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.'