This week we spoke with Krystal Williams, a public school music educator in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Krystal teaches music theory and composition at Northwestern High School and also teaches at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, as a woodwind adjunct. She is a graduate of Morgan State University, where she also completed graduate work. Krystal is the music technology chair for the Maryland Music Educators Association. She is passionate about incorporating technology into her music classes, and helping other music educators do the same. 

Episode 29: Using Technology to Promote Student Ownership

Technology in the Music Room

When Krystal first started working as a band director, she felt like she was missing a lot of what was necessary for success. Either the program had no resources, or the students had no background musical knowledge. She heard about SmartMusic when attending a music educator conference and realized that could help solve some of her problems. Krystal started simple, with just a projector she got from Donors Choose and her computer, and that was the beginning of her journey with tech! 

Using Tech to Give Students Ownership

Krystal has found that not only does the technology help fill in the gaps with students, it also gives them ownership over their music making. It came from a place of necessity – she had more students enrolled in band than she could teach on her own. As a solution, Krystal used the technology to duplicate herself so all students could receive the instruction they needed. Over time, her tech use has expanded, and her students have grown as a result. 

Throughout the interview, Krystal shared some great information about how she uses music technology in her music classes, including: 

  • Starting with just three computers running SmartMusic to flip her classroom and help students develop self-efficacy. 
  • The accountability sheets she used with students to work independently and document their progress. 
  • How less time on the podium translated to greater student achievement. 
  • What a class period looks like, and how students use SHED time – self help educational development – to practice and grow musically. 
  • The four categories of tech Krystal believes every music educator needs: 
    • Utility apps (fingering charts, metronomes, tuners, etc.) 
    • Music theory and ear training tools 
    • Something global like Google or Canvas
    • Communication apps such as Remind or Band app 

Krystal emphasizes the benefit she’s found from not spending all her time on the podium. She uses technology to give students ownership of their learning and music making. Students assess themselves and give themselves feedback. Krystal reminds students, ‌it’s not her music room – it belongs to all of them. 

Be sure to check out the full interview on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform: 

Using Technology to Promote Student Ownership

Connect with Krystal and learn more about her work here: 

Listen to the full interview on your favorite podcast platform, or here on Anchor!

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