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iPad Music Apps Strike a Chord
By Mark Elshout 26-Feb-15
Music teaching in the 21st century is evolving. To develop as a musician, students still need the fundamental musicianship skills and knowledge today they have mastered in the past. Fortunately, educators now have access to a range of ICT sources to broaden learning opportunities. My vocation is as a music teacher of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Program in a Japanese international school that has embraced iPad technology. The school has encouraged teachers to embrace the technological offerings available while working within the philosophical framework of the IB model. In the hope of implementing iPad technology in my music classroom, I researched the possibilities available to classroom music programs. The lack of published applications that focused on supporting classroom programs became evident. In response to my findings, I was inspired to develop a set of applications to support music teachers and add value to iPad-based education; allowing for collaboration, differentiated learning, and self-motivated activities, and with clear learning objectives. As I researched iPad apps, I found that the majority of software encouraged students to withdraw from their classroom environment and become consumed by the electronic device in their hands. The series of apps that I have developed include activities that, on the contrary, incite students to collaborate, and to assist one another in reinforcing their understanding of the concepts. My experience in using these apps has shown that they engage the students, foster learning, and present themselves as a guide, while enabling students to operate as a community of learners. My work has resulted in the production of eight different apps to date: the series titled Developing Musicianship. Four of the apps contain a theory lesson packed with activities, a reference guide with audio, multi-level games, collaborative learning opportunities, and practice tests to prepare for assessments. The games available online include Bingo the Musical and Speed Reader. I recreated the classic game of Bingo into a Music Theory and Aural development game, which allows for 25 students to play simultaneously, learning as a group, while their individual iPads act as the Bingo cards, each with a friendly and fun graphic layout. The rhythm and melody components include the audio tracks for the hosting of games. To assist students in increasing the efficiency of their music reading and in developing their reflexes, I have published a game called Speed Reader. It includes eight levels for each clef (Treble, Bass, and Alto), as well as a mixed level and provides a quick fire “flash card” concept with a 100-second time limit. High Scores can be published on Facebook, appealing to the students who may have a competitive desire. The highest levels will challenge even professional musicians. My most recent App, Notation, is targeted at beginners from Grades 3–8 and contains a Sketch Pad allowing students to practice their handwritten music symbols in an appealing environment. It has Word Searches and Mix’n’Match games for students who get ahead of the group. Its focus is to introduce music vocabulary and to begin basic Aural and Theory development. All activities are very friendly to students with no experience in music. This year, I have introduced the Developing Musicianship series to my Year 6–9 students and the apps have been greeted with immense enthusiasm. Students who have been disinterested in music education in the past have a renewed enthusiasm and urge to contribute. Educational app development is not out of reach for enthusiastic and motivated teachers. I encourage you all to embrace this technology and join me in contributing to a truly international collection of resources for educating our students.
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