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.
As I peruse the music technology scene, I sense that the inherent learning curve is the obstacle preventing many of us from implementing sophisticated new teaching tools. But we are working with a unique generation of students who are often already ahead of us on this learning curve; in fact, they are chomping at the bit. We can and should trust them to run with whatever we offer them, without limiting them to our stride. But unless students have access to music technology outside the classroom, especially at home, their chances for success will be restricted. No matter how many resources the Internet offers, students need direction with the systematic instruction that only good music teachers and software can provide.
Many music educators have lingered in incorporating the latest music education technology, even though we are well into the first decade of the 21st century. Only 21 states have adopted MENC’s nine standards, while 29 states have adapted only a few of them. Yet national teaching standards are the very framework of improving teaching, and the capability of assessing those standards involves even more time and effort. Music technology can certainly make a difference in raising the bar on teaching and assessing national standards. To see where your state stands towards incorporating or adapting national music standards, go to www.aep#149;arts.org.
If our students could be engaged in music technology outside the classroom, who knows what heights of achievement and accomplishment could be realized through our instruction? We need to direct students with connected, organized opportunities outside of the classroom and overcome the obstacles of budget, commitment, retraining and time.
The Internet is the Answer
The Internet offers a wide range of resources, but students need more than resources to grow. They need interactive instruction geared to their training needs. Web-based, educational technology, which I define as organized instructional, interactive opportunities that students can access online, provides the answer. It can include software applications that operate fully over the Internet, with specific training or supplemental instruction that teachers can customize and post for interactive participation.
After seeing the power of the Internet, Steven Chetcuti of Somers, New York created lesson materials for his performance groups on the Web. He developed interactive rhythmic exercises, scale patterns and performance benchmarks for his band using Sibelius Scorch (www.sibelius.com) to view any of the interactive instrumental materials on his Web site (www.theradiohour.net).
How can you demonstrate the impact of Web-based technology on a performance group? Steven started an integrated program with a fellow teacher connecting studies of the American Revolution with the music of the day. The group started with two drummers and four flautists. Steven developed an interactive Fife Drum curriculum, which encouraged students to practice at home. The Fife Drum group is now up to fifty-three members
Steven also developed a series of SolFege lessons using the same Scorch interactive process. With a minimal subscription, a teacher can have access to seven levels of ear training. Students must sign in to use the site, and when they do, an e-mail is automatically sent to their teacher to show participation of each unit. We need to find and create more Web sites like this for our students.
There are some good Web-based music software applications presently available. Following are a few products that operate over the Internet with organized curriculum and instruction covering music notation, music sequencing, aural training, music theory, comprehensive musicianship, practice tracking, and more.
- Tri-Tone Music (www.tritonemusic.com) is keyboard-oriented instruction that offers an online multimedia music curriculum, which is based on a method of integrated performance, history, creativity, theory, and ear training instruction.
- Ricci Adam’s Musictheory.net (www.musictheory.net) is a powerful Web site dedicated to teaching introductory and intermediate music theory lessons and ear training. Its curriculum can also be downloaded for free, to be used without the Internet on a home computer.
- Mastering Music (www.datasonics.com.au) is a powerful, music suite on the Internet that offers performance, music notation, MIDI sequencing, digital audio recording, film scoring, aural training and music theory plus complete record keeping for all modules of instruction so you can conveniently assess your students’ music performance skills, compositions, aural training and music theory achievements.
- Charms Office Assistant (www.charmsoffice.com) is a music office system that allows teachers to organize student contact information, manage inventory, assign uniforms, track attendance, and work with trips, fees, fundraisers, form collection, and lots more.
In addition, there are some traditional CD-ROM workstation software programs that now offer Web-based capabilities for posting customized drill and practice instruction on the Internet for your students to practice on-line, outside of class, without having the program itself on their computers.
- EarMaster 5 distributed by Emedia Music (www.earmaster.com) offers extensive aural training in its 450 standard aural training lessons and 211 jazz lessons that can be posted on the web for further practice at home.
- Musica Practica by Ars-Nova (www.ars-nova.com) offers both ear training and music theory in which the instructor loads his own customized web practice modules.
- Test Creator by Centron Software (www.centron.com) that can post Internet tests for your students to practice or take along with pictures and sound, and e-mail notification of all tests results. This web-based application is a very creative delivery system for students to interact with as they answer questions that you construct supplemented by music manuscript and sound.
What You Need To Know
If Web-based instruction is a new concept to you, there are some major pluses to consider, starting with cost. You know purchasing software for more than one computer can be expensive. Getting students to use them frequently enough to justify the cost is another issue. And getting students to purchase applications for home use can be daunting. Mastering Music offers a plan that includes student-use built into its pricing structure. For approximately $400, you and 20 students have unlimited use of seven powerful music programs at school and at home.
Another factor is scalability, which refers to the technology working for very large groups of people simultaneously. This also affects the cost of the software. For instance, site licenses for an online system can be purchased by individual studio teachers, a music teacher at a specific school, the whole music department, or by an entire school district. With a single purchase, dozens of schools and teachers can use the system with hundreds of students. Often, the cost per student drops as the number of students on a single license goes up. The EarMaster home-user site license lets up to 200 students work at home from the school server.
On-line software does not require downloads or special add-ons to access the information. It would be a nightmare to expect your students to install software at home on how-many-different operating systems, and then endure the hassle of technical support. Web-based applications can be up-and-running the same day a school signs its students up and everyone has immediate access to the program on their home computers.
Since Web-based technology often requires login procedures, all programs have a password that can be changed. There are even two levels of security in Charms. Online Practice Planner software runs on servers at a host company’s location. There are daily backups, both on servers and on tape, and no information is stored on school computers.
Online software can allow unlimited users and is available to teachers, administrators, students, and even parents, from any computer with an Internet connection. The software can be accessed at school, at home, from a parent’s work. For example, teachers can use the Musician’s Online Practice Planner with students while traveling to competitions, music camps, or on vacation even overseas. The implications of this type of connectivity are extraordinary: no school time is used and no rehearsal time is wasted.
Because Web-based software runs online, many schools have set up links from their school band, orchestra, or choir Web sites. So, essentially, students visit their school’s music home page and immediately connect to online applications. This opens up communication possibilities, as well.
Mastering Music has complete record keeping in all of its seven software applications for teacher assessments for every student. Imagine being able to evaluate notation and sequencing assignments anywhere, anytime over the Internet, assess and post the grade. And all grades from the seven areas of instruction are integrated into a single composite grade for student evaluation at parent-teacher conferences where the teacher can demonstrate the student’s music technology portfolio.
Test Creator creates and saves an unlimited supply of four types of questions: multiple choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blanks, and single answer. Aural questions can be either MP3 or WAV format. For an example, go to www.centronsoftware.com/pictures_sounds_practice.htm. Steven Chetcuti effectively uses on-line testing with his middle school classes, and he estimates that he saves three weeks of classroom instruction time per school year with on-line instruction. Go to www.theradiohour.net and be amazed at the amount of multimedia interactive instruction offered through flash card charts, time sketches, crossword puzzles and more for band, jazz band, harmonica, guitar, and fife drum corp.
Supplemental Web-Based Applications
Although the following applications are primarily available for workstation use, many products also support Web-based instruction. WebStudents is Ars Nova’s online system for organizing classes using Practica Musica. It is designed to let students use the program in multiple locations (home, computer lab, laptop) so the students lose no work and the instructor can easily access the report without having to ask the student to keep track of it. A teacher can customize Practical Musica activities to get the students work without asking them to download and install files.
EarMaster 5 lets a teacher create lessons in their tutor editor. The procedure is simple. On the server page, there is a link to a file with EarMaster lessons that the student can open with EarMaster Pro or School. The lessons end with a test and when students are done they just click the integrated “e-mail results” function to deliver it to the teacher. You can find this at www.earmaster.com/example.
Teachers don’t need to use music technology at the expense of live instruction. With Web-based instruction, we have a great opportunity to stimulate and direct our students farther and faster. This technology is a positive addition to the future of music education. Even CD-based software, such as SmartMusic by MakeMusic, allows students to practice their instrument/voice any time at home with assessments recorded and transferred to their teachers via e-mail. New avenues of instruction beyond lecturers are opening up. Come join this new era of music education!
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