April 2005 – Feature Article
Enhanced Musicianship Through Technology
By Debra Welander, Holmen
Integrating technology in the general music classroom can be great for motivation and generating competencies and assessments. By sharing my experiences in preparation, procedures (lesson planning) and assessments, I hope to encourage other music teachers to enhance students’ learning by using some form of technology.
As a music teacher in a small school district with limited funds, I have found that I can integrate the use of computers in my general music classes by using tools I have at hand.
Hyperlinks and Web Quests
Using a word processing document, I created worksheets with hyperlinks to selected web sites. These web sites are tools for teaching my fourth grade students about the various instruments of the orchestra. This document also leads them to sites where they can explore timbres and answer questions about various instruments. Our web master placed my worksheet on our school’s home page so students could access it. This way the students did not have to type in lengthy web addresses or get lost on the Internet. The teacher’s main job is to act as facilitator, guiding the students’ learning process. Carrying this process a bit further, I also created a Renaissance music “web quest” for my sixth grade students. If teachers take time to explore various web sites, there are many ways for general music students to go on a web quest and learn a variety of music concepts.
Our school also has a license for HyperStudio® multimedia software, which I have used on one computer in my classroom to teach first grade music students. I created a card template with a “button” for each student. During class, I had each student sing with me and alone, recording their voice onto a button. In this way, the student was motivated to sing solo. I also used this as an assessment for pitch matching. Later in the year, my first grade class had another chance to record their voices and then used this to assess progress in pitch matching.
In the same manner, Microsoft® PowerPoint or HyperStudio can be used as an assessment tool for students to research and make a presentation on a particular subject or unit in the music classroom. My sixth grade students have a final PowerPoint project for their music history unit. However, we do not spend all this time in the computer lab. The unit on music history has many classroom activities, songs, listening lessons and dances. For the end of our unit, I created a storyboard template on paper for their PowerPoint presentations. The students must have all their facts written, a sketch of how their graphics will look and the transitions between slides. In this way, the students are guided through the procedure before even going to the computer lab.
Composing and Using Music Notation Software
Like many other general music teachers, I want my students to be able to experience creating music. My fifth and sixth grade students use Finale® NotePad® notation software to create the final part of their recorder compositions. Finale NotePad is available on the Internet as a free download (www.finalemusic.com/notepad/index.asp), both for Macintosh® and Microsoft Windows® operating systems.
Helping students prepare for creating compositions using computers requires careful planning. My main goal is to have students become composers by taking steps toward creating musical work. The students are involved with hands-on participation in the use of compositional devices using rhythm and melody concepts. I review concepts using individual music marker boards, reinforcement worksheets, singing songs, moving and dancing and playing recorders that reinforce the rhythm and melody concepts for composing.
Objectives and Lesson Outcomes
Based on Wisconsin Model Academic Standards for Music, my students use teacher-created rubrics (guidelines) to compose an eight-measure melody in 4/4 time, in the key of G or F, with notes they know how to play on the recorder (F, G, A, B, Bb, C and D), starting and ending their piece on the tonic (Music Creativity: Composition D1, Music Literacy E. Reading and Notating E1 and E4.) The students use a computer notation program (Finale NotePad) to transfer the composition into an electronic form. Students then employ analysis. While they are notating pieces, immediate feedback is received by listening to the compositions on the computer. At this time, students analyze their pieces and decide if changes need to be made in the melody or rhythm based on whether the song sounds right. The students produce printouts of their compositions and perform melodies on recorder for the class. Their performances are recorded on digital video for later use (Music Performance: Instrumental B1). While viewing their performance on video, the students fill out a teacher-created rubric sheet incorporating a self-assessment concept (Music Response G: Evaluation G1).
Sharing with Community
I could have ended my students’ composition projects at this point, but I wanted them to be able to share their music with others. With the help of our media center director, we had each of our students create a HyperStudio stack. Students created a button that linked to their Finale Notepad composition. Another button was created linking to their video performances, which had been saved as a small QuickTime® movie files. In this way, the students had a chance to share their compositions and performances with others during parent-teacher conferences.
There are many things that need to be addressed when working in a computer lab. Headphones are a must. Make sure all the computers have the appropriate software installed. You will also need a technician’s assistance with sound issues. I discuss scheduling with my media center director and sign up for the lab at least a month in advance. You must know the procedure of saving files to the network or to individual computers. It is also helpful to ask the media center director or technology specialist to assist you on the days you are in the lab. The students usually need help, and it can be difficult for a person to answer multiple questions at once. To avoid many problems on the first day, I have the class preview the process by demonstrating the software and procedures in my classroom using an LCD projector and my classroom computer.
Using technology in the general music classroom has been a motivating tool for my students. Self-assessment and analysis of student compositions was the main goal in my decision to use technology with the composition project. Learning basic music concepts such as form, rhythm, melody, and going beyond to composing, critical thinking, analysis, learning about instrument timbres, applying knowledge of music history and connecting with community, has been made possible with the use of technology. Technology enhances decision making on the student’s part. It also becomes the tool in which to share the student’s knowledge and accomplishments with others.
I may only have the chance once a year per grade level to have my music students experience learning through technology, but the extra effort on my part is worth the experiences and knowledge gained by students.
Debra Welander teaches general music K-6 and is the choral director for grades seven and eight in Trempealeau, WI, which is part of the Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau School District. She has taught general music for sixteen years. Welander was awarded a TEACH grant in 2004 by CESA #4 involving the use of technology in her classroom. She is a member of Delta Kappa Gamma, a service organization for women professionals in teaching. She resides in Holmen, WI and is the choral director for Christ the King Lutheran Church, vocalist and keyboard player for the West Salem Community Jazz Band, board member of Holmen Community Theatre and co-directs an annual community Christmas pageant.