How Relevant is Your Teaching: Mastering Music Can FLIP the Switch!

Mike Lawson • Technology • October 22, 2015

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The times they, are a changing.” Accountability is king. But accountability needs to have meaning beyond raw data. We music educators may think we are above the fray because our work is on public display. Is it really OK that homework is merely repetitive practice for mastery of what’s already being taught and practiced in the classroom? 

There is a paradigm slowly shifting education. Today’s students have a strong connection to technology, interacting with it from birth. E-learning has proven to increase knowledge retention by 25% to 60%, while taking 50% less time. By 2019, 50% of all HS extracurricular, college prep, and professional courses will be delivered online. 

Fortunately the new music technology modern music educator offers dynamic real-time instruction applications that bridge performance-only programs of the past to new, creative music performance experiences. 

Instruction models emerging in the changing shift of education. Blended and Flip Learning are two standouts. The main difference between them is teacher face time. Blended Learning implies that face-to-face time will be reduced while a Flipped Classroom model utilizes more purposeful interaction with the teacher. Flipped Learning is a good approach in music programs affected by the 90-minute block schedule where ensemble students can benefit from additional creative options and activities.

What educators are finding particularly exciting is that FLIP Learning increases student ownership of their musicianship and progress. Teachers become freer to interact with students learning in an automatic accountability environment. Teachers observe and interact with students, providing relevant feedback and encouragement rather than standing in the central command spot and hoping students understand the instruction then enduring laborious assessments. Exciting, innovative technology and video tutorials make it possible for teachers to manage the classroom successfully. Plus, national standards are seamlessly integrated within the FLIP Learning model as students are unleashed with creative, meaningful learning. 

The transition from a teacher-centered classroom to a FLIP Learning classroom doesn’t mean that everything is flipped. Naturally, concerts and ensemble performance classes require teacher-directed instruction. Collaboration is a key ingredient for Flipped Learning. The teacher provides more collaborative experiences than just lecturing / conducting. Homework is augmented beyond repetitive practice at home. The goal is to expand and deepen student and school so students are prepared to and demonstrate real-world or computer-generated creations and performance proficiency. And fortunately, FLIP Learning allows teachers to select technologies that can best meet students’ needs in a practical and productive format because students don’t all progress at the same rate. 

Mastering Music and the 4 Pillars of F-L-I-P Learning

Mastering Music  by Datasonics is the first, true music suite of seven software applications for performing, composing, digital-audio – MIDI sequencing, notation, film scoring, theory, and aural training with just one seamless interface. And best of all, it meets all of the essential criteria for Flipped Learning and teaching national standards with its unique and dynamic curriculum that integrates hands-on instruction and video tutorials all within the application. This results in student-projects creatively demonstrating learning and content mastery. 

Flexible Environment

Flipped Learning allows for a variety of learning modes; educators often rearrange their learning spaces to accommodate a lesson or unit, to support either group work or independent study, and in these flexible spaces students can choose how they learn. Furthermore, educators who flip their classes are flexible in their expectations of student timelines for learning and in their assessments of student learning.

F1. Establish spaces and time frames that permit students to interact and reflect on their learning.

Because Mastering Music  operates in the cloud each student can work 24/7 in a personalized learning environment and/or collaborate as required on various projects as set by the teacher. 

F2. Continually observe and monitor students to make adjustments. 

The Class Management and Reporting section of Mastering Music  enables teachers to group students into classes and monitor each student’s portfolio of work. This helps to better provide them with feedback on their progress as they work through the lesson material provided with the package. 

F3. Provide students with different ways to learn content and demonstrate mastery.

Mastering Music  contains over 400 lessons covering all aspects of music — performing, composing, arranging, mixing, music production, digital audio, notation, music theory, aural training, and film scoring. Each of these lesson topics combines these musical aspects in creative ways that provides opportunities for students to learn and demonstrate their mastery of music. 

Learning Culture

In the traditional teacher-centered model, the teacher is the primary source of information. By contrast, the Flipped Learning model shifts instruction to a learner-centered approach, where in-class time is dedicated to exploring topics in greater depth and creating rich learning opportunities. As a result, students are actively involved in knowledge construction as they participate in and evaluate their learning in a manner that is personally meaningful.

L1. Give students opportunities to engage in meaningful activities without the teacher being central. 

Because of the variety of lesson material contained within Mastering Music , each student discovers meaningful activities that engage him or her as they explore different aspects of music. 

L2. Scaffold activities and make them accessible to all students through differentiation and feedback.

Mastering Music  provides lesson plans for each grade level and these can be customized to cater for each student’s level of experience and capabilities. Each lesson topic contains multiple tasks with an increasing level of difficulty to stimulate more advanced students while helping remedial students, thus providing a true personalized learning environment. 

Intentional Content

Flipped Learning teachers continually determine what they need to teach and what materials students should explore on their own. They use Intentional Content to maximize classroom time with effective active student-centered, active learning strategies.

I1. Prioritize concepts used in direct instruction for learners to access on their own. 

The broad spectrum of lesson material within Mastering Music  covers all aspects of the music curriculum. The emphasis in each lesson topic is learning by doing and self-evaluation. Some lesson topics provide immediate feedback as they are marked by the software while others are assessed and commented on by teachers as they review each student’s portfolio. 

I2. Create and/or curate relevant content (typically videos) for students. 

All of the 400+ lessons in Mastering Music  contain instructional and video help pages to assist students in completing each lesson task, guiding them through the process. Each lesson topic also contains curriculum details and links to related lessons that provide information for the teacher to add relevant content for each grade level and provide additional material for the students to explore. 

I3. Differentiate to make content accessible and relevant to all students.

Each lesson topic contains multiple tasks with increasing levels of difficulty to cater for each student’s capability and level of experience. Because of the diverse range of lesson material covering all aspects of music there is a lesson to suit each student’s needs and interests.

Professional Educator

The teacher’s role is important, and often more rewarding, in a Flipped Classroom. During class time, they continually observe their students, providing feedback relevant in the moment, and assessing their work. Professional Educators are reflective in their practice, connect with each other to improve their instruction, accept constructive criticism. 

P1. Make myself available to all students for individual, small group, and class feedback in real time.

While the majority of lessons are individual in their nature, there is ample opportunity for collaboration on some lessons and for the teacher to facilitate times when other students can comment on each other’s work. There are also lessons that require students to work in an ensemble and choir. 

P2. Conduct ongoing formative assessments through observation and recording data to inform future instruction. 

There is ample opportunity for students to reflect and comment on other students’ work and for the teacher to use the Class Management and Reporting section of Mastering Music  to comment on each lesson task that the students have completed. Because the software tracks each student’s portfolio the teacher can see at a glance each student’s progress, grade it, and make comments. Each student’s grades can also be exported to a spreadsheet for importing into the school reporting system and for parent/teacher interviews.

P3. Collaborate and reflect with other educators.

Music teachers can collaborate, compare, and reflect using the Class Management tool to discuss achievements and determine how to modify and customize their approach to improve the students’ performance. 

Mastering Music: A Digital Resource for the Flipped Classroom & National Standards

The revised National Music Standards that were released on June 4, 2014 include four artistic processes: creating, performing, responding, and connecting, and have introduced technology as an important part of meeting these standards. Mastering Music  is the most useful digital resource to meet these new standards and a mapping to these standards can be found at however the tables below map the lesson topics to the standards released in 1994. Its 400+ lessons are structured into the four standards-based learning areas: 

Performing (playing songs on your chosen instrument)

Composing (experimenting, creating and editing music)

Publishing (writing and printing notation)

Musicianship (exercises that help to understand the language of music)

Here is a sample of how lessons within Mastering Music  are laid out to facilitate ease-of-use and learning – the lesson outline links to instructional help and videos, and the software application on the right with the correct screen open and toolbars selected to enhance learning outcomes. Students can immediately begin using this software without a steep learning curve before diving in. Let’s follow one lesson topic through the four standards in more detail to get a better idea of how this works. 

1. Performing

The performing standard covers recording individual, choir, and instrumental ensemble performances on their chosen instrument(s) for both self-evaluation and for teacher assessment. These songs range in difficulty from simple one- note songs for students in middle school to very complex melodies for high school students and cover all musical styles and genres. The recordings can be MIDI or audio depending on the chosen instrument. The software is intelligent in that it knows the transposition of each instrument and will transpose the notation automatically when the instrument is chosen from the list. Unlike a CD, you can vary the tempo and change the key to suit. You can also play or mute the melody as you play along. 

2. Composing

This standard covers composing, arranging, mixing, music production, and film scoring – the creative areas within music. One of the more popular lesson topics is film scoring, so let’s take a closer look at this lesson topic. 

In task one, the student needs to listen to three mood music tracks and select one they think fits best with the video clip, and then add various sound effects (MIDI and audio) to fit an video clip. 

There are a number of functions involved in completing this task and the lesson instruction contains words that are hyperlinked to instructional and video help pages that assist the student. 

The curriculum tab shows the educator the musical concepts covered in this lesson, the aims and objectives, the activities performed, the expected outcomes, and how to assess each student’s work. 

In task two, the job gets a little more challenging. The student still needs to listen to three mood music tracks and select the one they think fits best with the marionette video clip, and then select conversation pieces from the audio tracks to match the animation of the marionettes and build a story. 

3. Publishing

This learning area deals with writing and printing music notation, and covering lesson topics such as notes, dynamics, time signatures, lyrics, chords, conductor scores, and structure. Let’s look at one of the lesson topics dealing with structure – DS al Fine. 

One of the important aspects of Mastering Music  is that it plays all of the structural symbols – repeats, 1st and 2nd endings, DC al Fine, DS al Fine, DC al Coda, and DS al Coda. This means that you only need one version of your song to play and print. Think of the structure as an overlay placed over the song. In task one, the image in the lesson instruction shows the sections of the song that are identical and provides instructions as to where to place the structural symbols to get the song ready to print. After completing the structure, the song can be played and it shows the student how the structure is navigated while it is playing. In later tasks, the lesson instruction doesn’t highlight the sections that are the same – the student must analyze the music and determine the song structure for him or herself. Of course, if they get it wrong the song won’t look correct when it is played, as the song cursor will not match the played music. The software has unlimited undo’s so the student can retry until they get it correct. 

4. Musicianship

Musicianship deals with aural training and music theory. This section lends itself to automatic assessment by the computer as the majority of lessons have only one correct answer, unlike the more creative lessons. Let’s look at one of the aural training lessons – Chords. 

Task one begins with two alternatives – major and minor chords. By Task 12 more challenging chord inversions such as first and second inversions are included. They can listen to the audio example multiple times. When a student has completed all ten exercises, a print results button appears to print out plus results are recorded in the student’s log. 

Class Management and Reporting

This brings us to the logical step of the Class Management section within Mastering Music. This section is only available to the teacher based on their profile when they are set up in Mastering Music. In this section educators can upload students by class, view each student’s progress, and assess their e-portfolio. They can also print individual student and class results and also extract these results as a CSV file for uploading to the school’s learning management system. 

Closing Comments

Changing times and standards are shining a bright clarifying spotlight on all aspects of education. This is good for our technology savvy students. They want more and we’re better prepared to deliver. Mastering Music is a technology-rich, student-centered music instruction suite whose time has come. It’s a beautiful thing to see students own their choices and progress as they compose and produce with cutting-edge technology. Music educators are ready for the changes coming our way and ready to enrich the next generation with all the wonders of music.

All graphics © Datasonics 2015

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