In this post I aim to discuss how I will use digital technologies to enhance learning within a flexible curriculum that encourages students to learn through relevant practical experiences and assignments. In my last post I explored the importance of encouraging creativity and the scope to focus on personal interests within the curriculum in terms of developing digital literacies; these factors are also important when considering the ‘constructively aligned’ (Biggs & Tang , 2011) tasks students undertake when working towards learning outcomes. I feel it’s important to first consider the design of my curriculum before contemplating how technology can be used to enhance what should already be a pedagogically-sound approach, prioritising in this manner is important as Casey and Wilson (2005, p.14) point out :
“people often turn to technology for solutions to problems that are not really technical, but rather managerial and educational. We introduce the notion of the need to develop ‘educational expertise’ which should lead to the correct use of technology. At present, many people seem to hope that the reverse arrangement will work, despite ample evidence otherwise”.
The module ‘Session Musicianship’ is good place to start when evaluating my practice in this regard; it’s an ensemble class that involves 5 learners working under my direction to produce a finished recording of a song within a 2-hour time frame. I provide guidance throughout the session whilst the students work collaboratively and interact during the rehearsal process; they are also encouraged to make creative inputs as specified in the assignment brief (UKPSF A1, A2, A3, A4, K1, K2 & K3). After considering this lesson design in relation to the learning outcomes, I conclude that the social and informal learning activities within this class meet many of the Enhancement Themes’ (2016) indicators of a highly flexible model such as active learner participation, problem-solving, collaboration and creative dialogue (UKPSF A1, A5, V1, V2, K2 & K3). Although I feel confident about the overall effectiveness of the pedagogy employed in the module I still see some students with fundamental flaws in their instrumental skills drawn into an insular focus whilst trying to rectify them in the classes, hence preventing them from fully participating in active learning. I feel technology can help address this problem and cater for diversity in terms of pre-existing skill by using video to adopt a ‘flipped classroom approach’. Bridgstock (2012, cited in Grant, 2013, p.6) discusses the benefits of incorporating this method into tertiary music education:
“With contact lecture hours directed to activities that consolidate and apply knowledge, the flipped music classroom holds far greater potential than traditional lecture formats to foster authentic and creative student learning activities, for example by incorporating practice- and performance-based learning tasks. More than the traditional lecture format, it can engage students engaging in real-life problem-solving in areas relevant to their future careers as musicians, and develop the entrepreneurial skills that are increasingly needed to build a successful and sustainable career in the arts.”
The videos I would post prior to the start of the session will demonstrate instrument-specific techniques that will be used in the following weeks session. This will allow students with technical limitations to focus their practice on very precise points, resulting in their being more prepared for interacting creatively with other students (UKPSF A1, A2, A4, A5, K1, K2, K4, V1 & V2).
When I reflect upon the activities students undertake in this class, I realise the fast visual processing required for sight reading sheet music could potentially disadvantage some students, particularly those with the disability of Dyslexia, a protected characteristic under the Equality Act (2010). To ensure that no student’s learning is hindered I will make sure the music is available for download through the VLE a week in advance of the class, allowing students time to process the information at their own pace. The British Dyslexic Association Music Committee (2016) highlights some other issues Dyslexic music students face that I need to be more aware of. I intend to further support students encountering the following difficulties using appropriate technologies as described:
- Work in music theory: understanding/de-coding information and organisation of examination answers: Use interactive websites such as musictheory.net for revision tasks, colour-coded digital flashcards in lessons and quizzes using Socrative or Kahoot.
- Organisation of personal practice and rehearsals: The VLE will be used to set up personal practice diaries using wikis that I can use to monitor the effectiveness of practice routines. Reminders about lessons and rehearsal can also be sent straight to their phone apps via blackboard announcements.
- Music analysis and understanding of written material: I can record any aural explanations that take place in the lessons on my phone then email recordings to the students, video feedback will also be offered as an alternative to written. Notation software such as ‘Sibelius’ can be used to change colours and highlight patterns.
By using these technologies to introduce different methods outlined in Fleming’s and Mill’s VARK modalities (“Vark-Learn”, n.d.), I aim to create a more inclusive environment. As well as the ethical reasons for doing this, the changes made to DSA funding as of September 2016 will require all academics to develop more inclusive pedagogies as the government “will look to HEIs to play their role in supporting students with mild difficulties, as part of their duties to provide reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act” (Willets, HC Deb 7 April 2014, c 1WS) (UKPSF A1, A2, A3, A4, V4, V2, K1 & K4).
Biggs, J.B., & Tang, C. (2011). Teaching for Quality Learning at University (4th ed.). Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill Education
British Dyslexia Association Music Committee. (n.d.). Music and inclusive teaching: information from the British Dyslexia Association Music Committee. Retrieved 27 March, 2016, from http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/common/ckeditor/filemanager/userfiles/Educator/Music/BDA_Music_information_booklet.pdf
Casey, J., & Wilson, P. (2005). A practical guide to providing flexible learning in further and higher education. Enhancement themes. Retrieved from http://www.enhancementthemes.ac.uk/docs/publications/a-practical-guide-to-providing-flexible-learning-in-further-and-higher-education
Enhancement Themes. (n.d.). Design curricula with a significant focus on technology-enhanced learning (TEL). Retrieved 20 March, 2016, from http://www.enhancementthemes.ac.uk/toolkits/flexible-curriculum/2-anytime-anywhere-learning/2-3-design-curricula-with-a-significant-focus-on-tel
Grant, C. (2013). First inversion: A rationale for implementing the ‘flipped classroom approach’ in tertiary music courses. Australian Journal of Music Education. 2013 Edition (1), 3-12. Retrieved from https://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=194668467340281;res=IELHSS
Higher Education Academy. (2011). The UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supported learning in higher education. Retrieved from https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/ukpsf_2011_english.pdf
The Equality Act 2010. (c.1). London, The Stationery Office.
Vark-Learn. (n.d.). The VARK Modalities. Retrieved 27 March, 2016 from http://vark-learn.com/introduction-to-vark/the-vark-modalities/
Willets, D. (2014). Higher Education: Student Support. House of Commons Library Written Statement. HC Deb, vol 597, col. 1WS, 7 April 2014.