Teaching Opinion

Include Music in the 21st-Century Plan for E-Learning

By Jill Berkowicz & Ann Myers — June 29, 2014 3 min read
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Teaching in the 21st century calls for quality learner-centered, technology-mediated environments to be included. As those environments are developed, as education moves into blended and online opportunities, K-12 music education should not be left behind. Music can be a career focus of a student’s education and can fit into our programs if we include an online resource for its delivery.

There are students in our secondary schools who have no room in their schedules but want to or need to take music classes. We have students who are challenged by our rigid schedules and have to make choices between courses; electives most often lose in this process. We may have students who are advanced in music but we lack the resources to provide the courses for which they are ready. Online learning can solve those problems. We also have a responsibility to move toward more blended, flipped, and online learning. Music has its place in this shift along with other required academic offerings. We watch with interest as more K-12 schools, colleges, and universities have successful transitions into using this environment in order to include more students in valuable learner-centered educational experiences, including music.

Why Not?
Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts seemed, at first, to be an unlikely place to find an online program. Its reputation within the music world is impressive. The arts, we thought, would be most challenging for an online environment. To our surprise, we discovered they began in the 1960’s with correspondence courses and have moved into a 21st century design for degree offerings. Their experience can lead K-12 educators to seeing new possibilities.

Quality online and flipped learning, like quality face-to-face learning, is dependent upon the capacity of the teachers, its strategic placement in the educational system, and the readiness of students and leadership. Changing to an online or flipped environment must have its roots in meeting a need. Randomly placing these courses throughout a school experience with out a plan can yield unintended consequences beyond measure. For example, if the teachers who randomly choose to step up and step out with these new delivery systems are the teachers who deliver the advanced courses, students who are not yet ready for those courses can graduate without having an online learning experience, contributing to an already challenging learning gap. Quality teaching and learning for all is the goal. So, whether comfortable with the idea of online learning or not, leaders must step forward and facilitate a plan that favors no child, no subject, and offers the advantage to all.

At Memorial University in Canada, Andrew Mercer, Andrea Rose and Elizabeth Murphy studied constructivist e-teaching. This video, although dated because so much new software has been developed since 2007, captures important concepts and ideas that are applicable to our work today.

Leadership’s Role
Certainly there are teachers who are ready to take the plunge and see the use of blended, fully online, or flipped learning as an advantage for their students. Most of these will also see it as a way to invigorate their teaching practice. And, most certainly, there are those who have little intention of jumping into that pond of murky untested waters. There are still in schools a generation of leaders who use email, have watched YouTube videos and can Skype but for whom the idea of flipping faculty meetings is a new and remote idea. The leaders are as essential to this shift as are the teachers.

A respect for and an understanding of the use of the medium of technology has to be understood by the leaders as well as the teachers. As is always the case when introducing a new teaching methodology, there are teachers who will be the pioneers. But, new delivery cannot stall there. The plan for the use of the medium must include values based decisions like:

  • Why are we choosing to use these modalities for teaching and learning?
  • Is there a particular subject, theme, arena, in which we can plan a long-term implementation that will include all students?
  • Who are we inviting into the planning, monitoring, and evaluating process?
  • How will we communicate all of this to the students, their parents, and our community?

As with all changes worth making, the overall long-term plan should be developed with vision and inclusion of all voices, supportive and hesitant. Monitored and communicated well, online, blended, and flipped learning methodologies require planned, consistent, visionary leading, no different from any other modality.

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