Into the 21st Century: Technology in Music

I recently had the opportunity to take over the music program at the Wilbur Watts Intermediate School in the Burlington City School District. I teach 3rd through 6th grade General Music, and I see over 500 students in 20 classes each week for about 45 minutes each class (that’s a lot of names to remember! ). This September, I will be able to affect my class in any direction I wish, and using the models and advice of successful music educators, both local and national, I am finding that there is a common thread that is growing more apparent in what may be called “classroom-based” music classes, as opposed to performance-based classes such as band, choir, or orchestra. Music educators in the 21st century are taking the initiative, many because of new district and state level goals, to incorporate technology in their classes. As a member of “Generation X” (those born between 1960-1980), I was present for the birth of the “Age of Technology”, or basically the advent of the internet and other tools of mass communication. Though I’m only 32, I still get looks of disbelief from my students when I tell them that I grew up without internet, cell phones, cd’s, or even video games (I started with an Atari). I took my first computer class when I was a senior in high school, nowadays many kids work with computers before they even start kindergarten! As such, the world of education (and the world in general) is becoming much more technologically-based, and it is this trend that we as educators must embrace if we are to keep the interest of our students and move our craft into the 21st century.

Because school districts are now making more resolutions to have classes taught with technological resources, music and other “specials” are no exception. However, I soon found myself a little overwhelmed with the daunting task of choosing which resources to explore and implement in my class. I wasn’t interested in turning my class into a tech lab, but I did want to use software that kids could understand and enjoy while learning music in a way that would foster creativity and academic achievement. Fortunately, there are some really great organizations whose function is to assist educators in incorporating technology into their programs. Two groups in particular that have really helped me are Soundtree, (www.soundtree.com) the educational division of Korg, and TI:ME, (http://www.ti-me.org/) or Technology in Music Education. Both groups gave me recommendations for which software to use in my classes based on the demographic, number of students in each class, and what I wanted to accomplish through instruction and performance. Their representatives will speak directly with you to assess your needs and goals, and they’ll also give suggestions for funding prospects.

Let’s face it, even though school districts say they want more technology in the classroom, fine arts classes are sometimes left behind. My school in particular has SmartBoards in every class, except in the Art and Music rooms. And until the fine arts are tested on the NJ-ASK or HSPA tests, there may always be an issue getting these types of materials in the music room. However, there are several ways of finding funds externally that can get you the resources you need to start incorporating technology into the classroom. A book I’m fond of is called Finding Funds for Music Technology, by Dr. Thomas Rudolph. You can find it on the Soundtree website, and it’s very helpful for locating sources of external funds from various sources, including local, state, and even national-level donors and grant corporations. I’m still in the process of acquiring funds for the materials I need (I really want a SmartBoard), but I know that ultimately, my students will be the ones who benefit.  Whether you’re a first-year teacher, or have been teaching for decades, the fact remains that students respond more to technology-based resources at any grade level. For us to adapt to the changing needs and interests of our students, we must adapt our educational practices to a new level as we travel through the 21st century.

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