The music teaching that I engage in is not set in a classroom because I am not appropriately qualified – and due to injuries I am unable to complete the qualifications I would need to become a classroom music teacher. I am therefore focusing on my individual violin tuition studio, which is only just starting to come off the ground.
I entered this course hungry for knowledge about how to teach, and particularly how to teach children, and on a 1:1 basis. I wanted to know how to inspire students to practice and to want to learn. I wanted to know how to approach teaching students of different ages, from under-6es, to primary-age, secondary-age and adults.
What I got in this course was a mixture of insights into how schools can operate in the 21st century, and how this can differ from the traditional approach to teaching. I learned about technology use in schools, cutting edge use of technology in music teaching, and how best to reach – and teach music to – the 93-95% of students who do not go on to complete year 12 specialist music subjects. I considered technology in teaching and in music teaching in cultures much less affluent than my own. I thought about Project-Based Learning (PBL), and about the different styles of learning and technology use suitable for preschoolers, primary and secondary students. Finally I learned about composition and finding the common ground between classical composing and other forms of music creation.
Recent exposure to the material of Week 5 leads me to think about composition for myself. I have never composed anything in my life, but yesterday evening I found myself using my mobile phone to record various sounds, from my cat purring to my partner whistling and making other strange sounds with his mouth. A seed of an idea is germinating in my mind, to use a basic computer-based composing tool suggested in Week 4, to turn this collection of sound-bytes into a 3 minute rhythmic piece that my InterPlay improvisation group can try for a movement activity. I hope this will give me a little boost in self-confidence as I playfully connect with unfamiliar technologies.
I’ve given more thought to the idea of inviting violin students to view YouTube videos to reinforce technical concepts, particularly for my adult students. The module on open learning brought this into full focus. I am clear that I should never use videos in lieu of my own teaching skills, but rather to support the learning process after we have worked on a difficult technical skill in the lesson.
Vibrato is a case in point. I don’t remember my own process for learning vibrato, but only that I was thrilled when I finally achieved a mature vibrato movement. My mother tells me I worked on learning vibrato for “a very long time”. 21st century students – with fast internet at their fingertips and 24 hour access to all that it offers – become frustrated easily, as they are impatient to master such a difficult skill as quickly as possible. I am comfortable with the idea of “doing whatever it takes” to assist them to learn vibrato, provided it does not make me look inadequate as a teacher.
And with this course drawing to a close, it’s time for me to again open my instrumental teaching books such as Paul Harris’s The Virtuoso Teacher and revisit his ideas around improvisation and child-centeredness in the lesson – his Simultaneous Learning approach. Now that I’ve looked into PBL, I can see that in a way, Simultaneous Learning is a kind of 1:1 PBL.
This video explores Simultaneous Learning in piano teaching, but can be applied to any instrument:
From what I’ve seen so far, I am not aware of mentions of technology-use in Paul Harris’s approach. The concepts he uses appear simple, but actually require a great deal of teacher concentration and skill. I am about to enter another great learning curve, as I attempt to assimilate his concepts and techniques into my current teaching style.
The Music in the 21st Century MOOC is helping me to enter into this new phase of learning, as it has given me a push to open my mind to new possibilities, to research interesting leads online, and has generally boosted my enthusiasm for music and music teaching. I’ve learned that with a bit of structure provided by MOOCs and other open learning platforms, as well as books about instrumental teaching, I can teach myself an enormous amount about the theory and practice of music and violin teaching. I am already learning a great deal about teaching beginner violin from this MOOC, and am putting it to practice on a beginner adult student. Next step is to do it all again with a young child.
As I sit here, I feel the push inside of me. Why am I sitting here writing about what I’m going to do, when I could be doing it?
Off I go…