A Secondary level Music Technology Class featuring the iPad

I recently had a chance to visit a local high school that offers a music technology course. The course focuses on GarageBand and its many resources for Mac. I want to create a course similar to that course, but I want to use the iPad instead. I foresee a course that would have a bit more in the realm of music theory for students, up to the point of understanding basic rules for chord progressions (this will facilitate the use of GarageBand’s chord tools).

I have begun the process of following a number of “techie” music teachers (Twitter and blogs), and two things hold true. First, these educators are highly collegial. Second, they universally see themselves as music educators, not as a specialist in a specific area of music (although many of them are master teachers in a band, choir, or orchestra (BCO) situation). Universally, every one of these educators is concerned about the 80% of students who do not take BCO courses at the secondary level (Your school may have a different percentage, but on average, about 80% of secondary students are not in performance classes).

At our school, we’ve added Guitar (Levels 1, 2, and 3), Beginning Music Theory, AP Music Theory, and Music in History and World Cultures to meet the needs of non-BCO students. Thus far, we’ve offered Guitar Level 1 three times, Guitar Level 2 one time, and Beginning Music Theory one time. We do get a small number of students who sign up for the other classes, but the administration kills those offerings because they do not approach the 32.5 student ratio as outlined by the district. We have even had some BCO offerings eliminated due to that same 32.5 ratio. Staffing has been affected as a result–in one of the state’s newest high schools, in a metro area. Meanwhile, we have a increasingly large number of our top students who are taking STEM classes (Project Lead the Way Biomedical and Engineering) and AVID, and a number of students taking remedial English and math courses. When students take STEM, AVID, or remedial courses, they have no room for music. We also compete with foreign language as many students are required to take four years of a language to be accepted at prestigious colleges and universities. Ultimately, when your adminstration and counselors stress that students need to take specific courses, students take thouse courses.

How do we get more of the 80% (or more) students that are not in BCO offerings to come to our music program? I think the answer lies in a music technology course centered on the iPad.

This is the first post in a sequence of posts I’ll be writing as I develop a course proposal for a music technology course that could be taught at the high school level (and perhaps the middle school/junior high school level) utilizing the iPad. I’m happy to share these thoughts (and the final proposal) if others wish to adopt (or adapt) a similar course. My only request would be that if you have feedback, please send me an e-mail message. I would also hope that you would allow me to post some of the feedback that you have to offer.

Yes, I am fully aware of the greater functionality of the desktop version of GarageBand. At the same time, I want to make a replicable course that uses technology that is of great interest to students (and very applicable for 1-to-1 situations). The iPad is a piece of technology that is of high interest, is relatively affordable (compared to a lab of iMacs), and is extremely portable. Any classroom can become a music technology lab with iPads.

Task 1: Working “Course Description”

A music technology course would allow music staff to reach the musical needs of the 80% of the student body that does not participate in traditional band, choir, and orchestra offerings. Utilizing the iPad, GarageBand, and other specific apps, students will learn skills in basic theory (through basic chord progressions), and to utilize digital instruments, loops, and samples to create finalized recording projects. Students will be required to compose and create music for video footage (exporting to iMovie), as well as to evaluate their final works.

Your thoughts?

Next Task: Required Equipment and Expenditures

Future Tasks: Individual Teaching Units, Rubrics



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