Find Your Voice is a practical, hands-on approach
to embedding singing and technology in classrooms, specifically targeted at the 11-12 (Year 7) age range. Delivered by classroom teachers it aims to engage all students in meaningful and sustainable activity that directly builds on Musical Futures principles and pedagogy.
Musical Futures has had well-documented success with the 12-14 age range. While the approaches have been successfully applied with younger students, it is not commonplace. In the Ofsted report Wider Still and Wider, it was reported that ‘good singing is scarce in secondary schools’, and that ‘music technology is underused’
In Musical Futures lessons students aren’t afraid to try out instruments, explore, make mistakes, and create from the start of the lesson. However, using their voices can be a different story – singing in school is not always cool, can be associated with primary school music, and alongside adolescence and self-confidence issues, vocal work is often the domain of the more confident students – others fear the exposure it brings.
At the same time, students are digital natives. They carry around powerful pieces of technology in their pockets – mobile phones, ipods – and in their own time are not only constantly exploring the technology phones and tablets have to offer, but are consuming, creating and producing music. Yet this is rarely a recognised tool for classroom learning, and in the majority of cases mobiles/tablets are banned from music classrooms.
- To help students and teachers to feel confident about using their voices to create and explore music
- To engage all students with singing in the classroom setting
- To break down barriers with using mobile technologies in the music classroom, by drawing on the interest and expertise of students, and showing the creative potential for using mobile phones / tablets
- To enable students to create music using methods (vocalising and mobile technology) that are immediately accessible to them and are fully inclusive
- To target the Year 7 (10-11) age range to improve the quality of secondary music teaching and learning in Year 7, and to build on the successful practice and pedagogy from primary schools (i.e. Sing Up)
- To build teacher confidence with facilitating vocal work and using mobile technology, and for teachers to embed the ideas across their music departments
What will teachers need to do?
- Assess what mobile technologies you have available, and prepare students by asking them to download suggested apps
- Deliver the Find Your Voice in your classrooms over the course of approximately one term (exact length is up to you)
- Adapt the strategies as necessary, feedback to the project team on these, and most importantly with other teachers through our various online communities (see below)
- Students and teachers to complete short online surveys throughout the pilot
The minimum that is needed is for students to have access to:
- A mobile phone, ipod touch, ipad or equivalent
- Set of speakers and jack leads for connecting them to phones/tablets
- If students are working in pairs or groups they will need headphone splitters and headphones
- Some form of recording device (either on mobile phones, MP3 recorder or similar)
Where possible it would be useful for schools to have access to sequencing software such as Garageband, Audacity, Ableton live or other technologies that can sequence, edit, remix and produce music, and have the means to fully amplify their mobile devices.
This approach can be delivered entirely in one space (as long as there are no desks!). Ideally however students may need to have access to break-out spaces for some of the tasks.
Use of mobile phones in the classroom
It is likely that in a few years time, the use of mobile phones and tablets will be commonplace in secondary schools as a powerful learning tool. However that is not necessarily the case during the trialling of these approaches, and we fully appreciate that some schools will struggle with (a) students not having phones in the first place (b) school policies banning the use of mobile phones (c) school policies not allowing students to access Wifi. For this pilot we ask that music teachers do all that they can to break down these barriers and overcome the problems, then share ideas for how this can be done! If this approach to creating music is deemed successful, you will have been the pioneers who made it possible!
A few suggestions:
- All of the apps we are recommending will work offline, so can be pre-downloaded (as a homework task etc) therefore eliminating the need for Wifi
- Phones can be switched to airplane mode in the classroom
- If logistics allow, students could forsake their sim cards to you at the beginning of the lesson as all apps we are recommending will work without sim cards (although this may be used as a last resort)
- Headphone splitters could be used to enable students to work in pairs on phones, tablets or ipod touches to support students who don’t own their own
- If another department in the school has a set of ipads, beg, borrow or steal them for this project!
We recognise that using mobile technology to create music and enhance musical learning in the classroom may present challenges to teachers. Any cutting edge project will inevitably do this. We hope that you will communicate to us problems as well as solutions and successes as we believe that embracing this available technology will enable greater access for all students to music making. We can never be the experts in music technology but we must facilitate the opportunities it affords our students
Evaluation and resources
We will be asking schools (teachers and students) various questions about the impact this project is having – particularly on their confidence, enjoyment and musical progression, and we will share findings as the pilot is unfolding. Furthermore, we are aiming to produce a ‘teacher toolkit’ as an outcome which will be freely available to any teacher and practitioner. All the schools involved will be able to contribute and feedback about what they feel would be useful, worthwhile and most effective for other teachers to deliver the approach in their school.
We want you to not only trial the approach that we are suggesting to let us know whether it works or not, but also want to encourage you to share successful strategies with singing and music technology that you have tried in your schools. We have various vehicles for this: