The Important Role of Technology in Music Education

The Important Role of Technology in Music Education

How can educators leverage technology in a meaningful way to support student success? How can we inform and improve students' access to digital tools that can support their individual learning styles? What resources are available to students to help fill the music theory knowledge gap? These are just three of the trends highlighted by music educators during a discussion about digital music education at our 2018 College & University Music Fair

In this world of rapid technological developments, it can be daunting for any teacher to stay updated on current platforms. Implementing any technology into your practice takes up precious time and can be a frustrating trial and error experience. It’s important to keep in mind that technology definitely isn’t a threat to the role of a music teacher, and that when used properly, it can be a valuable asset to any teaching practice. 

Why We Start With Technology First

There is a strong consensus among educators that teachers should be exposed to current digital platforms and how they can be used to better serve their students. And while not all digital platforms are built equally, the integrity of the educational processes and quality of the content are vital, and the tools used to deliver them need to be complementary. Provided these two criteria are delivered within the digital platform, the result is a more robust approach to education service delivery. 

And while it is fun to think about all the possibilities that technology can offer to education, the crux of developing an effective and quality platform lies with technological acquisition. Can you imagine how an Apple MacBook would function if they started with the colour of the laptop instead of the end-user value and technology to make it happen? Starting with the technology ensures the process, content, and tools exist in a perfectly harmonious relationship that delivers clear and obvious value to the student end-user.

How Educators Can Leverage Technology to Support Student Success

Perhaps one of the most compelling arguments for the use of technology in music education comes from Graham Freeman, Lecturer in Musicology at Queen's University, University of Toronto, and Ryerson University. He states: 

“One of the most significant challenges in using online technology to support music education is that of asynchronous learning. Learning music is, in many ways, an apprenticeship. We do much more than simply teach students about music: we mentor them, guide them, and gauge their progress by providing repertoire that both encourages and challenges them. In the traditional classroom and studio, this has always been a personal relationship in which we can convey information through our words, our gestures, our expressions, and our performances. 

When technology replaces or augments that apprenticeship, we need to adjust our pedagogical approach. How can the student get the knowledge they need when we aren’t in the room to guide them? As teachers, we sometimes forget how much tacit information we impart to students through casual conversation and communal exploration, a dynamic that is not always possible in a technological ecosystem that promotes asynchronous learning. 

The new technology therefore requires me to think much more deeply about how students will interpret my pedagogy through the digital platform. Instead of organically following the dynamic of the lesson in an almost improvisatory manner, as I might do in person, I need to anticipate all the different ways in which my students absorb information, how they process and apply that information, and the questions and challenges they might face as they learn. Essentially, technology is helping me become a better teacher by getting to know my students and their learning needs more profoundly than ever before.”

Carey Worrod, Manager of Educational and Musical Content of Digital Learning at the Royal Conservatory of Music, agrees with Freeman and adds that while technology is an added value to the student’s learning experience, it can never fully replace the role of the teacher. “Technology cannot replace the learning experience of an in-person student-teacher dynamic that exists in a music classroom,” he says. “The ability to visually and audibly assess a student and provide instant feedback cannot be understated. However, technology can allow the teacher to reach and support students that may feel overlooked, and with large class sizes and busy schedules, this can easily happen.

Technology allows the teacher to provide supplementary materials that can help support these students. Some of these methods can take the form of online conferencing, instructional videos, and the ability for students to upload performances and receive feedback. There have been great advances in technology, and teachers should be aware of these developments as it may enhance the learning experience for 21st century students and promote engagement.”

Some still might argue that you don’t really need technology in #musiceducation, but technology is here to stay, and more importantly, here to help! It’s never too late to start exploring how technology can support you and your students. Please visit this space often as we continue the conversation around technology and music education. 

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