Teaching trials and tribulations in tech
I'm a third year music education student at the Conservatorium of Music in Sydney.
I find music technology intriguing and confusing. I'm hoping by the end of this course I will be less confused and more intrigued.
This blog will be the main space I'll be keeping all my thoughts/resources/reflections on Technology in Music Education.
Every week I will post a reflection on the lecture from that week. I'm going to try to make this as easy to read as possible, mostly so I can look back at it and understand what I'm talking about but also for anyone who might read this and also want to learn about what we've been looking at it in class.
As well as this, I'll post some projects related to or carried on from classwork or related to the major assignment. I'll try to use these projects as a way to explore what we learnt about it class. Because how can I teach any of this cool tech stuff without trying it out myself first??
Technology in music is an area that fascinates me but I don't know enough about. So hopefully this will give me the motivation to finally get stuck in and start to learn some new stuff. Let's do this!
a.k.a. Welcome (back) to SoundTrap
This week's lesson began with an exploration of the online DAW, SoundTrap. I worked in SoundTrap for an assignment last semester and I also taught with it when I was on my third year practicum. I feel pretty confident with using the website, however the lesson was a good refresher. We also get to work with in a premium SoundTrap account for this subject, which opens up a lot more possibilities than working in the free version (which is what I used last semester).
Nicole's Crash Course for SoundTrap
The first thing to do after creating an account is to click on "enter studio". This will begin a new project.
You should then have a page that looks like this:
If you haven't composed with any programs like this before, loops are a good way to start. SoundTrap comes with a set of pre-made loops that anyone can use to compose.
Click on "browse loops". This will bring up a menu of loops of various styles and instruments. You filter the loops by tonality by clicking on the drop down menu "any scale" and selecting major or minor. Loops can also be selected by clicking on the purple music note circle.
Choose a loop you like! (You can preview it by clicking the purple triangle on the left of the title). Once you're happy with your choice, drag it into the project.
Now you can edit your track. Make your track longer or shorter by clicking on the circular arrow in the top right corner of the track and dragging the track left and right.
From here you can get creative! You can drag in multiple loops on different tracks, edit them, change the volume, automation settings etc. You can also fade the tracks in or out by clicking on the top left corner at the beginning or top right corner at the end of the track and dragging. It should look like this:
You also have a lot of options to adjust track settings on the left hand side.
From left to right:
- The R enables/disables recording of the track
- The circle is a volume knob for the whole track
- The headphones allows you to listen just to that track
- The speaker mutes that track only
- The last symbol is automation which allows you to adjust the volume, panning or sweep of the track
If you have very keen eyes, you may have noticed the two different types of symbols next to the loops:
These symbols signify the difference between loops that are audio files and MIDI files. Audio files are pre-recorded sounds whereas MIDI files are essentially computer data. This makes MIDI loops really easy to edit the notes/sounds if you wish. You can't change the notes of an audio file as easily.
Let's have ago at editing a MIDI loop. Choose a loop with the symbol of music notes, then click and drag it into the project. Hover over the track and click on "piano roll". This should open a screen that looks like this:
You can change any of those notes by moving them up or down or dragging them from left or right to make them longer or shorter. This will change the notes of the whole loop, so if you continue to repeat it, it will stay changed.
If you want to change the sound of the instrument, exit the piano roll and click on the symbol on the left side of the track name. Then, click on the name of the instrument which will bring up a menu of instruments to choose from. When you select one, this will become the sound of the loop:
If you really like the loop you've created, you can save it to your own loop library. Go back to the project, hover over the track you want to save and click "edit". Then click on "add to loop library". You can name your loop and it will save it to your personal loop library to use again later on.
WEEK 1 PROJECT
This is my first project! I started it in class and finished it off at home. I started off layering loops over the top of each other that worked together and then started to experiment with changing the notes of some of the loops, cutting and pasting sounds and loops, adding automation such as volume and panning and recording and looping my own tracks/sounds.
a.k.a. mics and cameras and lights (oh my)
This week we had a hands-on experience with setting up lighting, recording and filming equipment to capture video and audio of a live class performance. The class was a mixture of figuring out how to use the equipment through hands on experience and discussions with James about the equipment.
James advised us that we should have 4 different types of cameras to film the performance:
1) a fixed camera
2) a camera that moves (zooms/pans etc.)
3) a handheld camera
4) a“shaky” camera.
He emphasised the point that it’s very important to have backup footage and audio. This role was filled by the fixed camera in this case, as the footage from the fixed camera should all be usable, in focus and framed well. However, the footage from the other cameras may not always be as high quality, so the fixed camera footage can always be used if the other camera footage is not usable.
We also discussed the type of microphones that were best to use to record the performance. We used condenser mics and dynamic mics to allow us to capture the maximum amount of audio and have backup just in case. The condenser mics were RODE NT5 pencil and zoom microphones. The dynamic mic was a Shure SM58 vocal microphone. I didn’t know very much about these types of mics so I did some research into the differences between them.
Condenser microphones are very sensitive and are great at picking up detail in the sound without needing to be extremely close to the sound source you are recording. However, this can mean if you’re recording multiple instruments that the sound can “bleed” from other instruments that you weren’t intending to record with that mic. Condenser microphones require external power to work, either from a battery or from phantom power. Phantom power is a DC (direct current) that is run through audio cables to provide power for the microphone. The most common voltage is 48V and this is how the phantom power will generally be labelled on a mixer. We used condenser mics to record the guitar and the backup vocals of the performance.
Dynamic microphones on the other hand are much more direct. They contain a diaphragm inside the mic that vibrates in accordance with the incoming soundwaves. A current is created which is then amplified. Dynamic mics are sturdy and do not require internal amplifiers, batteries or external power. They are very direct and will record the sound source with very little bleed from other sounds around them. However, they won’t pick up any of the sound of the room which can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what you are looking for in your recording. We used a handheld mic to record the main vocals of the performance, to make it easier to mix the audio later on.
We used a lightbox to light the shot. It took some fiddling with the lights in the room and the warm/cool colours of the lightbox before we were happy with the shot on camera. The room we were in wasn’t ideal for lighting as the lights from the ceiling were fluorescent, so it took some effort to arrange the lighting in a way that we thought showed up the performers best on camera.
a.k.a. every notation program you could possibly ask for
This week we explored various notation apps, in browser websites and programs, and discussed how they can be used in teaching. I’m going to go through each one that we talked about and elaborate a little on each.
What operating system/s is it compatible with?
iOS and Android
Free or paid?
Paid for both iOS and android, but with a limited free version called “NotateMe Now”.
How does it work?
NotateMe was made by Neuratron, the same people who created PhotoScore – a free app that scans music notation into Sibelius (or other music notation software) so it can be edited. NotateMe is an app where you can write music notation straight onto a stave using your finger or a stylus. Your transcription turns into digital notation automatically as you write. The app also claims to “learn” your style of writing and adapt accordingly to make it quicker and more accurate the more you use the app.
Compatibility with other apps/programs?
You can export your scores using MusicXML or MIDI files, which can be opened in programs like Sibelius for further editing.
What operating system/s is it compatible with?
Windows 10, designed for the Microsoft Surface.
Free or paid?
Paid with no free version.
How does it work?
Similar to NotateMe, you transcribe your notation straight onto a stave and the program coverts it into digital notation. StaffPad is a bit more particular about how to draw the notation into the app so it will recognise it and is less adaptive to your personal style of transcribing. It has a “composer assistant” that will take verbal instructions, an option to write freehand notes over the score and syncs and backs up your work to the cloud.
Compatibility with other apps/programs?
StaffPad requires a Windows 10 device with an active digitiser in order for the stylus to work. It can import/export MusicXML and MIDI files.
PreSonus Notion: https://www.presonus.com/products/Notion-for-iOS
What operating system/s is it compatible with?
Free or paid?
Paid with no free option.
How does it work?
Notion also lets you use your finger or stylus to input music notation which is then converted to digital notation. Notion focusses on the importance of the music playback – the instrument samples were recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road studios.
Compatibility with other apps/programs?
Import/exports to MIDI and MusicXML. Syncs with iCloud, Dropbox or iTunes file sharing.
Flat.io (https://flat.io) and Noteflight (https://www.noteflight.com):
Both of these websites work in very similar ways - they are essentially in-browser notation software. Both of the websites can be used for free, however there are some limitations. They both have the option to pay for a premium/upgraded version of the website.
Something extra that Noteflight provides is the Noteflight Marketplace, where you can buy and sell musical arrangements. If you want to sell your arrangements, Noteflight will take care of the copyright so you can make money from selling them.
Sibelius and MuseScore:
Both Sibelius and MuseScore have very similar interfaces and work in similar ways. The biggest difference is that Sibelius is a paid program while MuseScore is free.
MuseScore is open source, which means that people volunteer to work on improving the code of the program to update it. MuseScore users can also upload their scores to the MuseScore online website where they can be shared with the public. You can download these scores in a variety of formats including MIDI and MusicXML so they can be edited in other music notation programs.
Review of MuseScore:
Review of Sibelius:
a.k.a. on struggle street with Camtasia and Copyright
This week in class we had a hands-on experience editing the footage from last week in ScreenFlow, a screen recording and video editing app for Apple Mac. We also had a discussion about copyright and best practise when it comes to referencing and crediting sources that aren’t yours.
Since I have a PC I couldn’t download and use ScreenFlow at home, so instead I downloaded a trial version of Camtasia, a program for PC that does essentially the same thing as ScreenFlow.
I decided I’d try to edit a video using Camtasia to figure out how to use it and capture a screen recording at the same time to show the process of using the program. I went on a holiday in January that I have a lot of videos from that I thought I’d try to edit together. When I tested the screen capture it worked really well – once I stopped the video it went straight into Camtasia to be edited. However, when I tried to edit the videos from my holiday the program would crash whenever I dragged more than one video into the timeline. I tried this quite a few times and closed other programs that were running to see if it would make a difference but unfortunately it still crashed. This is really disappointing because my computer should be able to handle the program.
That pesky copyright thing
Copyright is something I never really considered when it comes to teaching resources. However, after discussion in class with James and special guests, it became clear that copyright is a muddy grey area and way too hard for teachers to deal with without expert advice.
Something that I took away from the discussion was tips for finding websites and resources that can be used publically with or without credit/attribution.
Google images: google.com.au/images
Google images has a setting that I’d never used before under “tools” and “usage rights” where you can filter search results:
If you choose images that can be reused “with modification” this means you can edit the image and it’s still ok to use publically on a website or resource you create. If it doesn’t say “with modification” then the images must be used as they are presented. You should also still credit where the image came from if you use it.
Pixabay (pixabay.com) and Unsplash (unsplash.com)
Pixabay and Unsplash are websites where you can find, download and use images for free and without needing to attribute where you got them from.
This week was another awesome hands-on lesson. We practised the skills we'd learned in Week 3 when we filmed some of our classmates perform to set up and film a performance of James Humberstone's piece 2nd Fantasia for Piano. The first half of the class we set up the sound, lighting and video equipment and the second half we did several takes of the piece.
Here are some photos from the shoot:
a.k.a. musicians attempting to be a film crew
Don't Feel Like Crying
Mixed Bag and Orff Arrangement
Link to full scores and parts:
Don’t Feel Like Crying is a pop song by the Norwegian singer-songwriter Sigrid which was released as a single in January 2019 off her album Sucker Punch. It’s a song I really like and I believe it is well suited to be learnt and played in a classroom in both an Orff and mixed bag arrangement.
The song is very repetitive, with a 4-bar repeating chord structure, ostinati, bassline and accompaniment parts that exist in the original song. The repetitive nature of these parts makes it well suited to an Orff arrangement, however the use of syncopation in the parts and chord changes that anticipate the beat makes it suited to a high school Stage 4/5 classroom.
I notated this piece firstly in the original key of Ab major, using the original recording as a guide (Sigrid, 2019). I started by figuring out the chords and structure of the song and then notating the salient parts of the song such as the ostinati, accompaniment part, melody and bassline. The original accompaniment part that exists in the song is quite difficult to play so I created a simplified version which is easier to learn and can be used as a stepping stone to learning the advanced part. I decided to transpose the piece into the key of concert Bb as this is a comfortable key for most concert band instruments. I’ve taken care that there are easier and harder parts for all instruments. The easier parts have been labelled with “easy” in the part description. These are parts for students who are new to or have limited experience on their instrument and are designed to stay within a small range that should be comfortable to play on their instrument.
After creating the mixed bag arrangement, I also decided to create an Orff arrangement following the “Orff formula” structure (Orff & Keetman, 1976). I felt this could be a useful resource for teachers to use in their classrooms as a way of scaffolding the mixed bag arrangement, or just to learn and perform as a piece in its own right. The Orff arrangement has a version in concert Bb and concert C. I provided both because I understand not all teachers and schools will have Orff xylophones with additional accidental keys such as Bb and Eb, so for schools that cannot alter their xylophones they can play the arrangement in C. However, for schools who have the alternate keys they can play the version in Bb which allows for an easy transfer to the mixed bag arrangement, as it is in the same key.
Finally, the repetitive nature of the piece lends it well to improvisation. I’ve kept the improvisation suggestions relatively simple and it’s up to teachers how they would like to implement it in their classroom. I suggested using the Bb pentatonic scale as notes for improvisation, however this can be further simplified or extended upon in the classroom if teachers wish to do so. I’ve also provided a suggested structure for how improvisation could be integrated into a performance of the piece.
Sigrid. (2009). Sigrid – Don’t Feel Like Crying (Official Lyric Video) [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/180nT-m5Zis
Orff, C. & Keetman, G. (1976). Orff-Schulwerk: Music for children, Volume 1. Schott Musik Intl Mainz.
This week we took a look at the impact of technology on our lives through a more cynical lens. The discussion got me thinking about how I personally use technology in my life. When I started to think about it, it really scared me how much I rely on technology day to day. I was born in the 90’s and I remember a time when dial up internet existed. I didn’t have a smartphone for most of primary and high school and I survived. It’s only really been in the last few years at school and my time at university that my reliance on technology has dramatically increased. Is this a good thing? Am I too addicted? Should I go cold turkey and delete myself off the technological radar??
I don’t think technology is all evil. Without technology I wouldn’t be able to keep in touch with friends who live in other states, wouldn’t be able to organise and attend events as easily and certainly wouldn’t be able to navigate myself as successfully to new places. However, I thought I should look at the apps I regularly use and consider how/why I use them and if they’re have a positive or negative impact on my life.
I use Facebook to keep in touch with my friends, to organise and attend events and to share parts of my life and things I find funny or interesting with the people I love. I would find it hard to live without Facebook but I don’t believe it’s for a bad reason – it’s just because it’s the place where all my friends are socialising and I want to be a part of that.
- keep in touch with friends
- organise/attend events
- share photos/other content
- tendency to mindlessly scroll
- inaccurate/biased view of the news/other content
I see stories all the time about how apps like Instagram are destroying the self confidence of millennials because we’re always comparing the way we look to the air-brushed models we see in our feed. However, I don’t use Instagram like that. The beauty of these apps is that we have a choice regarding who we follow and what content we see. I consciously choose to follow people of all different shapes, sizes and ethnicity. I follow accounts that post beautiful artwork, funny memes or uplifting and inspiring quotes. I’m wise to how Instagram can be used for evil and I choose not to use it that way.
- keeping up with friends/public figures I find interesting/inspirational
- beautiful and artistic content
Source: Wikipedia Commons
- super easy to mindlessly scroll and waste time
Source: Wikipedia Commons
I’ve used Spotify Premium for a couple of years now and, as a musician, it’s an absolute dream. To be able to listen to any music I want, anytime, anywhere (and for free on data because my plan streams Spotify for free yiieewww) is just beyond amazing. I also find it really helpful to use for teaching.
- quality isn’t as good as a CD
-you don’t own the music
Source: Wikipedia Commons
Source: Wikipedia Commons
Other streaming services
These websites are my technological kryptonite. I feel like I’ve replaced reading books, practising or any other leisure activity with watching videos online as a way to relax. Sometimes the content is interesting and helpful. But it’s way too easy to fall into the suggested videos black hole and loose three hours of your life watching vine compilations.
- information on YouTube can be awesome and educational
- watching videos can be a nice occasional leisure activity.
- easy to waste time and not use the services constructively
I think technology is just as smart as we choose to use it. There’s enough information out there to know that these companies have developed ways – often very smart ways – of keeping us using their apps and staying on them for longer and longer. The irritating part about this is that it’s extremely hard to go cold turkey off technology in this day and age if you don’t want to miss out on literally everything. But we can choose HOW we use these apps and wise up on how the game is being played so you can beat it!
I personally would like technology to have less of a hold over me and my life. So here are a couple of things I’m going to try to implement and see if they make a difference.
Delete my usage of Netflix. I can survive without it.
Install DF Tube – distraction free YouTube extension for Chrome that removes the suggested videos from the side of the screen to avoid the black hole video binges
Try making phone screen display black and white to make it more boring to look at
Turn off some notifications such as Facebook and turn off phone vibration so it can’t distract me
Cull unwanted apps that are taking up space on my phone
Put phone on do not disturb when I want to do uni work or focus on a task
Avoid checking my phone as the first thing I do in the morning
In conclusion, technology isn’t all good or bad. It’s just as useful as how we decide to use it in our lives. I don’t want to give up technology all together but I do want to make changes with how I use it so I feel like I’m in control of it, rather than it being in control of me. Because we all know only bad things happen if the robots take over….
a.k.a. is technology any good for us anyway?
a.k.a. weird noises = music
This week we played with some toys!
We used the LittleBits Synth kit to learn about how synthesisers and talked about how they could also be used in the classroom.
Source: Wikipedia Commons
The most basic setup you can have for the synth kits is
power + oscillator + speaker
The power in our case was a battery which, funnily enough, powers the whole operation. The oscillator creates an oscillating frequency which is then transferred to the speaker which vibrates in accordance with the vibrations from the oscillator and sound is produced!
Although it’s a pretty basic sound, we could change the pitch and the waveform (square or saw) on the oscillator to produce different sounds.
Source: Wikipedia Commons
After figuring out the basic set up, we could add in other things to change the sound even more. The first thing our group did (by accident) was to add another oscillator to oscillate the sound wave from the first oscillator which came up with some pretty cool effects, especially when we played around with changing the pitch.
In between the battery and the oscillator you can add a keyboard or a sequencer (or both if you want to get creative!). The keyboard is like the a mini one-octave piano and produces different pitched notes. Here’s a video of our group playing hot cross buns on the keyboard:
The sequencer is kind of like a drum sequencer and keeps a four beat repeating rhythm that you can change the speed of. Here’s a video of our group using that:
In between the oscillator and the speaker you can add a delay, a filter or an envelope.
The delay creates an echo by looping back the audio input after a period of time. This can be adjusted on the piece with the “time” and “feedback” knobs.
The filter changes the frequencies that are allowed to pass through to the speaker. The cutoff knob cuts off the high frequencies gradually. The peak knob increases the frequency, causing a “peak”.
Finally the envelope affects the attack and the decay of the sound. Sound has an attack, a sustain, a decay and a release. With the envelope you can affect the attack (start of the sound) and the decay (the end of the sound).
a.k.a. toys! Lots of fun toys!
This week we discussed and experienced the maker movement in action.
The maker movement is a social movement that’s all about learning through doing. Part of the maker movement is about setting up “maker spaces” where people can go and create new items and devices in a hands-on way, as well as being able to ask advice of or collaborate with others.
The maker movement has also been embraced by education, as it fits nicely into a constructivist view of teaching and learning. Schools have set up their own maker spaces where students can experience hands-on learning through exploring, designing and creating their own devices.
This is a great website to check out about the maker movement in education:
This week our classroom was set up in a kind of maker movement style fashion, and we got the opportunity to walk around and try out a variety of fun things! These are a few in particular that interested me:
James had installed Ubuntu studio, a free open source operating system from Linux, on an old computer the university was planning to throw away. Ubuntu comes with an incredible amount of free audio software – from DAW’s to notation software to drum machines – that would be amazing to use in the classroom.
I really gravitated towards this system because of it’s potential to be of use in schools where resources and budget may be low. The operating system and all the programs are free and it can be easily installed on old laptops or computers that are no longer being used. This would be amazing and so accessible to get students in low socio-economic schools using technology!
The raspberry pi is a computer. Let that sink in. It’s a COMPUTER!
This blew my mind a little bit. The raspberry pi fits in your palm, yet if you connect it up to a monitor it runs programs just like a normal PC.
Here's a video of Emma playing a game of snake from the raspberry pi.....
This kit contains electric paint, which can be used just like normal paint except it conducts electricity.
The touch board in the kit has a built in mp3 player, and you can connect up to 12 sensors to the board and program each of them to produce different sounds.
This means you can paint something with the electric paint, hook up an electrode, program a sound and when you touch the paint the touch board will play that sound. How cool!
Bare Conductive Touch Board Starter Kit:
Jaycar Short Circuit Kits:
Jaycar sell these little self-contained short circuit kits that basically give you all the instructions you need to create a device. They sell kits to make things like doorbells and strobe lights, but they also sell kits to create guitar pedals and even a theremin!
a.k.a. Google is pretty suite
This week we had a visit from a special guest, Camilla Corbett! She's a high school music teacher who uses the G Suite a lot in her classroom. We discussed a lot of things with her; we talked about BYOD, how she uses Google sites with her classes to set classwork as well as other tips, tricks and content she uses in her teaching.
BYOD or Bring Your Own Device is something that a lot of schools have embraced or are moving towards. These days technology is so integrated into our lives and into our classrooms - and into the music syllabus!! - that it makes sense that students should all have their own devices in the classroom.
Each school handles BYOD differently. Some schools, such as the school Camilla teaches at, provide students with a device. At Camilla's school all the students get Chromebooks, as they are cheap and work well with the Google suite.
Other schools ask students to bring a particular device or just a device to school. This can cause some problems if the device that the student brings is not compatible with the programs being used at school. Therefore although it works well when it works, BYOD does need some forward planning to be successful.
The G Suite
The Google Suite is a bunch of applications by Google all together in one package. It includes gmail, Google slides, sheets, forms, docs, drive, sites, calendar, cloud, hangouts and more!
Camilla walked us through how she uses the G suite with her classes. She uses Google sites to put up work for her students to work through and complete, such as activities to do or tutorial videos to follow. This is super efficient as they can work through the content at their own pace or move onto something new if they've completed something quickly. She also gives them quizzes on Google forms. A cool feature she mentioned was that Google forms now has a "locked mode", which locks students from looking up answers on Google after they've started the quiz.
One last cool thing!!
Finally, Camilla showed us Google slides that she uses with Year 7 about Hip Hop and included a link to this website:
I just wanted to share this because it's a virtual 808 machine! Definitely an amazing resource to use in the classroom!
a.k.a. drum machines, remixing and MORE toys
This week we got through a lot of things. We started off talking about drum machines and step sequencing and looked at an awesome website called Groove Pizza. Here's the link to it: https://apps.musedlab.org/groovepizza/?
Groove Pizza is a really cool step sequencer with a circular interface as well as the normal grid. This is a really interesting and quite useful way to visualise rhythm, as repeated loops make a lot of sense to look at in a continuous circle instead of a line where you constantly have to jump back to the beginning. Here is a screenshot from the website:
This concept of thinking about rhythm in a circular fashion is something I've come across before, in the below TedTalk. I think it's a useful and interesting way of thinking about rhythm and I think it would make a lot of sense to students.
As well as looking at virtual drum machines and step sequencers, we also had some more toys in the class we got to play with! We had a couple of launchpads, an Ableton Push, a DJ mixing desk and a few other things. Here are a couple of videos of us using some of the equipment:
Finally, we also had a look at some really cool artists who do remixing of various types. Here are a couple of them:
He created videos and music purely from the videos of other people on YouTube. He created wrote a whole album using this technique!
Madeon is a French DJ, producer, songwriter and musician. He has some incredible remixes. The first video below is a remix of all his favourite pop songs at the time and the second is a short set he did for BBC Radio One. Watching the videos makes me realise that learning to use the equipment he has, such as Launchpads, is like learning any instrument - it takes an incredible amount of dedication, practise and skill.
Pogo is a remix artist who takes sounds and music from Disney films such as Alice in Wonderland, Up and Snow White and creates low-fi, chill songs.
Danger Mouse is a remix artist who is most famous for his grey album, which is a remix of the Beatles White Album and Jay-Z's Black album.
a.k.a. fighting technology with ... technology...?
This week we talked about aspects of digital health such as GTD, managing digital stress and mindfulness. Turns out technology can also be quite stressful - who knew?!?
Mental health and technology
The use of technology is affecting us mentally in many ways. For one, it is shortening our attention spans. It's natural for the human brain to get distracted and drift off task, but technology makes this worse because it encourages this chopping and changing of tasks. We know that the human brain can't actually multitask - the most we can do is to switch quickly between different tasks. And turns out that this switching obviously makes us more distracted and less productive but also negatively affects our mental health (https://medium.com/flock-chat/the-simple-truth-about-technology-and-human-attention-spans-311154c20fd).
Something that can be really helpful to counter this is to practice mindfulness meditation. Ironically, this is something that you can do with your phone or other technological device. There are many apps out there - Headspace, Waking Up, Calm just to name a few - that you can pay for or use parts of for free which will take you through guided meditations for complete beginners. I've been trying out Waking Up and even though I haven't been using it everyday I do notice a difference when I do it - I'm more focussed, calmer and I feel like it clears and refreshes my mind - just like restarting a computer!
How technology can help us deal with technology
So our use of technology every day can provide us with a lot of stress. If you have email, social media, phone calls and texts and other apps on your phone you'll be pulled in many different directions each day with notifications, trying to respond to people, answering emails, keeping up with social media etc. And as we now know, this can really affect our productivity and mental health.
So how can we deal with all of these things in a healthy way? First of all, turn off your notifications. Secondly, ironically there are lots of apps you can use to help with productivity. Things like list or agenda apps can help you take notes of what you need to do and help organise your time.
A process we talked about in class to help with productivity is called GTD or Getting Things Done. It's essentially a way to organise the things you have to do in a way that helps you get it all done and you don't have to stress about it. To be honest, I've developed my own process that is similar to the idea of GTD which is essentially writing down a list of things I have to do and figuring out what are the priorities and when/how I'm going to get them done so GTD wasn't that revolutionary an idea for me. But if you're interested it definitely has some good tips and processes to help you organise your time.
a.k.a. the big questions
In the last week of Technology in Music Education we revisited some of the big questions about the place of technology in education and in our lives. We discussed how technology can have a major negative but also a major positive impact on the lives of children and how you can really argue for whichever side you want. After everything that we've discussed in class, the different arguments and facets of technology we've explored I'd like to conclude with my personal opinion on all of it. So technology - is it good or bad?
I believe that, like anything, technology is what we make of it. We can't deny that technology inherently has the ability to make our lives easier in many ways. Without the technological advancements that society has made we wouldn't have science, phones, the internet, spaceships. Technology is transforming our lives in unprecedented ways - and this has a big effect on education as well. Using technology has changed how music classrooms function - we can use the internet to show students videos, play music, set work tasks, learn instruments etc. We can use programs like Garageband or iPads with a range of educational music apps. Some musical instruments these days would not be possible without technology. However, I believe that technology can't replace all aspects of music education - it certainly can't replace the knowledge and expertise of teachers, it can't replace the experience of playing a real musical instruments rather than a virtual one and watching a video of a performance online can't replace the real thing. Likewise, social media in our lives can't replace real social interaction.
Humans are flawed, therefore technology, the internet and how we use it is also flawed. This will never change - we can't have the positive aspects of technology without the negative. But there's no point in tossing out all of the positive parts of technology use because there are some negative aspects - the key is to be aware of how we use technology and choose to use it smartly and in a way that benefits us. You could argue about the negative effects of social media - so turn off your notifications or delete your account all together. You could argue about how stressful email can be for us - so turn off notifications and only check it at a designated time. We need to take responsibility for how we use technology otherwise we will just be mindless slaves to all of the negative effects. We need to be smart, alert and aware so we can use technology in a way that provides the most benefit to our lives, on our terms.