There are a wide range of opportunities for using technology in education to support and enhance music learning. Technology can be used to represent, control, manipulate or communicate musical information. The use of technology in music includes:
- audio playback and recording
- electronic keyboards, synthesisers, MIDI controllers, and other accessible instruments
- drum machines and other pad based instruments
- sound processors
- computers, tablets, mobile devices and associated software or apps
Developments in digital technology continue to create a wide range of opportunities for using technology in education to support and enhance music learning. These opportunities can be as effective in vocal and instrumental teaching and learning as they are in music education in the classroom. There is also great capacity for overlap, and where class teachers and instrumental teachers working in schools can communicate with each other about their use of technology, shared approaches can achieve continuity for the learner.
A variety of equipment is now available to process, sequence, record, play back and notate music, including electronic recorders, recording apps, mobile devices, electronic keyboards, tablets and laptop computers. It should be remembered that many learners have access to this type of equipment in their homes and are often familiar with the technology involved. In addition to the wide range of desktop and mobile apps, the current possibilities for practitioners and organisations to leverage web-based software subscriptions allows the teacher to scaffold the learning in a number of ways. Firstly, the teacher can support their lesson delivery with a platform that the learner can then access at home to continue using. Additionally the learner can often access individual bespoke practice and revision content that the teacher has prescribed specifically for that learner. Much of this software scaffolds practice by listening to the learner practising and giving visual and audible feedback on the accuracy of the playing.
The use of graphic scoring, sequencing and notation programmes can be highly effective in helping learners interrogate and internalise the music they are playing. The use of display software to manipulate new rhythms, notes and techniques supports a mastery approach to ensure learners are better equipped to recognise and succeed when they encounter those elements in other contexts.
Many opportunities exist to deepen learners’ understanding of musical structures, genre, patterns, and conventions through the use of both sequencing and digital audio workstation (DAW) software. Access to these tools in school and alongside their instrumental learning can be a powerful way to allow learners to identify and take ownership of the structure of their pieces, tempo and pitch, as well as experiment with revisions and arrangements they create.
To broaden learners’ musical experiences, therefore, and to assist with their overall development, learners should have appropriate technology modelled to them and be encouraged to use it in a variety of ways. For example:
- listening to and evaluating recordings of pieces they are learning
- listening to and watching recordings of their own performances and practices, to evaluate and also to gain insight into their own posture, breathing, diction, fingering and other techniques
- exploring music – using the internet and a range of apps to search for information
- providing backing tracks for improvising
- providing accompaniments digitally both as premade tracks and as learner-created accompaniments
- creating and recording – sequencing and notating music using appropriate software programs on a range of devices and platforms
- storing and revising their work using appropriate media
- mixing and arranging their work to create new revisions beyond their current practical skill or that would otherwise require multiple musicians
- sharing and evaluating their work with others through the internet
Technology also allows live teaching to occur remotely via the use of video conferencing platforms. Additionally, as schools have increasingly robust learning platforms in constant use by learners and teachers, there exists great potential for instrumental teachers working in schools to leverage this medium to both communicate with their learners about their learning and to record progress information for parents. Any issue of these technologies should be covered within the scope of the organisation’s acceptable use and safeguarding policies. Platform use can also provide opportunities for recorded and broadcast performances between school and home.