Technology and the Music Student

Our current generation of music students and parents are involved with technology in a variety of ways. Guest blogger Kathy Schmidt, a music teacher, musician, and member-in-good-standing of Ontario Registered Music Teacher offers some great insights into the various examples of technology she has embraced in her music studio. Her insights are inspiring for everyone!

“Technology and the Music Student”

Kathy Schmidt Pic

I can vividly recall the day in the mid-80’s, when I explicitly said, “I’ll never use a debit
card”, and I also remember when the computer at University of Waterloo ,where I did my
undergraduate in Science, took up an entire building! When we relay these experiences to our tech savvy students, they can hardly believe it.

In my case the next question to follow is, “How old are you Kathy?”. Ugghhh!!! The reality is that our music students are living in an ever increasing technological world. As a piano teacher I firmly believe that in order to engage our students, we must keep up with them and even be one step ahead…if not, we will lose students.

My modern piano studio is well equipped with Apple TV to mirror from my Macbook and
iPad. My studio iPad is loaded with APPs that include quick sight reading exercises, flash cards, rhythm games, note naming, melody and harmony Apps, Apps for composing and jamming, one App for loading my music so that I no longer have to carry paper scores, hand-eye coordination Apps, finger numbers, technique and theory. This list goes on….. I also have a desktop computer for students to complete theory assignments while they are waiting. As well as regular keyboards, I have an Axiom 39 key keyboard which plugs into my iPad or Macbook so I can accompany a student with 250 voice combinations and drum tracks etc…. Wow!

I must admit that I use practically all of it each and every lesson! And….I no longer have to make my own flash cards and board games (although sometimes I still do…kids love board games!). Some people could argue that all of this technology is just gimmick and that this could all be distracting from what really matters in the music education of a student. Really? Did you catch what Apps I use? At a quick tap I am able to incorporate so much into the lesson…far more than years ago, when it was just me, my acoustic instruments and a huge library of scores. Don’t get me wrong, I still use these as well, but the great thing about technology is that it is available to everyone and I can encourage students and their parents to download free Apps or very inexpensive ones so that all of these concepts can be assigned each and every practice day. That way the student is reinforcing lots of musical concepts every day rather than just once per week at lessons.

With the use of technology students who live in remote areas or who would normally
have to miss a lesson due to a cold can now be taught over the computer using Skype or other programs such as Internet Midi. Piano examinations through Conservatory Canada can also be done using computer technology. This has been great for students who want to play an exam outside of the the set February, June and August time slots.
Communication has improved immensely between myself and my students’ parents.
They and I are just a text away. Parents can video the student using their phone and send it to me outside of their lesson time to make sure they are practicing correctly. I can reply briefly and quickly and give instant feedback. Lesson plans and notes are emailed with links to websites, performances and other activities. My website has the calendar for the month, featured students and performances, a blog centred around practicing and other “at home” musical activities. I can send out announcements and give a heads up regarding changes to the schedule. Now no one misses out on any studio information!!

I rarely hear the complaint, “It’s so difficult to get my child to practice”. I can structure
each practice day so that the student has a lot of variety besides working on their pieces. An App such as MyMuCo assists the student in keeping their week organized and is a wonderful motivator. With all the demands placed upon kids who are active, one cannot rely solely upon an organized mind and memory. What better way to ensure musical growth and productivity than by using technology in the studio and home to keep all the “ducks”, I should say, “notes” in order! Then we can celebrate with our students and hear comments such as, “piano is so fun, it’s not work mom and dad”! Of course we know it is work, but technology can disguise this fact and help the student to integrate it all into their daily lives and routine….just like “brushing your teeth”.

So if in the next decade I am asked discard my debit card for a microchip in my arm…I
think I’ll be ready to embrace it!!!


About mymuco1

Ian Green wears hats in many areas of the music industry including: co-founder of a technology start-up company that designs music education tools for mobile devices and the internet; music educator; music festival adjudicator; professional classical and jazz pianist; member in good standing of Ontario Registered Music Teachers' Association; member of provincial council of Ontario Registered Music Teachers' Association; member of the Canadian Music Festival Adjudicators Association (C.M.F.A.A.) Thanks!
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