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Summary:

In an age of declining budgets and disappearing arts programs, technnology could help make music education more feasible — a hackathon hosted by Spotify and the New York City Department of Education is an early step.

Forget recorders and bongo drums; the classroom musical instruments of tomorrow could look more like GarageBand and Spotify. And it’s not necessarily because educators want to familiarize students with technology. It’s because, in an age of declining budgets and disappearing school arts programs, technology might be a way to cost-effectively keep and improve music education in the classroom.

In a move that I hope inspires more activities like it, Spotify and the New York City Department of Education this week announced that they’re jointly hosting a hackathon encouraging developers to create apps for music education.

In a post on its blog, Spotify said its goal is to “unlock the creative power of music and technology to address some key educational challenges.”

As part of the hackathon, which will take place later this month, music teachers were asked to identify the problems and issues most important to them. Their input will shape the challenge presented to developers at the event and a few teachers will be on hand to consult with the developers as they create their apps.  The judging panel is expected to include people from startups like Spotify and Rap Genius, an executive from Universal Music and officials from City Hall.

As schools across the country face budget cuts, music and arts programs continue to get cut and scaled back, leaving many students without instruction in the visual arts or music. In New York City’s public schools, for example, one in five eighth grade students graduates from middle school without meeting the state’s minimum requirements for arts education.

Apps alone obviously can’t do what an effective arts teacher can, but they can help educators find interesting ways to engage students around the arts or even academics in general. Already, the New York City Department of Education said educators in its iZone (which includes schools exploring new ways to use technology in education) are using GarageBand and other tools to re-engage students who have fallen behind.

For Innovate NYC Schools, the Department of Education iniative behind the hackathon, the event is a continuation of its efforts to bring the New York City technology and education communities closer together. Last week, it announced the winners of a more involved developer challenge aimed at closing achievement gaps in middle school math and it plans additional hackathons and app challenges.

They don’t expect any classroom-ready apps to come out of a weekend-long hackathon but they do hope that it gets teachers and engineers talking about ways they can hack education together.

The immediate idea is that developers could create tools that will supplement music education programs already in New York schools but, down the road, technology could help make music education of some kind more feasible for more schools. A traditional orchestra program may require a big investment in instruments and rehearsal space, but, as Steven Hodas, executive director of Innovate NYC Schools, pointed out, digital music programs could still teach students about harmony, composition and production — at a lower cost.

“It could make a different kind of music education open to more schools,” he said.

Image by Morgan Lane Photography via Shutterstock.

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  1. What technology in music education can do is allow us as music teachers to reach new markets and encourage more learning at all levels – from very young school agers, to the casual enthusiast and the most advanced performer. Educators can also use technology to create a sense of community among learners and allow for ideas to be shared among a vast and connected community.

    The beauty of applying technology in music education is that we as educators have an opportunity to share our expertise with more potential music makers than ever before. And if more people are playing music and enjoying its benefits then it’s a win-win for instrument manufacturers, print music publishers, recording artists, concert halls and yes… music teachers! And, we believe that more people (especially adults) becoming interested and involved in the music making process will undoubtedly lead to a more passionate concern for the importance of music in our schools. This is the real appeal and ultimate potential of using technology in music education – delivering, connecting, and encouraging more participation across all demographics. My colleagues and I http://www.dlpmusicbooks.com have been working to deliver just such an experience.

  2. What technology in music education can do is allow us as music teachers to reach new markets and encourage more learning at all levels – from very young school agers, to the casual enthusiast and the most advanced performer. Educators can also use technology to create a sense of community among learners and allow for ideas to be shared among a vast and connected community.

    The beauty of applying technology in music education is that we as educators have an opportunity to share our expertise with more potential music makers than ever before. And if more people are playing music and enjoying its benefits then it’s a win-win for instrument manufacturers, print music publishers, recording artists, concert halls and yes… music teachers! And, we believe that more people (especially adults) becoming interested and involved in the music making process will undoubtedly lead to a more passionate concern for the importance of music in our schools. This is the real appeal and ultimate potential of using technology in music education – delivering, connecting, and encouraging more participation across all demographics. My colleagues and I http://www.dlpmusicbooks.com have been working to deliver just such an experience.

  3. Reblogged this on marcrubner and commented:
    I hope so! I can’t imaging school without music education.

  4. I agree with dlpeugene. School without music education is not school at all. It is extremely important for children to be educated in the arts. Our goal is to deliver online music education not only to students but to teachers as well. We also have a collection of teacher development videos to help music educators manage classes and the students that are enrolled in them. cmilearn.org is our website.

  5. I have to say that I think its a real pity if real instruments disappear in favor of apps on electronic devices. I say that even though we’re involved in this industry, developing apps and interactive whiteboard materials for music education.

    Technology is great as a teaching tool, as long as that is what it is. Its also great for kids to play with in their own time, as an extra tool to enhance their music learning.

    However, there is nothing like the experience of playing a real instrument in an ensemble with real people. For that reason, I couldn’t advocate for money to be taken away from the purchase of recorders and bongo drums in favor of technological devices.

    For a start: for the cost of ONE iPad you could easily get a lot of real instruments. These instruments would last years of playing by many students, and not become redundant within two years, as a tablet device would.

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