Voice and Choice in Music Education

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Technology integration is most effective when it provides a transparent scaffold within a musical learning experience. The technology provides a differentiated experience from learner to learner, where music learners can have their voice and choice in deciding which technology best suits their needs and how they choose to use technology to support their musicianship. However, it is important not to concentrate too much on the technology itself. The music must remain the focus of the learners’ experience, with the technology becoming a vehicle for learners’ musicianship. Technology simply provides musicians multiple pathways to express, problem solve and show understanding of learning goals, thus fostering divergent thinking.

I have experienced a shift in the culture of my classroom. I find that learner/musicians engage deeply in experiences that connect to the music that is the soundtrack of their lives. It is relevant, current, and forward-thinking; they see themselves as innovators and creators of new music. It is a new mindset, and technology is at the forefront of this seismic shift.

Digital musicians must find a distinctive musical “voice.” They may build on what has gone before, so they may sidestep existing work. Either way, they become a new kind of musician: one who originates and performs, who creates and produces, and who harnesses the potential of technology in new and exciting ways. (Hugill, 2012)

When music learners are given these choices, they begin to take more ownership of their learning and construct their own understanding within an inquiry-based learning environment. Creating opportunities for musicians to show their understanding of musical concepts in their own way nurtures an environment where they feel valued and honored. This model also fosters divergence in the ways different musicians interpret and create music. While some may choose technology, some may prefer creating music with acoustic instruments, and still others may opt for a cappella. The important idea is that all are acceptable. We, as educators, just need to ensure that all are available. Making music on acoustic instruments has been accepted as a way of being a musician for a long time; it is making music through technology that we must now also consider valid.

While it is tempting to just dabble with technology in the musical classroom, it cannot be simply an extra “add-on.” Learning to use technology as a musician should be one of the core processes in the classroom. Technology should be ubiquitous, transparent, and ever-changing; it must constantly evolve along with learning. Educators should not simply plan “Technology Tuesdays” or tell students, “When you are finished with your work, you may play a game on the iPad.” Because learners are not inherently born with an understanding of how to use technology, they need to engage in experiences that foster their understanding of its appropriate uses. If the only way learners use technology in a classroom is to play games after they are finished with a lesson, they will come away believing that is all music technology can be. Instead, technology must support music learners’ engagement in new musical experiences in new ways.

2 thoughts on “Voice and Choice in Music Education

  1. Nice post, Mike. Sometimes tech in the classroom can feel daunting. I think that the implementation of tech in the classroom is a great place for teachers to model a growth mindset for their students. My kids know that we are growing together and it’s an organic and real process. I just always remind myself to be open, try new things, and when tech falls apart – troubleshoot with the kids! They rock at it.

    • Thanks for reading Dakotah.I agree that many times the tech can become the focus or even a hurdle. Modeling a growth mindset for your students is the best way to practice the process. You are doing wonderful things with the musicians who visit your room. Share those stories.

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