Embrace the revolution

10th October 2008 at 01:00

Games-based learning with Guitar Hero, Nintendo wiis, talent programmes like the X Factor, using karaoke and DJ equipment in the classroom - teachers can tap into anything that makes children enthusiastic about learning.

"We can't bury our heads in the sand; we have to embrace this technology," insists Aileen Monaghan, a former principal teacher of music who has just completed a two-year secondment to Learning and Teaching Scotland and moved to HMIE as an inspector.

"We are all learners," says Mrs Monaghan, a passionate proponent of new technology, speaking at a music education conference in Stirling last month.

"This is an information revolution; a fundamental shift in communication. It is not a fad. It's freeing up children to have more personalised learning."

Two years at LTS have taught her that "collaborative learning is the big thing of the 21st century". She takes teachers through useful sites, such as SlideShare, where teachers can share PowerPoint presentations, and Voice-thread.com, a collaborative, multimedia slide show. A blog, she says, is a useful collaborative tool, providing a forum for teachers to celebrate, share and showcase work, without the restrictions of time or place. Homework assignments can be posted, resources shared and achievements acknowledged.

For technophobes, she says it really is incredibly simple to set up a blog, using Edublogs or Wordpress. Examples of good blogs, she cites are www.whereisab.co.uk; Ewan McIntosh's edu.blogs.com; Laurie O'Donnell's ltsblogs.org.uk; and hotmilkydrink.

Broadcasting audio or video files on the internet - podcasting - can also be an excellent tool for teachers to share a good performance, make an announcement or demonstrate something. Other teachers and pupils can then download the podcast and use it in their classrooms, at home or out and about on iPods.

"Stick it on your blog as a podcast for parents to see," says Mrs Monaghan, who was taught podcasting by a P6 pupil in Fife. He recorded a group of pupils singing Scottish songs on a microphone, sent the file to a French school and received a podcast of pupils singing French songs. "If that's not cutting-edge education at its most fluid, I don't know what is."

Useful sites include www.podcastingtools.com, while teachers can podcast free with Audacity. She also recommends iTunes U, which gives access to educational content, with free audio and video downloads.

A Wiki - a page or collection of web pages designed to enable users to contribute or modify content - is another potential information and communication forum that teachers can create. Mrs Monaghan recommends wetpaint.com. Teachers can choose from a selection of formats and allow access to invited members only. "It allows you to learn, teach, communicate, collaborate," she says.

Mrs Monaghan is a fervent fan of Glow and says there are lots of exciting things coming out of Scotland, such as Music Scenario from Ariadne Interactive and Sounds Active Essential Sound Engineering (www.soundsactive.com).

"Scotland is at the cutting edge," she says. "[With Glow] you will be able to chat to teachers the length and breadth of Scotland. You can check the teaching news every morning, share resources, organise learning materials and share learning objectives." One example is pupils who recently held a video conference with children in a school in Malawi.

Once on Glow, teachers can have five free Gigajam lessons, with which they can set up a band and learn a piece of music.

George Lucas, director of the Star Wars films, speaking to the United States House of Representatives in July, cited Glow as a shining example of technology in education. He told representatives on the telecommunications and internet sub-committee that the US is lagging behind Scotland in using 21st-century tools to teach its children.

"Now it's an interactive community," Mrs Monaghan says. "It's up to you to decide how to use these communities in your classroom. It's about collaboration and sharing resources. Practitioners will be key. It's about how to take enterprise, international education, citizenship, literacy and numeracy and embed it throughout the curriculum. That's what this can do for us in education today."

Music technology in A Curriculum for Excellence was part of the Scottish Association for Music Education (SAME) Power of Music conference in Stirling.



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