Article on a Blended Classroom
Roland has just introduced a hand-held device for vocalists, the Roland VT-12 Vocal Trainer in Black.
I first saw this device when I was in Tampa for the Florida Music Educators Association conference (FMEA). Dr. Kathy Kerstetter had just purchased the device. I contacted Dr. Kerstetter after the conference and asked if she loved her new Roland VT-12 Vocal Trainer and she said,
I have been teaching in a music technology classroom at Greenwich High School for twelve years. In that time, I have developed an extensive curriculum with four levels of classes. My Introduction to Electronic Music class is a one-semester class that is so popular we have five to six sections each semester with up to 20 kids per class. Given this is a one-semester course, I am under a strict schedule to make sure I deliver the curriculum with specific benchmarks. I am usually pretty good with lesson planning and scheduling to make sure students have enough time to accomplish the assignments but sometimes things don’t always work out as planned.
Back in 1999, after the Winter Break, I found that we were a bit behind due to incurred snow days and an outbreak of flu that kept many kids, and myself, home. There were several kids in each class who had missed the lesson in which I explained, in great detail, the Final Project. In one class, I gathered the previously absent students around one computer to explain the Final Project while the others worked on the assignment. It then dawned on me that there were still some kids who were absent and I would need to repeat the explanation for them when they returned. This issue could be multiplied over all my classes. Was I now going to explain this Final Project ten or more times? I remembered I purchased screen-casting software so I could record my voice and a video of what I was demonstrating on the screen. I opened the software, pressed record and began my explanation. I took that video and put it in the Shared Folder (we use Remote Desktop by Apple, a network management software). Now, all my students, would have access to the video when in class. I could refer the absent students to the video when they returned to class and, if any other student had a question, was confused or forgot how to do the assignment, I could refer them to the video, too. To my great surprise, it worked well. For the next few years I used this video and a few others I created for this and my other courses.
This year, I am teaching a graduate course entirely online (Teaching Music with GarageBand) and learned a great deal about “best practices” in creating demonstration videos. I have also been doing a lot of research and reading on Blended Learning, Hybrid Teaching, and The Flipped Classroom. These types of courses offer both online and in class learning experience. Often in a Flipped Classroom the demonstration/explanation videos and other materials are given to review as homework. Students then come to class where the teacher can be present as a “coach” or mentor or explain further as needed and they do work or projects to demonstrate an understanding of learned materials. The issue teachers encounter is that if your school is not a 1:1 school and does not provide each student with the technology to retrieve video demonstrations or software to do the assignments, we cannot expect students to do this kind of work at home. In a music technology classroom, mostly, teacher explanations, demonstrations, and student assignments are done during class time where all the materials can be provided.
This year, I decided to do an experiment with my Introduction to Electronic Music classes. I created an entire unit where I would give very little “live” explanation about the assignments but provided students with detailed assignment sheets, complete with graphics, and corresponding video explaining and demonstrating how to do each assignment in the software. All the teaching and work would be done in class just as always except, this time, they would be listening and watching me explain and demonstrate via video screen-cast. The unit I chose was the Final Project.
I am thrilled that you can now pre-order my book Teaching Music Through Composition: A Curriculum Using Technology published by Oxford University Press. The official release date is in January 25 but I am optimistic shipments will be earlier.
“Teaching Music through Composition offers a practical, fully multimedia curriculum designed to teach basic musical concepts through the creative process of music composition. Author and award-winning music educator Barbara Freedman presents classroom-tested ways of teaching composition with technology as a tool with which students can create, edit, save, and reproduce music. As Freedman demonstrates, technology allows a musical experience for all skill levels in opportunities never before available to compose manipulate, instantly listen to music electronically and even print standard Western music notation for others to play without having to know much about traditional music theory or notation. All students can have meaningful hands-on applied learning experiences that will impact not only their music experience and learning but also their understanding and comfort with 21st century technology.
Whether the primary focus of your class is to use technology to create music or to explore using technology in a unit or two, this book will show you how it can be done with practical, tried-and-true lesson plans and student activities.”
Click on the link below to see the cover and reviews and to order through Amazon.com.
I am please to announce that the fall course Teaching Music with GarageBand will begin Wednesday, October 3. The 10 session course will be in the Standard Format and run for 11 consecutive weeks, skipping Thanksgiving week. In 10 sessions you’ll not only learn the basics of GarageBand but also how to use it to teach basic music and composition skills to your students. You’ll leave the course with all the materials you need to teach an introductory course using music technology including 17 lesson plans, student assignment sheets, handouts and worksheets for the lessons. Tuition for the course is $650. A free, three month subscription to all the video tutorials on macprovideo.com is included with the course. Three (3) graduate credits are available for an additional $215 payable to the university.
A frequent discussion thread in music education involves re-evaluating traditional school ensemble music programs – bands, orchestras, choirs – and the role of music education in reaching and teaching what Rick Dammers and David Williams refer to as “non-traditional” music students.
At their website, Music Creativity Through Technology, Dammers and Williams make the case for the kinds of programs that have been emerging over the last 15 or so years (mostly in high schools) that give students without formal musical training hands-on musical experiences facilitated by technology.
Nick Jawarski’s popular post, “What we get wrong: An illustrated guide to our music advocacy mistakes,” continues this discussion with a wry, yet serious narrative using a series of amusing stick figure drawings. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth the trip!
Most recently, I came across Michael Albertson’s post, “Reconsidering the Traditional Band Program,” (Aug. 9, 2012) at his blog, Urban Education: Music and Beyond.
These, and similar voices in music education, assert that school ensembles only reach 20% of the students population, and that the kind of formal, concert art music taught in the conventional school music ensembles aren’t relevant to the other 80% of the students, who otherwise love music.
I don’t argue with either of these premises, or the idea that music educators should be always looking critically at the best way to use music to make a positive difference in their schools/communities and the lives of students. In fact, I should point out that rarely in these discussions is the idea of eliminating school ensemble music posited (most of those participating in the discussion are products of these same school programs!). But I would like to add two important points to the dialogue on this topic.
First, when our students were born, nothing was musically relevant or irrelevant to them. I first learned this many years ago when I noticed my own kids’ uninhibited love of all music. My son was just as likely to be found listening to a Wee Sing sing-a-long cassette tap as he was enjoying classical musicals such as Oklahoma or The Sound of Music on video. I remember a time when I asked my daughter what her favorite “song” was and she replied “the Tomasi Trumpet Concerto” – I had been playing the Wynton Marsalis recording a lot recently and she liked to dance when it was on! It wasn’t until middle school that my kids added pop music in earnest to their routine listening, and yet both continued with their varied, eclectic tastes (which they still do to this day at ages 20 and 22). While it may seem obvious, general music education ostensibly reaches 100% of students up to a certain age/grade in most U.S. schools.
Second, I’ve always felt the best way to learn something is to do it…applied learning. If you want to learn about music, you need to DO music – whether that’s singing, playing, composing, arranging, moving to it, etc. And that is a major theme of my book, Using Technology to Unlock Musical Creativity (2011, Oxford University Press), which emphasizes project-based creative music learning, facilitated – of course – by today’s music technology.
For kids who do concert art music in their school’s band or chorus program, composers like Robert W. Smith or Eric Whitacre are rock stars of the highest order! The most serious students even study, listen to, and perform along with great YouTube videos of ensemble and solo repertoire. This great music becomes part of their sonic experience and is incredibly relevant to them. I teach in a school district in which about half of all 4th and 5th graders in our eight elementary buildings play a band or a string instrument. We’re teaching and reaching a large population in a significant way, via applied music…doing music.
I’m convinced that classroom and elective music should, similarly, emphasize applied, active, hands-on, music learning. I know many teachers who do this and their students love them, and MUSIC, for it. At any age, and regardless of musical background, there are great and compelling ways to engage students in recreating (performing) and creating (composing, improvising, arranging) music of all kinds. When students are engaged in synthesizing musical concepts into higher-level creative activities and projects, they are more intrinsically motivated and the learning that takes place “sticks.” I’m very excited about technology’s role in music learning because of its ability to “unlock” authentic musical creativity and its increasing accessibility (free or inexpensive, and simple to use). I use Apple’s entry-level DAW (digital audio workstation), GarageBand, a lot in the Music Production class I teach at Parkland High School (Allentown, PA). I love this program because it is easy/intuitive to learn to use and therefore allows me to spend most of my time working with students to understand experientially musical concepts such as timbre, texture, form, and much more. The “flipped classroom” – another trend in education in which teachers free up valuable class time for “coaching” students by delivering content outside of school (home, library, etc.) via the Internet (wikis, blogs, YouTube, other Web 2.0 tools, etc.) – facilitates project-driven curriculum nicely as well. For a listing of Web 2.0 tools, especially those that foster musical creativity, click here.
Rather than a wholesale change in music education from ensemble-based to classroom/elective-based, I see the need for all music offerings to be compelling, vital, relevant, and with a significant emphasis on applied (hands-on, doing) learning that includes creating as well as recreating (imagine a language arts teacher who never had his/her students write!). Furthermore, each school must consider its teaching resources (especially faculty) and students in determining the best way to engage participants musically. In over 25 years of teaching and observing, I’ve seen over and over again that more than any other factor, the teacher makes the biggest difference in the success or failure of any kind of music program. A strong, charismatic teacher can lead a kid from almost any background or demographic to find almost any kind of music relevant and compelling. Usually, these kinds of teachers are great at gauging what needs to be done – both tweaks and major shifts – to the programs and offerings at their schools. I smiled when I read in Michael Albertson’s blog how he’s creatively used pop and rhythmic elements in band as part of his efforts to establish the program at his urban school.
If a high school involves 15-25% of its students in traditional ensembles (band, chorus, orchestra) then it has something truly special that should be cherished, but so does a high school in which 15-25% of its “non-traditional” students take elective music (i.e. Music Production, Music Technology, History of Popular Music, etc.) or participate in some alternative ensembles (i.e. drum circles, mariachi band).
That’s why I think this discussion, giving consideration to how music educators can best reach all students, is very important. When teachers and administrators reflect on both the groups we want to reach and the mode with which we should teach them, we confirm the vital role music can and does play in our schools.
Dr. Scott Watson is a veteran teacher, composer, and music technology specialist. His book Using Technology to Unlock Musical Creativity is published by Oxford University Press. Learn more at www.scottwatsonmusic.com.
If you would like to pay by check, register on the registration page by clicking on the red shopping cart, add your information and there will be an option to pay by cash or check. We’ll send you an email confirmation with details on how to pay by check or download the Registration Form Summer 2012.
Here’s the course calendar for the course beginning June 16, 2012.
The Accelerated Format delivers 10 Units over a 5-week period. The Course Weeks overlap Saturday through Wednesday and Tuesday through Saturday. One Unit is made available on Saturday morning by 8 AM. Participant’s assignments for this Unit are due by Monday (midnight EST) with responses to classmates assignments due Wednesday (midnight EST). Another Unit is made available Tuesday morning by 8 AM. Participant’s assignments for this Unit are due by Thursday (midnight EST) with responses to classmates assignments due Saturday (midnight EST).
This course will give you all the information and materials you need to teach an introductory course for secondary or college students including lesson plans, student assignment sheets, MIDI & audio files.
You’ll learn how to use GarageBand and how to teach your students to create music with GarageBand.
Participants can retrieve the course materials and assignments anytime after they are posted then complete the course work offline as their schedule permits within the course 5-week timeline. In other words, there is no specific time to be online.
Teaching Music with GarageBand includes:
Joseph Pisano presents Public Attitudes Toward Public Schools and Using Pinterest for Curating Music Ed. Ideas, posted atMusTech.Net, saying “A quick post spotlighting to of the “web 2.0” projects that my undergraduates have created.”