Next steps as Music teachers

I’ve just reached the final module of “Music Education in the 21st century” through and it couldn’t have come at a better time as I’m currently doing a curriculum review of my music program before the new school year starts in August (yes my school is in the Northern hemisphere). Because I’m not one for essays, and I love thinking routines, below is a table explaining some of the things I learnt, what it made me think and question and how I’ll be acting on it in my classroom…

What did you find out? What did this make you question/ think about? How will you respond in your own practice? Or how can you advocate for these ideas?
Music is still being made in classrooms without technology using the Orff Approach (Kamaroi Steiner School), but it is also being made with carefully selected technology tools too (Northern Beaches Christian School).

Some schools are teaching students to compose using music technology and others are teaching students to perform using technology (Afghan National Institute of Music), for instance over Skype.

Learning can happen anywhere, we have the tools to connect and teach disparate audiences. (Sugata Mitra)

I noticed that at Northern Beaches Christian School that there was an effort to take away as many barriers to making music through technology as possible. The same could be said of how the Afghan  National Institute of Music is trying to break down barriers to learning instruments by connecting with people online.

I realize that teachers need to curate which technology resources to use so that there are as few barriers as possible to making music or learning new musical skills.

I could ‘flip’ a lot more of lesson my content into instructional videos so that students can spend more time on performance skills in class.

I could invest more time in setting up the technology to work immediately, to put more focus back onto the skill of creating music.

‘Musical Futures’ (Lucy Green) is a new approach to teaching music based on research into informal practices that musicians use to learn or create music through listening. Teachers are still able to teach students about concepts such as modulation and key. There are some ideas from Musical Futures that seem to connect with ideas from an Orff Approach, I need to read more about this.

I listen to very little of the music that my students listen to, I am disengaged from their musical culture.

When I am teaching popular music, why do I still insist on seeing the music written down? When I was learning gamelan music, I accepted the learning method as part of the musical culture, perhaps the learning method is as important as the musical content.

This year my grade 6 classes both learnt a popular song released within the past 2 years and I found ways to link it into content and skills we had been covering. I need to be doing this with my older students too instead of relying so much on the tried and tested song resources I have always used.

Seeing as I already teach world music in context and treat it respectfully, I should do the same for popular music.

I was reminded about the effectiveness of Project Based Learning models in motivating student learning because of their authenticity (High Tech High)

I learnt more about Project Based Learning (Hilltop Road Public School), which is similar to the instruction framework I currently use in my own classroom.


The main difference between my own classroom and the primary classroom shown in Module 5 was the time given for students to unpack the project and the real world context. The projects shown ended up being more authentic and the students were more motivated as they owned the work. Currently the projects that my students work towards are only for show in my classroom. Ways I can change this, my film music unit could use ‘Creative Commons’ licensed films, or better yet films from our city’s film making festival. The songs that the students create for their songwriting unit on creating change through Art could address real issues in our city.


I learnt more about working with midi and audio on a computer (Adam Maggs from Live School and James Humberstone) and found out more about composer processes (Matthew Hindson and Frank Xavier). I discovered how much the creative process needed constraints and how the technology (whether using notation software or an electronic instrument) allowed an idea to grow and start from any point. I was also reminded of how many musical skill sets you needed to compose using music technology. I am already working with smaller units of composition to build compositions with my younger students. We are creating themes or accompaniment patterns using midi, but this needs to be as carefully approached with my older students and they need to have more real world composer processes shared with them.
I was reminded that a musician’s process naturally follows a project based model and that other subjects can draw from our models, not just us from them and that perhaps a pluralist approach to teaching music may be the way forward (James Humberstone). This made me think about the process that my students go through in their own project-based units of work and how much I allow them to truly behave as musicians.

This also made me wonder about how many of my music teaching strategies could be applicable to other classrooms.


In my curriculum review, I looked over 11 units of work and worked out what musical role my students were playing and how the music making practice or teaching method I employed helped them to understand and learn. These are the roles that my students will play in the next teaching year and the method I will use to help them understand/ learn…

Grade 6

·         Musicians in a celebration/ concert- Orff Approach/ Kodaly Approach

Grade 9

·         Film music composers- Orff Approach and introduction to notation software

·         Singer/ songwriters- Musical Futures and introduction to midi.

Grade 10

·         Ethnomusicologists- learning music from around South East Asia in a culturally authentic manner.

·         Musicians in a Rock Ensemble- Musical Futures.

·         Classical Musicians preparing a piece for a concert- Project-Based Learning/ Flipped Classroom.

·         Composers for a theatrical performance- Project- Based Learning/ Flipped Classroom going further with midi and recorded sound.

Grade 11

·         Ethnomusicologists and composers- Learning to compose through a drum circle

·         Transcribers/ Performers/ Arrangers of a Pop Song- Musical Futures approach

·         Improvisers in a Jazz/ Blues Ensemble- Musical Futures/ Orff Approach.

·         Music Historians- Project Based learning/ Flipped Classroom.

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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