It’s been a few years of work, but the new site is finally live. Check out the features page for an overview and you can find more details in the support section, including a number of video tutorials for teachers. But I thought it would be helpful to give you an overview here.
An Educational Structure
I’m an educator at heart and I’ve always felt that sight singing exercises weren’t useful in a vacuum—education matters. So the curriculum is now organized into courses. Most courses start with a video lesson, followed by twenty exercises and a ten question quiz. Singers can work their way through the curriculum by working through the courses.
They can see their grades on the quizzes in the report card on their dashboard and the site will remember which course they were last working in and give them a shortcut back there, again from the dashboard.
For teachers, the educational structure gives you the ability to organize students into groups, and it comes with much better reporting. There’s a Gradebook where you can see summary quiz scores, there’s a quiz report, progress report and you can see recent activity at a glance.
Unlimited Number of Students
Add as many as students as you like, just like on the old version of the site. I’ve worked with remote learning tools before and I always thought it was such a pain to have buy individual licenses for each student. Someone drops, and you need to assign their license to someone else. You buy buy 75 licenses and then three more kids join. It was so much mental overhead and paperwork. So you’ll find none of that here! As as many kids as you like and know that every time you do – there’s a little more happiness in my heart knowing another singer will improve their literacy skills. Truly—this is a labor of love for me.
If you’re a teacher who was using the old site, you’ll need to add your students again. I wish there had been a way around that, but it was necessary for a few reasons.
- The site organizes students into groups. I have no idea how you want to organize your groups, so even if I could have brought the kids over to this new platform, I wouldn’t have known how to sort them.
- The old site had a number of security issues—weak passwords, shared passwords across schools, invalid passwords, one single email account used for every student, etc. All those issues make it easy for someone to get into someone else’s account. Since grades are stored in each person’s account, that’s a huge privacy concern for me. By having you add the kids back in fresh, we can remove all those issues. It’s a fresh start of sorts from a security standpoint.
I waited until June to flip the switch on the new site to time this as the best possible moment. Seniors have graduated, so they would have been removed anyway, and you would have to add new students. By timing it now, hopefully there aren’t as many students to add back.
Whitelist The Practice Room!
One thing you will want to do before you start adding kids is make sure your tech department whitelist the site. That gives my site permission to email your students. If the site is blocked, students won’t get the login info emails that are sent out when you add them. It essentially makes the site unusable. Whitelisting is absolutely crucial.
By the way, don’t be too upset with your tech folks for blocking unknown sites—it’s a good thing. They want to make sure they know who’s emails students. And I am happy to be vetted since I do absolutely no marketing to students. The only emails they’ll get from me are system emails so they can login, change a password, etc, and at some point down the road, I may send info about new courses, exercises, etc. But I will never—never—try to sell things to kids.
A Shout Out to My Developer, Mike Jones
This site is run on WordPress. You may be familiar with WordPress as a popular blogging platform, but it’s much more than that. WordPress powers almost 30% of the web. It’s enormously versatile. However, it couldn’t do everything I wanted to do out of the box, I needed some help with customization behind the scenes.
While I’m done quite a bit of the work, I could not have done it without Mike Jones from Codeable.io. If you know anyone looking for help with WordPress, check out Codeable and ask for Mike Jones. The guy is a magician, he can customize anything and he was a pure delight to work with. I can’t recommend him strongly enough.
Well I am working on a top secret quarantine project which I hope to have in your hands by the fall. I know—it’s so mean to tease like that–but I’ll make a bigger announcement here in a few weeks now that I’m over this hurdle. Suffice to say I’m focusing on some new content for remote learning, since I do think we’ll be dealing with that off and on for a while. Stay tuned!