Since the COVID-19 pandemic forced school closures in mid-March, Infinite Music™ rallied quickly to take our Makin’ Music After School group music lessons to an online forum, keeping our students connected and continuing their musical learning.
And so you ask, how is it going? Well, after repeated flyers, emails and text messages about classes to busy parents; technical malfunctions; lost links; distributing instruments; latency issues on how best to teach drummers and other crazy confusions, it has been a learning journey for all of us. Teaching music in a virtual classroom forum has presented both technical and artistic challenges. But after a few weeks of working out the kinks, teachers and students are tuned up and tuned in together, making music and best of all, having fun.
Though nothing replaces face-to-face, in-person classes with teachers and students interacting musically, the online classes are making a difficult situation bearable. Music, as always, opens doors and imagination. Our teachers are very open-minded about going beyond the normal methods used to teach a live, in-person class. For our elementary students, livestream classes are held twice a week for 30 minutes each. Zoom is the platform of choice with “home play” (what we call practice assignments) available via Dropbox, a cloud-based storage platform that can be accessed at any time.
Students learn online class rules for what is expected during class just like they do at school. When teachers share their screens with students in Zoom, they also see the equivalent of a whiteboard where they can demonstrate a lesson example, and follow along with it as if they were in class. “Breakout Rooms” can separate students into learning groups.
Teachers are making recorded videos that also are available via Dropbox and YouTube so students and parents can access and play them at their own time and pace. This makes it especially convenient for family members sharing computers or devices. Parents, too, need flexibility at home, since many are working full days alongside their children.
Online tools such as ukebuddy.com allow students to tune their ukuleles themselves before class begins. In the coming weeks, students will record themselves so that teachers can help them more one-on-one. And an upcoming performance is in the works, whether live or on-screen, and is their practicing goal.
These are indeed challenging times, but by enlisting technology, and a dash of creativity, we can keep our music-makers playing. It’s important! We need to provide that creative connection that music brings to our kids even if it’s via computer screen in the confines of their homes. As we move through this crisis, music is like a comforting and connecting hug for our students and ourselves. It gives us hope, calming fears and anxiety, and is the universal language we can all hear. Music will help get us through.
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