Promoting Music Education using ICTs
Keith Pender, Memorial University of Newfoundland
In thinly populated areas, accessing quality music education is sometimes a problem due to the absence of instrumentalists for face-to-face teaching and learning (Brändström, Wiklund, & Lundström, 2012). In geographically distant locations, rural schools may not have a musician available for the instruction of instrumental performance, such as the case was with a school located in Northern Canada that had no music teacher living in the community (Murphy, 2005). This limited access to professional instrumentalists disadvantages children from having equal opportunities for quality music education, as found by Riley (2009), where most students in the study had no formal music instruction at their school. The accessibility to music education maybe addressed through generalist teachers, however as Gall and Breeze (2007) found, generalist teachers felt they were not sufficiently prepared to teach music classes.
The obstacles of balancing instructional time with teaching and learning of prescribed content and curriculum outcomes in instrumental performance settings are sometimes hindered due to learning music notation (Chan, Jones, Scanlon, & Joiner, 2006). Learning music notation may be due to students missing practical musical knowledge in compulsory music classes or difficulties with transferring music to symbols (Crawford, 2009). After completing a survey of an introductory to music course at a public university, post-secondary students noted variances of success in reading music notation (Horspool & Yang, 2010). This problem may be because, as Vratulis and Morton (2011) stated, “notation offers few opportunities for increasing musical understanding through the examination of the sociocultural contexts of music” (p. 401).
Role of ICTs
ICTs enables music education to be more accessible for participants by providing students with tools essential for learning in music classroom activities (Chan et al., 2006). Pitts and Kwami (2002) found that students with limited musical knowledge were successful in generating ideas through ICTs. Completing a musical activity with ICTs allows for students to work independently, permitting the teacher to move freely through the classroom to assist students (Byrne & MacDonald, 2002). Other findings of ICTs in music education enabled technologies to be used for expressing music symbols in innovative ways (Crawford, 2009), generating sounds quickly with computer software (Savage, 2005), learning to play the piano though built-in assistive guides (Chan et al., 2006), creating background tracks for improvising and composing pieces (Byrne & MacDonald, 2002), and investigating music traditions from around the world through resources on the Internet (Wise, Greenwood, & Davis, 2011).
Other advantages to use of ICTs included opportunities for students to work interactively with recording technologies and receive feedback during compositional or performance exercises (Savage, 2005), the ability to see and hear the musical product (Gall & Breeze, 2007), viewing authentic examples of performances on YouTube (Wise et al., 2011), creating musical compositions with software (Vratulis & Morton, 2011), and improvement in reading music, pitch recognition, and rhythmic skills through the use of ICTs (Ho, 2004b). Ho (2004a) found that use of ICTs allowed students to feel confident in applying their knowledge of music related activities.
Use of ICTs affords new opportunities for learning music education in online environments (Brändström, Wiklund, & Lundström, 2012). Using podcasts allows students access to recordings, lecture material and resources (Keast, 2009). Seddon and Biasutti (2009) found that participants were able to play an improvised blues scale by ear after watching demonstrations of a podcast. Tam (2012) noted that podcasts were effective tools when they are used with follow up questions, assessment, or extension activities. Bugos, Nelson, and Dixon (2009) stated, “students receiving the podcast episodes reported feeling more competent” (p. 42). Other advantages of ICTs in online contexts included online forums and social media for communicating, uploading files and receiving feedback (Lebler, 2012), and publishing content to the Internet (Coutinho & Mota, 2011).
The use of video conferencing provided students with the opportunities of learning music through distance learning (Brändström et al, 2012). In tutor sessions, participants felt the setting had a natural feel, similar to face-to-face instruction (Kruse, Harlos, Callahan, & Herring, 2013). Orman and Whitaker (2010) reported that distance music lessons involved uninterrupted student performance followed by synchronous instructor feedback. In rural and urban classrooms, Murphy (2005) noted that participants benefited from accessing professional musicians as well as the opportunities afforded through cultural connections.
Access to professional development in technology training was an obstacle in implementing ICTs in music education (Savage, 2010). Crawford (2009) reported that professional development seminars in technology are helpful, however practicing skills learned in training sessions needs to be done on a regular basis in order to improve technological pedagogical content knowledge. Implementing ICTs will also involve music educators being responsible for finding time for exploring and becoming familiar with various technologies (Southcott & Crawford, 2011).
Access to technical support was an issue in implementing ICTs in music education (Gall & Breeze, 2007). Murphy (2005) noted that having a lead individual hired to address complications “played an essential role in managing the complexity of the technology” (p. 535).
Problems relating to delays in audio and video were experienced during a piano lesson via Skype (Kruse et al., 2013). Although the participants had technical problems, the two individuals managed to resolve the problem by first muting the program periodically to reduce delay, and secondly investing additional monies into various combinations of software and hardware (Kruse et al., 2013). Orman and Whitaker (2010) also noted additional problems with eye contact and limited field of view during synchronous video lessons. Implications regarding video conferencing may improve over time as software companies and developers improve the design and capabilities of their products (Kruse et al., 2013). According to Riley (2009), the author feels that “the positive results of bringing music education to students in remote or disadvantaged locations far outweigh any problems with logistics” (p. 374).
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