While technology is significantly impacting much of today’s education scene, it doesn’t seem to have an equal presence in music classes. Only a third of music educators are using technology with students. And even among this progressive one-third, few are reaching out beyond the classroom. Many of us still embrace the values of music education from its historical past, while overlooking the benefits of modern technological tools. But computers and the Internet are revolutionizing education far beyond the confines of the classroom.
Yes, rehearsal time is precious and limited. The demands and details of music performance accomplishments are never ending. But music educators must wake up to the vast potential of Web-based instruction, which can reach and teach students outside the classroom. Individual involvement is the very essence of this technology, and these types of applications put students in the driver’s seat, rather than in the back seat.
As I peruse the music technology scene, I sense that the inherent learning curve is the obstacle preventing many of us from implementing sophisticated new teaching tools. The time and frustration of learning the software is often self-defeating. But we are working with a unique generation of students who are often already ahead of us on this learning curve; in fact, they are chomping at the bit. We can trust them to run with whatever we offer them, without limiting them to our stride. But unless students have access to music technology outside the classroom, especially at home, their chances for success will be restricted. No matter how many resources the Internet offers, students need direction with systematic instruction that only good music teachers and software can provide.
The time and energy to retrain music educators to fully embrace new technology is a critical factor toward answering why so many music educators have lingered in incorporating it well into the first decade of the 21st century. Only 21 states have adopted MENC’s nine standards, while 29 states have adapted only a few of them. Yet, national teaching standards are the very framework of improving teaching, and the capability of assessing those standards involves even more time and effort. Music technology can certainly make a difference in raising the bar on teaching and assessing national standards. To see where your state stands towards incorporating or adapting national music standards, go towww.aep-arts.org.
If our students could be engaged in music technology outside the classroom, who knows what heights of achievement and accomplishment could be realized through our instruction? We need to direct students with connected, organized opportunities outside of the classroom and overcome the obstacles of budget, commitment, training, and time.
The Internet is the Answer
The Internet offers a wide range of resources, but students need more than resources to grow. They need interactive instruction geared to their training needs. Web-based, educational technology, which I define as organized instructional, interactive opportunities that students can access online, provides the answer. It can include software applications that operate fully over the Internet, with specific training or supplemental instruction that teachers can customize and post for interactive participation.
After seeing the power of the Internet, Steven Chetcuti of Somers, New York created lesson materials for his performance groups on the Web. He developed interactive rhythmic exercises, scale patterns and performance benchmarks for his band using Sibelius Scorch (www.sibelius.com) to view any of the interactive instrumental materials on his Web site (www.theradiohour.net).
How can you demonstrate the impact of Web-based technology on a performance group? Steven started an integrated program with a fellow teacher connecting studies of the American Revolution with the music of the day. The group started with two drummers and four flautists. Steven developed an interactive Fife & Drum curriculum, which encouraged students to practice at home. The Fife & Drum group is now up to 53 members
Steven also developed a series of SolFege lessons using the same Scorch interactive process. With a minimal subscription, a teacher can have access to seven levels of ear training. Students must sign in to use the site, and when they do, an e-mail is automatically sent to their teacher to show participation of each unit. We need to find and create more Web sites like this for our students.
There are some good Web-based music software applications presently available. Following are a few products that operate over the Internet with organized curriculum and instruction covering music notation, music sequencing, aural training, music theory, comprehensive musicianship, practice tracking, and more.
- Tri-Tone Music (www.tritonemusic.com) is keyboard-oriented instruction that offers an online multimedia music curriculum, which is based on a method of integrated performance, history, creativity, theory, and ear training instruction.
- Molto Music (www.moltomusic.com)
Directors who make a Difference
Do you know a fantastic K-12 instrumental music educator who is deserving of recognition in SBO?
and tell us why he or she should be featured in SBO’s annual "Directors Who Make a Difference" report.