Should We Utilize Technology In The Music Classroom? Questions To Ask First.

I write quite a bit about music and technology at mustech.net.  A number of music educators think that “music technology” only pertains to technology that employs MIDI or is directly is related to audio in some way.  The truth is that music teachers need to be versed in a variety of computer-related technologies that apply to making music or teaching music in a classroom.   Many of the technologies used in music classrooms aren’t “music technology” in the strict sense of the phrase.  For example: using a LCD projector isn’t really “music technology” but it can be a catalyst for making your teaching more exciting and effective.  Understanding how to use Microsoft EXCEL, or any other spreadsheet software,  isn’t “music technology” but it can make the administration part of your job much easier and consequently allow you more time to teach and plan.

Before I use or employ any type of technology,  I ask myself the following questions:

1. Does the technology allow me to accomplish a task easier than without it?

Many times technology actually can make some things more complex, especially if you already have a way to do something that works well for you already.  Don’t employ a piece of technology just for technology’s sake. 

2.  Does the technology allow me to teach more effectively? 

In today’s media-rich world, technology can be very attractive and beneficial to our students’ learning process(es).   However, don’t forget that music itself is “media rich”…  Many teachers fail to gain the benefits of using a technology because they fail to master and understand it.  You need to become fluent at a technology to gain the benefits from using it.  If you only partially understand a piece of technology it may cause more grief than if you didn’t use it.

3.  Does the technology allow me to accomplish the task at hand faster that without it?

Again, failure to become fluent in a technology will most likely hinder your ability to effectively employ and utilize it.  You will have only truly mastered a technology when it becomes transparent and integrated into your teaching. 

4.  Does the technology allow me to do something that I could not do without it?

If you can expand the educational experience of your classroom (here we go again… thinking outside your “box”) by utilizing a technology and give them an opportunity to experience something that would not be possible otherwise -there is good cause to use the technology.  For example: you might like a renowned composer, or one of your past professors, to speak to your class about a given music or related classroom topic   -you don’t have the money (as usual) to pay for their expenses and time so you never spend the time to think about the possibility of the benefits gained by such an experience.  But, you could SKYPE them in to your classroom for little to no cost and have 95% of the experience that you would have had if they had come to your classroom… Interesting isn’t it?

5.  Does the technology take too much time to learn or become proficient at it?

This is a hard question to properly answer, given the time-crunch that we all face as teachers.  Sometimes you just have to forego a technology because you don’t have the time to properly teach, learn or employ it in a classroom… Don’t worry though… technology is continually getting easier to implement; try next year.

6.  How am I supposed to buy all of this technology on my salary?  The school doesn’t help me these things…

Have you been reading mustech.net?  Most of the software and technology I write about on this site is free… That’s right I said FREE!   For every expensive piece of software that you might like to use in class, almost of the time, there is a freeware alternative.  Usually, the freeware is on PAR and sometimes better than their costly counterparts.

7.  I’m too old and don’t have the time to learn anything new, what do you want me to do?

SHAME ON YOU, SHAME ON US!  As educators, we need to be constantly learning and challenging ourselves to become better teachers.  With the advent of the Internet, there is almost nothing that you cannot find online.  There are tutorials, power-points, white papers, forums, online help, books, e-books, videos, and a whole host of other resources that can allow you to learn something new that WILL allow you to become a more effective teacher.  Before the Internet, you might have had to go to the library, attend a conference, or watch a VHS video to help you “branch out” and continue to grow as a teacher.  Now, you can find out whatever you want from the convenience of your own home using the Internet.  There has never been as much knowledge available to anyone in the history of the world as there is to us right now from the Internet.  Now, as to sorting “garbage” from the “good”… this can be a little challenging -but we’re educated right?  Let’s utilize the technologies available to us to become better teachers and teach better within our chosen field.

                    

[tags] music education, music technology, music classroom, teaching music [/tags]

Joseph M. Pisano, Ph.D. is the creator of many education websites, a lecturer, clinician, trumpeter, and conductor. He is currently the Associate Chair of Music and Director of Bands in the Calderwood School of Arts at Grove City College in PA. He been named a TI:ME Teacher of the Year, received the JEN Jazz Educator Award and the PA Citation of Excellence. He is a past Vice President of the Technology Institute for Music Educators and the current Vice-President of the PA Intercollegiate Bandmasters Association. He also writes for DCI Magazine, Teaching Music Magazine, and is the Educational Editor for In-Tune Monthly Magazine; he has contributed hundreds of articles to various publications. Find out more at his website jpisano.com.
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