platform, share lessons with other teachers, check student progress at any time, and so much more.

While these new LMSs are fine for a regular classroom, they are not focused on the needs of the typical secondary-level music ensemble or classroom. Having students do a musical activity – sight-reading, notating a musical composition, creating a digital audio composition, recording a performance, or any of the myriad activities of a music classroom – and then trying to upload it to the LMS can be a nightmare. It can take longer for the student to upload their work than it did to create it in the first place – not to mention the time it takes to figure out the workaround. I know many a music educator who just gave up trying to use an LMS because the negative aspects outweighed the positives.

For all of the music educators who have given up on using an LMS, those who have never even tried one, and for all who are out there trying to make them work, MusicFirst is the solution. It was built by music educators from the ground up, expressly for the secondary setting – whether it be a performance ensemble or a class for music theory, guitar, composition, or general music.

MusicFirst is a comprehensive LMS that uses software built for and fully integrated into the platform to create a complete music education solution for any situation. Everything you would expect to find in any LMS, you will find in MusicFirst – and more. It enables you to create, share, and use shared lessons; create assignments for students; schedule and grade; create rubrics aligned to the standards; and share reading, listening, and video assignments. Students can interact through a class discussion, a written discussion, or through an audio or video recording. You can even communicate with parents using MusicFirst!

MusicFirst grants both teachers and students 24/7 access. No longer do you need a computer lab – it works with any internet-capable device. Tablets, smartphones, interactive whiteboards, laptops, and desktop computers are all compatible. The safe and secure messaging system allows you to easily create announcements and notifications, clarify expectations and assignments, schedule rehearsals, and so much more – while archiving all conversations for future reference. All of this and it integrates seamlessly with Google Classroom, too!

Then there is the integrated software that allows your students to work right within the MusicFirst environment to complete all of their assignments regardless of the activity. The software includes an audio recorder to allow your students to record and upload audio for assessment, Noteflight Learn for notation and composing, PracticeFirst for practice and assessment, Sight Reading Factory for practicing sight-reading, Auralia First for ear training, Musition First for music theory, Focus on Sound for theory and history, Soundtrap for audio recording, O-Generator for music composition, and Lesono for video recording.

J.W. Pepper has worked with MusicFirst to create packages that meet the needs of all ensemble directors and general music educators. Since so many music educators at the secondary level teach ensembles as well as music theory, music history, guitar, ukulele, piano, or a more general class, these packages are designed so you can mix and match applications to give you the most flexibility – use the MusicFirst LMS platform with ALL of your music students.

MusicFirst Performer Basic is the basic-level package for an ensemble. It includes the MusicFirst LMS, PracticeFirst, and Sight Reading Factory.

MusicFirst Performer Notation is the mid-level package for an ensemble. It includes the MusicFirst LMS, PracticeFirst, Sight Reading Factory, and Noteflight Learn.

MusicFirst Performer Complete is the top-tier package for an ensemble. It includes the MusicFirst LMS, PracticeFirst, Sight Reading Factory, Noteflight Learn, Auralia First, and Musition First.

Focus on Sound (music theory and history), and Lesono (video recorder) are available as add-ons to any of these packages.

MusicFirst Classroom was designed specifically for the non-ensemble classes that every music educator teaches, with software chosen especially to enhance these students’ musical experience, bring life to their classes, and make them fun and exciting for both the student and the teacher. It is the perfect solution for any non-ensemble music class from 6th – 12th grade.

MusicFirst Secondary Classroom Basic is the basic-level package for a non-ensemble music class. It includes the MusicFirst LMS, Focus on Sound, Soundtrap, O-Generator and Noteflight Learn.

MusicFirst Secondary Classroom Complete is the top-tier package for a non-ensemble music class. It includes the MusicFirst LMS, Focus on Sound, Soundtrap, O-Generator, Noteflight Learn, Auralia First, and Musition First.

Check out the video links and start a free trial so you can try it out and see how it fits your situation. You will want to set aside a couple of weeks to really play with it and discover all the platform has to offer – I promise, you will not be disappointed!

If you missed Part 1 in this series which discusses incorporating new technology into the elementary classroom, you can read it here.

Next in the series: Designing, building, and maintaining your own music tech lab.

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