Music gizmos still make me a bit crotchety

29th October 2010 at 01:00

Let me share a little secret with you, one I have been uncomfortable with for much of my teaching career. I hate computers. Or maybe I should rephrase that - I have long had a phobia of them. It feels sacreligious to admit it. My reaction to the sight of them was almost physical discomfort - a bit like the prospect of a visit to the dentist. ICT immediately made me lose interest and glaze over. At least it did until a few months ago.

As a music teacher this predicament was unfortunate as technology can immeasurably enhance one's teaching and make life easier in many ways. I had long clung to the theory that using technology and artificial sound was an easy way out, a lazy alternative to real music-making. I still think there is some truth to this, but realise that, for me, it had become an excuse not to embrace new ways.

Yes, I could send email, use the internet ("surf" would be an exaggeration), word-process the odd worksheet and register my pupils on the computer, but when it came to the stuff that could really help in class, I was stumped.

Previously I also had the excuse that the funds were not available. But a couple of years ago the money was eventually provided and my department soon had a room full of sleek, super-fast, all-singing, all-dancing computers, each with a gleaming Apple logo.

I was more than a little apprehensive. It was a bit like having a brand-new grand piano and only being able to play Chopsticks. They were a thing of beauty and I only knew where the onoff switch was. Fortunately, my colleague was more clued up and I was happy that she monopolised them for several months.

However, it was then "suggested" to me that I familiarise myself with them "sharpish". Initial progress was slow, but I gradually did this. I could hardly claim that I was one page ahead of the pupils as most of them were so supremely confident and knowlegable in this sphere. Fortunately they were patient with me.

I decided that my best bet was to throw myself into it over the holidays. So, following several surprisingly enjoyable days of the summer spent working at home on one of these computers, I learnt to create my own music. I suspect that my family thought I had already gone away on holiday as I locked myself away for hours at a time.

I won't yet say that I am a lover of all things computerised and I certainly feel that much valuable interaction has disappeared between staff as the streams of email pass to and fro. Individuals have become more isolated as they sit in front of their own computer screens in their own little corners and the subtleties of meaning are lost in the postcard-length snippets of information transmitted.

As far as my teaching goes, the danger now is that I may become too reliant on these computers, with their tremendous ability to entertain. In the process, I could create a largely silent classroom of pupils working in their own private sound cocoons, eschewing the communal - often noisy - experience that one gets in performing together. Luckily, I don't think my skills are that advanced.

Geraint Davies is head of arts at Llantarnam School in Cwmbran, Gwent.

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