Technology Literacy

Mike Lawson • Technology • April 1, 2002

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The music education profession is in a technology transition. Today, computer literacy is becoming an essential ingredient in the teaching lexicon, especially for reaching and teaching students of all learning styles and 

Music educators must now know how to operate PC and/or Macintosh computer operating systems to maximize business and music software applications. Educators are striving to keep up with basic computer hardware and computer applications like word processing, PowerPoint slide show presentations, spreadsheets, database management, Internet with search engines and e-mail, electronic grade books, and more. And there is always the challenge of finding out what is available to do the job better and teach more effectively. Help with this can be found in back issues of this technology column, published online

When these technology skills are learned, it is good to become familiar with Web development applications, including HTML programming, to spotlight your program on the World Wide Web. That will lead to skills in desktop publishing with computer graphic applications and digital photography as well as audio/video streaming. When I entered college 40 years ago, only business students took typing courses as part of their high school curriculum. The time has come when educators need to become technology literate. But knowing how busy instrumental music educators are, the question quickly becomes: How can this be accomplished after one has entered the profession with the limitations of time and money? Let’s look at a few strategies.

Sources of Post-College Technology Literacy

Many school districts are beginning to offer computer technology. Check with your school’s computer department or the school district’s technology office and you will probably find many general computer technology classes offered in Macintosh or PC fundamentals as well as more advanced courses. Unfortunately, music technology will probably not be taught. Investigate your local community colleges and trade schools for evening and weekend technology courses. These may be more expensive and in-depth classes, while school districts usually offer quick in-service classes with modest technology expectations.

Another source of instruction deals with textbooks by prominent publishers such as Que, Peach Pit (, Sams (, MacMillan (, and Sybex ( These offer “how to” books for every user. MacMillan is the largest publisher of computer books in the world. The “Computers for Dummies” series by IDG Books ( is a classical illustration of “how to” books that cover computer literacy essentials with no-nonsense solutions. Such books may also include CD-ROMs that walk you through examples from the text.

Boot camps for the business community are generally expensive with a minimum of $200 a day up to $3,000 to $6,000 for one- or two-week workshops. For example, CompUSA offers an A+ Certification mini boot camp for $1,000 for eight Saturdays, eight hours a day, which includes the textbook and CD. CompuMaster ( out of Mission, Kans., offers traveling business-oriented technology classes throughout the U.S.A. These IT classes (Cisco router configuration, PhotoShop, networking, etc.) are regularly offered for one or two days in many metropolitan areas. These camps are geared for the advanced users. They shotgun the data to the student and then immediately have you take the national certification tests, but retention of the data is only 25- 50 percent.

Self-Paced Instruction with National Certification Options

Self-paced study courses are an extension of textbooks because they also provide assessment in the instructional materials along with telephone technical support to customize the instruction so mastery of the content is the goal. There is a national association, CompTIA (, which offers self-paced instruction. These courses are based on clearly established national standards that meet national certification requirements. CompTIA develops vendor-neutral certification for credibility, recognition of achievement and quality assurance.

What I like about self-paced instructional technology is that the courseware offers a comprehensive assessment package usually on a CD-ROM so that mastery of the instruction is never in question. There are over 200 national certifications available through courseware that meet CompTIA standards. The A+ Certification is the very first course of study to consider. There is one unique company that has developed a successful self-paced course of study covering essential computer fundamentals in which mastery is guaranteed both with “live” technical support for one year and CD-ROM assessment. This company, Micro2000 (, specializes in PC diagnostics, networking administration tools, training solutions and OEM solutions. They also have an impressive prerequisite A+ certification technology literacy course that is inexpensive: PC Hardware Made Easy. This course teaches everything you’ll need to quickly gain a complete understanding of how a PC works, even if you’ve never used a computer before. After finishing this course, you’ll not only understand how a PC works, but how to build your own along with how to install Windows 98 and even how to diagnose and repair any problems that come up. There is a step-by-step two-hour instructional video included.

The Micro 2000 A+ Certification is a good self-paced course that carefully covers computer fundamentals with or without a technical background or familiarity with computers. Upon completion, the goal of this course is to confidently pass the new CompTIA A+ certification tests. To date, more than 500,000 people have passed this national certification. The four-volume course contains an interactive CD with instructional video clips, practice exams and simulations of real-world installation and maintenance tasks, free technical support and one year free access to Web-based updates on course material, along with other goodies. This in-depth study can be accomplished in about 70 hours of self-paced instruction. New Riders ( offers an in-depth textbook with CD-ROM, “A+ Certification Training Guide.”

For those lacking Microsoft Office expertise, which is the backbone of general computer applications for classroom teachers, consider the MOUS (Microsoft Office User Specialist). This will teach everything about Word (word processing), Excel (spreadsheet), Access (database), PowerPoint (slide show) and Outlook (e-mail) within a short period of time. Micro2000 has a good MOUS self-paced course available. 

The Next Level: Networking, Computer Repairs

Once the computer “bug” has bitten you, run with it. Several good options are available to you. A next level to consider is Micro2000′s Networking Essentials or Network+ Certification courses, which are a great introduction to networking. Content includes the basics of networking skills along with knowledge to configure and install the TCP/IP client with security, remote connectivity, and more. For more advanced technology-oriented educators, consider a self-paced class in Cisco networking or Microsoft MCSE certification. I suggest you investigate the local book store or the school library for computer magazines and technology. For PC users I suggest PC Magazine ( and PC World ( For Macintosh users, check out MacWorld ( and MacAddict ( If you’re looking for some good textbooks for the Microsoft Networking Essentials certification, Que ( offers an in-depth textbook with CD-ROM: “Microsoft Networking Essentials.” New Riders also has one for the Microsoft MCSE certification.

If you are fortunate to have a networking computer lab for your students, you will need to learn some networking skills to better maintain the lab. School districts rarely provide sufficient maintenance personnel, and eventually your networking skills will make a big difference in your lab’s success. Buying updated wave table sound cards, replacing defective CD-ROMs and floppy disk drives, updating RAM and installing larger hard disk drives are much less expensive when you don’t have to pay a technician. My school was once charged $150 to have a defective Ethernet card replaced in a school computer. Never again will I be put in this situation that required only five to 10 minutes to troubleshoot and replace the $10 Ethernet card. When it came time to upgrade RAM in my computer lab, I called the manufacturer and ordered RAM directly and saved myself a bundle of money by installing it myself. When I wanted a faster CPU in my Pentium II 350 MHz computers, I again called the manufacturer and found out that this Pentium II motherboard could also support a Pentium III 600 MHz CPU at a cost of only $300. I did the Pentium III CPU upgrade myself and had brand new computers with the original motherboard and parts.

Discouraged with computer repairs? Micro2000 offers a Post Probe kit which is a passive POST (Power On Self Test) that can help you, the technician, diagnose a PC quickly, accurately and easily.

Technology Literacy and Music Applications

Studying computer technology without music applications can be a rather dry, uninspiring task for music educators. At the same time, computer literacy is an important ingredient for achieving hardware and software independence and self-reliance. There are many summer workshops for music educators offered by colleges across the country, ranging from a few days to a five-day week. The fastest way to locate them is to check out the advertisements in the spring issues of professional music educator magazines, such as School Band and Orchestra magazine (, Music Educators Journal (, and the Jazz Educators Journal (

The ultimate computer music training is offered by TI:ME (Technology Institute for Music Educators, This is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 to address the need to codify technology into a cohesive set of standards. A certification process was explored to recognize the achievement of in-service music teachers in music technology. Finally, it became clear that there was a need for a new organization focused on the subject of teacher training in music technology. Today, it is possible to earn a national computer music technologist certificate by completing seven one-week workshops offered by certified instructors on many college campuses across the country. Courseware is organized in two levels. Level one courses cover basic skills in music technology with emphasis on electronic keyboards, MIDI sequencing and notation, and basic skills in music technology with instructional software, communications and digital media. Level two courses include integrating technology into the music curriculum, notation, advanced sequencing, electronic instruments, multimedia authoring and interactive Internet authoring.

In addition to courseware and a national certification process, TI:ME also offers a valuable book called “Technology Strategies for Music Education.” This book is a must read for all elementary, secondary and higher education music educators. This 65-page document is designed to be an overview and contains 201 strategies for integrating technology into the music curriculum, areas of competency leading to TI:ME certification, and a description of the Technology Institute for Music Educators.

You can also find a wealth of information about computer music technology in the Ultimate Beginner Tech Start Series by Warner Bros. Publications (

1. “Musicians and Computers,” by David S. Mash
2. “MIDI Basics,” by Lee Whitmore
3. “Sequencing Basics,” by Don Muro
4. “Musicians and the Internet,” by David S. Mash
5. “Musicians and Computers,” by David S. Mash
6. “Home Recording Basics,” by Bill Purse
7. “Live Sound Basics,” by Tony Marvuglio
8. “Musicians and Multimedia,” by David S. Mash

Hal Leonard’s “What’s A…?” is a great starter series of booklets. They provide basic answers to your music technology questions.

1. “What’s A Sampler?” Revised by Freff
2. “What’s A Sequencer?” Revised by Greg R. Starr
3. “What’s A Synthesizer?” Revised by Jon F. Eiche
4. “What’s MIDI?”Revised by Jon F. Eiche

If you need help with music tech terms, Hal Leonard has a practical dictionary for audio and music production called “Tech Terms,” by George Petersen and Steve Oppenheimer. Looking for an in-depth publication covering both MIDI and digital audio recording? Try “How MIDI Works, 6th edition,” by Peter Lawrence Alexander, published by Hal Leonard.

If you are new to music technology, visit Lentine Music ( online for a comprehensive music technology guide.

Graduation to Computer Music Technology

The future is bright for technology literate music educators and computer literacy is the key. Good luck building your computer music “chops.” Remember, nearly all expenses teachers encounter in becoming technology literate can be claimed as professional income tax deductions.

Dr. John Kuzmich Jr.’s technology column is a regular feature of SBO magazine. Dr. Kuzmich is a nationally known music educator with more than 30 years of teaching experience. He recently earned certification from TI:ME (Technology Institute for Music Educators) to be a national training instructor. His academic background also includes a Ph.D. in comprehensive musicianship. As a freelance author, Dr. Kuzmich has 250 articles and five textbooks published. As a clinician, he frequently participates in workshops throughout the United States and several foreign countries. For more information about Dr. Kuzmich, please visit his home page at

This article appeared on pages 50 – 54 in the April issue of School Band and Orchestra.

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