Balancing technology and pedagogy in learning music online

Last week I was contacted by a past student – David Rees. Any teacher will know what a thrill it is to be remembered by a past student. In the intervening years, since I taught him, David has graduated from Cambridge University and now works at the Royal College of Music. His interest is in music and technology.  As such, inspired by the Khan Academy, David has been working on developing an open site designed to enable people from any walk of life to learn about music for free.  David’s site was visited by around 4000 students in December 2011, but he now wants ‘to turn the site from a series of videos and exercises into something more dynamic and responsive to users’. He wants learners to be able to learn music in ways which best suit themselves, choosing what, when and how to learn.  I interpret this as a shift from technology to pedagogy.

David’s contact has prompted me to look further into the work of the Khan Academy, which has been both applauded (by Bill Gates and many others – see  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTFEUsudhfs ) and criticized by Wired Magazine and others. See for example:

Fawning over Khan Academy: Wired Magazine explains why

The Wrath against Khan: Why some educators are questioning Khan Academy

The ‘for and against’ arguments presented raise many questions for the development of David’s site – such as:

  • To what extent can a subject such as music be taught/learned online?
  • Can students learn music online without a teacher?
  • What do dynamic and interactive online resources for teaching music ‘look like’ ?
  • How will students learning music online know that they have achieved, succeeded, reached the required level of competence?
  • How will individual and collective learning and practice be balanced online?
  • Would the MOOC model for learning online, work for learning music?

There are, I know, many more questions to be addressed.

If you are interested in music, the learning of music, or the teaching of music,  what advice would you give David to help him develop his site – Dave Conservatoire – to become more dynamic and responsive to users?  Please leave a comment on David’s site or here on this blog.

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