Where do I start?
That’s one of the most common questions I hear – where do I start with technology in the music classroom? And what the options are for incorporating technology in a meaningful way?
You may feel overwhelmed with the number of choices you have – which devices to purchase or which apps to explore – or you may feel like you have some holes in your tech knowledge. You may have even returned to teaching after a period of time away and feel like everything has changed!
What should you do?
- Pick ONE thing
- Do it until you are a ninja
The most important thing…
Have a contingency plan.
No matter what you do with technology, always have a contingency plan. Plan for things to go wrong and work out what you would do in a “worst case scenario”. Once you’ve done that, you can survive anything! It’s not a bad philosophy for general life too.
7 easy ways to use tech in your music classes
Below are 7 easy ways you can incorporate technology into your music classes. Choose just one to start with!
1. Utilize video
With advancements in technology in recent years, video recordings are simple to create.
Video is an effective feedback and capture tool and it’s likely that you already have the gear you need to create your own.
How can you use video?
- Record student performances
- Students “show what they know”
- Create tutorial videos
- Provide feedback & assessment
- “Magnify” something (ie. an instrument)
You can use your Smartphone or iPad to record videos, or a “proper” camera (like a DSLR).
Optional extras include a tripod & mount to help keep the camera steady (it’s a HUGE improvement on video quality) and external mic to capture audio at a higher quality.
2. Create quizzes
Why use tech-based quizzes?
- the marking is done for you (bonus!)
- you can share them with others
- they are fun and engaging
Plus – someone might have made one already that suits your needs.
Online quiz tools
There are a number of great online tools that allow you to create your own quizzes. Some of my favourites include:
- Playposit (create video quizzes)
Related listening: 4 Fun Formative Assessment Tools for Music Educators
Related reading: 4 Engaging Ways To Tech-i-fy Assessment In Music Education
Ways to use quizzes
You can use online quiz tools for:
- Testing or reinforcing music theory knowledge
- Testing or reinforcing music styles and history knowledge
- Testing tech skills and knowledge (GarageBand skills, notation software shortcuts etc)
- Student response to listening activities
- Creating exit tickets
- Enhancing a video by adding timed questions that pop up during the video itself
Related: Formative Assessment professional development training (with PD certificate) inside the Midnight Music community
3. Rhythmic patterns
Create rhythmic patterns
You can use a simple online drum sequencer or one of the many free creative music websites to create fast, fun and flexible patterns that can be used in a number of ways in the classroom:
- To teach drum kit basics
- To create a quick rhythmic backing for a rap lesson (such as this Rap My Name lesson)
- Use as a funky metronome
- To learn about different musical styles
- To explore beatboxing
- To export and use in other software
Related reading: How to make a funky beat in 30 seconds
Related reading: Rap My Name [Free Lesson Plan]
Some favourite options for creating rhythmic patterns include:
- Groove Pizza
- Isle of Tune
- GarageBand app on iPad
4. Composing & recording
Digital audio workstations & other recording software
There are LOTS of creative and useful things you can do with recording software in your music classes. There are also many software options in this category. The following list mentions just a few of the options:
- Pro Tools
- Ableton Live
- Audacity (no MIDI)
Ideas for using DAWS in your classes
Some ideas include:
- record audio
- compose and record original music
- create backing tracks
- create cover versions of songs
- compose film & video game scores
- create podcasts or radio shows
- digital storytelling
Related: Film Scoring online course (with PD certificate) inside the Midnight Music community
Related: Composing video game music lesson plans (training with PD certificate) inside the Midnight Music community
5. Chords & songwriting
Songwriting and analysis
One great online resource that has popped up in the past few years is the HookTheory website. It’s a super-useful tool for students and teachers which includes:
- educational information about songwriting techniques
- harmonic analysis of songs
- information about common chord progressions
- interactive, playable, graphic-style notation
- graphic-style notation that syncs with Youtube videos
You could use HookTheory with students for:
- songwriting lessons
- examining the harmonic structure of songs
- composing original songs
- creating cover versions
6. Composing with notation
Notation software options
These days we are spoilt for choice when it comes to notation software. Some of the options include:
- Online & iPads: Noteflight, Flat.io
- Download: Sibelius, Finale, Dorico, Notion
- Handwriting: NotateMe
How can you use notation software with students?
There are lots of ways you can use notation software. A few ideas:
- Compose simple melodies
- Compose simple rhythms
- 12 bar blues
- Create warm-ups & drills
Tip: templates rock!
- Create a basic score “shell” for students which includes measures, instruments, tempo, form
- Provide students with a notation score that includes a pre-written accompaniment. They can then add their own melody
- Create Melody
7. Create a “Singing Wall” display
How to create a “singing” wall
Add audio or video to your wall displays with QR Codes. Display a picture, piece of writing or notation and add a QR code that links to an audio or video file of the student singing, playing or speaking.
- Create the visual element – something to display on the wall
- Record the students singing, playing or speaking (audio only or video)
- Upload audio or video file to an online location (such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Youtube, Soundcloud)
- Copy the link to the audio or video file
- Go to QR Stuff and paste the link into the box
- Download the QR code, print it out and add it to the display
Students, parents and other teachers can scan the QR code use a free QR code reader app on their smartphone or iPad.
- QR Stuff – QR code creator
- i-nigma QR code reader for iOS or Android (there are many others available)
Visual display options could include:
- Student drawings
- Soundwave art
- Notation/sheet music
Related listening: How to Create A Visual Display That Includes Audio and Video Files Part 1 and Part 2
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Want free training (PD certificate provided)?
Would you like to see me walk you through all of the 7 Easy Ways To Use Tech? Join me for a free 60-minute online training session. PD certificate of attendance is provided.
Hello! I’m Katie Wardrobe – an Australian music technology trainer and consultant with a passion for helping music teachers through my business Midnight Music. I hope you enjoyed this article and wish you well on your tech journey.