Windy Fullagar and her sons, Jack (baritone) and Wilson (trumpet). I love Wilson’s shirt (although it looks pretty clean to me)!
I met Windy Fullagar at a SmartMusic workshop held in Lexington, South Carolina, last summer. Windy is a SmartMusic Advocate and strong supporter of SmartMusic. So strong, in fact, that she drove down from North Carolina to attend the workshop – and on her vacation, no less!
When I discovered that Windy was about to start at a new school where she would be introducing SmartMusic, I asked her to share that experience once she was up and running.
BG: Can you tell us a little about your education and background?
WF: I attended Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and earned a Bachelors of Music Education, Instrumental. After teaching for a while in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, I attended night school at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where I earned a Masters of Education, Curriculum and Supervision. I’ve taught in the Charlotte area for 17 years – elementary through high school levels. I currently teach at Alexander Graham Middle School, grades 6-8. I prefer the quirky middle school level.
How long have you been using SmartMusic?
I have been using SmartMusic for about 8 years (maybe longer). I’ve used it as an integral part of my class for 5 years.
Why did you decide to use SmartMusic?
The capabilities of this program to engage the learner, assess the learner, and easily share the assessments were so inviting I could not resist it. It was the assignment features in the gradebook that really got my attention and made me want to have it accessible to all my students.
In my field there is never time to do all that I want to for the students. This program, with its pre-defined assignments, composer information, and assessment/practice tools saves me an extraordinary amount of time.
Tell us about your new school and why it was so important to continue the use of SmartMusic there.
In my prior school the students who used SmartMusic were better prepared for class and were able to play their parts with much more accuracy. This allowed peers to tutor peers, which led to the entire band progressing faster. Each year, more and more students would take advantage of the program and each year I was able to see bigger gains in my students’ abilities to play their instruments. For this reason, I knew I had to implement SmartMusic at my new school.
My new school has SMART Board technology for the core teachers but not as much for the elective classes. Last year the band director used his booster money to purchase a SMART Board so his students could benefit from that technology. He used it a lot for YouTube videos and notation flash programs. The students did not use SmartMusic last year and were amazed by it when I demonstrated it at an open house.
Schools and the technology guidelines vary. Was there any difference getting SmartMusic up and running in your former position compared to your current position?
Absolutely! SmartMusic is not an approved program for my new school district. We are working on it but in a system as large as mine, these things take time. The music boosters provided a laptop computer last year to be used with the SMART Board and it has the program on it.
At my prior school, I worked hand in hand with the technology staff to load the program on whatever school computer I needed it to be loaded on. They even provided me with a second computer when I needed to set up a practice computer for those students who could not access SmartMusic at home.
At both schools the band boosters paid for the subscriptions and microphones.
Being at the new school, how did you inform students and parents about SmartMusic and what do they think about it?
I demonstrated SmartMusic at the open house nights (in August) and the curriculum nights (in late September). I also sent home flyers about the technology, and information about it is incorporated into my band manual.
To get students to want to try the program this year, I have made a deal with them….anyone who has the program can take their playing test at home and do not have to play their test in class. I was amazed how many students begged Mom and Dad to get the program for this reason alone.
Families who use it, love it (and sometimes hate it). They love it because they can see exactly how they are doing each time they play their instrument. They hate it for this same reason – the computer is not as forgiving as the band teacher sometimes is! I’ve sent more than a few emails helping parents adjust settings such as tempo and microphones so their child obtains more success.
I plan to have a student demo the program at our year-end concert so parents who have not tried it will perhaps give it a try over the summer.
Now that your new students have had some time with SmartMusic, what type of effect has it had on them?
Just as I did at my prior school, I am already starting to see improvement across the band because of the students who are using the program at home. The students come into class more prepared and this spreads all over the band like a super virus.
I hope to have a practice area for students next year so they can complete assignments at school (if they don’t have access at home). This is a vital component for requiring the program as I have done in my previous schools.
I’d like to thank Windy for sharing a glimpse of how SmartMusic is taking off in a new school, and I look forward to sharing more of her progress and success in the future.
How’s SmartMusic working for you? I’d love to hear from you, either from the “Comments” link below or through the “Contact” button at the top of our blog.