It is 1:10pm on a Tuesday afternoon in Room 117 Schmucker Hall, time for Music Education 321, Secondary Music Education Methods, to begin. The students are seated around a table with their iPads open in front of them. They are discussing entries that they and their colleagues have posted on the class’s dedicated Trello electronic story board for group projects. The posts involve discussion topics for the day, questions for the instructor or their classmates, and ideas for the class project. The software allows the class to organize the posts and makes them instantly viewable and editable by all members of the class. Their mentor, Brent C. Talbot, assistant professor and coordinator of music education, arrives with his iPad and the class discussion begins. The students are exploring the topic of developing a curriculum for a music appreciation course at the middle school level. The students’ posts are the basis for the discussion which is lively and interesting. The students are obviously well prepared for class and are far from passive participants in their learning experience. Professor Talbot is an expert on using technology to motivate students and keeping them involved.
In addition to discussing theoretical aspects of teaching music, the class discusses ways to make music appreciation a lifelong avocation for students. Brent relates to the class an experience that he had teaching a general music class in the Rochester (NY) City School District. He assigned the class a project to create a musical. Every member of the class had a job. Some involved the usual tasks of script writing, composition, and performance. Others had nothing, per se, to do with music, but are things that music educators become involved with sound engineering, lighting design, advertising, marketing, etc. It is at this level that knowledge of technology and its proper use becomes invaluable. This class also incorporates these components. The students will be using their iPads to create a recruiting video showing “A Day in the Life of a Music Education Major at Gettysburg College.” They, of course, will use Trello to plan the project and outline it. The students will write and edit the script as a group using their iPads. They will use music Apps, such as GarageBand to create and record a score that includes real instruments and digital sounds. Finally, they will use the iPads to film and edit the production in iMovie.
Brent joined the Sunderman Conservatory faculty in 2010 bringing with him an extensive background in both music education and technology. He has a Ph.D. from the Eastman School of Music and has taught at the University of Illinois and the Eastman School. In addition he has taught secondary school in Rochester and Brooklyn, NY. He has experience directing children’s choirs and gamelan performance groups. More of his biography is available at this link. Brent is also a partner in Talbot & Piazza which has a website that contains recommendations for music and technology solutions for the classroom ranging from internet resources to audio speakers and microphones.
The iPads that Brent’s class is using were purchased with funds provided by a Mellon Foundation Grant attained by the Provost’s Office and deployed by the Instructional Technology & Training Department.
One of the hallmarks of a Gettysburg College learning experience has always been a close, individualized academic relationship between students and faculty. This has been greatly facilitated by a low student to instructor ratio. Small class sizes, especially at the upper division level, allow for lively interaction and intellectual stimulation. The rise and increased sophistication of technology, the exponential growth of information and resources on the internet and the ubiquitous use of social media have greatly expanded opportunities for learning and scholarship. Virtually anyone has access to courses given at Harvard, Stanford, and many other outstanding, large universities. A variety of online tools allow students to collaborate on projects and share ideas with colleagues who are not in the same geographical area, let alone the same room. In addition, students can explore ancient ruins, art galleries, and other venues without physically visiting them. These are just a few of the opportunities made available by technology. The important question for Gettysburg College is how do these opportunities blend into the Gettysburg learning experience in a way that is consistent with its historical mission?
Using technology for presenting a course is not a one-step-fits-all model. There are many different strategies and some are already in use or have been used on the Gettysburg College campus. One strategy has the popular name of “Flipping the Classroom.” The traditional course presentation model is that students come to class where new material is presented. After the class, students do related reading assignments and answer questions about what they have learned. In a flipped classroom the students read the new material in advance of the class. They use a blog or shared bulletin board software to post questions for the instructor or classmates that will be the basis for discussion during the next class meeting. The instructor or a designated student then sorts the questions into categories and organizes the class discussion. Another possible model is that a student or group of students may see an online course that they potentially wish to take that is not offered on campus, but it is available online from another university. Arrangements can be made with an on campus instructor to take the course as an independent study course. The students then meet with their instructor on a regularly scheduled face-to-face basis to ask and answer questions based on the online course material that they have studied.
Yet another model is the one evidenced by Gettysburg’s participation in the Eisenhower Institute. Students engage in events offered by the institute and meet with their colleagues in Washington via videoconferencing using a large screen TV and web cameras located on the Gettysburg campus and in the meeting room in Washington, DC. Smaller versions of this model have been initiated by other instructors using Skype connections to interact with students in other parts of the world. An example is video conversing with native students in the Middle East to discuss U.S./Middle Eastern Relations.
The above examples certainly do not exhaust the possibilities for models of using technology to enhance the learning model. Nor do the examples of the models presented exhaust the flexibility within them. One thing is constant on the Gettysburg College campus, learning and teaching are always of an outstanding quality. Another constant is that IT stands ready to support and assist with the technological needs.