Tuesday, December 7, 2010

viaAcademies Receives Grant, Works with Local School and University Music Programs

For Immediate Release: Bloomsburg PA.

viaAcademies has been awarded a Research and Development Grant by the Greater Susquehanna Keystone Innovation Zone (GSKIZ).  "The grant was exactly what we needed to finalize our plans to unite viaAcademies with a local public school and a University music department for the purpose of learning how online music education can benefit students within our public schools", says Mark Burke, CEO and co-founder of viaAcademies. The grant has allowed viaAcademies, one of the nation's first online arts academies to partner with the Central Columbia Area School District and Bloomsburg University music departments.

The grant helps fund the enrollment of 30+ students from the Central Columbia School District's high school and middle school instrumental music programs in the viaAcademies online instrumental music courses as a supplement to their instructor led, in-school program. Undergraduate Music Education majors from Bloomsburg University will observe the students over the next several months in order to measure how those student's performance abilities and attitudes toward personal practicing change.  "The music teachers at Central Columbia came to me with very specific program goals.  They want to help their students enjoy performing music for life and that means helping them get past many obstacles that can keep that from happening. If students don't sound good, if they can't perform with others rhythmically and if they don't witness the value of practicing on their own, chances are they may drop out before they finish high school or put the instrument down as soon as they graduate and never play again", says Burke.  He adds, "The Central Columbia teachers want to ensure student love music and remain involved for life."

The GSKIZ provides resources and funding for innovative start-up companies throughout Central PA.  A core component of the GSKIZ mission is the collaboration of local organizations including companies, schools and Universities.  "The GSKIZ seeks out creative ways to help University professors and departments reach out into our communities, to share intellectual property and to help local organizations grow. When we do so, it's a win-win for everyone involved.  The organizations learn new ideas and the Universities demonstrate the value of their programs to potential high school graduates", says Kelly O'Brien Gavin, Director of the GSKIZ.  She adds, "The viaAcademies project is a great example of how we can help each other grow as well as help our local and national economies. viaAcademies will take what they learn from this effort and share it with the world, helping promote the value of combining online and in-school programs to educate our kids."

Over the course of this school year, the students from Bloomsburg University will observe the Central Columbia students and collect their responses to survey questions.  The surveys are intended to learn more about the student's attitudes toward their own practice and performance habits. viaAcademies worked hand in hand with Ms. Eileen Hower, the Music Education Specialist at Bloomsburg University. "Ms. Hower developed the rubrics and survey questions for our initial observation as well as recruited and trained the BU music education students.  Having someone with her level of expertise regarding assessment is critical to this project", says Burke.

The grant also funded the placement of equipment into the bands rooms at both the middle and high school at Central Columbia. Each room has a web enabled computer, speakers and microphone.  The computers allow students to access the viaAcademies curriculum as well as a third party, computer based practice tool.  The online content provides text, video and graphical demonstration of musical concepts.  It also provides a guide on what exercises to practice and when.  To ensure students understand the concepts, written tests are included.  Using third party software, students make recordings of themselves performing and create their own portfolio all online.  "Ms. Rheude and Mrs. Kishbaugh can listen to the student performances and provide them with detailed feedback, all online, all in one location for easy access and grading. Students can also log into the viaAcademies system and share their performances with their parents, grandparents or other friends and relatives", says Burke.  "Our belief is that the more students share their talents, the more they will want to grow their abilities and ultimately, enjoy their own music even more. While we're at it, if we can help teachers make grading easier, help them help more students and give them a tool to help motivate students....we should do it."

The collaboration has been in the planning stage since summer.  Students will be enrolled and start the program next week.  In March of 2011, the program overview will be presented at the Pennsylvania Region Band Festival being hosted at Central Columbia.  Over 130 schools will be represented at the festival.  "This is a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate how music instructor continues to evolve and how creating hybrid (online and brick and mortar) environments provide the best of both educational worlds", says Burke.  "Our program was created to help schools attain goals for their students. In the end, that's what matters most."

viaAcademies can be found online at www.MakeMusicClick.com.  Programs include beginning instrumental courses and our latest release, Exploring Music, an all online music appreciation and fundamentals class.  In addition to online curriculum, viaAcademies offers the Make Music Click in-service program for K-12 schools.  Make Music Click is a full-day program on the latest technologies for the music classroom.  Attendees participate in hands-on activities throughout the day and construct lesson plans for their own use.

viaAcademies is a GSKIZ company, with the main office located in the beautiful Bloomsburg Regional Technology Center, Bloomsburg PA.  The office can be reached at:

Bloomsburg Regional Technology Center
240 Market Street, Box 6A Suite 102
Bloomsburg, PA  17815