Digital technology in the music classroom can help involve students in performing, creating, and understanding music. There are two major reasons to use technology in teaching music:
Some students will be more motivated to learn when technology is used appropriately and
Some learning experiences are much more feasible when technology is used.
There are also some pragmatic reasons for using technology in school music programs:
State and national standards require that students use technology in all subject areas and
Teachers are evaluated concerning their use of technology.
So...what are some ways to start using technology in the music classroom? First of all, choose ONE technology application and integrate it into your teaching situation. Implement and revise one classroom innovation at a time, or it is likely you’ll be overwhelmed. In choosing the type of technology, consider the following ideas as initial suggestions:
The Internet is a great tool for finding information about music. Use a search engine to find Web pages about music, lesson plans, and media (digital audio, MIDI files, photos, graphics, and software). Save a topical list of Web bookmarks (URLs or “favorites”) in a file. Then copy the file to students’ computers so your students may explore the sites you have marked. You can also download media from the Web to show in class or use in printed handouts, if the author of the media agrees. You can create and put your own information on the school Web site for your students to use in a lab or at home. Students can make their own music reports using a Web page editing program.
MIDI and Digital Audio Files
The simplest way to use MIDI or Digital Audio files is to play them for your students to sing, play, move or listen. You may play music files from the Web while your computer is on-line or you may download some music files ahead of time and to play on your computer. You may also purchase MIDI files, for example, with an elementary music textbook series or a piano book series. Current computers have software that you need to play, pause, and stop music files.
Music files can be played through speakers for the entire class or through headphones for individual or small group use.
Slide show software such as PowerPoint can be used to create multimedia listening guides. You or your students can create slides to accentuate various elements of music heard in a recording. The slide show may be manually advanced to test students' perception and understanding or it may be programmed to advance automatically, synched to the music. You may scan or take digital photos of children's art work to project as they perform.
Computer software for music learning may be in the form of multimedia CD-ROMs that are installed on a computer, networked software, or downloaded and/or installed programs. This software is generally either instruction and drill in notation and aural skills, music creativity software, or music perception games. Software can be used with large groups if you have speakers and a way to display the screen. Individuals or pairs of students can use software with headphones. Some software will keep records about how each student is progressing. Accompaniment software such as SmartMusic will follow and assess students’ individual performances.
If you have sequencing or notation software, you may edit MIDI files. You can change the tempo while the music plays, transpose some tracks, assign different instrument sounds, mute parts, and change the dynamics. In this way, the elements of music can be manipulated so students can experience examples and non-examples of musical concepts. Live performances on MIDI instruments can be recorded into MIDI tracks and be revised. This makes it easy for students to be musically creative. They may also enter notation into the computer and hear what they have entered. In this way, students can connect notation to sound. You can also create your own accompaniment tracks. Auto-accompaniment programs such as Band-in-a-Box are great for creating accompaniment tracks. Digital audio tracks may also be recorded with sequencing programs. So, you can record your students singing or playing classroom instruments along with the MIDI tracks. This is a great way to assess and document singing and performance for a portfolio. Finally, you can save these music files on audio CD or post them to the Web as long as you don't violate copyright associated with songs, lyrics, or recordings.
Kimberly C. Walls is Program Coordinator for Music Education at Auburn University and program director for Auburn’s graduate music education distance learning program. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in music education. Her research centers on appropriate uses of technology in music instruction from early childhood through advanced graduate studies. Some of her projects in the schools include: technology use in sixth grade music, using technology to assess elementary students’ achievement of national music standards, and enhancing middle and high school band and choir rehearsals with multimedia. Walls teamed with other Auburn faculty to develop the Problem Centered Teaching and Learning project as part of a U.S. Department of Education grant to provide models of teaching with technology across the school curriculum.
by Kimberly Walls
Program Coordinator for Music Education at Auburn University, AL
Walls is founding editor of the Journal of Technology in Music Learning, an organizer of the National Symposium in Music Instructional Technology, and a reviewer for the Journal of Music Teacher Education and the Technological Directions in Music Learning E-journal. Her research has appeared in journals such as the Journal of Research in Music Education, Journal of Music Teacher Education, and Research Studies in Music Education. She is a coauthor of MENC’s Strategies for Teaching: Music Technology, a collection of teacher-contributed lesson plans that incorporate technology. She is also a contributing author to Scott Foresman’s Making Music and a coauthor of the accompanying supplement Making Music with MIDI. Dr. Walls has led workshops and clinics in music education technology across the USA and internationally, and is a TI:ME Instructor and Board Member.