I just finished watching my APMuTh students slog through an exam. I spent most of the period sweating along with them while wanting to wag my finger at them for being less prepared than they should have been. Since starting to work with these particular learners, I’ve come to a greater appreciation of how different the process of learning has become, especially for Gen-Z’ers. I’ve totally gotten on the Google Classroom bus, and am so appreciative of the ability to post resources in a variety of forms. These days, my students can readily access materials ranging from pdf’s to YouTube links, and they regularly interact with Google Docs (“gold” for teachers who depend upon collaborative learning experiences). These tools contribute to our immediate network.
During a conversation with a coach, thoughts were shared on what we considered to be the end results of what we were supposed to be teaching. I’ve kept his words with me for many years…coaches should be teaching more than “x’s” and “o’s.” Of course, this made sense to me. While I’d love to imagine that the majority of my students will go on to major in music at a world-class conservatory, the fact is that very few of them will continue making music, even in a co-curricular setting, when they leave this school. They will take with them the music that is always inside of them (and that’s a great thing, don’t get me wrong), but what I really want them to carry away after commencement are the strategies they will have developed to live and learn.
“To learn.” These days, that is a rather heady phrase. For this generation of learners, it isn’t enough to process information in the confines of their desks or a carrel in the library. These learners are expected to discover and hone their skills in the accessing of content with the assistance of the internet as their teachers do their best to move them through Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning.
With the degree of connectivity currently available in the majority our schools, the concept of “learning environment” has surpassed the confines of a classroom, or even a physical campus. With that evolution, learners (and teachers) are called upon to join a far richer community of peers. Kelly (2016, p. 272) attributes changes in the ways our organizations (of which I include classrooms) have evolved to our arrival at a “new level of organization.” When I considered my students and the differences in the way they are preparing for the APMuTh exam compared to previous generations, it wasn’t difficult for me to recognize the similarities.
Currently, my students are provided with free access to a wide variety of online resources. Most of these are quite valid. As I shared earlier, I regularly post sites and materials on our Google Classroom that we incorporate into our daily work, and are required for the completion homework assignments. In an earlier post on this blog, I shared the fact that we have access to tools offered to us by the College Board on AP Central. We include other open source resources including Teoria -an online tutorial program inclusive of ear training, harmonic analyses, rhythm drills, and more; Tonal Centre – great for aural exercises (at least 50% of the APMuTh exam); Émile – an additional, interactive site for rhythm drills (hosted by Ohio State University). Ohio State isn’t alone in its sharing of open source resources. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology provided us with an absolute wealth of free (and valid) materials. Fortunately for us, they are just two of many colleges and universities offering such resources. Although I post these sites and others like them on our Google Classroom, my students have free access to the internet on our campus to supplement the connectivity available to them at home. My students are used to searching for recorded music in iTunes, Spotify, and the like. Until now, they have not included resources relating to music theory in their searches. They’ve broken new ground for themselves. I’ll take this as a brave step outside of their comfort zones (you are invited to visit my post from November 7, 2019).
I don’t want you to picture teaching/learning APMuTh with the help of connectivity as an entirely positive one. Perhaps the most glaring downside (IMHO) comes when my students lean towards depending completely on the technology that is available to them. I agree with Jarche’s advice for us to actively seek ways to develop creative thinking and creativity in our students. That should be a given in an APMuTh classroom, don’t you think? Actually, it isn’t…at least not in 2019. I want my students to benefit from the richness provided to them by connectivity and technology. I don’t want them to become reliant on those resources to the point that any innate creativity is diminished. Perhaps the smallest indication that their creative juices are alive and well…actually using pencil and paper to notate music. I know. “We’re nearly a full decade into the not-so-new millennium, Nan.” In Smith and Anderson ‘s discussion of robotics, AI, and the view of jobs on the horizon, I recognized the mixed blessings found within my classroom’s technology. Personally, I’m a fan of Finale. For the non-musicians in my readership, this is equivalent to any software programming used for word processing. It is a practical tool for those of us who compose, arrange, work in musical theatre and, yes, teach. With that said, those of us engaging in those activities have already gained more than enough experience putting pencil to paper before moving on to notation software. We understand why we’re altering pitches…why we’re using expressive markings…how to transpose. Because of that time well spent, we’ve physically engaged ourselves in the creative processes that frame our art form. I will dare to pose this comparison. Learning how to write music (as a rank beginner) with the help of notation software = Learning how to write (as a kindergartner) with a laptop. My students are more than welcome to explore the notation software available to them but, while doing so, they are also being required to go through the processes included in the study of APMuTh by hand…showing me their work…explaining how they arrived at their answers. Shortcuts are great. In our discipline, there is definitely a place for patiently moving through the process.
Unfortunately, my students and I haven’t discovered any ways for them to network with peers studying APMuTh from other schools. Instead, we have established a message group that the 5 of us regularly use. This allows them to work together outside of the school day, and to contact me with questions that pop up while doing homework, studying, doing research, etc. We have all found this to be very useful. I suppose we needed to find the connectivity that works best for us despite all of the other tools at our disposal. I have to admit that it does my heart good to hear that ping after school hours. I wouldn’t mind establishing a network for students like mine. I can’t help but wonder how challenging this would be (both positively and negatively).
I have a theory (pardon the pun) that all of us contribute our own unique threads to a master weave. Some weaves have more variety and cover more than others, but the contribution we make…regardless of how large or small…makes a difference. If one thread is removed, the weave is weakened. My students and I are contributing to the weave of APMuTh in our own way. While the fabric might not be as large as the “screen of all knowledge” described by Kelly (2016, p. 279), it contributes to a portion of our corner of the world. While they are definitely growing in their knowledge of APMuTh (today’s exam, notwithstanding), I believe they are also developing skills (research, coping, general creativity) that will benefit them after they leave my class. I agree with the coach…we must teach them more than “x’s” and “o’s.”
Since the wailers and teeth-gnashers left my classroom, I’ve been trying to figure out why they were having so much difficulty recalling material that had been carefully and thoughtfully laid out for them, not to mention the fact that all of the information had been backed up by multiple online resources. Is it possible that menu and its options had been too rich?
References Kelly, K. (2016). The inevitable: understanding the 12 technological forces that will shape our future. NY, NY: Penguin Books.