Archives for category: music theory on ipads

After a few months of daily use, the iPad becomes as normal as the old exercise book, text book or pencil case. The students open them and expect to use some app or other. For most first years, music is a subject which received very little attention in primary school. It’s a subject which is treated with a degree of tolerance but with little genuine interest or engagement. It is, therefore, with huge delight that I see students composing minimalist tracks in GarageBand, dance music with Arix 303 and Sfx with mad pad. Students who can barely spell minimalism are able to organise motives and use them within a composition. The most disinterested student is still creating good structured works with loops and drum patterns. The feedback from parents has been so positive. They can hear their kids experimenting and creating music in homes where musical experience has not progressed much beyond local radio stations. The most frequently asked question is about progression to Gcse, a standard to which,traditionally 12/180 students progress. The skills are available on IPad, but the exam and assessment criteria areaway behind. It’ll be a long time before this newly harnessed skill will be part of a formal assessment, yet, it is more musically valid than the standard methodology and musical experience available at key stage 3.
Nonetheless, it s very encouraging and is clearly achieving what I d hoped; a greater interest and higher level of engagement in and with First year music.

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This was a good week, the students finally downloaded the iBooks on the elements of music and on TV themes and Adverts. Having an iBook with embedded audio descriptions of the elements, discussions and analyses of themes and self assessing quizzes has definitely engaged the students more. Homeworks were of a far higher standard than last year’s paper versions, the musical descriptions were more astute and articulate.
While it’s time consuming to create these resources, the response so far has been excellent. How will January exam results differ from last year? Hopefully there’ll be a higher standard if answer from a greater number of students.
The iPad survey will have been completed by 176 students on Monday. This will help to benchmark the present now ledge and skill base.

Although the main focus of the IPad in music is a three year observation of my own teaching and the students ‘ learning, we are already using iPads in years 9 and 10. Year 10 marks the end of the key stage, a time when music is no longer statutory and becomes an elective. The same objectives of Listening, performing and composing are the focus of the elected course.
What is interesting is that there is no requirement for students in the statutory years to learn notation. This safe guards the subject from becoming entirely centred on theory with little practical experience. However, in a learning environment where the students are at the top of the academic intake, this may be selling them short. Given the time constraints, it is simply impossible to include elements of Listen, Compose, Perform and also give a lesson in staff notation and note values. Students may play a walking bass line, but it is meaningless if it cannot develop into something beyond mechanics.
With iPad access and server apps such as my big campus, it has been possible to set lessons and exercises on Ricci Adam’s Musictheory.net. With a minimum training, students can undertake differentiated exercises and get instant feed back on their answers. A homework challenge of ’email me a screen shot of your 100% result or 20/20′ ensures that the topic is grasped. The response from the students is excellent. Firstly the use of a website or app to learn and assess independently of the teacher appeals to those who like to work at their own pace. Secondly, the sense of achievement is instant, with increased challenges also readily available. Thirdly, most students have had very poor experiences of music at primary level. They approach second level with a built in feeling of inadequacy and disinterest. The lack of specialism in music at primary level often leaves issues inadequately explained or, in some cases, presented incorrectly. The high achieving student quickly sees that he is very capable of grasping and scoring well in basic music theory.
A homework can thus be set, where a lesson is studied followed by a related exercise. In a subject where the primary aim is a skill acquisition, this serves as a very tenable method for students to ‘see’ their own progress.
I have provided the Tenuto app for the elective students in year 11. It is an excellent app if used daily as part of a learning regime. It s excellent for teachers to firm up their own skills at the upper level, particularly in the chord and scale identification sections.
The picture therefore is of a learning community, motivated to learn a potentially dull topic, through the means of technology. This same idea, presented to incoming year 8 s may actually reel them in at an even earlier stage.