Making Music on Mobile Devices in the Classroom: Practical Ideas for Teachers
With the new school year approaching, there always comes the golden opportunity to improve our practice as a teacher. Research shows that student engagement is key to a productive and positive learning environment. So what better way to engage your students than to tap into aspects of their life they already love: Music and Technology. In particular iOS Devices, iPads, Cell Phones and affordable music apps are a way to build a bridge between you and your students. This does not have to happen everyday given all of the responsibilities we have, but why not give it a try when the time is right! It also may not be for every student, but it is important to tap into those with that passion for music and technology.
You don’t have to be a music teacher to do this. Key to our mission as educators is providing our students with meaningful experiences, preparing our students for careers, giving opportunities to collaborate, creating lessons that encourage critical thinking, and providing chances to solve problems. Technology and creating music involves all of these elements! Also in this day and age of mobile technology we have a responsibility to teach students how to be productive online, and good digital citizens. Plugging students in with apps that allow them to be creative, positive and productive is key in this!
Free apps like Garage Band are available on all iPads or iPhones. These apps pack power that only a few years ago would’ve have been much harder to access. There are also tons of great apps and developers that are very supportive of public education. For example last school year MSX Sound Design partnered with our school to get some awesome sound shaping apps into the classroom such as Fly Tape and Lo-Fly Dirt. I was able to get my students Intua’s Beatmaker 3 at an incredible price when it was on a discount in the App Store, and even at the regular price this app packs power that would be hundreds of dollars on other platforms (and even thousands of dollars a few years back)! Depending on your budget there are plenty of options out there!
You may be thinking, but I don’t even know how to make music myself. Well, I’m sure you have all seen that students learn the technology and apps way faster than most of the adults on campus so don’t even worry about that. Facilitate the opportunity for students and others will catch on.
So how can you incorporate this into your subject area? There are so many ways to tie it into standards for a particular subject area or multiple subjects so let’s explore a few ideas. These projects or assignments can be optional for students that really have that creativity and enjoyment of creating music.
Social Studies: Develop a lesson for students to create and record a song about a historical event or current event. Have students state their opinion on the subject and cite evidence. Make a music video with iMovie (also free) with historical photos or a green screen.
Writing: Students can interview a musician in your family or neighborhood. Write a biography about that person and record their music directly on your iPad! Bonus: make a remix of their song!
Math: Develop a lesson to explore beats per minute, measures and bars, and different rhythms. You can tie this into telling time, multiplication, division and even more complex word problems.
Science: Students can explore sound waves and recording. Have students engineer their own instruments then record their sounds and analyze the sound waves through the eyes of a scientist.
Technology: Students can explore and find out how to build music apps and instruments. Depending on the level of the class have students develop a product.
Foreign Language: Create a song or poem in the foreign language!
P.E.: Record a sporting event or PE activity and students can create a soundtrack for a highlight reel.
Dance: Students create a beat and make their own dance to it!
Social-Emotional Well-Being: Have student collaborate or write individual songs about some personal issues or social issues at the school. You may be able to work with your admin or counselors to help improve the school climate.
Career Readiness: Invite an app developer or a professional in the music industry to your class. You can do this with Facetime, Skype, or Google Hangouts if they live in another city! Students can develop questions to ask the presenter.
In addition Flocabulary is an awesome resourse when it comes to music and particularly Hip Hop in the classroom. This website has original high quality content, lesson plans, songs on so many topics, and even has tools for students to write their own music!
As you know each student has their own personality. Some students are passionate about art, science, a certain TV show or movie series, or a new trend in the culture. We also have those students that are passionate about creating music. We cannot ignore those students, and never before has it been so possible to utilize what students already have in their pockets to unleash creativity and build skills.
These are just a few ideas of how to incorporate these 21st Century skill sets into your classroom this school year! If you have any questions about the nuts and bolts of how to really incorporate these ideas feel free to reach out! Good luck with you and your student in the 18-19 school year! Let's make it a great year!