Simply Music - Technology Inspired Music in Education Workshops

MEDEA Highly Commended 2011

MEDEA Highly Commended 2011

This video shows a percussion workshop combining interactive technology and live music performance which was created for schools in 2011 by Simply Music in Ireland. Simply Music designed a series of 1 or 2-day workshops for schools, in which a professional musician works with several class groups, bringing together elements of curriculum music with musical performance.

The workshops are a combination of technology (karaoke-styled video projection) and performance in which the children may play a range of percussion instruments (such as Boomwhackers, hollow plastic tubes that are tuned) and can develop their vocal and rhythmic skills (through action songs etc.).

The entry video of Simply Music - Technology Inspired Music in Education Workshops

A series of rhythmic / melodic patterns forms a musical piece which is performed live within the school on the day of the workshop. The video shows the context of providing meaningful engagement with music through interactive and performance-based educational experiences suited to children’s individual learning needs. It investigates the benefit of combining technology, live music-making and performance and considers the impact on teachers, pupils and the wider school community through engagement with the programme.

The workshops also introduce different forms of musical notation and rhythmic structures in accordance with the music curriculum, suiting the specific age range of the pupils participating in the workshop. The workshop allows students to gain confidence in their performance and to learn how to hold and play each instrument correctly. They learn to work independently with their instrument and are supported by the technology, which plays the melodic or rhythmic line in the background to support them and maintain continuity in the performance. After the workshop and participation in live performance with teachers and other class groups, the students have an increased knowledge of percussion instrumentation, rhythmic and vocal development, and musical experience.

Screenshot of Simply Music - Technology Inspired Music in Education Workshops

Screenshot of Simply Music

The model has been designed to enhance learning for different cognitive styles through the introduction of technology as a learning tool. The content is based on the three strands of the primary school curriculum for music: listening and responding, performing and composing, and is constantly updated in order to keep up with current trends in music performance. The target audience is broken into two groups: 4-7 years and 8-12 years.

The effective combination of technology and music-making as a methodology demonstrates that children have no difficulty in dealing with the technological aspects of the programme and that their incorporation as a learning tool provides an additional level of interaction, which enables them to speed up the learning process. The use of visual notation in the form of a karaoke style of interaction enhances the overall experience.

Simply Music is supported by the Arts Council of Ireland and approved by the Department of Education and Skills, and it involves running programmes through the National Concert Hall’s Education Department with In-Service Teacher Training Workshops (Summer 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 & 2011) for primary teachers – which form part of the Department of Education & Skill's In-Service provision.”

About the creation of Simply Music - Technology Inspired Music in Education Workshops

Paul Maher, Director of Simply Music, on the background of this entry: “Technology is moving far quicker than our thinking in relation to its use in education (specifically music) and a response is required to bridge the ever-widening gap between technology and its potential for use in the classroom. ‘Simply Music - An Educational Video Production’ was created as part of my Master’s thesis in Dublin City University, Ireland in partial fulfilment of the Master of Science Degree in Education and Training Management (E-Learning) 2009-2011.

Screenshot of Simply Music - Technology Inspired Music in Education Workshops

Screenshot of Simply Music

I was concerned that young people who are currently within the primary education system would only have opportunities to engage in live music making in situations where teachers had actively sought to introduce new and different ways of experiencing music, through exposure to professional musicians and hands-on performance. I was also aware that the national programme (of music) development only changed slowly and I believed that without exposing the schools and children to other music education programmes which act as additional resources for educators, the status quo in relation to active music-making and experiencing music in the classroom through new methods of learning would continue to be upheld. I considered how I could demonstrate that Simply Music could act as a resource for the development of new and innovative learning experiences for children. My research study was undertaken to provide an examination of the benefits and outputs of Simply Music (the music education workshop programme incorporating technology) and the development of my practice as designer of the Simply Music programme.

I can also draw parallels between the Simply Music approach and Marc Prensky’s description of our youth as ‘digital natives’ (Prensky 2001). As Prensky states, these digital natives (who also participate in Simply Music’s programmes) ‘think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors …’ and ‘The single biggest problem facing education today is that our Digital Immigrant instructors, who speak an outdated language (that of the pre-digital age), are struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language.’ (Prensky 2001)

Screenshot of Simply Music - Technology Inspired Music in Education Workshops

Teachers participating in workshops

I consider that my practice, in using digital technology for young people who are already technologically savvy, provides a framework for music education which reflects Prensky’s thinking and assists the development of new methods of learning for our educator’s to help them to address this challenge of speaking Prensky’s ‘new language’. We have received feedback after our training summer courses at The National Concert Hall from teachers who have found the content accessible and engaging, regardless of their level of musical or technological experience. It has been wonderful to see (and hear!) how, even those teachers who start out without much confidence in their natural musical abilities are enthusiastic performers by the end of the five-day course.”

About Paul Maher

Paul Maher

Deborah Arnold from MEDEA Awards and Paul Maher

Paul Maher is a professional percussionist, a digital media designer and the Director of Simply Music. He is a professional orchestral percussionist with over 20 years’ experience in the classical music industry. Additionally, Paul continues to work on a range of educational projects with the National Concert Hall’s Learn and Explore team, the Local Music Education Services Partnership pilots and other organisations.

Paul Maher represented ‘Simply Music - Technology Inspired Music in Education Workshops’ at the MEDEA Awards 2011 Ceremony in November 2011.

Entry’s links