Sunday, August 17, 2008

Technology - A Trojan Horse?

As we ready the books and scores and pencils for back to school, here is a NY Times article to think about. Are schools finally realizing the inevitable? That we have to use technology to train the youth of today or they will not be able to compete in the global market. I certainly hope so! But, unfortunately in my upper middle class district on Long Island we still do not have this 1 to 1 ratio of computers to children, let alone enough computers for each of the teachers in the music department! This is incredibly frustrating for a teacher who wants to branch out into project-based learning with her students. Yes, it is true that I can sign out a computer lab to use for work with my students, but there are no keyboards, no music software save the free download of Finale notepad that it took months for me to get permission to have installed, not to mention the fact that it is incredibly difficult to get a reservation when multiple teachers are fighting for that lab at the same time. I only hope that this article does show us turning a corner in US schools. I hope that many schools will see the success of project-based learning and put more money in the budget for all programs to take advantage of this awesome technological revolution! 

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

iLove iPod for teaching music theory

This is something I have been thinking about for awhile. I don't know if other teachers feel the same way, but the iPod has transformed my use of audio examples in orchestra and music theory. No longer do I have to go searching through my CD collection to find the Beethoven symphony or Coltrane tune that I want to play for class. No longer do I have to put off listening to an excerpt of a piece that comes up in class because I do not happen to have it with me that day. Now, thanks to my iPod and a stereo, I have my entire music library at my fingertips to share with my class as needed. This is incredibly convenient, simple, and expedient. I also love that my students can bring in their own mp3 players and share their music with the class. It really has transformed music listening in class by making it more accessible. Now, iLove the whole process!

Friday, May 16, 2008

100 Music Ed Bloggers

So, is on a mission! They are trying to link up to 100 Music Education blogs by the end of the year, in an effort to extend the conversation about music, education, and technology. I think this is a terrific idea. It is great to have a source to read up on the latest developments in our field and a place to get inspiration from other bloggers, teachers and advocates.

Check out the ME blog campaign today!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Plan Ahead! That is my new mantra!

Well, I am so excited by what I have been learning about Flash, Dreamweaver, ActionScript, etc. this semester! But, one thing that really sticks out to me is that I have to plan ahead!!! After spending hours of time working with tables revising and revamping on the go, I began to realize that it might be better to plan the layout first. It seems like that would be obvious - but it took me awhile. Once I decided to plan the layout of a page ahead of time and designate which cells would merge and which would expand, it became easier to negotiate the size and placement of images. I found that life was much easier. Being a web designer has a lot to do with visualization. Perhaps it is like being an "architect" of cyberspace. It's all in the planning!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Technology Challenges in Music Education: Moving Forward

As we try to incorporate more and more technology into the classroom, better preparing our students for the world today, we still meet with resistance from a variety of sources. One of the main sources of resistance comes from teachers who are unwilling to try to new things. 

When the high school I work for was splitting into two campuses a few years ago, the administration wanted to offer certain classes on one campus and use long-distance learning technology to teach the same class concurrently on the other campus. Businesses teleconference with each other all the time, why not do the same in schools? However, the teachers at my high school were very upset about this turn of events! Perhaps they feared this was one step closer to their jobs being irrelevant? They fought and overturned the proposed long-distance learning project before anyone knew if it could work.

Last year the music theory class in my high school had the chance to move music theory from a regular classroom into a computer lab. The teacher declined because she was afraid of having to incorporate computers into the curriculum! And yet, there are so many terrific music theory training websites and software programs that could help the students improve their understanding of music theory. I am frustrated by this 'fear' of change in schools. But, how do we change this kind of thinking?

I am not sure, but I do think that we have to encourage our students to love learning and embrace change. We have to help our students understand that flexibility and adaptability are imperative in the 21st century! Jobs are changing at a more rapid rate than they ever have in history and if we don't equip students for this, they will likely experience much frustration. Hopefully over time this mindset of resistance can be transformed into a mindset of openness!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

American Idol Songwriting Contest: Real Deal or Rigged?

Okay, so is the American Idol Songwriting Contest the real deal? For just a $10 entry fee, you too can have a chance to have your song sung by the next American Idol! Of course, last year they apparently received 200,000+ entries, (which means they made a lot of money) and I wonder who listened to all of those songs? Did they really get a fair hearing by industry professionals? It seems doubtful. Almost all of the final twenty songs just happened to be written by people with industry connections! And, P.S., most of them were not great. Did you hear the winning song, "This is My Now?" It got airplay for about a day after Jordin Sparks won and then it fizzled! Because it was a horrible rambling song with no good hook. How does this happen? I'm sure that there were good songs in that 200,000+, but no political connections meant they had no chance. It really is sad. I was hoping that idol would give songwriters the same chance they gave aspiring vocalists all over the country. I guess we will have to see if they come up with a good song this year or another dud. My advice - take the time to listen to the real folks who submitted - you might find a real gem!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

My Brain Hurts

Don't get me wrong - I love technology, at least I love the end results of technology. I am amazed by state-of-the-art websites with their creative use of Flash animation; I love the resources that we have as educators to teach music students about theory and composition; I am simply excited about being able to take my computer with me wherever I go. However, sometimes when I am trying to learn something new, like how to use ActionScript to create a game, my brain just hurts. Today is one of those days!!! I am having trouble grasping all of the commands and functions. I know what I want it to do, but trying to figure out how to tell the machine to do it is another story. Trial and error prevails for now. Hopefully, a solution will present itself soon. Perhaps a nap would help me process....

Monday, February 25, 2008

Does Music Technology Improve Learning?

We all know how fun and motivating it can be to bring a music class to the computer lab and have them experiment with Finale, GarageBand, Audacity and more. But, do these experiences increase student learning and musicianship? Can a program like SmartMusic really improve student performance at concerts? I think that these are important questions for us to address as music educators. 
I found blogging to be a great tool for my music theory class. I was able to organize ear-training links and skill-building sites in one place for my students to explore. It was great to have a central site that they could be involved with. Composing with the assistance of Finale gave my theory students an opportunity to write for small ensembles and to preview their pieces. My orchestra students enjoy visiting my website where they can listen to past recordings and be inspired. These activities are great, however they just scratch the surface with where we can go with technology. And at this point there isn't much written about how utilizing technology translates to learning and musical achievement. I hope that by posing this question we can get a conversation started. Where do we go with technology in music education and how do we measure its effectiveness?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


In my exploration of Adobe Flash on the internet, I came across this bizarre website: Kaltura is a collaborative website, like wikipedia, but it focuses primarily on media. You can create collaborative music videos, films, activist sites, etc. I watched a few of the music videos and was just a little perplexed by them. I guess the idea of Kaltura is kind of exciting - being able to generate a music video or film with people in the Kaltura community from all over the world - but you have to be willing to give up some creative control in the process. It's kind of like playing the story game, where each person contributes one or two sentences and the end result can be unpredictable, bizarre and amusing.

Maybe this is the next step after social networking sites - places where people can create together; generate ideas and mobilize together? Am I too skeptical about this? Maybe I just need to give it a try to understand the process better....

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Technology: Friend or Foe

The videos we watched in class and at home last week made me think about the role of technology in our lives. Technology is polarizing. Most people either love and embrace it or fear it. Some people feel that technology is complicated and problematic - the humorous video Introducing the Book illustrated that kind of thinking perfectly. Some people fear that technology is taking away jobs or 'watering down' skills required for success. The video Amateur brings this idea to the fore. If someone who does not play a musical instrument can create a musical performance by 'cutting and pasting', is that really music? Is that really what we want to encourage in our field? Do we really agree with ProTools auto-tuning anyone with the right 'image' into a music star? On the other hand, some people feel that technology, computers in particular, can alienate people from the real world. Both videos from nttdocomo, Hokusai's Waterfall and Mobile Life Story provide alternative ways of thinking about technology. We see that technology can make contact with people easier. We see families being brought together and embracing life more easily with the help of communication, learning and support devices. To me, technology is a tool. Like anything else, it can be used for so much good and bad. I hope that in my life it is something good: to bring me closer to others, to help me work more efficiently, and to discover more about the world around me. I look forward to continually reinventing my own 'mobile life story.'

Monday, January 28, 2008

Opera Rocks!

Honestly, I usually never think about what browser I am using. Whatever is available (Internet Explorer, Safari, etc.) becomes my direct line to the web. But, this week I had the chance to compare different browsers and I found some interesting things. I love Opera! (La Boheme, The Magic Flute, Wozzeck AND the Internet browser!)

Opera has several cool features:
*'speed dial' - a page where you can place links to your top 9 web pages
*an easy to find search box at the top of the page to find text on any webpage
*a widget manager - you can download widgets featuring games like sudoku and tetris, radio stations, international clocks, news feeds and more
I like these features, but it is also easy to navigate and visually engaging. It seemed a little slower than Safari, but not intolerable.

Camino is also a browser that I had never checked out before. I like Camino's bookmark bar which allows you to save folders and not just single pages to the bar. It also has preset folders containing links to popular news pages, like CNN, and it has a Mac news folder which provides access to several Mac pages.

I also checked out Mozilla, Internet Explorer and Safari from this perspective. I think Safari is the fastest browser and I am presently partial to it because I have my history of favorite pages and extensive bookmark lists there. I didn't really find too much in Mozilla and Internet Explorer that makes me want to use those sites more. 

But, I will definitely be diversifying my browser use after this experiement. I am excited to 
utilize features in Opera, Camino and Safari to my advantage. And, I am looking forward to this 
CAI class and to the new perspectives I will discover regarding technology!