Developing music ICT skills for secondary teachers in training – UK

I. Abstract 2

II. Introduction.. 3

III. The Example. 4

IV. Commentary. 7

V. Contact 8

I. Abstract

This model describes ways in which one particular teacher training course for secondary teachers in England supports trainee teachers in:

·      increasing their own music ICT skills;

·      developing awareness of ways in which ICT can be used to support musical learning and

·      learning about pedagogical issues surrounding the use of music ICT in the classroom.

II. Introduction

A one year Postgraduate Certificate in Education course (PGCE) is the most common way in which teacher training occurs. Trainees come to the course having developed their subject knowledge and skills through, typically, a three year undergraduate music course. These courses vary immensely in terms of their focus and their structure, and, as a result, trainees arrive on the teacher training course with very different musical skills and experiences.

In terms of music technology, despite the fact that most schools now have computers and teachers often encourage their use at least for composition at examination level, some trainees still begin the course with virtually no music ICT skills. Conversely, others may have completed a full music technology degree or a number of music technology modules as part of a music degree.

The skills of sequencing, multi-track recording and using notation software are now seen as essential to music teaching in England. The challenge in teacher training institutions is to provide a programme of activities which will be relevant to trainees with very differing levels of awareness, skills in and attitudes towards the use of music technology in the classroom.

III. The Example

This is an interesting example of practice since it helps develop understanding and experience of working with ICT as an aid for learning and teaching in music enabling trainees to develop understanding and have experience of different modes and contexts for learning – whole class, group, individual and peer to peer. The example also shows the development of a strong interrelationship with the professional field of teaching practice and it provides opportunities for trainees to experiment and innovate; to learn independently and from each other and to develop research skills.

Music ICT and music ICT pedagogical skills are developed in a number of ways during the course through:

1.         taught sessions at university;

2.         individual study / portfolio;

3.         assignments;

4.         observation and teaching in schools.

On entry to the course, trainees carry out an audit of their ICT skills and are asked to update this at 4 further points during the year.

1. Taught Sessions at University

The following list of key ICT tasks are covered in university sessions over the year:

·      Sequencing and Score-writing:

-       Record + Mix-down MIDI performances to a mp3 or wav file;

-       Produce a score from a MIDI and Audio sequencing application and be able to export a MIDI file into a score-writing application (such as Sibelius) and use this to produce a score;

-       Scan sheet music for piano into Sibelius and re-arrange it for instrumental ensemble;

-       Demonstrate knowledge of how to set up a PA system.

·      Recording:

-       Set up a computer workstation or stand-alone multi-track recorder;

-       Use appropriate microphones and position them correctly;

-       Set appropriate recording levels;

-       Produce a well-balanced stereo mix demonstrating clean editing, appropriate balance, panning and EQ & accurate synchronisation of tracks.

·      Use of the Internet: Download a legal mp3 song from the internet and play it on a media player.

Since the trainees spend the whole of the second term on teaching practice in school, there is a strong focus upon sequencing, and Audio and MIDI recording during the first term. Wherever possible, skills are taught through practical workshops, with trainees working in groups and with peer teaching.

This can be seen on the Video Teacher Training & Music Technology   . One excerpt shows trainees, who have well-developed skills in the use of Sibelius software, leading a university session on score writing. (Please note that the trainee leading the session is focusing upon teaching techniques of using the software and, in the video sequence, is not creating a piece that works musically). Another excerpt shows the first recording session where, after input from the course tutor and specialist visiting tutor (who also teaches ICT in a partner school) trainees work together in groups of 4 or 5 to record a group composition of their choice. In a different excerpt, a female trainee, speaking 8 weeks into her course, describes how the sequencing work has supported her teaching, (particularly since her keyboard skills are not well developed).

2. Individual Study / Portfolio

To ensure that trainees are secure in their individual use of music technology they are asked to complete an individual portfolio over the year. This builds on the skills already covered in taught sessions. The minimum requirements are:

·      A piece of their own sequenced work together with written information about how they have used it in the classroom

·      A printed Sibelius score that originated from a scanned score

·      A piece of the trainee’s own work notated in Sibelius

·      A worksheet containing scanned text converted by an OCR program

·      A stereo recording of classroom work with 11-14 year olds

·      A word-processed worksheet for classroom use that includes an image taken with a digital camera, transferred to computer and manipulated with appropriate software

·      A PowerPoint presentation given for trainees, colleagues or teachers which embeds a video, a web-link and an audio file.

3. Assignments

(ICT forms only part of the formal assignments of the course.)

In Term 1 the trainee teachers are required to complete a sequencing task as part of their first subject assignment. This assignment not only tests their own skills at being able to sequence a piece of music that they have created themselves but also requires them to reflect upon their own sequencing skills and their use in the classroom.

In Term 3, after considerable time working in schools, the trainees complete another ICT assignment which involves creating a set of guidance notes to enable school students to carry out independent self-supported learning. The ‘booklet’ is entitled: “Making a Good Quality Multi-track Recording”. This must be suitable for students of differing abilities, aged between 14 and 17. The trainees are required to trial their guidance notes and then make amendments to their document before submitting this as a final assignment; they are also required to reflect on the process.

In a further assignment, they write about ICT and music as part of a Masters accredited assignment; which enables them to draw upon their personal teaching experience and explain how this is synthesised with reading of professional literature to inform their thinking and practice. In the video, a trainee in his first year of teaching explains how important the multi-track recording assignment was for his development as a teacher using music technology.

4. Observation and Teaching in Schools

Music technology is now used in almost every school, at least with examination classes for 16-18 year olds. As such, during the 24 weeks teaching practice in schools, the trainees have opportunities to observe and work with experienced teachers and music technicians:

·      to gain a greater understanding of pedagogical issues related to Music and ICT and

·      to have opportunities to trial skills and teaching methods they have developed in university sessions in real classroom situations.

Since computers are used less with pupils aged 11-14, the trainee teachers are required to spend some time in their final term’s teaching practice, working with small groups of 11-14 year olds to support their development of musical skills through the use of sequencing.

IV. Commentary

Each year, an external examiner – usually a colleague who trains music teachers in another institution – visits to act as a ‘critical friend’ in supporting the development of the course. Recent comments about music technology within this teacher training course include:

“The content of the course has a strong focus on helping trainees to develop skills in the uses of music technologies and the course team has a high level of expertise in this area. (…) Trainees are enthusiastic about the sessions run by the team.”

“The subject assignments retain a strong practical element which demands that trainees develop a good range of professional and musical skills; the focus on the pedagogical application of music specific ICT is particularly welcome.”

The external examiner has also reported on the positive comments made by the trainees:

a)        They felt the assignments developed knowledge and skills that were highly applicable to classroom practice.

b)        They also explained that it was good to be ‘forced’ to develop their ICT skills as some were a little nervous about technology and might not have worked on these if they had not been a course assignment requirement. As it was, they felt that they quite quickly overcame fears of technology through group work at university, which prepared them for their assignments.

c)         They were pleased with the strong focus upon the development of music ICT skills, aware that this can, nowadays, be a key factor in acquiring a job.

“Having had no experience with music technology prior to the course, I found this really difficult at first. However, having had many experiences throughout the year, in school and university, I now feel much more confident” (trainee comment).

Music technology is becoming more and more significant in schools as a tool for supporting student creativity and learning, and for teaching, and yet there are still many experienced teachers who do not have basic skills in music and ICT. When applying for jobs, trainees have become very aware of the fact that they have strengthened their applications through developing their music ICT skills. The male Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) comments upon this in the video.

V. Contact

Contakt Person:


Video Teacher Training & Music Technology