Education is only one of the aspects of our lives that technology is changing: computers and mobile devices have also revolutionized the way we create, experience and share art, music and entertainment. Digital art is flourishing alongside painting and drawing; photography and filmmaking have largely abandoned film in favour of pixels; music can be made, bought and shared in digital form without creating physical copies or even using traditional instruments to produce it.
The role of technology in music education
The next step in this progression is that if technology has changed the way we create and listen to music, why should it not change the way we learn it?
Using the tools at our disposal can make it easier to record and play vast repertoires of music so that students are exposed to all genres and even help pupils understand the principles of music by producing it themselves without the need for families or schools to provide them with instruments which can prove costly to buy and difficult to master, fostering feelings of social disparity and frustration.
Some may argue that music should be taught in person by an expert player who can provide immediate feedback and that the long-distance, delayed mode of learning encouraged by technology is particularly ill-suited to it; while it is undeniable that playing and composing music is a unique skill with its own teaching methods that differ from most other subjects that are already being successfully supported by technology, however, music teachers should not dismiss the contribution of EdTech to their work.
In some ways, it is teachers who have to adapt their techniques, particularly by making an effort to anticipate their students’ needs and challenges even if they are not by their side providing answers and corrections to any problem that may arise, but the process of adapting must go both ways: just as teachers adjust to technology, so should technology adjust to the teachers’ and students’ needs by providing well-designed software that is originally meant for music education and not just a poor adaptation of something that already existed for different purposes.
The good news is that such software already exists; the bad news is that using it is not entirely comparable to playing a physical instrument and cannot replace it completely. Detractors might even say that music produced with an intuitive digital audio workshop (DAW) requires little skill and is therefore not ‘real music’, but the chance to create and edit music with a few taps on your touch screen can be an excellent introduction to the world of composing that may encourage students to pursue more traditional avenues of music making, where they will find that music notation software is available to help them write traditional sheet music quickly and easily and music training apps allow them to exercise at their own pace wherever they go.
With projects such as INTO SCHOOL using technology to encourage artistic self-expression from an early age and music making apps allowing students to create and share music without devoting countless hours to mastering an instrument, teachers will find that the possibilities are limitless.
Soundtrap, a studio at your fingertips
Soundtrap is a prime example of a music creation software with enormous potential for educational applications.
Fully accessible online through any device, Soundtrap is an online music studio that allows users to record and edit their creations, choosing from a vast array of instruments, loops and beats that ensure a complex, polished, professional result.
Using Soundtrap on a touch screen device such as Acer Chromebook Spin 11 is a fun and easy way to heighten the experience of creating music even further: by using your fingertips to record your piece on a virtual keyboard, you can make Soundtrap feel much closer to the sensation of playing a traditional instrument.
What makes Soundtrap ideal for education is that the compositions are meant to be shared: by asking others to join your project so they can add their own edits and ideas, you can make Soundtrap into a perfect classroom tool that can involve everyone in a collaborative effort of shared creation, with the teacher pitching in with advice and improvements or even recording podcast lessons for students to listen to.