As I read through the section on "Instructional Software" I reflected on what I already use in my teaching and I thought about which category some of the programs I have learned about would be categorized. The four types were tutorial, practice, creativity, and games. Smartmusic and Chromatic appear to be examples of practice instructional software since prerequisite knowledge is required and these allow students to practice their instrument and learn about areas where they need to improve. Soundation is an example of creativity instructional software. I use tutorials more than any of the others, mostly because my students are beginners. However I see a lot of potential and value in some of the others, especially creativity software. Games can be fun and have potential to reinforce previous knowledge in a fun way, but I think they should be used sparingly, maybe at the end of the school year, when it is particularly difficult to maintain student interest.
I was a bit overwhelmed by the reading on pages 76-78, where a day in the work life of a band teacher named Michael is described. It would to me years to learn how to work all of the technology that he is using, and who has time to spend hours after work learning new technology? Although I think some of the technologies described in this section, like recording students with audacity, can enhance instruction, I think we need to guard against how too much technology in the classroom. I think it also has the potential to distance us from our students. One thing that was particularly appealing to me (mainly for personal reasons) was when Michael discusses “the purchase of an electronic mute system that will allow her to practice in the apartment where she lives without disturbing the neighbors” (p. 78). I live in an apartment and my skills are definitely suffering because I can’t practice there without disturbing others.
Another excerpt from our reading that stood out to me was where Bauer discusses accompaniment. “Researchers have found that students generally prefer to practice with accompaniment” (p. 82). This is consistent with my own experience. However, when I am teaching, my attention is divided between playing the accompaniment and listening to my ensembles so that I can give them feedback. It’s really difficult to do both things well. I think the best solution is to hire an accompanist, but this is not very practical financially for many schools. Technology offers wonderful solutions for this.
After reading the section on SmartMusic, I was impressed with its potential for aiding band students but left wondering if it was relevant to the choral practice room. The most appealing thing was that it “can be used to sing one’s part along with the other accompanying instruments, including a full ensemble or piano accompaniment” (p. 83). I am also curious about how it works with regard to sight reading. Is this software expensive, and are there free alternatives that can do what I want since I probably won’t use the full range of features on the program with my general music and choral classes?