The pandemic will leave a lasting impression on music education for years to come. Even when the ending of the pandemic is finally in sight, music education will reel from the effects. When it comes to elementary music education, we thrived on incorporating ensemble performances using instruments from ukuleles to xylophones. We adored allowing our students to improvise using movements, chants, poetry, and instruments. We integrated cultural dances with social-emotional learning skills. When the pandemic hit, most of this was not possible anymore and we had to “reinvent the wheel” and teach in ways that we never thought possible.
One aspect that became a necessity was teaching with technology. Whether one was teaching remote, in-person with numerous restrictions, or hybrid, technology became a tool that was necessary for an elementary music educator to teach and communicate with their students. I witnessed teachers become proficient in an area that they never thought they could. Educators learned numerous learning management systems (LMS) such as MusicFirst, Google Classroom, Schoology, Canvas, and Seesaw, so that they could make music with their students when they could no longer meet with them in-person. They mastered video communication tools like Zoom, Google Meets, and Microsoft Teams so that they could work with their students in a more personable way. When they could no longer have their students perform together, they learned how to create a platform like Noteflight Learn, Soundtrap, Bandlab, or Flat.io, where the students could record and collaborate so that they could still perform in a way that created a virtual ensemble.
I witnessed elementary music educators use video editing apps and screen recording tools like Loom, Screencastify, Screencast-O-Matic, Flipgrid, and more, to create rhythm, percussion, and melodic play-along videos, as well as “follow the bouncy ball” videos, so students could continue to read, perform, and make music from their devices. I saw music educators find alternative ways for young students to create music by using Chrome Music Lab and Groove Pizza when they could no longer create music in traditional ways. When music educators were asked to assess their students, even if they were limited to meeting with them in-person or remotely, I saw educators use interactive platforms like Nearpod and Peardeck to gauge their students’ learning and progress. Finally, when students were not allowed to share instruments and educators could not use their acoustic instruments, I saw teachers find virtual instrument websites and code virtual instruments with Scratch so that their students could turn their 1:1 device into a musical instrument.
When this pandemic ends, many elementary music educators will embrace their traditional learning styles of playing acoustic instruments, performing folk and cultural dances together, playing in ensembles together, singing together, and so much more because we have been lacking that human connection to music. This should happen and it must. However, this does not mean that technology should be completely taken out of the elementary music classroom. Though we do not have to use technology every day after the pandemic ends, since the tool is more familiar with teachers and students, there are ways to use technology that can level up and benefit music-making with elementary students.
- Continue to use the LMS that was set up. Those systems can be a great way to communicate with your students and your students’ caregivers about what they are learning in music class. Also, they become wonderful digital music portfolios that can follow the students as they grow throughout their school years. Finally, they can flip your music classroom so students can access it when they are at home.
- Utilize interactive tools such as Nearpod, Peardeck, Google Forms, etc., to check in with students as exit tickets, pre- and post-tests, and assessment tools to gauge their progress and achievements.
- Make use of screen recording tools and video editing apps to create more digital resources for your students. You can create more rhythm, percussion, and melodic play-along videos that follow your curriculum and approach, as opposed to finding ones that are pre-made but do not coordinate with your teaching method. You can also place those videos on your students’ LMS so that they can access them from home and record themselves performing them.
- Have students use screen recording tools to record their reflections and music creations that they create with Chrome Music Lab or Groove Pizza. Students can use the screen recording tools to reflect on how they created a song and then share it with you. This gives you more insight into their thinking and their music-making process.
- If the budget allows, use the music collaboration platforms such as Noteflight Learn, Soundtrap, Bandlab, Flat.io, so that students can collaborate with various classes and grade levels. Level up their music creation skills by having students in different grade levels collaborate to compose a song.
Those are just some of the ways that technology can continue to enhance the elementary music classroom after the pandemic ends. Technology can be a useful and wonderful tool when used in a way that can enhance music-making in ways that traditional methods might not have been able to in the past.