The DAW, Open Learning and Project Based Learning

Below are some questions I responded to as part of a MOOC I’m enrolled in through Coursera to do with Music Education.

  • You were introduced to the DAW (or sequencer), the step sequencer, and a range of notation software. Do you feel you would like to explore any of these technologies further?

I’m never sitting still in terms of my own music education, so I have already been exploring how to use the program Ableton and then use it as part of my general classroom practice. I really liked how clearly Adam Maggs, founder of Live School, explained the capabilities of Ableton and contrasted it with the earlier technology. This has been my frustration with learning through youtube tutorials, sometimes it’s difficult to find someone who will explain the content in the language you need.

  • Have you been persuaded that the DJ-producer does have an awful lot of sophisticated musical skills?

Yes, the DJ-producer has a lot of sophisticated musical skills, but I think, therein lies the problem for music education, developing sequences of lessons to build those skills for the students who need a human beside them, or at least seeing example of that before attempting it yourself! Clearly, through teaching at Live School, Adam Maggs has found a way to best explain his content.

  • Do you agree with David Price that learning has gone “OPEN”?

Yes, learning has gone “OPEN”, unfortunately it is still battling to have as much recognition as the ‘bricks and mortar’ classroom, I think largely due to trust. I am pleased with the measures that Coursera puts into place to ensure you have engaged with content in a course. When I hear that someone has completed a course of any description online, I do still wonder, did they really complete it? How rigorous was it? It’s funny though, because a lot of my classroom knowledge about repairing instruments, knowledge of world musics and how to use music technology has come from OPEN learning.

  • What were the best examples of OPEN learning that you found either in the course content, in your own searching, or the work of your peers?

The two examples that were shared with me were to do with music theory and orchestration and were fairly dry in their approach to teaching both concepts. In the past week there’s been the launch of  which allows students to explore the intersection between math, science, coding and music, and prior to that was the launch of this site  which allows students to play with music theory concepts. I think that the best examples of OPEN learning allow people to collaborate with a wider range of real people in real time (or over time as in Eric Whtiacre’s 2000 voice choir over youtube), and thus make the classroom environment bigger (as Coursera does or Skype), or allow the students to interact with the technology rather than simply consume it (as with a youtube video).

  • What does Project Based Learning (or the other BLs) have to offer Music Education? And what does Music Education have to offer Project Based Learning, and all learning, in the 21st Century?

Project Based Learning allow students to interact as real musicians would in context and with the time allowance to make the learning stick.

Music Education has the potential to draw from so many well-springs of knowledge and skill sets, as there are so many roles that musicians can play- researchers (ethnomusicologists), creators (composers), historians, project managers, data analysts, performers – I’m sure there are more I haven’t thought of. I’m pleased to say that my students learn music through a model similar to Project Based Learning, however, while I have found they have developed good thinking skills and strong conceptual understandings, their skills on instruments and as composers have not developed as strongly as I would have liked.

About Alison Armstrong

Alison Armstrong BMus./BEd. (Queensland University of Technology), Dip. ABRSM (Performance- Singing) I have trained to teach Music (Elementary, Middle and High School) and Drama (Middle and High School). This is my 7th year as a teacher.
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