This manifesto for my own teaching is a result from the recent MOOC I’ve studied on Music Education in the 21st Century presented by James Humberstone. My previous blogs (see below) have documented my thoughts throughout the course.
In the MOOC, we’ve been shown different types of musical creativity through different genres and how technology has impacted on these genres. Instrumental music has always relied on technology to inform the style and type of music playable. The 20th century has seen the addition of electronic and digital instruments which change many musical elements such as timbre and pitch possibilities. The ability to record has also reduced reliance on music literacy and notation, and increased consumption, widening audiences so that Western music now impacts on larger areas of the world.
The challenge as a teacher is to take these technologies and use them as tools to achieve musical outcomes with students who have varying musical ability. Musical activities such as performing, improvising, composing now have applicable technologies available which can make activities more efficient, achievable, and shareable. As a teacher, I have a working experience in these types of technologies so now I need to incorporate these in an authentic way. This includes pre-planning, scaffolding, and managing the technology within the classroom environment. Technology can also be used to create resources and activities that students can access in their own time and in their own space, so it is worth my while taking time to organise these.
Most important to me is that students have performance experience so that their interaction with music is as a musician, not an observer. This is vital during the non-elective years, in Stage 4, as in Australia, this may be the only time a student actually studies music. As a teacher, I also identify myself as a performer and composer, and I would like my students to see themselves as performers and composers. I can encourage this by incorporating as many performance activities as possible into any teaching activities, using musicology, listening, improvisation and composition for project-based learning. Music literacy is very important to me but I would prefer that a knowledge of music notation come from creating and playing rather than worksheets, starting with basic patterns and working towards complex ideas. During the non-elective years of music classes, a combination of ensemble performances and individual compositions could allow students who already have musical experience to share their skills with those who don’t. ‘Mixed-bag’ arrangements which encourage musical literacy as well as allowing for moments of improvisation could help with inclusion of students of all musical abilities.
An exciting way into music for the non-elective years is to work backwards from known music, into the unknown. This makes contextual teaching relevant and also can create interesting discovery experiences. Sites such as www.whosampled.com can help students gain insight into music they already know and uncover where their preferred music has come from. This also helps to show students how new can be created from old and give models for composition.
Challenging this performance-centric approach are the HSC requirements which include a written exam that tests aural skills and requires musicological understanding to successfully complete. Students can learn these skills this by using musicological language and the concepts of music to explain their own choices when putting together a composition portfolio for any performance.
The activities which are undertaken in music classes are vastly different to other subjects and music naturally lends itself to now-trendy large-based projects in composition and performance. If I can approach my teaching in an authentic way as a musician and pass on these experiences to my students, then hopefully my students will remain engaged with music throughout their life. All I need is a regular classroom teaching job to try it all out.
What is a MOOC? If you've missed the movement, it's a Massive Open Online Course, and I've been studying one these last few weeks. We've been set a few questions this week and I'm finding it tricky to tie them all together, so here they are as individual points.
- In the MOOC, we were introduced to the Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) or sequencer, which apparently were different things but now are basically the same. Notation software and its capabilities were also discussed. I have a lot of experience with Sibelius (notation software), Garageband, and have also used Soundation in schools that didn't have suitable software available. These are such fabulous tools, especially Sibelius, which is my number one in music technology.
- We've also had a few videos throughout the MOOC trying to convince us that DJ-producers have "an awful lot of sophisticated musical skills", which they do. 0've chatted with a few colleagues about this who have pointed out that DJ-producers 'produce' music from pre-existing music and my limited experience with DJ-producers is that they are trained at places like artschools or DIY rather than conservatoriums. Regardless of the debate, I am considering buying a Launchpad just to see what it's all about - my kids also like the look of it. See the video below for an example.
- In this week's MOOC, we were also introduced to David Price and his insight into the future of education. I was lucky to hear him back in 2007 when my old employer, the Music Council of Australia, began to work with him and his 'Musical Futures' project is now widely used in Australia. In the MOOC video, Price points out that open learning, where amateurs and experts share knowledge via online environments such as YouTube, is not a future but is something that has already been. I know I've relied on expert/amateur online advice, most recently when I had to remove over 20 'Molly Bolts' from our lounge room walls. I didn't even know the plugs I needed to remove were called molly bolts until I found the videos! I've seen open learning happen a lot in my own studio, where students bring in something they've learnt via YouTube videos, and I also encourage them to share their own performances online. Other open learning happens via places such as this MOOC's Coursera, where top universities can be accessed for free by anyone who has a computer and access to the internet. Some examples of open learning in music include:
- how to play a basic samba
- too many tutorials of how to play on the guitar 'Love Yourself' by Justin Beiber
- how to conduct a choir
And the page I will need when I buy a Launchpad...
In this exciting environment, one of our main jobs now as teachers is to help students develop quality filtering skills so that they recognise a good course or video when they see one.
- My final point for this post concerns PBL or project-based learning. This type of learning already exists in music as students often undertake large-scale projects when composing, performing, or researching. These are real-life musical activities that require individuality and initiative to succeed. Musicians also work together and learn from each other so are used to solving problems from several different angles. However, the online environment offers so many option for worldwide collaboration across classrooms and technology allows for efficiency in completing projects. Musical projects such as the Virtual Choir demonstrate just how successful the blend of these can be and are leading examples for other subject areas.
Reflections/news on music, piano and music teaching, and anything else that pops up.