Christine Holley, Music, Music Education

Technology Helps Students Find Their Musical Voice

Christine-Holley-iPadOftentimes the talk surrounding technology revolves around how it brings cultures from across the globe closer together and allows us to break down cultural barriers inherent to different societies. But for one high school in Queens, New York, iPads are allowing its students with physical and mental challenges to connect with their classmates, and to their inner artist.

An article on details one band teacher’s incredible work with the school’s “Technology Band.” The band is a mix of traditional instruments and iPads. All the members have disabilities, some on the autism spectrum. Their teacher, Adam Goldberg, is a classically trained pianist with a degree from the Manhattan School of Music. 20 years ago he began substitute teaching at P.S. 177 while playing jazz and rock gigs around New York City. Not long after, he was offered a job at the school, and he’s been there since.

He is a self-proclaimed “hesitant technophile” because of the amount of work involved in ensuring the technology worked properly. These days, however, he finds that the music applications used on the iPad have reached a level of workability that makes it easier for the band to produce complex orchestral-esque arrangements. As a classically trained musician, Mr. Goldberg understands the necessity of learning technique, but as a teacher of disabled students, it makes it easier to produce music without being bogged down by the technical aspects of learning an instrument that many of his students have trouble with. It helps him teach his students about the art behind the process of music-making.

The Director of Technology for New York City’s Department of Education, Leslie Schect, has gotten behind the idea of iPads in the classroom. She claims that music is a “natural way in” – an avenue for students to connect with one another even if they have difficulties communicating. However, she states that the iPad is simply one part of the equation. Without the engaging demeanor of teachers like Adam Goldberg, the iPad simply does not have truly transformative power.

Mr. Goldberg puts the band into the context of the real world by explaining the lessons that the students are learning apart from the music; a sense of belonging, friendship, and personal accomplishment which is may be more difficult to garner in other education settings. Goldberg says this translates to a wider idea of socialization out in the general world. He has seen a huge leap in their social abilities since he started using the iPads in the band. And through their music education, Goldberg has noticed an anchor in reality to their dreams – no longer are they thinking of becoming Spiderman or Superman.

This new technology seems to offer more students an opportunity to learn through music, and that truly is a beautiful thing. It makes me think about what this can offer to the field of music education.

from Christine Holley


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