I read recently that “silence is noise” to this generation of students. I’ve given up trying to make them be totally quiet to work in my classes. Instead, I’m trying to give them something to listen to. Because I teach in a computer lab, it is pretty easy to get music to the kids.
My first choice was Pandora. I love this site and the ease with which you can build your own playlists (radio stations). The downside is that you have no control over which song comes up next. I hesitated using it this year because they started adding ads to the site, and displaying beer ads to my middle schoolers just seemed wrong somehow.
Next, we tried Musicovery. This is a really cool site for music. It looks like an iPod player on screen. You choose from a number of genres and then choose a mood. A spiderweb of songs comes up on screen. Again, the choices are totally random, but with muiscovery you can see the songs in the playlist and choose to skip some or move in a different direction. Now the problem for my middle schoolers is that the songs are not censored, so there a lot of rap songs (and others) with explicit lyrics. I could just imagine the phone calls from parents.
Steve Dembo turned me on to 2 other sites. The first one I tried was Orb. With Orb you download a file that allows you to stream the music on your computer to the Internet. In essence, you have your playlist with you anywhere you are. You can listen to some of the music I put up (mostly Christmas music for my trial). I really like this site. You have to set up your playlists in Orb (you can’t just use the ones you set up in your media player). Again, I encountered problems. One or two people streaming from my home is not a problem. 90 students streaming at one time overloaded the weak wireless connection on my desktop and the music stopped. Back to the drawing board.
The second site Steve mentioned was FineTune. FineTune streams over the Internet. You create playlists from thousands of songs available online. You must have at least 45 songs in a playlist, and you can only have 3 songs from any single artist in that playlist. Finding music was not difficult, but narrowing my choices down to 3 per artist was frustrating. I’ve set up a few playlists for you to look at over here. I’m not sure yet how this would work in the classroom. We’ll be trying it out this week.
One last site I’ll mention here is one I think may do the trick for our situation. I’m talking about AnywhereFM. With AnywhereFM, you upload mp3 files from your computer to the web. Then, using your own files you can create playlists. It is also a social site, so you can add “friends” and their playlists to your site. The interface is extremely easy to understand. I must say, however, it took me a little bit to figure out how to put songs in a playlist. It uses a drag-and-drop feature that isn’t immediately obvious, but once you figure it out it goes without a hitch. The biggest drawback is that Windows Meda Player rips CDs to wma files. AnywhereFM only uses mp3, so some conversion is necessary. Oh yeah, you can catch my playlists over here. If you set up your own, please add me as a friend!
UPDATE (12/10/07): The Anywhere.FM site is probably my favorite of the ones listed above. However, within 3 clicks students were able to access music that references the “N” word and a lot of 4-letter words that are just not appropriate for 6th graders. I’m going to leave the site up, but I’ve taken the link down from my website for now. – Tim
What streaming site you do you like? Leave your ideas in our comments area.