Thursday, April 8, 2010

Musical Exploration Teaches More than Overly Structured Lessons

By Mark T. Burke

Give a student a computer with GarageBand or MixCraft running and just step back. That's right, step back and witness the true power of "Exploratory Learning."  Don't be tempted to tell them about all the bells and whistles, just let them explore and learn.  Treat the application like the digital canvas that it is. Now, if the student is intimidated, jump in, get them rolling, but know WHEN to stop talking and leave them go. You'll know when it's time to close your mouth by the student's eyes. When their eyes start looking around the screen and their ears turn off to whatever you are saying, let momentum take them the rest of the way.

Both programs provide a ton of exploratory learning lessons. If a student simply uses the loops library to listen to a variety of examples, they will be learning how music of various genres have similar characteristics. Imagine trying to teach a student the differences between acoustic or electronic instruments through a variety of examples?  Both programs can provide that resource with well organized libraries of sounds and loops in various styles, instrument types and even moods.

We know students need structure though.  Our upcoming courses called "Exploring Music with GarageBand" and "Exploring Music with MixCraft" will provide supporting content and course structure yet we've worked very hard to keep the learning open and exploratory.  The evaluation of the student work will remain objective and non-judgemental. In fact, we're starting a new trend -- this course will be 100% accessed with projects, no written multiple choice tests.  Rest assured, we will be providing rubrics for our teachers or school teachers to use for assessing the student work.  School teachers can also be trained on how to develop their own project files, as examples, as a way to explore and learn more about the programs for themselves.

Students can use these amazing programs to explore voicing, dynamics, rhythm combinations and more.  Imagine a rock band with bagpipes! Who are we as educators to say that would be bad.  Throughout the learning process, exploration and experimentation should be fostered.

If you're looking for a hands on, easily accessible course for general music, or to teach your American History students how to make use of tools like GarageBand and MixCraft, setup a demo with us today.  Email me, Mark at

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