Monday, July 25, 2016

New Possibilities for Performance in Music Teaching

Music teachers have an interesting challenge, when asked to include technology in a classroom teaching something that has been done one way for hundreds of years. However, technology can help to make what we do more effective and more efficient, and can help us be there for students when we are not physically with them, at home when they are working on their assigned music for practice. With pressure increasing on teachers to perform better in every facet, we no longer live in a world where we can just send a kid into a room to "go practice" without really teaching them how to do it, and offering ways to help them make sure they are doing it right. With increasing pressure on students to achieve in everything they do, and to do more and more activities, their workload and the expectations upon them can create a lot of stress. Parents can't be expected to be experts at everything, so technological advances can make a big difference as both an evaluative tool and as a liaison between parents, teachers and students.

Bauer refers to Glenn & Fitzgerald's 2002 article when he tells us researchers have found that students overall enjoy practicing with accompaniment (Bauer, 2014, p.82.) I have found in my own teaching that kids enjoy playing along with, which was referred to later in Bauer's book. I was lucky to hear of it early, when it was in the beta stage and kids had full access to it. Many would come back and report hours of time playing along with it and having a great time. When it went out of beta and became a partly paid service, many lost interest. I was eager to dig into the features mentioned in our lecture for educators, including evaluative tools, sharing music, etc. Unfortunately, that has been discontinued due to cost and lack of use.

My predecessor in my school had purchased SmartMusic for the school, but since I was unfamiliar with it and overwhelmed with starting a new job, I discontinued it until I could look a bit more into it. The possibilities in this look pretty amazing, but they also look like a pretty big rewrite of the curriculum, and the cost is certainly a factor with a $200+ school cost and $40/student cost to either the school or the parents. When speaking with students, they reported that their prior teacher had not used it with them much, so there really was no precedent for me to latch on to. Since our school district has kids coming from many different elementary schools using different method books, and the 6th grade teacher uses yet another which was published in the 60's, it would be difficult to integrate use of SmartMusic right now. However, we are beginning a curriculum rewrite this year, so it may be something to put on the table as an important tool for integration of curriculum (and the retirement of half the elementary staff may mean we can get both teachers in the same book soon!)

As one of my colleagues mentioned, one thing that baffled me about this chapter was the extensive description of a music teacher who integrates a great deal of technology into his daily teaching. The sheer quantity described seems a bit unrealistic to me (Bauer, p. 76-78).  I worry that at times we use technology just for its own sake, and sometimes that can divorce us from the lived experience of making music. When used as a tool to enhance what we already do, technology can be a game changer, but we need to make sure the kids are focused on making music, not on the tools we are using. I also am concerned with the amount of time required for me as a teacher outside the school day on evaluation, lesson set up, etc. This can become a big issue, especially with all the other jobs we as music teachers have. As my principal has said, "I have no idea how you do everything you do." Sometimes, I don't, either!

Bauer, W. I. (2014). Music learning today: Digital Pedagogy for creating, performing, and responding to music. New York: Oxford University Press.

Glenn, S. G. & Fitzgerald, M. A. (2002, Fall). Technology and student attitudes, motivation and self-efficacy: A qualitative study. NACWPI Journal, 4-15.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that the description of the music teacher integrating technology to this level seems a bit unrealistic. With 400+ students and every minute of my work day already full, plus after-school performances and rehearsals (not to mention pursuing my Masters), who has time to figure out all of this new technology. (Fortunately we are at least "killing two birds with one stone" since I am learning some new technology in my Masters.
    I don't think we should feel guilty for not being able to implement all of these new technologies. We should explore when we are able and only implement programs that we see as directly beneficial to our students. We must avoid integrating technology for technology's sake. It seems like a lot of technologies in the classrooms are a bit faddish and die out quickly anyways. Sometimes, less is more.