I recently presented at the Illinois Music Educators’ Conference in Peoria. It was great to see old friends and colleagues, catch up with a few folks, and see some of the awesome things that are going on in the field. My presentation dealt with a sequence of electronic music courses that my colleague and I have implemented at our school over the past 3-4 years. Though the session was not busting at the seams, I appreciate the enthusiasm of those who were in attendance. It really feels good to receive positive feedback when you “stick your neck out there” a bit, professionally speaking. Music education has always resisted the proliferation of technology a bit in terms of authentic student uses, but the tide seems to be turning. Indeed, I think that we are starting down a path in music teaching where technology and music making (as a student activity) will be inextricably linked.
One of the best questions we fielded at our session simply asked, “How much of this do I need to know in order to get started?” I really liked the tone of this question because it shows great interest while indicating that the technology itself (the skills necessary in creating electronic music) was a bit intimidating. All the research in the world will tell you that technology is best implemented with a high level of comfort on the teacher’s end. This makes sense for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that teachers who are more comfortable are more apt to implementing technology into their curricula. But what of the teacher who has an interest, but not the experience?
To that teacher I would say that, of course, some knowledge of the skills and apps are required. Think of it as similar to your supplemental instrument classes in college. How many of you have been practicing all of those instruments since you graduated? Is your hand in the air? If so, you’re better than I. But you probably remember the big concepts you learned on each instrument. The great thing about the iPad is that there seems to be a nearly ubiquitous language amongst music creation apps…and much of this language is intuitive. If you have an iPad, it would not be difficult for someone to figure out a few basic apps – for me, those were GarageBand, iElectribe, TableTop, and Multitrack DAW. These four apps led to others, of course. Now, my iPad’s music creation folder is quite large, and includes a variety of synths, recording devices, and sequencers. I did this in the course of one summer, and so can you.
Getting to the point of my headline, though, is that there will always exist those questions to which you do not have an answer. You’ve spent all that time learning app functions and a student asks you a question to which you have no answer. I’m here to tell you that it’s okay. Just like I probably could not play a single note in the saxophone’s altissimo register, you should not expect to automatically understand how to audiocopy from multiple app sources into Multitrack DAW. It’s not really that difficult, but like those saxophone fingerings, you might have to go look it up – either via online tutorials or the help menu. The great thing is – these resources are also available to your students! Let them teach you how to operate advanced functions. The role of teacher as facilitator is not used frequently enough, and your students will enjoy the opportunity to take the lead in demonstrating advanced technology.
Take a deep breath, relax, and try it! You’ll be glad you did. I have a bunch of new vinyl staring me in the face, so I need to get to it. Until next time, good night, and good luck!