Time for a muse again, 

I have been watching the IPad classes quite closely and trying to ascertain if there is any genuine musical learning being achieved through the iPad. It’s definitely effective in Year 10, the final year of statutory music. Students make their subject choices in February, and , consciously or not, put far less effort into the subjects which they are dropping for GCSE. As only 7% of students take music at GCSE, these are long months of unmotivated classroom teaching. The Ipad definitely keeps them better on task, they produced some excellent work in GarageBand, and are delighted to use our custom made ibooks for revision.

The younger students however, still need the kinaesthetic aspect of instruments, voice and clapping, it’s a more ‘real’ experience for them and easier for group interaction. Making music is a very human pursuit: the recent ISS song with Chris Hadfield shows just how unifying it can be. The Ipad denies the ‘participation’ aspect of making music. It’s excellent for an individual to create a piece of music, mix and master it and play it for all to hear, but it does not really allow children to control timbre, to control dynamic response, to add intuitively to a collective musical experience. My big bone of contention with keyboards and recorders was the lack of dynamic and timbral control, the IPad is no different. 

The Band share (Jam session) option in GarageBand is not very good, there is much interference between ipads, Bluetooth is pretty poor quality in a classroom situation.

But revision aids,  interactive texts and audio technology are inspiring them to be more creative than previously. In the last few weeks of the year, they will compose songs and celebratory music in GarageBand and this will be the test. Maybe they’ll use traditional instruments, record it in Ipads and add other tracks, combining two ideas.

For note learning, theory, aural training and notation, the IPad is second to none. The elective music students benefit greatly from it.

I am looking forward to their next taking of the survey, (initially created at the start of the year to assess improvements in Ipad and musical skills and knowledge) as I suspect the results will be a real turnaround from last October.

The proliferation of Ipad to  GCSE classes has also had a great effect. These students have elected to take music and are performing regularly on conventional instruments. The Ipad becomes a tool for compositional experimenting, especially with the recent allowances made by Apple for AudioBus. One student completed his entire coursework in IPad GarageBand, using Irig and the built in drum plug ins. Cubasis allows for real post recording teaching, although it is expensive, mixing and mastering is of an excellent quality.

They use Tenuto, ABRSM Aural training, iwritemusic, GarageBand, AudioBus, Launchkey, Arix, Open GoldBerg, Youtube, iTunes, and a plethora of self chosen apps. The listening tests in tenuto are excellent and the Year 11s are making huge improvements in their interval recognitions.

For me, I am writing more and more ibooks, one for each set work/area of study. While time consuming, the students greatly appreciate it and, I hope, retain the information very well.

I anticipate that the hypothesis will be confirmed: students are more motivated and acquire more skills in music when taught through IPads. I may have to change this to ‘when teaching is greatly enhanced by IPads’