It’s safe to say that technology is used daily in the lives of today’s youth. Whether on personal devices, surfing the net, play online games, texting, or downloading and listening to music, technology is the norm for the students we teach.
Over the years I have presented classroom and teacher workshops that partner literacy, music, and technology. The workshops were created as an extension of the classroom, and continue to evolve based on the needs and wants of music teachers and regular classroom non-music teachers.
Why music technology-based projects?
A common threat among students is that they all love music and view this art form as a means of self-expression and individuality. Simply put, music makes us happy! Students are able to combine words (language arts), music (arranging/composing), and technology with the end goal of an creating an original work of art. (Hence, the reason behind my book, Mr. Zig’s Literacy, Music and Technology Connection.)
Here’s a common phrase regarding technology and youth: ‘the students will play with the software and figure it out.’ However, using a step-by-step process with a final goal yields a higher-level of student achievement. In other words, this is one of many ways to raise the bar of student motivation with tasks that can be accomplished along with student/teacher interaction and cooperation.
Creating Opportunities for Collaboration
The doable student-driven activity engages students to express and promote their creativity while learning through technology. Students typically work best in small teams within a class, or the entire class working on one goal-oriented project. Each student becomes an integral part of the project because everyone’s idea is worth trying. Why? Because the students won’t know if their idea works until they try it. Hence, thinking ‘outside the box’ and trying new ideas and methodologies. Collaborating with a non-music classroom teacher on a writing prompt/theme is always a win-win for teachers. Raising the bar is possible through a music-based technology project by interconnecting school subjects such as math, reading, language, social studies, and science.
Types of Writing Prompts/Musical Styles
The original student projects may be in the format of songs, Public Service Announcements, stage plays, jingles (radio/TV), ringtones, comedy skits, spoken word, gaming and movie music/themes, and more. Don’t forget to ask the non-music teacher for a writing prompt theme. This may include writing narratives, expressive or persuasive writing, a classroom lesson such as Native American culture, or raising awareness such as a school-wide anti-bullying theme. Student choices of musical styles may represent; Pop, R&B, Rock, Hip Hop, Gospel, Country, Jazz, Classical, EDM, Dubstep, Techno, and more. A popular student favorite is what is termed a ‘mash-up’, or a blending of musical styles.
Classroom Benefits (Academic and Social)
By connecting words, music, and technology, the classroom becomes a learning environment which reinforces and further develops communication, computer aptitude, critical thinking, organization, self-esteem, active listening, and teamwork.
Not to mention the benefit of reinforcing literacy skills, social interaction, the elements of music, and learning modalities. In the education arena students are provided with a connection of how textbook learning (in the classroom) can be applied to their daily lives (outside the classroom) through the creation of various technology driven student projects.
What equipment do you need to get started?
There are numerous choices regarding music software. A couple of cost effective entry-level suggestions include Mixcraft for PC and GarageBand for MAC. For sound input, microphones are necessary (students love to hear their recorded voices). A USB microphone is a good solution, or a microphone that can be connected to an A/D converter (analog-to-digital converter, also known as ‘the box’). The output can be as simple as connecting a mini-jack cable from the computer to a sound system or speaker.
Model Behavior Project Listening Examples
Active listening is the key. Students become motivated by hearing projects that were completed by other students and classes from their school and even other schools. Listening examples set the tone and exemplify what can be accomplished. A common question which students usually ask is, ‘how did they do that?’ This positive reaction opens a new dialogue for teaching and learning.
Audio examples of student projects of what can be achieved can be found on the Student Projects button at: www.handsonwithzig.com. The CD included in Mr. Zig’s Literacy, Music and Technology Connection features 11 student projects from a variety of grade levels.