Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Technology Can Augment a Music Education, But it Cannot Replace a Good Teacher

Replace a Good Teacher

by featured guest writer: Natalie Hunter

Studying music can become a lifelong passion for many people. It fosters intellectual curiosity, stimulates creativity and teaches discipline. Music is also an excellent means through which to make connections with others. Studying music can be a lifelong endeavor, whether it is study of a particular instrument or composition. In the past, this was often done in small groups or one-on-one with an experienced teacher. However, with the advent of modern technologies, more and more aspiring musicians are using technology to teach themselves by listening to CDs or even going to online school. But can people really learn music well without a good teacher?

As an example, a person who has always longed to study piano might research many different ways in which they can indulge their interest. They might find books that describe piano technique at the library. Online, they can find tutorials and watch other people play on YouTube. There are even In the videos an instructor is depicted demonstrating and explaining certain ideas and techniques. Diagrams and close-ups may be used to further illustrate various concepts and methods. Usually the student is encouraged to play along and practice diligently in between lessons. The student can progress through the lessons at their own pace, coming back for more complex lessons or replaying previous lessons when necessary.

As the new piano student reads their library book and listens to the recordings of an artist it is entirely possible that their understanding and appreciation of the piano as an instrument will grow. They will also begin to recognize the many years of dedication required to become a proficient pianist. Likewise, as they progress through a series of introductory online piano lessons they may find themselves able to pick out simple melodies on the keyboard. Their knowledge and skills are undoubtedly growing. Yet is this enough?

For some people it is. The mildly curious piano student may discover that further study of the instrument simply is not of interest to them or they may be satisfied with the casual dabbling they have already accomplished. Others will find that their appetite has only been whetted by their previous experiences and they are eager for more. They could seek out more books, recordings, and websites, but they may also have begun to recognize the shortcomings inherent in such methods. In short, reading and listening and studying casually online can only take the student so far. To develop artistry and a deep appreciation for music, formal training is necessary.

Formal training does not have to mean that the student will attend a conservatory or study music diligently on a daily basis. It can still be a fun pastime that the student does not intend to pursue professionally. However, hiring a professional music teacher takes the student beyond the rudimentary knowledge they can gain through books and various forms of technology. The one on one interaction between a teacher and pupil provides the necessary depth of knowledge required to become an accomplished musician. With a qualified teacher to guide them the novice student can develop good habits to last a lifetime.

When music students decide to acquire their training solely through the use of technology or other means without the guidance of a teacher, they must assess the value of the technology or other mode of delivery on their own. The website or book may encourage poor technique that will be difficult to unlearn. For many casual students this is not necessarily detrimental and may not harm their enjoyment of music. But others may find that bad habits make it difficult for them to progress in the way they would like. Teachers can guide these students past these roadblocks so they can realize their dreams. Also, most music education technology is not interactive enough to allow students to seek answers to individualized questions, but a music teacher is always able to clarify the finer points.

Technology is not a detriment to music education. In fact, many innovations like the Internet and various types of data storage can help students practice their technique. However, technology used for music education should be utilized judiciously and sources should be examined critically before being accepted. It is only through the guidance of a well qualified music educator that students can truly begin to master technique and artistry, furthering their skills and deepening their appreciation for the art form.

4 comments: said...

Nicely put Larry and we at the Dallas School of Music agree. Technology cannot replace a highly qualified and experienced teacher - nor should it be developed to do so. What is happening though is a shift in delivery, display, and organization of information which is coupled by unprecedented access to qualified educators via the web. Today's learners will not be satisfied or intrigued with decade(s) old learning material - no matter how valid it may have been. It's up to us as a profession to adopt new ways of communicating with these learners and presenting ideas in ways that they will both benefit and enjoy. The goal is to make more music makers of all ages and technology is an opportunity - not a detriment - to music teachers of the future. Godspeed to those who insist on teaching 'they way they were taught'. They're facing a sobering reality in the near future...if not sooner. said...

and good work Natalie too - sorry I didn't realize it was a guest post!

The Wanderer said...

Technology is certainly a boon to music education, and it has increased exponentially the amount of people who are learning and desire to learn a musical instrument, and yes, agreed, delivery methods have certainly changed through the power of the Internet, but whether or not you are a qualified educator that teaches via the web or one that teaches in person is irrelevant.

There are just as many local music educators as there are sources of information online. What matters is how we, as a group of professional music educators, improves our way of communicating with our students.

To say it's better for a student to learn 'online' as opposed to 'offline' has little bearing on our core mission as music educators.

Technology can't fix ineffective teaching, and even if you're delivery methods are dressed up in nice videos or modern 'learning material,' if the content and lessons still aren't clear to your students, you haven't really succeeded.

There isn't one right or wrong way to teach music, and technology, while it is certainly making things easier, hasn't changed what we teach, just HOW we teach it.

eugene cantera said...

Good points Wanderer - advances in technology will never atone for or eradicate poor teaching. I think your point that 'Technology is certainly a boon to music education, and it has increased exponentially the amount of people who are learning and desire to learn a musical instrument...' is a good one and our profession needs to take notice, adapt, and use this as a springboard to create a healthy future.