Technology and the Music class

Don St. Jean, music professor, recently shared his experiences of using technology in his teaching. I would like to share them with all of you.

I wanted to share two projects from my Essentials of Music (MSC 111) class that involve using technology.  MSC 111 is a Core Complement that is primarily made up of freshman, some of whom intend to become music majors. 

The first project was to create a soundscape using a combination of environmental sounds (natural and made) combined with sounds that were to be manipulated by the students.  Some students recorded the sounds of the ocean, while others chose the sounds of the construction work that has been taking place in downtown Newport.  There were recordings of crickets and even the sound of the wind turbine in Portsmouth.  They added to that backdrop excerpts of recordings of their favorite music, sounds of their friends in conversation, singing, etc.  The result has been a sound tapestry of colors, counterpoint and dynamics that is very interesting and highly individual.  Students have recorded their projects on their laptop computers using Audacity, a free software that supports the recording and editing of multiple sound tracks and provides a visual representation of each sound.  They have enjoyed sharing their projects with one another at the end of each class using the projector and stereo system loctated in the Theory Lab of the Music Department.  The project has introduced students to a wide array of musical concepts and terms, and has provided stimulus for a discussion on the topic of “What is music?”  Students have also watched a YouTube video in class of a presentation of John Cage’s 4’33” (four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence) to add to the discussion. 

The second project was a homework assignment where students were to record themselves sight-singing three examples from the textbook and then send their recordings to me as e-mail attachments.  To do this, they had to record the examples on their laptops using Audacity, export the resulting WAV files to ITunes, convert them to MP3 format so that they would be small enough to go through the e-mail and then send them to me prior to the start of the next class.  To aid in the process, I created a tutorial in Word using screen shots from the various applications. This gave students an illustrated step-by-step guide for completing the assignment. 
I enjoy using technology in my teaching.  So much of learning music may be enhanced through the various applications, which are available at little or no cost.  The main objectives of the use of technology should be centered on the development of creativity and the support of process.  I feel that the preceding examples respectively illustrate each of these objectives.   

Don’s examples show how commonly used and/or free software applications that students have access to can be used to enhance the learning experience. Thanks to Don for sharing. I would encourage more faculty to share their experiences on teaching with technology. Send an email to [email protected] and I will post it here.