Over the past year I have embraced technology in my teaching studio. It has taken a conscious effort and a willingness to feel inexperienced and a often a little stupid. But it is getting easier every day. I am using Smart Music in most lesson, I send pdf files and audio files to my students, I record parts of lessons and email them to both my students and their parents on the spot. I love to use my iphone to take pictures of beautiful hand position or to audio record a “polished” piece. Lately I have been prowling the net searching through youtube, itunes, and a myriad of wonderful websites that can provide everything from public domain sheet music, to practicing tools, midi files, and clever theory games.
My students love it!
I have my computer with tiny little speakers ready to go at the beginning of every lesson. The kids walk in the door telling me about what they saw on youtube or how they found a new flute web site that I might not have seen yet. The enthusiasm is palpable. Technology is the “native language” of this generation. As teachers, we bring to our teaching a wealth of experience, education, and, sometimes to our disadvantage, our own history as music students.
When I was a young flutists, finding recordings was difficult. It required a trip to Tower Records or one of the bigger record stores and a clear idea of what I was searching for. Only during college did cassette tapes of the standard repertoire accompaniments become available. Everything took more time and more money. Even something as simple as a chromatic tuner was a hundred dollar expense. Today is it a 99 cent app. I was dependent on my teachers’ wealth of knowledge and limited by his own history.
Today there are more inexpensive and easy to use resources than ever before. Our students can download a piece, listen to several recordings by different artists, google a biography of the composer, practice the score with or without accompaniment at any speed they choose, make a recording of their practice and send it to their teacher. All this with push of just a few buttons from home. Amazing.
How can music schools or studios today embrace this “native language”? By providing teacher training. Offer wifi in the building. Find teachers who are excited about a new technology or teaching tool and encourage them to lead a teacher development course. It could be a hour, a day, or an ongoing series. Provide tables in each studio to set up a laptop. Perhaps even have studio computers available to teachers. Set up a computer station in the waiting area with theory games and ear training available on the home screen. The options are endless. What else could we do to engage the students at their level and with their language? I’d love to hear your suggestions.
As a flute teacher, I have a lovely studio of student that I see weekly. As a teacher trainer, I spend the summer months traveling to Institutes working with small groups of teachers. We discuss teaching points, we play our flutes, we investigate ways to engage families and students in music making. And now, I have added a daily component to our training, technology. We play the theory games, we practice using Smart Music, we find recordings, we record each other, we play…. it is fun. It is that spirit of fun that our students crave. Does it mean that we are not being serious musicians? No. It means that we are using all the tools available to us today to engage and create passion in our students.