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Jun 01 2014 - 08:00 PM
A Blended Model For Music Education

Title: In Harmony: A Technology-Based Music Education Model to Enhance Musical Understanding and General Learning Skills (2014)

Authors: Adena Portowitz, Kylie A. Peppler, & Mike Downton

Source: International Journal of Music Education

Research Question: Can a blended model improve music education?

Study Design: Technology has changed the way we listen to, record, and share music, but the way we learn and develop as musicians has remained strongly analog. Digital learning practices and tools are still rare in the music learning classroom, but the authors of In Harmony: A Technology-Based Music Education Model to Enhance Musical Understanding and General Learning Skills examine the role that technology tools and blended practices could have on music education. In Harmony is a blended curriculum that combines digital strategies with traditional techniques. Aimed at elementary school students, the tool offers layers of instruction that include game-based learning, physical practice, online learning exercises, and digital benchmarking.

Through a grant from the Fund for the Advancement of Peace and Education, In Harmony was implemented in an Israeli school for 9-10 year old students. The 62 students were separated into an experimental group that studied the In Harmony blended curriculum and a control group introduced to the same content and material via lecture and group discussion over 32 hours of instruction. Students were evaluated using pre- and post-tests for improvements to their working memory and musical understanding. Students' activity logs during the process and click data from the software programs were also analyzed for evidence of self-regulation in online learning.

Findings: The authors observed working memory improvements in the experimental group but not in the control group. A qualitative analysis of musical knowledge tests revealed that both groups of students improved their musical understanding. The students in the experimental group reported greater engagement and particularly liked the parts of In Harmony in which they were able to collaborate over software exercises with their friends and analyze songs.

Moving Forward: The results from this study seem to indicate that digital tools have a role to play in the music education of the future. The working memory and musical knowledge results were modest in this case, but it is clear from the study that blended learning is an effective way to teach musical understanding and as tools develop in this area, the engagement benefits of online music tools may become even more pronounced.

Image: IMG_0457 by Will Kay via Flickr