• Three Easy Steps to Posting Your Music on the Web

    Mike Lawson | December 12, 2008

    When our ensembles are able to hear their own performances, they take notice. Taking your recording technology to the next level and posting your ensembles music to a Web site will pique the interest of parents and students alike.

    Lets take a closer look at this technology and walk through the process of digital recording, converting audio files to MP3s, and posting music to the Web. This can result in true CD-quality (44.1 KHz) audio streaming and give you and your students an accurate tool with which you can make quality assessments. This technology is becoming easier for both teachers and students to use and, better yet, it is very economical.

    Step one: find yourself a quality digital audio recorder. There are number of exciting portable and hand-held options. Some of these are digital, and some can burn directly to CD, but both kinds have ultra high quality capabilities that go far beyond that of traditional tape recorders.

  • Tech Tools to Aid Student Performance

    Mike Lawson | November 10, 2008

    Technology may appear to be the one ingredient that can help us maximize instructional time, especially outside of class, but implementing new tools may be challenging for those who feel under pressure and maxed out with learning curves. Ironically, many of our students are already stepping up to the plate in the technology sphere with blogging, podcasting, iTunes, YouTube, and MP3 players, while many of us are safely teaching dated methodologies and techniques governed by the limitations of our college curriculum which often included little, if any, music technology. Students are pretty techno-savvy and educators need to plug into that enthusiasm.

  • The Future of Music Technology: Web-Based Software

    Mike Lawson | October 6, 2008

    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.

  • Creative Alternatives for Non-Traditional Music Classes

    Mike Lawson | May 14, 2008

    More often than not, music educators are being asked to teach classes beyond the traditional band program, such as required music appreciation classes for non-music students. Success teaching students who are not in class of their own volition is a challenge for even the best of us, but with the right tools, it is possible. With music technology, these situations can be turned around and you can “rock” these students with real world instruction, creating and performing music electronically.

    Consider creating music with a sequencer that doesn’t require music theory or music reading skills, but does stimulate musical ears by mixing and adding creative special effects. Or how about learning performance skills on a harmonica, where “chops” aren’t a critical factor? Or perhaps studying hip-hop or pop music from the contemporary music scene rather than “ancient” music history? There are tools and resources out there waiting for you.

    Let me introduce two music educators who have found success with difficult teaching assignments by embracing music technology and innovative materials. Wiley Cruse, a middle school instrumental music educator in Lakewood, Colorado, and Zig Wajler of Nashville, Tennessee are taking action in teaching situations in which they were not formally trained. These two teachers are reaching out and inspiring students in creative ways beyond traditional instruction.

  • Automating Administrative Busywork, pt. 1 of 2

    Mike Lawson | September 19, 2007

    Though overwhelmed and overworked, music educators can juggle administrative and teaching duties better now than ever before with new time-saving tools. Cell phones and PDAs with telephone capabilities are the norm for busy people. But there are many more technological options to consider to lighten the workload. For this two-part series, I've selected some exciting tools to put on your Christmas wish list: business card management; voice-recognition-to-print software; optical character recognition; creative screen dumps, and multimedia file management.

  • Alternative Assessments for Mainstream Programs

    Mike Lawson | August 14, 2007

    In our continuing coverage of how music technology is improving music education, we?ll take a look at a remarkable innovation in the state of Washington: the Classroom-Based Performance Assessments (CBPA). Because music, dance, theater and visual arts are core subject areas in Washington, per state and federal law, all schools will annually report student progress in the Arts at grades 5, 8, and 10 beginning with the 2008-2009 school year. The CBPA were developed as state approved resources to be used in this process. Washington is leading the nation in developing a systemic structure to sustain, support, implement, grow, assess, and celebrate arts education.

    The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has developed an impressive Web site to share the Arts CBPA and other methods used to measure and report student achievement in the arts. The Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALR) standards indicate what Washington teachers want students to know and be able to do. The CBPA measures what needs to be learned, taught, and whether those goals are being achieved. Educators see what their students know and are able to do, and can modify each student?s needs. Teachers of the Arts have been being trained in multiple ways to use the CBPA with their students since 2003, in preparation for 2008.

    The CBPA music assessment differs from others because it is based on individual and solo performance rather than paper-and-pencil tests about music. Students are actually assessed on what they do in class by creating music, including composing on electronic keyboards and computers.

  • Mainstream Music Technology Integration with Performance Classes

    Mike Lawson | July 24, 2007

    Music education is on the move. I recently heard a radio commercial for a local music school which caught my attention. Students who enrolled could expect to learn performance skills, 16 styles of music, and how to write their own songs. And then came the clincher: all this instruction is made possible because computers and the latest software assist a quality staff of teachers. Yup, the face of music education is changing.

    New expectations are being integrated into the performance curricula of bands, strings, and choirs because musicianship is now more than just technique. Students need and increasingly expect opportunities for critical evaluation and creative interpretation. A useful way to cultivate creativity is to guide students toward becoming conceptually acquainted with their music environment. Improvising, analyzing, arranging, and composing are essential skills that can be taught and mastered.

  • Toning Up with Technology

    Mike Lawson | April 27, 2007A recent show on the ESPN television network featured a roundtable discussion with several famous veteran football players from the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. The conversation focused, among other topics, on the use of weights and training, and whether their widespread use made the players of today better than the players of yesteryear. One […] Read More...
  • Karen Garrett: Plugging Music Technology into the Schools

    Mike Lawson | April 27, 2007Karen Garrett, the 2006 TI:ME Teacher of the Year and award-winning, Web site-designing music technology teacher of Central Park Elementary School in Birmingham, Ala., began playing music by taking piano lessons in the fourth grade at a Birmingham public school. Read More...
  • Technology/Research Integrated Music Mastery

    Mike Lawson | April 27, 2007Learning to play with resonant tone, correct posture and hand position, accurate pitches and intonation, precise rhythms, and musical phrasing and style are skills we music teachers want to help instrumental students to master. Read More...
  • Shortcuts: Time is a Barometer for Success, Part Two of Four

    Mike Lawson | March 23, 2007

    Do students frequently visit your school's music Web site on their way around the net? Here are some tools fellow directors are using to make their Web sites more interactive and enticing.

    Music Scores on the Web
    Emerging from the plethora of newsletter-type Web pages is a new generation of sites which are instructionally interactive. These sites can contain posted music scores that invite and excite techno-savvy students to new ways of practicing at home. Students can do warm up exercises or practice the school fight song, which can have parts posted for each of the wind, brass, string and percussion instruments. Posting different parts is easily accomplished with Sibelius' Scorch ( Scorch is a slick, free software that allows users to view, play, customize and print Sibelius scores on the Internet. Not only is it easy to use, but it can also turn pages, change the device used for playback, and adjust the playback controls or tempo. Click the play button to start from the beginning or click anywhere in the score to start or stop from that point. It can change instruments plus save, adjust the page setup, and print. Scorch makes scores easy for students to practice interactively.

  • Technology: Podcasting Part II

    Mike Lawson | December 8, 2006

    Tools To Get You Podcasting Part II

    Getting started is very inexpensive: entry level might include an $80 USB microphone, a computer and some free software. Want to get fancy? Buy a couple of good-quality microphones, a phone hookup, commercial software, and a soundboard to blend the different voices.

    Fortunately, you don't need specialized digital recording software or proprietary hardware to podcast. In fact, you can probably use whatever digital audio software and hardware you already have. Audacity is a great free, open source digital audio application that is available on several platforms: Linux, Mac OS X, Windows and other operating systems. It is both an audio editor and digital recorder that can record live audio, convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs, edit Ogg Vorbis, MP3, and WAV sound files, cut, copy, splice, and mix sounds together, and change the speed or pitch of a recording. You can do shows live, you or you can drag and drop the music files into the program and arrange them. Programs like Audacity are also called open source software, because their source code is available for anyone to study or use. There are thousands of other free and open source programs, including the Mozilla Web browser, the office suite, and all the Linux-based operating systems. Go to for more info.

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