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AppSmashing Debussy Project

As you will see from this AppSmashing Debussy Project, iPads Have Transformed My Music Classroom

Going to 1:1 iPads  in my school, completely transformed learning in my classroom and me as a teacher. Here is just one example of the quantity and quality of work Apple technology promotes with my third grade elementary music students. Take a look at this AppSmashing Debussy Project:

During this past 9-week term, the Frenchman, Claude Debussy, was the focus of our composer study. Third grade students were able to use their iPads to elevate and extend analog learning in the following ways:

Popplet Lite

Photo Mar 02, 8 49 40 PM         Photo Feb 26, 7 52 13 PM

Students used Popplet lite to MindMap 5 adjectives describing the sound of “Clair de la Lune.” Students saved this to their camera roll. Some of the students used Popplet lite to map the important facts they learned about Debussy. The saved popplet was imported into in their Debussy Book.


I used PicCollage to create a 9-image collage of Debussy’s life and works.


Using the Debussy collage in ThingLink, students tagged the collage to post research about his life, inventions, world leaders, artists, education, family, jobs, etc. The link to their ThinkLink was added to a picture in their Debussy Book.  Students can only share the link from their iPad version. I used the HTML code to place it here for you to see.

Google Earth

Debussy's_house,_Sq._de_l'av._Foch Students used Google Earth to locate “23 Square Avenue Foch, Paris, France,” take a picture of Debussy’s home, Debussy's Treeand across the street, a picture of the big tree that has been around since Debussy lived there. Since we are studying France this year, they also researched Debussy’s home in relation to the Eiffel Tower, the Paris Conservatory, and the Louvre Museum. Students used the prompt: I see… I think…. I wonder….. to record their thoughts about Debussy’s life in Paris in their Debussy Book.

Explain Everything

I created a listening map using Explain Everything. This video is a snippet of the real version. Students played the linked mp3 file and moved a little doll to the steady beat in the A-section of “Golliwog’s Cake Walk.” The B-section is all about rubato – the give and take of the musical pulse. Using two dolls, students had to keep up with the flexible tempo in the B-section. For the first time in my teaching career, I could SEE my students “getting” what musical rubato is. Students exported the listening map as a movie to their camera roll and then into  their Debussy Book. 


Using the Aurasma app, videos of the cobblestone streets where Debussy walked and the lounging Parisians along the River Seine fascinated the students. On the cobblestone picture page in their Debussy Book, students recorded how they imagined Debussy walking along this beautiful river and across the bridges.

Doodle Buddy

Renoir BlurCollaborating with our Art teacher,  students used the Doodle Buddy app to paint over a Renoir nature scene. While listening to “Clair de la Lune” and “La mer,” they were taught not only how to smudge the colors to create an impressionistic picture, but why the artists painted that way during this time period.  Students saved their impressionistic painting to their camera roll, imported it into their Debussy Book, then recorded a few interesting facts about impressionistic art.


Students used Garageband to learn and practice the differences between the diatonic and whole tone scale. Using the iPad camera, they filmed each other  playing the regular scale and the whole tone scale. Here is one student’s video: <a

Using Garageband, I guided students in creating a whole tone composition just like Debussy. After listening to the blurry sounds of music built on the whole tone scale,  I gave them several prompts to create a multi-track composition in ABA form. Here is one example from a student who takes piano lessons.


To get their composition out of Garageband, students opened their file in iMovie and exported the movie file to their camera roll. Then they were able to import their “movie” composition into their Debussy Book.  I want to give a shout out to Paul Shimmons for finding the work-around for exporting a Garageband file so that it can be put back on the iPad (Book Creator) without using a desktop computer or iTunes.  Check out Paul’s amazing resources at 

iPad and Technology in Music Blog at https://ipadmusiced.wordpress.com/

Book Creator

Putting it all together – The final Debussy project is being put together using Book Creator. We will either save it as a video or an epub when we put the final touches on the Debussy projects this week. I’ll post a few of them as soon as I can. It would help if I could see them more often than every 6th school day!! Snow days… sick days… etc.

My Reflection

The depth and breadth of learning is made possible because of iPads in my music room.  My 3rd grade students are now able to curate information, show what they have learned, and demonstrate understanding by creating something that was previously inconceivable. After 2 1/2 years of 1:1 iPads, they are quite capable of using the iPad as a learning tool, and smashing apps to create new things.  This is just one example of the kinds of discovery projects I love to design for my elementary students; my passion is finding new ways to take my students deeper and wider as we discover music together. Technology in my music room has completely transformed my teaching and my students’ learning. What about you? Take a minute to share what techie project you are working on this week with your students! Don’t keep it to yourself!! 🙂 I went first, now it’s your turn!

I’ll post the completed Debussy books soon!

Iron sharpens iron!

May the force be with you!


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Cherie Herring

Music/Technology Integration at Hammond School
I teach elementary music, am passionate about integrating technology into my teaching, am obsessed with my SMARTBoard and iPad, and enjoy creating lessons and sharing ideas. I love technology almost as much as I love cheesecake, and with more energy and ideas than I know what to do with, I can't wait for the sun to come up each morning! I'm wife to Prince Charming and mom to three incredible girls who keep me balanced. . . sort of!

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{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Meg March 3, 2015, 9:59 AM

    Amazing! I will have to steal some of these ideas and twist them to fit our situation! Impressive and thanks for the ideas!

    • Cherie Herring March 3, 2015, 9:21 PM

      Meg, Thanks for the kind words!! I’m so happy you can use some of the ideas. I honestly hope you will take the ideas and run with them as long as you share and share alike! Hey, we’re all in the same big iPad learning bowl together and we have to help each other. Sharing is caring!! Let me know what works for you, Meg!! – Cherie

  • Patricia March 3, 2015, 7:35 PM

    Once again, you dazzle me and inspire me.
    A lot of what you’ve done is what I’m striving for, using my school LMC iPad Cart, whenever I can check it out. I am often slowed by uncooperative connection issues, which frustrates the students and me. Students here have not been 1:1 with any devices, though depending on which elementary building they feed to me from, some of them do have some iPad experience.
    Our work is certainly not as impressive as yours, but lately we’re using Doodle Buddy (when we can get it to work!) to create picture music “dictionary” pages based on our Weekly Words. Students are then putting them into a collective Google Presentation and uploading these to their ePortfolios, so we can add to them each year. Thanks again!

    • Cherie Herring March 3, 2015, 9:14 PM

      Hi Patricia, Thank you for the comment! I feel your pain! Up until this year, I’ve had horrible internet connection issues. In fact, I purchased the Quaver complete curriculum and could not use ANY of the online features for months on end. I don’t think the kinks will ever get worked out sometimes. I know you feel the same way and it complicates any techie project you are trying to do.

      Doodle Buddy is a great app for so many things. I sometimes let the kids use the stamps when we are listening to Carnival of the Animals, and during Halloween when they use the eyeballs and dog bones to create long and short patterns. Beyond that, I like to stick to the plain drawing features. The smudge pen has been super cool to use during our Debussy unit. The other trick to Doodle Buddy is reminding the kids to keep their iPads still so they won’t accidently erase their drawing. We’ve had many tears over that !!

      I think the step to strive for when making a dictionary is not just drawing it or writing the term, but explaining it or demonstrating it somehow. At first, we used EduCreations; it’s free and easy to use. The kids can move objects around on the screen and record movement and voice. Turning it into a movie is always impressive. However, once we loaded Book Creator and Explain Everything on the iPads, we never looked back. Those two programs are my go -to apps for demonstrating understanding and worth every penny!!

      You know, a simple way you could extend the dictionary is to have the students email their work to you and you could create QR codes next to images. It could be a bulletin board filled with musical words explained by your students. You could even make a station out of it and have the students come up with a creative way to explain the term. Let them act it out and film them. My students are so pumped when I let them make a movie. You may have restrictions, though, that I don’t have at my private school.

      Patricia, Keep in touch! I would love to hear more about your adventures with iPads and your students. – Cherie

  • Patricia March 3, 2015, 7:38 PM

    P.S. I’d love to hear more specifics about how you created the Golliwog’s Listening Map, and how the students actually used it!

    • Cherie Herring March 3, 2015, 9:39 PM

      Patricia, I think I’ll have to make a tutorial about creating the listening map; it’s too complicated to write down. My students scanned a QR code to download the Explain Everything file to their iPads. They opened it in Explain Everything. I taught my students to LOCK the bottom track before they play and record the moving doll. This setting records only the movement and not the sound. It avoids creating an echo-y recording. They had their earbuds, so they just listened to each page while moving the doll to the steady beat. I checked each student’s work before allowing them to go on to the B section. In fact, we had a mini review lesson on RUBATO and I sent them on to record the B section. I ended up shortening the music to just the A and B section because i didn’t want the file to get too large. My 3rd grade students loved it and now think “Golliwog’s Cake Walk” is the coolest piece of music ever! I’ll get busy and create a tutorial about making the listening map.

      Thanks again, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

  • Paul Shimmons March 3, 2015, 10:48 PM


    Wow! What a post! This is the sort of project that are innovative and totally change the way our kids learn! This is how technology should be used!

    Thanks for the mention too!

    • Cherie Herring March 3, 2015, 11:00 PM

      Ohh, Thank you for the comment! Coming from you, Paul, that means the world to me! You are one of my heroes!! I learn so much from the way you analyze technology, and though I don’t always understand at the moment all of what you talk about, I find that down the road, as I keep pushing the limits, what you said makes sense. I often go to your posts to find answers. Thanks for leading the way!!

  • Molly March 5, 2015, 1:05 PM

    Wow! This is incredible! I can’t wait until my kids get to the point where I can do stuff this in depth- we’re barely skimming the surface right now! Ahh! So much I want to do- have to experiment! I am in awe of your creativity and planning!

    • Cherie Herring March 5, 2015, 10:51 PM

      Hi Molly! Thank you for the nice words! Yes, It is fun to have the kids at this level, but it has taken 2 years to get here. I think it actually took that long for ME to get to this point! I didn’t know what to do with the technology at first and just kept experimenting. I have a colleague who experiments in her classroom as well, and we bounce off ideas that are working and we’re learning together. Maybe you can find a friend like that to learn along side of you. IF not, you know my email. 🙂 Keep digging deeper!!! – Cherie

  • Tim March 15, 2015, 11:06 PM

    Wow, Cherie. This is remarkable! What you’re inspiring your students to do is quite extraordinary. If I’d had music education like this … Well, I’d probably not have waited until my twenties before getting back into playing music!

    I’m actually researching this sort of thing—using interactive whiteboards and tablets in new, unusual and effective ways—but with older students in mind. Eleven, twelve, thirteen year olds. Might you have used the tech in similar ways for older primary students? Has it been similarly effective?

    Keep up the blog posts! This is the best resource I’ve found yet for using classroom tech to challenge and inspire students.

    • Cherie Herring April 6, 2015, 8:07 PM

      Hi Tim, I’m sorry that I’m just now responding to your comment; I’ve been caring for several very sick family members and I’ve been “unplugged” for a few weeks. Everyone is on the mend and life is cranking back up after Spring break. 🙂

      Thank you for your nice comment. Yes, this project was an eye-opening one for me as well. My students were able to do so much because we are at year 2.5 with 1:1 ipads. Time is not wasted teaching them the app and they can finally use the tool independently to dig deeper. If I had older primary students, this would definitely be the way I would guide my students. A few preparatory steps are helpful before directing the students in the project, and I’m sure every teacher would have his/her own way of preloading the information. I wrote down everything that came to mind about Debussy and used those thoughts and facts to drive discovery. Using Book Creator, I created different pages with prompts – kind of like a journal for the concepts I wanted them to explore. The truth is that the students kept asking more interesting questions and we found different ways to search for answers. It went from a 2 week idea to a 9 -week learning adventure that went deeper and broader than I ever imagined we could go.

      I only teach through 4th graders who are 9 and 10yrs old, but I have no doubt older students would be completely engaged in this kind of learning. I’ll get busy and post a few other examples that have worked… just need to get pen to paper!! I look forward to hearing all about your research… I’m all into technology – especially after experiencing how it has changed the learning in my classroom.

      Stay in touch!!

  • Angela January 7, 2016, 12:38 PM

    Did you ever get a chance to post final product from this project? I’d love to see what it looked like. I am thinking about jumping into this with my 5th graders that are now 1:1. I am so excited to see what they come up with!

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