Music education can be enhanced by the use of digital tools, which can be employed as part of overall classroom teaching and home learning for students. Music lessons have long benefited from digital technology, whether through MIDI players and keyboards, or through software like Sibelius. However, what is the music classroom like today, and what are some of the key benefits to teaching music the digital way? Moreover, what are some of the methods and tools that can be applied to digital music teaching, and what are some potential challenges?
The clearest appeal of teaching music using digital technology derives from how the subject needs to be keeping track with the online software and equipment that is easily accessible to students. Not making use of compositional software and programs like Garage Band means that teachers aren’t engaging with the kind of media that students are now familiar with. Any students with musical talent should expect the same level of technological awareness from their music education, which can help structure and increase communication around learning practical skills.
In many ways, music provides an ideal subject for schools to make use of recording and mixing technology, with students able to combine traditional instruments and composition training with an awareness of how to use digital mixing and online music distribution to improve and get their work out to more people. Organisations like the Technology Institute for Music Educators provides more guidelines, in this context, for how different technologies can be adapted by teachers.
Discussing the spread of digital technologies into the music classroom, Jonathan Strange makes the argument that schools need to adapt to ‘digital natives’ used to easily creating and sharing music through YouTube and other social networks; these experiences need to be brought into the classroom, and more emphasis should be placed from primary school on viewing ICT and musical education as closely linked. Software like Sibelius, Cubase, and Audacity can be used to enhance teaching, and can be combined with lessons that teach students about music copyright, and how the music industry has changed with online file sharing and production.
At the same time, however, it’s important for teachers to recognise some of the drawbacks associated with using digital technology to help teach music. On the one hand, more technology means more opportunities to engage students with creating their own music, while also allowing them to go into much more detail in terms of understanding production techniques. However, being able to make this education consistent across students of different abilities is problematic, whether as the result of students not having comparable technology at home, or not taking the time to learn musical theory.
Indeed, while digital technology can help students to produce and edit music more easily, there remains a question over whether this experimentation is able to deliver core curriculum values for composition, performance, and mastery of individual instruments. Schools that do not have the resources to buy software and introduce digital learning aids to the classroom similarly face the problem of being able to remain relevant. It’s unfortunate, but giving students the kind of high quality technology needed to make the most of digital music can mean having to weigh up the cost of new software and hardware against actual improvements in results.
About the author
Chris is a technology professional who has recently made the switch from the boardroom to the classroom – he’s a passionate tech advocate and is currently showing everyone the advantages it can have on an education from direct learning to Easter exam revision.