The average music curriculum doesn’t address cooperative learning despite the fact music education is almost entirely based on working together to learn and perform as a group. With the rise of music technology classrooms, we are seeing a lower number of peer-to-peer activities. Students are locking into their monitors and primarily working alone. So how do engage students in cooperative learning when trying to use music technology? Turn to piano lessons! In piano lessons, students must learn and practice alone, right? And they have to have the goal of performing alone, on stage, to show just how good their piano lessons were, right? Wrong!
Piano lessons are incredibly beneficial, that is undeniable, but in a school setting it is impractical. So music tech teachers hooked up keyboard labs that evolved into ensemble groups. These groups of students fashioned their own music curriculum and worked cooperatively to create a new type of school performance. You can check some of them out at VH1’s ‘Save the Music, here: http://www.vh1savethemusic.org
Now what if a music technology lab uses the monitors to the computers as portals to a larger group effort of students all working together on the same recordings, the same compositions, creating the same albums and helping each other get the most out of the software they are using? Then a music curriculum can easily be tweaked to say that by the way, our learning environment encourages cooperative learning and our students have fostered their own peer-to-peer learning solutions that developed organically, during regular class time.
This is great if you are a Music Tech Teacher, but what if you are a general music teacher making use of a shared computer lab to meet your technology requirements? If you are unable to purchase a subscription to a site where students can meet and compose with each other, then consider having a cooperative learning goal.
If the goal of the students is to produce an album that represents all of the styles of music that every student in the class listens to, you can have cooperative learning groups form around the genres. Then each group can focus on how many songs they want to write in that genre. And by bringing your students into a computer lab, they can use free composition apps and software that span everything from ‘click here to add music’ to ‘here’s a blank sheet of music paper, drag your notes where you want them.’
And while we're on the topic, let's talk about The Importance of Leveraging Music and Culture Throughout the Curriculum.