The use of information and communication technologies can be highly motivating in the classroom. Multimedia materials in particular are an enormous asset to the study of music. With only a multimedia computer and a pair of headphones, children working individually, in pairs or in small groups can listen to music, explore and learn about music, practise skills, research topics and share ideas with others outside the classroom.
Software for listening
Multimedia systems allow children to see high-quality pictures of individual instruments and listen to them being demonstrated. The children may listen to excerpts from particular pieces or entire performances. In addition, some software packages include a ready-made 'listening map', which can help guide the children around the listening excerpt. Other packages allow the teacher to create form charts and addtext messages to accompany any available CD. With this software, the teacher can design a visual aid to any listening lesson. Since the teacher writes the messages, the script can be designed for any age or class level, and the lessons can be tailored to a teacher's specific need.
Synchronised text messages are especially useful. These text messages are synchronised with selected points in the recording. For the teacher, no programming knowledge is required to create a multimedia listening lesson through this kind of software. Once the analysis of the music is done, the chart and the text can be constructed in about the time it would take to make a worksheet. One of the greatest advantages of this system is the ability to play back at any point on the CD, with pinpoint accuracy to the desired section. Ready-made listening maps can also provide a guide to music that might otherwise be inaccessible in the classroom.
The pictures and information in multimedia systems can be shared with large groups of children by using a projection system. This allows all children to view the contents of the computer screen through a clearer monitor. In some cases, a standard television set in normal room light can be used as an effective projection system.
The world wide web is a vast public arena of potentially infinite resources. Many primary schools set up their own web sites to present information about their schools, such as school policy, forthcoming events, children's work and curricular activities. A home page can be very useful for the teaching of music for several reasons. Schools may wish to inform others about musical events or performances in the school, to communicate with other schools and music organisations and to receive feedback. Many modern music keyboards are MIDI- compatible (musical instrument digital interface). These keyboards can be connected to a schoolcomputer allowing children to store their music as a computer file. With the help of MIDI equipment, it is feasible to produce on-line music performed by the children. MIDI files are a highly efficient method of transmitting musical information over the internet, because of their small file size.
Several notation software packages that can be used by children in primary schools are widely available. Many more are continually being revised and upgraded and can be readily accessed at the distributors' web sites. This software allows children to record their own music simultaneously -- either sung or played -- in standard or graphic notation. The printed version can then be saved for future sharing, performing, reviewing or rearranging.