Category Archives: Technology

A New Format for Masterclasses

iphone6_spacegrey_side2-1There’s something very charming about serendipity, isn’t there? I spend a lot of time planning, organizing and goal-setting. And fairly often, I achieve my objective. But it’s especially fun to attain recognition at a time when I’m not even seeking it.

That was my experience when I read the latest installment of the Music Teacher’s Helper blog, “The iMasterclass—MTNA National Conference Las Vegas Part II”. It’s written by Yiyi Ku, an outstanding California teacher. She describes my masterclass for intermediate students at the MTNA Conference in Las Vegas, which took place on March 24, 2015.

I was trying an experiment utilizing technology. In general, I work hard to make my masterclasses informative: I want students and teachers both to come away with inspiration and fresh ideas, as well as the cognitive tools to make their own decisions. The danger, though, is that I spend too much time talking and not enough time interacting with the student.

So at MTNA I used a new technology called SlideDuet, which enabled me to put all the necessary facts on an application that attendees could view, free of charge, on their mobile device as the class unfolded in real time. When I spoke about the technique of ‘rotation’, for example, a brief explanation would appear on-screen, along with a diagram. I also included background notes on the works and composers, and biographical information about the performers. Here’s my actual SlideDuet presentation, so you can see for yourself.

Yiyi found my class “audience-engaging” and felt “fully drawn to what [was] happening on stage and inspired by the way Dr. Smith interacted with students.”  I appreciate her comments very much.

I’m looking forward to working some more with this exciting technology. I think I can get better at integrating the information with the live teaching. Since this was my first time, I succumbed to the temptation to include too much supporting material and the spontaneity of my teaching suffered a bit. My opinion, anyway!

Never mind. Teaching is all about continuous improvement and I plan on doing some with this cool and innovative teaching tool.

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How My Readers are Using Technology, Part 2

letter-writingHere is the second set of responses to my blog series on technology. Lots more good ideas—and some different viewpoints on the pros and cons of using technology itself. This, I think, is excellent for our ongoing dialogue.

I know and respect all four contributors, but the last entry, by Dr. Melissa Martiros, was submitted by special invitation (OK, begging!) from me. I heard Melissa give a very moving workshop on teaching piano to special needs students, and I was fascinated to hear how she uses the iPad.

As always, I am getting a lot of great ideas from everyone who writes in! Thanks—and keep sending!!

Music Teaching and Technology I have been teaching with computer programs hooked up via midi since 1984. A lot has changed since those first days, but a lot is the same too. Technology is a teaching tool for me. Students can drill sight reading, ear training, rhythm reading, basic theory, compose, learn about music history, etc. with head phones on while I teach other students the finer points of playing their repertoire and technique. I have an iPad too, but just haven’t added too much on with that since I was already set up with comprehensive computer programs doing the same things as most of the iPad apps, but with more power. I do love the price of the iPad apps vs. what I spent on computer programs.

Pianos, Keyboards and Disklaviers I teach with both acoustic pianos and digital pianos. The price range of many of the decent console pianos is out of the range of a lot of beginning students, or it is more than they want to spend until they find out the true interest level of the student. In most cases they are left with a choice of a poor used spinet or a digital piano. Thankfully, manufacturers have seen this need and have been steadily improving upon the digital pianos and most students can now afford a lot for their money. Plus, they don’t need to tune the instrument and it has a built in metronome, often a small choice of other instrument sounds and rhythm patterns. Some even have other teaching features built in. In my opinion, dollar for dollar a decent low priced digital piano beats a spinet that is in poor repair.

The “Gamification” of EducationWhen a concept is drilled with a great game, kids won’t want to stop playing and don’t realize how much that they are learning. It is the best tool. There are some nights, in the computer lab, that the parents have to go in to get the students because it is time to leave and they don’t even realize that much time has passed.

Technology: MTNA Into the Future Our daughter is in this age group. She opted for an Associate Degree in Art Illustration. When she started school, she was going to double Major in both Music Composition and Art Illustration. It soon became very apparent that the scheduling of classes was not going to allow this to happen. Also, she was seeing the employment opportunities for young graduates and decided that going for more education at this point would not necessarily land her a better job in her chosen field. Colleges, Universities, and groups like MTNA need to look more at how to train these bright young people to find the best jobs for themselves. It is a challenge. She has her degree in Art, but is currently working at a piano store.

LeAnn Halvorson, Music Perceptions, IL

So many new ideas are blossoming in piano pedagogy. Online teaching seems to be catching on all over. I’ve not seen so many games before that seem to work hand in hand with student’s books and sheet music. I have to familiarize myself with some of them from so many available choices.

Yes, I am enjoying online teaching very much as well as teaching locally. Teaching online brings out elderly people who always wanted to study piano but never had the time to do so until now. Their ‘aha’ moments are so wonderful to behold! One of the best things they like about taking their lessons is they don’t have to travel anywhere. Until I started giving online lessons I primarily taught school age children. I still enjoy teaching young people but also teach adults who never learned to play or who want to pick up where they left off 40, 50 or more years ago.

Along with the joy of giving lessons and seeing students beam with excitement of learning to play, sadly there are physical problems that many aging people have to face.  Some of my retired students have had to discontinue lessons from time to time when these problems prevented them from practicing and studying. Those who come back for more are so eager to learn to play music they love, especially songs from their youth. Surprisingly, some people have retained much of the music they learned years ago.

My teaching has taken on a whole new dimension. Within the past few years I studied website building and created my own website, www.piano-lessons-live-online.com so people can find me online. I tell students that they can supply the content of what they want to learn and I will teach them the concepts and skills needed to learn music that they love.

Carolemae Katz, Indepdendent Music Teacher, OH

I have long believed that the traditional classical-only approach is missing the boat and needs to be more inclusive as you advocate. I also continue to attempt to keep up with and incorporate the blazing speed at which music education technology is developing. It is a constant challenge to the brain and the pocketbook! Of course it also enhances the reach and efficiency of a teacher who is relieved of some of the challenges of repetition, time constraints and geography.

However I would like for you to consider an additional educational angle with regard to the technology revolution. As a teacher and grandparent of this generation of children who are so heavily exposed and often literally addicted to screens, I believe that off-screen, off-the-bench activities are now more important than ever for students. I was an early adopter of digital keyboards and group classes in my studio, and still use both on a regular basis. But along with the ubiquity of screens, I have noticed that children have recently become over-exposed and often under-enthused about online learning. They want and need live interaction and tactile learning activities of group and one-on-one. I would hope that in your advocacy of educational innovation you would point this out. (Disclaimer here: Music Educators’ Marketplace specializes in such hands-on learning materials, but we do so because we know that they are so effective in providing novelty, clarity, and enjoyment!)

Karen Koch, Coordinator, Music Education Marketplace, NCTM, IL and MO

Technology Use with Children with Special Needs

Technology plays a very unique and important role in my lessons with children with special needs. I embrace the use of technology in these lessons and have come to really value the role it plays instruction and learning.

I have found that many of my students with special needs are motivated by the iPad in the studio. The iPad serves as a strong positive reinforcer for my autistic students and others who have difficulty staying on task during an entire lesson.  At the onset of each lesson, the student and I decide on a list of activities to accomplish during our time together. If the student completes all of these tasks within the lesson time, he/she is rewarded with iPad use at the end of the lesson. This is not just free time—there are restrictions. I set the timer on my iPhone to provide concrete boundaries during this earned reinforcement time. And, in most cases, the student is limited to educational music apps and age appropriate music videos on YouTube.

As an educational tool, I use the iPad for both in-studio and at-home learning. This is especially useful when providing instruction to non-verbal and minimally-verbal students with autism. It is also useful for students with learning disabilities. When introducing new pieces, exercises, and/or scales, I will pre-record my hands playing from a birds-eye view and play the video as an additional mode of instruction during the lesson. I will then email the video to the parents for the child to view during practice sessions at home. I do emphasize note reading with all of my students. However, these videos serve as audio and visual practice aids for students who struggle with audio and visual processing. They are also incredibly useful for students who struggle with memory, as is the case with a current student of mine who is coping with the cognitive side effects of severe epilepsy.

Finally, I use the iPad for student self-reflection. In some cases, students are resistant to my entering their personal space on the piano bench and more responsive to video instruction during the lesson. If I’m working with a child who has trouble with the receptive and/or expressive language, I will record the student performing and engage in playback activities in order to provide the instructional guidance I may not be able to on the bench in the lesson. In this way, technology complements the work I do in the lesson and provides the student with a chance to self-correct. This technique works with behavioral challenges as well. Often, children who exhibit challenging behavior don’t fully realize what their behavior actually looks like to others. Videotaping these behaviors for playback and reflection can be a useful reflection and management tool.

Melissa Martiros, D.M.A., Assistant Professor of Music & Faculty Service-Learning Liaison, Martin Methodist College

See you in Vegas!

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How My Readers are Using Technology, Part 1

Letter WritingThe best part of blogging is getting responses, and my four-part technology series has generated a lot! I’m impressed with my respondents’ thoughtfulness, and the wide range of their thinking on this important topic.

Over the next few days, I will be posting my readers’ ideas, with their permission, and adding a few comments of my own. But if you are looking for an all-knowing guru to endorse and promote, I encourage you to keep looking because I have not yet found one either.

My goal is encourage the dialogue about technology: what we think about it, how we use it and how it impacts our students. I invite teachers of all different viewpoints to participate. The publication of their ideas here, as always, does not represent an endorsement by MTNA or me. It’s all about the conversation.

Alison makes an excellent point that technology can never usurp the centrality of the teacher-student relationship. It’s a tool (to quote her) that should be used to enhance “the listening, the empathy, our ability to stay connected to the world.”

I do use some technology in my studio, but I never let it usurp the energy, power and centrality of the relationship between musician-teacher and musician-student.

I was the first (at least around here) to use computer-assisted music instruction, digital piano with recording, etc., but after a few honeymoon years, I found it unsatisfying in some ways.  Students began to have growing access to technology and they were easily figuring out how to use it (more easily than I ever could!) so I downplayed the role of it in the curriculum.

Of course, I use the ready technologies —  iPad, YouTube, recording software to make CDs, notational software for their composition books.  I mostly apply technology when we have special projects, or as homework assignments.  I do not have a lab set up in my current home studio (outside my own equipment.)  I am just now designing my own website.

Right now, I’m writing an article about remaining “relevant” as an independent teacher.  Many people automatically think that technology is the key to this.  I’m in diametric opposition. Relevance to me is about the relationship, the listening, the empathy, our ability to stay connected to the world.

Alison S. Barr, NCTM, MA

YouTube is so common these days that it’s easy to forget how many musical treasures are within. It’s a great tool!

Every musical element that I teach in my piano classes can be better understood with YouTube selections.  One of my favorite uses of YouTube is comparing the performance of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy in the closing of the 1998 Olympics (Nagano, Japan) compared with a flash mob version and in the movie Sister Act II.  Students identify the repeating phrases higher and lower, louder and softer, and discuss the differences in each movie version. I also like students to identify 4/4 and 3/4 meters with a Sousa march, Morning has Broken by Cat Stevens, Blue Danube, and a Beatles song. YouTube makes it possible for me to use student preference of music (as well as my own selections) in lessons in a meaningful way. My goal is to engage students!

Pat Bissell, Gateway Community College, CT

Charlene, like me, uses pianos in many different ways. In my home studio, I have a beautiful small Steinway that used to belong to the famous conductor of the Chicago Symphony, Fritz Reiner; a Yamaha Disklavier; two Roland digital pianos; and upstairs in my living room, a superb Shigeru Kawai. I think it’s important for students to get used to hearing, and adjusting to, all different types of pianos.

I use technology for teaching sightreading. I have put my Yamaha Clavinova CVP 205 in the back room of my studio. This piano was purchased in 2000 so it requires a floppy disk, which is not floppy! The students walk in, get their chart from the file cabinet and pick up their sightreading book where they left off the week before, from a bookcase behind them. They are using different music than their private lesson.

Their instruction for the chart is to put down the date, what book & what page they were on when they quit.  There are two headsets so their mom can listen. I sneak in occasionally when the next student is late. They are to come a half hour early and go to the back room, scan the piece, tap it out and then start at a slow speed that they can handle. If that is reading is close to perfect, they are to keep moving the MM to the original speed. They can’t go on until each example can be played up to tempo with the disk accompaniment.  When they come in for their private lesson I ask if they had any problems.  If they can never get to tempo I ask them to go back and next week pick an easier book. Their sightreading improves almost 50% the first semester.

I also work on sightreading in each student’s private lesson. I use The Four Star Sight Reading of Frederick Harris Music and make home sightreading assignments. I started using them when it was just by Boris Berlin (at $2.95). Now they have been republished with Berlin and Markow with Scott McBride Smith as the editor.  Because students go through them so fast I keep several copies of the first few levels and 2 of the upper levels and then check them out, rather than have each student purchase their own.  With Scott’s careful editing they can be practiced at home and I just check the test piece in the lesson.  I tell parents that I check out music so they don’t have to lay out $13.50 (or more) every 10 weeks.  Also makes them feel better about my tuition. The only time I am involved in the back room half hour sightreading with Clavinova is if they get stuck.

Charlene Cox-Clifton, NCTM, NM

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Technology: MTNA Into the Future

This is the final post in a four-part series on how technology is changing music education. Find the previous posts below, or subscribe to new posts by email!
  1. Music Teaching and Technology
  2. Pianos, Keyboards, and Disklaviers
  3. The “Gamification” of Education
  4. Technology: MTNA Into the Future

“Millennials” is the accepted name for the group of young Americans born between 1980 and the mid-2000s. It’s the largest generation in the U.S. today, representing one-third of the total population in 2013. They are diverse and educated, family-oriented and eager to contribute to their community. 1 They grew up with and are comfortable using technology. All of this makes them ideal MTNA members.

But there are some problems, too. Many of them pay for their higher education through loans. Outstanding student loan debt was a staggering $1 trillion in 2014, making it the second largest category of household debt in the U.S.

Millennials have faced tough challenges entering the workforce during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Unemployment for this demographic group was over 13% in 2010. While this figure has gradually improved since then, mirroring the growth in the U.S. economy, Millennials still face significant pressure on long-term earnings. One study showed that workers who begin their career during a recession earn 2.5%-9% less per year for at least 15 years.

So our younger colleagues are not being selfish when they ask: what’s in it for me? What does MTNA have to offer that will make my life—and my family’s life and my community’s—better?

I’m encouraged by some of the ideas on technology I see coming out of MTNA. I like the idea of the “Members Only” section. The legal documents and member discounts already there (among other things) are great; I understand there are plans for webinars on all sorts of practical strategies to help MTNA members, of any generation, build skills and increase their income.

This initiative needs to build and expand. We need to make music lessons available to all the children in the U.S. Technology will help us do so. Mike Bates told me “anything that doesn’t allow students to experience music is a mistake”. I’d go even further. Anything that expands opportunities for music study should be a part of the MTNA mission.

This is the final post in a four-part series on how technology is changing music education. Find the previous posts below, or subscribe to new posts by email!
  1. Music Teaching and Technology
  2. Pianos, Keyboards, and Disklaviers
  3. The “Gamification” of Education
  4. Technology: MTNA Into the Future

Notes:

  1. My statistics are drawn from a 2014 report by the U.S. Council of Economic Advisors, http://templatelab.com/millennials-report/

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The “Gamification” of Education

This is the third post in a four-part series on how technology is changing music education. Check back tomorrow to read the conclusion, or subscribe to new posts by email!
  1. Music Teaching and Technology
  2. Pianos, Keyboards, and Disklaviers
  3. The “Gamification” of Education
  4. Technology: MTNA Into the Future

Many of today’s music-teaching apps and software are structured like games.

A study from NYU and CUNY found that “well-designed games can motivate students to learn less popular subjects, such as math, and that game-based learning can actually get students interested in the subject matter—and can broaden their focus beyond just collecting stars or points.” 1

“Gamification” is a hot topic in education today. Authors from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2 observe that game players exhibit “persistence, risk-taking, attention to detail and problem-solving skills”–all skills that we want our music students to display. Games allow players to build understanding in an active, involved way rather than by passively listening to a teacher; they learn at their own pace while collaborating and achieving just-in-time learning.

Gamification works in my studio. When my students use educational software structured as games, they try harder and learn better, without prompting from me. And kids—including grown-up kids—like games. For them, it’s a fun part of music study. “We have to expand our mission and get people in the door,” Kristin Yost observes. “Teachers are being forced to ask how to accomplish this in our age of symphony bankruptcies.”

Apps and Software for Learning

Games are an important part of what technology has to offer music learners. But their benefits are not just for students. I think technology frees teachers to do what they do best: connect. “Technology frees teachers to use their ‘soft’ skills: communication and creativity”, says Kristin.

Apps and software are already changing the structure of music lessons. Many tasks that “ate up” contact time with the teacher can now be off-loaded to technology, with teacher supervision. 3 Piano Maestro is an app that can monitor progress at the keyboard and check note and rhythm accuracy while student plays a repertoire that includes many pop songs. Playground Sessions is a similar program.

Apps like Tenuto or Music Ace can explain concepts of musicianship, provide drill activities and monitor student learning, so that each student doesn’t proceed to the next level without true mastery of the preceding material. Some teachers I know make their own theory program and post it on-line using a service like Edmodo or Udemy.

Technology can make playing the piano more fun. I have worked with George Litterst on apps (well, he did the app, I edited the content) that can accompany students playing Christmas music composed and arranged by the incomparable Christopher Norton. The accompaniment can even speed up and slow down perfectly in sync with the student. 4

Apps for Running Your Business

There are several of these. Since my main teaching responsibilities are at the University of Kansas, I have only a few pre-college students and haven’t made use of studio management apps. I have heard good reports about Music Teachers Helper. But don’t go by what I say: check out one of the many Facebook piano teaching groups and see what active users say. Instagram and Pinterest are also full of good ideas.

Apps I use

Here it is: the list of apps and software that I use in my own teaching. It’s a grab bag of tools that I have learned about from Facebook Teachers groups, friends, and trial and error.

I’ve already mentioned my Disklavier, which I use for playback and long distance teaching.

Rhythm and Meter

I use two metronome apps: Tempo, which I like because of its wide-ranging speeds and ability to choose subdivisions; I also use Pro Metronome for its ability to “tap” the speed your student is playing into the metronome and find out what speed he or she is actually taking.

PolyRhythm is a marvelous tool for counting cross rhythms.

Playback

I think the Amazing Slow Downer is…amazing. You can take any recording, by a famous concert artist or your student, and play it at any speed, without altering pitch. It’s a great way to focus on details of tone, balance and pedal.

Technic

I’m just starting to use Coach’s Eye, a video analysis app designed for sports that allows you to make quick videos and immediately review, play back in slow motion or with side-by-side comparison, do audio voice overs and use what they call “telestration”, the ability to diagram on the screen. I think this will be very useful to talk about the mechanics of technic.

Check back tomorrow (or subscribe to get new posts by email!) for Part 4 of the series: what I believe technology means for the future of MTNA
  1. Music Teaching and Technology
  2. Pianos, Keyboards, and Disklaviers
  3. The “Gamification” of Education
  4. Technology: MTNA Into the Future

Notes:

  1. These statistics are drawn from a post by Yuval Kaminka, founder of JoyTunes, available at www.echcrunch.com/2015/01/10/channeling-positive-tablet-usage-to-foster-childhood-development/. Hat tip to Linda Christensen for drawing it to my attention with a post in the Facebook iPad Piano Studio page.
  2. Eric Klpfer, Scot Osterweil and Katie Salen, with contributions by Jason Haas, Jennifer Groff and Dan Roy, 2009. http://education.mit.edu/papers/MovingLearningGamesForward_EdArcade.pdf.They state that the most comprehensive book on this subject is What Video Games Can Teach Us About Literacy and Learning, James Paul Gee.
  3. Please note that this is not intended to be a comprehensive list of apps and software and that I am not being paid to mention these products.
  4. Christmas Piano Play-Along sets, available from Time Warp Technology at http://timewarptech.com/store/christmas-music/novus-via-music-group.html

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Pianos, Keyboards, and Disklaviers

This is the second post in a four-part series on how technology is changing music education. Check back over the weekend to read more, or subscribe to new posts by email!
  1. Music Teaching and Technology
  2. Pianos, Keyboards, and Disklaviers
  3. The “Gamification” of Education
  4. Technology: MTNA Into the Future
Disklavier Controller
Disklavier Controller

The first reason that technology will help us reach more students is simply financial. Acoustic pianos aren’t cheap. Nor are private music lessons. Surveys indicate the overwhelming majority of American families want music lessons for their children, but that costs associated with this are a major impediment to music study. Sales of acoustic pianos have been down since the 1970s, as sales for more affordable—and perhaps more “hip”—guitars have skyrocketed (according to the Music Trades Industry, a total of 3,302,670 electric guitars were sold for the year 2007 in the United States, compared to 62,536 total pianos. 1)

Author and educator Kristin Yost makes an interesting point. “I keep reading articles about decreasing sales of acoustic pianos,” she told me. “But does this mean that piano teaching is declining? Or is it that the entry point for study isn’t always an acoustic piano?”

I see the increased availability of reasonably priced digital pianos as a boon to piano teachers. More students can afford to take lessons. And as distance learning becomes more common, teachers will be able to reach more students, rather than limiting themselves to those who can travel to the teacher’s studio.

I am a great advocate of Yamaha’s Disklavier. The University of Kansas owns one, and I have my own in my home studio. I consider it the greatest innovation in piano teaching in the history of the instrument. The play-back-at-any-speed capability alone makes it unique; I don’t believe we have even begun to tap its distance learning capabilities. The Yamaha Disklavier Education Network is a great hub for teachers who use this marvelous technology.

I believe we will continue to see development of hybrid grands, with elements of the traditional acoustic piano enhanced with electronics. “These are the wave of the future,” Mike Bates, the retired head of Institutional Sales for the Yamaha Corporation, told me. “They are much more durable, require less maintenance—and the price point is appealing.”

There are many instrumental options for people who want to learn to play the piano. No one I know thinks keyboards will replace the grand piano. But any technology brings more people to music making is a good thing.

Check back tomorrow (or subscribe to get new posts by email!) for Part 3 of the series: how games for learning are changing the face of education
  1. Music Teaching and Technology
  2. Pianos, Keyboards, and Disklaviers
  3. The “Gamification” of Education
  4. Technology: MTNA Into the Future

Notes:

  1. Cited in Danielle Baldassini “The changing role of the piano”, Blast Magazine, March 1, 2010

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Music Teaching and Technology

This is the first post in a four-part series on how technology is changing music education. Check back over the weekend to read more, or subscribe to new posts by email!
  1. Music Teaching and Technology
  2. Pianos, Keyboards, and Disklaviers
  3. The “Gamification” of Education
  4. Technology: MTNA Into the Future
iPad Piano
Seen in a Best Buy store

To me, it seems like the technology revolution has arrived. In my local teachers group, even older teachers (OK…the same age as me) are creatively using their iPads for teaching in ways that would have been astonishing even two years ago.

I started to write this blog post on February 7, after just finishing serving as moderator for a discussion group at the online MusicEd Connect Conference. We were scheduled to discuss “Memorization”, the topic of my workshop a couple of days earlier. We did talk about it–for about 2 minutes. Then followed a lengthy and lively discussion about distance learning, camera set-ups and favorite apps. I learned a lot.

For the teachers in my MusicEd Connect group, as in my local Music Teachers Association, technology has transformed teaching. But has it for everyone? “People assume technology is a done deal in music teaching,” Mike Bates told me in an interview. Mike is the retired head of Institutional Sales for the Yamaha Corporation, now working as an independent consultant. “Music teachers’ attitudes still need to change. Technology is the way children learn these days. Even little kids can intuitively use devices.”

Many have concerns about this. Do children spend too much time staring at a computer, and not enough time playing outdoors? Maybe…but since the average eight–ten year old child spends eight hours a day in front of a computer screen 1, perhaps more important questions for teachers to ask themselves are: what activities take place when students use technology? and what is the educational outcome?

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center did a survey about children’s use of computers. They found that kids from aged two–ten spent less than half of their screen time on “educational” material. What if we took part of their computer time and used it for music learning…would more people play an instrument? Would they reach a higher level of accomplishment? Early research seems to answer “yes”.

I believe that technology and social media have the potential to revolutionize music teaching and expand opportunities for music study to more students than ever before. Educational technology, used by qualified teachers, can make the learning experience more fun and ultimately more successful.

Check back tomorrow (or subscribe to get new posts by email!) for Part 2 of the series: my thoughts on the changing roles of acoustic pianos and electric keyboards
  1. Music Teaching and Technology
  2. Pianos, Keyboards, and Disklaviers
  3. The “Gamification” of Education
  4. Technology: MTNA Into the Future

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