In a periodic new feature, the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) will invite a student to interview teachers about various topics of interest to get different perspectives on what it’s like to teach music in schools today.
Alena Duffle is a junior at Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax, Virginia, and has a background in violin and flute. She recently spoke with Christine Hayes, a Wisconsin-based teacher in the Whitewater Unified School District who is also the Chair for NAfME’s Council for General Music Education.
We all know what an iPhone is, many of us have flat screen TVs in our homes, and many of us are finding we just can’t live without our tablets and mobile devices. Technology is everywhere.
For some people, this might be seen as a negative thing. But for lifelong general music educator Christine Hayes who teaches at LINCS Elementary in the Whitewater Unified School District in Whitewater, Wisconsin (and is also chair of the NAfME Council for General Music Education), it’s extremely positive. In fact, as a teacher, she says she can’t begin to fathom living without technology.
“EVERYTHING and I mean everything is on my computer today,” Ms. Hayes says with a laugh. “I keep my lesson plans on the computer, and I have begun to rely on it so much that I don’t even print them out anymore.”
The technology we have in the world today has allowed her students to become more interactive as learners and have a deeper understanding of not only music but the cultures and stories that are deep behind it. “They now have a deep respect of cultural music in the world. Music is not just music anymore. My kids have begun to understand that a concert is not a product, but an understanding of the art form itself,” Ms. Hayes says with deep passion.
It’s obvious that today’s world relies fully on technology, and it seems we’re all using it to our greatest advantage, whatever that might be.
Ms. Hayes and I talked about the connections from “back in the day” technology to now, realizing that it’s still all the same result, just a faster and more efficient way to get to it.
“I’ve been using technology from the first day I began to teach. Cutting reels of tape and re-pasting them together to manipulate the sound, using electronic synthesizers, working with our daily tune-in, and providing webcasts for our music class, but nothing has completely changed,” she explained. “We now have software programs like Audacity for manipulating sound, and podcasts for listening to music classes. Although things were more hands-on and time consuming years ago, it’s really no different today in some ways.”
Learning Music is Still About Learning Music
During our conversation, Ms. Hayes started to think back to her brainstorming days at Northwestern where she attended Graduate School and told me that, for her, learning music is still all about “learning music”. She said that she was taught by some of the most advanced people on the cutting edge and has also been fortunate to have received an in-service 1 week training, which many teachers don’t.
“If ever the use of technology becomes inefficient, it’s because the teachers do not have the proper training on how to manipulate and use the technology to the best of their advantages. I just received four iPads to work with in my classroom. I feel very blessed to be in the school I am in,” she exclaimed with great gratitude.
So really, I asked, is technology making a measurable difference in the classroom?
Ms. Hayes’s response to this question was simple, yet strong.
“Alena,” she said, “technology doesn’t change the core value of what you teach. Music affecting the soul is still music affecting the soul.”
I came away from our interview realizing that many general music educators like Ms. Hayes obviously have a deep understanding and passion not just for the music, but also for the cultural aspects and deep expressions that are evoked from composing a song or listening to a beat. Technology is more or less a tool that helps bring that soulfulness to life, and makes it easier to share with one another.
No matter what form of technology is used in the classroom, whether it’s a Smart Board or an iPad, as a high school student, I have begun to realize something important. The more your teachers love what they teach, the more their students will love what’s being taught. I feel certain this is the type of connection that Ms. Hayes and her students must be sharing every day.
Alena Duffle, 2013 NAfME Intern, September 13, 2013. © National Association for Music Education