Friday, April 23, 2010

Music Ed Needs eLearning...NOW! -- Part 3

By Mark T. Burke

Over the last few posts, I've covered several educational trends that demonstrate our immediate need for eLearning in music education.  These trends are not "on the horizon", they are here, now!

Post 1 covered:
Trend #1 -- K-12 Online Course and Program Enrollments Rising.
Trend #2 -- Year-Round School

Post 2 covered:
Trend #3 -- The Social Revolution and 21st Century Skills

This 3rd and final post in this series will cover Trend #4 -- Niche Program Elimination and Music Program Cuts.

We all know schools have to make difficult decisions regarding balancing their budgets.  When administrators and boards are faced with a declining pool of money, change is inevitable.  To understand how tough decisions are made, it's important to ask yourself how you would make tough decisions for your school.  If you have $10,000 to spend at your school and 2 programs would cost $15,000 to run, what would you do?  Would you limit the abilities of both programs to ensure both could continue in some way shape or form. Or, would you cut one program to ensure the other could flourish? Certainly another option, keep both programs and raise the $5000 on your own.

How would you make this decision? What would you base your decision ON?

While you're thinking about how you would make this decision, think about the information you would use to HELP you make that decision.  Would you need statistics, public polls, school performance reports, industry surveys, college entrance exam data etc.?  Those pieces sound like a great place to start.

Music programs often fall into a category of niche programs considered "icing", "fluff", "electives."  In most cases, few if any of the data sets above will connect to a music program UNLESS the program has spent time making the connection.  This is where music needs eLearning. 

Through the process of building a strong eLearning Music program, music education is lifted to a higher level of importance, relevance and quality.  Why is this needed?  Because the more music professionals continue the "we can't cut music, because music is important" speech without data, without really making the case for music education, the more we are viewed as over-passionate artists with little more than emotion behind our claims.  Above all, we must show that music education IS education, with standards, that can be assessed, with real benefits, benefits that help students grow into productive, contributing citizens.

At viaAcademies, we spent countless hours thinking through how to teach kids - period, not just teach them music.  Focusing on quality pedagogy is the key to developing a program that has real value.  Once you've done that, it becomes easier to connect music programs to the real world.  I can think of many educational benefits of music including,
  • Setting personal goals, dedicating time, energy and resources to reach those goals.
  • Establishing the ability to be introspective, to analyze self and to compare a clear personal view with real world expectations. (Am I doing what I am supposed to be doing at the level expected of me).
  • Mixing intellectual skills with creative abilities to form solutions, answers, and opportunities.
  • Performing as an individual in an effort to build a team.
  • etc.
But how can we as professionals really demonstrate these skills?  By highlighting them, bringing them to the attention of the community, and not just through student performances.  Imagine having all of your instrumental students demonstrate their performance level 30+ times per year through individual, recorded pieces WITH your comments and suggestions for improvement.  Imagine having documented proof that your students meet over 200+ benchmarks.  Imagine demonstrating when students go home, they are working and connecting with educational content and communicating regarding their educational experiences (ie - their not just spending hours Googling). Would this increase the value of your program?  YES it would.

To wrap up, I think music often gets cut because we as music professionals don't think like other subject areas. By ensuring our programs are in clear vision all year, by ensuring our students are making progress in and out of the classroom, by communicating, by sharing in every way possible, we bring positive attention to our programs.  eLearning is a piece to that puzzle.  You don't have to be creative to figure out how to integrate eLearning anymore, just knock on our door.

Thanks for reading this series.  I look forward to your continued support and comments.  

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