IDT Paper: Final Draft

USING TECHNOLOGY TO TRANSFORM THE SECONDARY MUSIC CLASSROOM

Students today have a musical life that is almost totally independent of their school life. They cannot read traditional music notation, and they most likely do not play a musical instrument. (Williams, 2007) However, walk down any hallway in any high school and count the number of students with iPods blasting in their ears. These students have a great love of music that is often disregarded.  Non-traditional, also known as non-performing, music students are an underserved part of the student population in secondary schools. Research findings show that 21% of graduating seniors in 2004 participated in music ensembles. (Abril, 2011)  This leaves approximately 80% of high school students out of formal music instruction. It is imperative that the music education community finds new and innovative ways to reach the rest of the student population. Technology is the way to do this.

Music educators have been aware of the need to integrate technology into the classroom for quite a while. In 1967, the Music Educators National Conference (MENC) sponsored a conference called The Tanglewood Symposium Project. This symposium assembled business and labor leaders, scientists, sociologists, musicians, and educators. These participants came together to discuss the role of music education and ways to improve music instruction. The Tanglewood Symposium met from July 23 to August 2, 1967 and was summarized in the Tanglewood Declaration. It states:

a. Music serves best when its integrity as an art is maintained.

b. Music of all periods, styles, forms, and cultures belongs in the curriculum. The musical repertory should be expanded to involve music of our time in its rich variety, including currently popular teenage music and avant-garde music, American folk music, and the music of other cultures.

c. Schools and colleges should provide adequate time for music programs ranging from pre-school through adult or continuing education.

d. Instruction in the arts should be a general and important part of education in the senior high school.

e. Developments in educational technology, educational television, programmed instruction, and computer-assisted instruction should be applied to music study and research.

f. Greater emphasis should be placed on helping the individual student to fulfill his needs, goals, and potentials.

g. The music education profession must contribute its skills, proficiencies, and insights toward assisting in the solution of urgent social problems as in the “inner city” or other areas with culturally deprived individuals.

h. Programs of teacher education must be expanded and improved to provide music teachers who are specially equipped to teach high school courses in the history and literature of music, courses in the humanities and related arts, as well as teachers equipped to work with the very young, with adults, with the disadvantaged, and with the emotionally disturbed (Choate, 138)

In addition to the declaration, Tanglewood was the first to recognize that even then that fewer than 20% of high school students studied music as an art. (Choate, 139) Among several recommendations, the symposium felt that MENC should work to engage the “non-performing” student, approximately 80% of the high school student population. More than 40 years later, these numbers haven’t changed.

Typical music offerings at the secondary school level fall into two categories: performing and non-performing. Within these two categories we can break it down further. In the performing category, band, choir, and orchestra are most commonly offered.

Perhaps the most well-known performing group is the high school band. It is also the most commonly offered ensemble. (Elpus and Abril, 2011) A band is a collection of musicians who rehearse and perform music together under the direction of a conductor. Specific types of bands are available to students and among these are marching band, concert band, and jazz band. Choir is another popular and commonly offered performing ensemble. Choir is also a collection of musicians who rehearse and perform music together under the direction of a conductor. The difference being choir students use their voice to make music. There are many choir options available to students including concert choir, women’s choir, men’s choir, madrigal singers, and jazz choirs. The third ensemble offering is the high school orchestra. Orchestras generally play classical music using stringed instruments.

To accommodate students who cannot, or choose to not, participate in performing ensembles schools offer several classes that are non-performance based. More often than not, these classes are music theory, music history, and music appreciation. Sometimes these three offerings are combined into one class. More commonly only music appreciation and history are joined.

Music theory examines the language and mechanics of music. Music appreciation is learning what to listen for in music, such as specific techniques and style characteristics, and understanding the value in different forms of music. Music appreciation also includes music history. (Scholes, 2005) Music history can mean the study of any type of music or period of music, however it is usually taught with a focus on Western classical music. Popular music is often excluded. (Lipman, 1984) All three of these non-performance options still require some amount background knowledge of music on the part of the student.

Music educators have typically been users of technology. While technology is used sometimes used for instruction in the traditional music classroom most time is spent on administrative tasks. (Taylor & Deal, 2000) These tasks include basic record keeping such as grade books and attendance. Music teachers also maintain data bases of their music libraries. Non-administrative tasks may include searching for new music to use with their ensembles online or disseminating information to students and parents. These uses, while necessary, do little to engage students.

In order to engage high school students who shun traditional, performing music classes music educators must rethink and reimagine how technology is used.

There are many critics on the topic of technology in education. Opponents argue that using computers or gadgets is not “real” learning. (Stoll, 1999) Another concern is that teachers will use technology for play and to pass time. (Healey, 1998). Cost and access for schools and students are more practical concerns. However, free software and bring your own device (BYOD) initiatives can address these issues. Social media brings its own set of issues with online safety and student privacy. All of these are valid concerns. However, proper instruction on technology use and safe internet use can address the concerns.

Technology allows the non-traditional music student the opportunity to create and experience music. It makes music more accessible by removing the need for traditional notation which is a barrier for the majority of high school students.  Many of the National Standards for Music Education (MENC, 1994) can be met through the integration of technology. An example of this would be STANDARD 4: Composing and arranging music within specified guidelines. Programs such as Garage Band, MixCraft, and other looping software allow students to compose and create simply by clicking and dragging. Listen to these examples taken from a high school songwriting class from central West Virginia

These examples are commercial jingles for local businesses created entirely using GarageBand.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/o93jxxw3gcw3ugl/West%20Union%20Bank.mp3

https://www.dropbox.com/s/o04p02xffqv761y/Senior%20Center.mp3

To complete this project in a traditional composition class, a student might sit at a piano with blank staff paper and a fresh supply of pencils. He or she would pluck out a melody in one hand while adding accompaniment in the other, notating as they go along. Once satisfied with the music put to paper in a score format, parts would need to be transcribed and transposed for the different instruments used. Prior to recording the jingle, the composer must find a musician, or musicians, and schedule rehearsal time. Finally, the music would be recorded, mixed, and the voice-over added. For most students with no prior formal music experience, that would be an intimidating and impossible process. Technology, specifically looping software in this case, removes those barriers. An inexpensive app purchase is all that was required in this case for the student to create and record the jingle.

There are many ways technology can be integrated beyond looping software. Youtube.com is a valuable addition to the music classroom. In addition to giving students access to lessons and performances, YouTube gives students a place to share their own work with a worldwide audience. By sharing their work, students can receive constructive feedback from someone other than the teacher in the room. Here is an example of one of my own guitar students sharing a song he wrote.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSv0nrJDI6o&safe=active

The next step for this student will be creating tutorials for other students. He will move from being the student to being the teacher. This leads to another, yet not final, way technology can be used to enhance student learning and transform the music classroom, social media.

Social media allows students to connect with experts in the field and expand their learning outside the classroom. Students can take ownership of their learning because it is not dependent upon the teacher. Of course this is true and beneficial for any content area, not music. Incorporating social media also leads to greater student engagement. The following video does a good job of explaining how social media can impact student learning.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELVuehkjrDw&safe=active

Of course this technology integration is beneficial for the traditional, performing music classroom as well. Here is one example of how technology integration can be applied in a choral setting. Going online, choir students can participate in a “virtual choir” with famed American composer, Eric Whitacre. Singers download music and instructions and go to YouTube to see a video of Whitacre conducting the music. They then record themselves, video and audio, singing the piece of music. The recording is then uploaded and incorporated with other submissions from all over the world. The first “virtual choir” had 185 singers from 12 different countries. The third choir launched in April 2012 and had 3, 746 videos from 73 countries.

Here you can see Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir 3, ‘Water Night”.

http://ericwhitacre.com/the-virtual-choir

Aside from the novelty and excitement of being a part of a 3, 000+ member choir, this type of project has applications inside the classroom. Students could also submit their video to their teacher for assessment.  While there are no “virtual bands”, at least not on the scale of Whitacre’s choirs, there are programs that offer band directors or orchestra conductors the same opportunities to assess students outside of the classroom. Using a program such as SMART MUSIC, assignments and assessments can be done online. Band or orchestra students can practice music at home. The software monitors and records progress. By doing this, more rehearsal time can be spent on ensemble play instead of individual practice.

Thanks to technology, the creation, production, and appreciation of music are no longer limited to those students with a background in traditional music offerings. Technology makes music more democratic and accessible. By investing time in learning ways to incorporate technology into the secondary music classroom, educators can reach a significant number of students who have previously been ignored.

 

 

Works Cited

Bauer, William I. “Transforming Music Teaching via Technology.” Tanglewood II “Technology and Music Education” University of Minnesota. Mar.-Apr. 2013. Lecture.

Beckstead, David. “Will Technology Transform Music Education?” Music Educators Journal 87.6 (2001): 44-49. Print.

Choate, Robert A. Documentary Report of the Tanglewood Symposium. Washington, D.C.: Music Educators National Conference, 1968. Print.

Choate, Robert A. “Music in American Society: The MENC Tanglewood Symposium Project.” Music Educators Journal 53.7 (1967): 38. Print.

“Eric Whitacre.” Virtual Choir 3: Water Night –. N.p., n.d. Web. Apr.-May 2013.

Mark, Michael L. From Tanglewood to the Present. Rep. NAfME, n.d. Web. Mar.-Apr. 2013.

Mato, Takako. Integrating Technology in the Music Classroom. St. Mary’s College of Maryland, 2011. Web. Mar.-Apr. 2013.

Pisano, Joseph. “Should We Utilize Technology in the Music Classroom?” MusTechNet A Symphony of Music Technology. N.p., 20 Feb. 2009. Web. Mar.-Apr. 2013.

Stager, Gary. “How Computers Will Save Music Education.” District Administration (2005): n. pag. Gary Stager. District Administration. Web. Mar.-Apr. 2013.

“Steve Collis Explains Use of Social Media in Secondary School Education.” YouTube. YouTube, 24 Oct. 2012. Web. Mar.-Apr. 2013.

“They’ve Never Met, But 2,051 Singers Perform Together.” Interview by Jeff Lunden. NPR. N.p., 6 Apr. 2011. Web. Mar.-Apr. 2013. <http://www.npr.org/2011/04/06/135181815/theyve-never-met-but-2000-singers-perform-together&gt;.

Wellings, Jeanne, and Michael H. Levine. “White Paper: The Digital Promise: Transforming Learning with Innovative Uses of Technology.” Joan Ganz Cooney Center. N.p., 25 Mar. 2010. Web. Mar.-Apr. 2013.

Williams, David B. “Reaching the Other 80%: Using Technology to Engage “non-traditional Music Students” in Creative Activities.” Tanglewood II “Technology and Music Education” University of Minnesota. Mar.-Apr. 2013. Lecture.

 

Comments
  1. Ugur Kale says:

    Good and engaging introduction but your argument is not explicit enough regarding its claim(s) and reason(s). Good details about the music education and its historic development regarding students’ needs. The videos you provided the link for could have been “embedded” into your post. Good details about how various technologies can be used in music education. Well done, April.

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