Redesigning a Performing Arts Unit with Technology

A year into my Coetail journey, I’ve redesigned many aspects of my teaching with technology in mind. Last year my team modified a unit of inquiry on plants, with students eventually demonstrating their understanding of the central idea through imovie documentaries.

Now it’s time to look at another unit, this time on performing arts, and better integrate technology from start to finish. Rather than posting the entire 9 section planner, I will highlight the standards and changes we will make to enhance student learning with technology.

Standards Met: – 1 and 2

1. Creativity and Innovation
Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.
2. Communication and Collaboration
Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.

Central Idea: The performing arts are a tool for creativity, expression, and enjoyment in different cultures.

For those unfamiliar with the PYP framework, the goal of the unit is for students to demonstrate their understanding of the central idea through a summative assessment. For this unit, the students prepare a final performance in groups. They have freedom in choosing what to do for the final show, and the results are often creative, such as this combination of Filipino tinikling (traditional, bamboo stick dancing) and Taylor Swift.

The unit went well without too much technology last year, but I think there are some tremendous opportunities to increase student communication and reflection. Curriculum wise, it is a nice meeting of the 2nd ISTE standard (see above) and the PYP trans-disciplinary skills (communication skills and social skills). Here are the news things we want to implement:



For the first line of inquiry, students investigate common features of different performances. One way we investigate this is interviewing adults and other students about performances they have done. Last year we did this with paper and pencil, but audio recording the interviews would be a great chance to develop communication skills while doing research.

In the past, I stayed away from podcasting in part because I imagined it to be difficult, involving fancy microphones, complicated software, and an involved publishing format. I recently stumbled across audioboo, however, and it seems to be a quick and simple way of recording and publishing, done with an iphone or ipad.

I will report back with a future post once we’ve actually tried this, but for now we’ve already planned to go ahead and give podcasting a shot.

Video (recorded and uploaded by students)

We’ve used video before to reflect on and improve performances, but everything was filmed and shown by me. I think it’s time to relinquish that control and let the students take over. As a Google Apps for Education school, YouTube is the simplest way for us to share, privately and publicly, but I’m still in conversations with our tech team and admin over whether or not 3rd graders should be publishing with their own accounts (previously everything has gone through mine). I’d love to hear what other schools are doing about this issue.

Regardless of which direction we go, we are planning to make video a weekly part of the unit, rather than something we did once or twice in a month and a half in the past. The students do many small, classroom performances leading up to the big one, and video will be a key way for students to self-assess how their skills are developing.



With this commitment to video, we need to decide the best way to share and reflect on the student work we are uploading. In the past we’ve used edmodo, but my recent experiments with Blogger have shown that its ease of use and privacy settings would allow us to try blogging for the first time. We will start with a private, class blog, where students can upload a small performance and get feedback from peers through the commenting.

Ideally, after they learn the skills of blogging, I would like to continue with open blogs as they finish the year with two research-heavy units, but we can cross that bridge when we get there.

Google Drive

This will be the simplest thing to implement, as we’ve already been doing this. Still, interview questions for podcasting, whole class scripts, and groups scripts will all be written on shared documents through Drive.

Of all the technology in the plan, I am least familiar with podcasting and student blogging, so that will require more research along the way. I will report back about how those things go, as well as the unit as a whole. Please let me know if you have ideas or suggestions about the plan so far.


  1. Rebekah Madrid

    I think this is a great step-by-step guide to what transformative lessons/units can look like. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Martha Okayasu

    Jeff, I am very impressed with how you are planning to redesign your unit. I was attracted to your post with the tinikling clip (very impressive!), but was excited to come across Audioboo, as I have been looking for something like this. The link in your blog connected me to a very informative webinar on different ways other educators are using Audioboo in their classes. I found that you can even store Audioboos in your Edmodo library, and access them that way as well. Thanks for your inspiration!

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