Technology & Teaching | An Interview with Paul Shimmons

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Technology & Teaching | An Interview with Paul Shimmons

October 11, 2018

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Paul Shimmons to discuss his experience as a music educator. Paul has been a band director since 1991 and has actually been at Farwell Area Schools 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. Over the next few months we will continue to share more insights from Paul so if you haven’t subscribed to our blog yet, you can do it at the bottom of this post.

We wanted to gain a little more insight into Paul and his program, so we asked him a few questions that will hopefully help you improve your performances.

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A band director can use technology in many ways from staying organized to helping students improve. We’ll talk about how technology can help your organization in a later post because there’s just too many ways it can help students improve that we can’t fit both into this post. This first introductory post will focus on the uses and benefits realized in the classroom.

When asked how he uses technology in his daily activities, Paul focused on a few areas where he has personally seen benefits.


When grading students, Paul likes to use Seesaw or Class Dojo because they allow for multimedia presentation such as videos or recordings so that he can easily see and hear performances and refer to them for later reference. It’s also beneficial for students and parents because they can hear it, unlink with a traditional gradebook which can only show a simple number grade. It gives him the ability to share the progress of the student with parents so that they can be connected to the work their child is doing in the classroom every week.

By using this technology, students will also have a digital portfolio that they can refer to so they can see just how much they’ve improved and provide the positive feedback to encourage further development. This is tangible evidence that they’re learning.

Record Keeping

Keeping records is important as a band director and the best way to keep records he has found is to use a database that can be accessed from anywhere. Databases allow for greater flexibility over spreadsheets and allow for quick and easy printing of multiple reports. Paul has databases that track uniforms, instrument inventory, class lists, student/parent information, and even locker usage. He also uses a music library database to keep the information on the different music he has used in the past and what music his program owns. This gives him a quick reference when he is building the next year’s marching band program or planning his winter and spring concerts. It not only saves time, but also money by eliminating him from buying music that he already owns.

Arranging Music

Music notation software is a big help when it comes to arranging, rearranging, and composing music. Paul recommends Notion from PreSonus, Noteflight, and Flat for this. Most of the notation Paul does himself is done with Notion via laptop and iPad both. Student notation assignments and music notation arrangements/compositions are done online through Noteflight. Using apps like Sheet Music Scanner and NotateMeNow offer the ability to quickly allow students to take a photo of their music that then turns into digital notation on their personal devices. This allows them to listen to that music and edit it. These are great tools for students as they develop confidence in their music careers. Every year, one or two of Paul’s seniors will arrange music for the Winter or Spring Concerts. This is a great accomplishment and further instills their love of music as they learn a whole new dimension and level of what it means to be a musician. Several students will use their own arrangements and compositions as part of their portfolio as they compete to earn opportunities to carry their love of music to their college or university of choice.

The next post from our conversation with Paul is about using technology to improve your communication as a music director.

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