Educator Spotlight: Paul Shimmons

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Educator Spotlight: Paul Shimmons

paul shimmons

March 10, 2022

Paul has been a band director since 1991 and has been at Farwell Area Schools in Michigan since 1996. Years of service at the same school has allowed him the opportunity to be ingrained in the community which is a great thing for students, their families, and the school as a whole.

One of the things that Paul is known for, not just in his community, but in marching bands throughout the country, is his passion for using technology in his program. He even has his own blog about it.

We wanted to gain a little more insight into Paul and his program, so we asked him a few questions that can hopefully be beneficial to you and your program.

How did technology become a focus of yours?

“I have always loved playing with technology. I have always tried to stay on the edge of what is new and exciting as far as ways to use technology to perform, learn and teach music. I think that one reason I have enjoyed using technology is I can see so many ways in which technology makes teaching easier for me. I can easily see that it gives the students opportunities that I did not have when I was growing up.”

What new technology are you using now that you weren’t using at the start of 2020?

“In our classroom it’s more a story of what we are using more predominately instead of what we were not using at all in the past. In the past we did not have access to 1 to 1 devices for our students. Now that every student has a school issued Chromebook, we are able to be unified with what the students have access to. We now insist that students in our band program make use of Google Classroom alongside the Band App to stay in touch with classroom assignments and communication. Students understand that assignments within Google Classroom quickly and easily are transferred to their school wide grade book. Parents and students alike understand that all communication about the band program goes through the Band app. Any news about upcoming concerts, parent meetings, trip times/schedules are all routed through the Band App. Signups for everything like concessions workers or who is to bring specific items to the awards banquet are also done through the Band App.

We also have access for every single band student from the 6th grade through 12th grade to NoteFlight Learn. This is an amazing opportunity for our students to get creative in composition, arranging and to learn music theory easier than in the past. Hal Leonard has made access to NoteFlight Learn and SoundCheck available at a very cost-effective price point.

A new piece of technology here at Farwell this year are our Interactive TV’s that have been installed. These give a new level of interaction to the lessons teachers are teaching. Students can come to the board, move things around, change the notes, compose a song, and answer questions in new and exciting ways. Thankfully our superintendent has also realized the need for teacher training and has already provided in-service by highly qualified trainers on these Interactive TV’s!”

How has the last couple of years changed the use of technology in the education space overall?

“In regards to the entire education field – technology has been forced into the forefront of every single teacher’s bag of tools to reach their students. In the past you would have some teachers making use of technology, but many others were hesitant to really dig in and use the amazing programs and apps available to us. With online learning becoming a very real thing, teachers had to come to grasp with the reality that this was going to happen and they scrambled quickly to figure things out.”

Has it accelerated what would have normally been a longer progression?

“With the fact that COVID hit and sent the world into lock-down, teachers and schools had to move fast! Schools had to find ways to get devices and internet access into students’ hands and homes. Teachers could no longer continue to teach the way they learned and/or had taught for years. We all scrambled to talk to each other, we made new connections online in forums and groups, and we quickly learned things that worked and didn’t work. Technology in education has been thrust forward and has for sure been adapted much faster that it would have been.”

What’s something you learned or realized over the past 2 years that you didn’t expect?

“Students need to be in school face-to-face. Some students can successfully handle doing their work online but those are the students with a ton of parental support who are at the top of the class anyways. Even when we ARE face-to-face, the online learning is difficult for students to finish and turn in on time. There has to be a ton of talk at school, in class, alongside lots of classroom discussion for students to really fully understand what they need accomplish online. Students may have grown up with technology surrounding them, but they do not understand how to make the best use of that technology to help them learn and achieve greater things. They know how to Tweet, post Tik-Toks and put an Instagram post up, though.

Another thing that astonishes me is the fact that students have access to an endless array of music, but they still have to be given so much encouragement to explore different genres of music. They have to be led to listen to groups like The Marine Bands, The Chicago Symphony, or The Boston Pops. They have to be shown the fact that amazing musicians from groups like the Brass Band of Battle Creek are actually on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube and those artists ENJOY interacting with their followers!”

What does music education mean to you?

“Music Education is a way for us to reach students that cannot be done in any other class in school. No other class draws students into the level of belonging to a family like music does. Music changes the way students think, act and behave. Music gives our students a way to cope with the stress and tensions of everyday life and is a door to our souls, minds and imaginations. Music gives us a sense of accomplishment, self-discipline, responsibility and commitment to something that is greater than just ourselves.”

"No other class draws students into the level of belonging to a family like music does." Click To Tweet

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