Picture the 1990s. Mr Jason Buckley, our SGS Head of Music was in his first instrumental teaching post at the back of Bourke and beyond. He taught recorder and guitar to students in Years 4-6 from a small, sound proof room with welcome air conditioning.
To transmit sound, all students’ families had large HF (High Frequency) Radios in their own homes. To transmit a sound, they had to press a button, speak (or in this case, play an instrument) then say ‘over’ to let the person on the other end know that it was their turn to talk. It was effectively like a CB (Citizens Band) radio – fairly scratchy, with noticeable background noise.
Jason would post learning materials in the mail, in advance. He would then teach the students over the air and they would use Imitation to learn. The approach was not dissimilar to the Suzuki method of teaching music. Imitation was then, and still is now, an important Co-operation Learning Disposition.
Patience and Perseverance were then and always will be an important Character Strength and Learning Disposition. A good 10 minutes would take up the beginning of each lesson tuning guitars. Jason would have to gauge by ear and explain to each student how much to turn the peg up and down.
Two students could play at the same time, but they wouldn’t be able to hear each other. Jason did set this up from time to time. Students would learn a duet part, play their part at the same time, he would record them together (as he could hear from more than one base concurrently) and play the recording back to them over radio so that they could hear how it sounded.
Generally, once a term, the students and teachers would gather together for a couple of days, effectively like a school camp. The room they learnt in was surrounded by the mail bags of correspondence going out to each of them, and many more, from this central location. At this central location they would also receive health services like dental check ups to make the most of families driving many hours to be there.
Students’ music library consisted of records (vinyls), tapes (cassettes) or CDs (Compact Discs) they had at home. (CDs had only just come on the market at this time.) They also listened to ABC Radio and a local community radio station where locals performed on air. The students also utilised the library service for CDs, tapes and books.
When asked about how changes in technology have affected music, Jason explains that music and technology have walked hand in hand over the years. Advances in technology have made music so much more accessible – from the old gramophone, radio, records, cassettes, compact discs, mini discs, and the iPod to Spotify and Apple Music being available across multiple devices.
Fast forward to 2020 and Jason sits in his music teaching studio surrounded by instruments, as well as a laptop, phone, iPad and Bluetooth Speakers to improve the sound quality. To connect with students learning remotely, he uses Microsoft Teams Live Meetings, Microsoft Teams messaging, Microsoft OneNote and other useful apps.
Instead of listening over scratchy 2-way radio, Jason can now see and clearly hear his students perform. He can see their hand positions, posture, where they’re looking and so on. They use an app called FlipGrid to record and play back to Jason. This has also allowed some of the less confident students to feel comfortable performing at home on their own, gradually building their confidence as they receive feedback and encouragement.
Jason has used the Acapella App to record different parts of the National Anthem played on different instruments, spliced together for our SGS Virtual Live Assemblies. He and his students can also collaborate this way.
A great library of online resources is being built during this time of remote learning. He has sent backing tracks, accompaniments for his students to play with, through Teams and OneNote. He has also sent recordings for his students to watch and learn from, over and over again, if they chose to. These are all now available as resources to tap into and help with Revising.
What are the learning dispositions used by teacher and students? So many are drawn on. Jason, in particular, has used Resourceful Learning Dispositions: Questioning; Making Links; Imagining; Reasoning; and Capitalising. The students in his classes are very much drawing on Resilience Learning Dispositions: Absorption; Distraction; Noticing; and Perseverance, just to name a few.