October 09, 2013 - Carpenter Elementary and Webber Elementary music students are honing their composing skills through collaboration with Oakland University and its technology.
Using I-pads in a loan program came about in an unusual way.
Dakotah Cooper, LOCS music teacher, was a previous music student under Dr. Deborah Blair, associate professor of music education at Oakland University.
The two thought to incorporate I-pads loaned from OU into Mr. Cooper's music curriculum, where groups of three can compose an entire song during their 50 min, once a week class.
The collaboration consists of a second group of students too.
Thursday, October 3, was the first day Dr. Blair's students studying preliminary education observed the young composers' songwriting, which will occur intermittently throughout the year.
At OU, university students are currently learning how to teach songwriting using different tools, such as the I-pad.
While visiting the elementary schools, Cooper said their interaction with the younger students consists of "the university students and I having a dialogue with my students and everyone growing together. It's been a really nice relationship for everyone involved, it's really symbiotic," he said.
One university undergraduate is a 30-hour student, Cooper said, meaning he will be in the classroom for 30 hours and will eventually present elementary kids with a class of his own, as part of his OU curriculum.
Before the I-pads came into play this year, Mr. Cooper's classes were composing one song together on Garage Band at the front of the room. Garage Band is an Apple computer program that allows you to play, record and edit music.
"We're lucky to have this collaboration with OU and them letting us borrow the I-pads so the kids can do it in smaller groups," Cooper said. "I get a better perception of where they are individually instead of as a class."
Composing is the best way a student can show their understanding of music, he continued. It allows students to link what they have learned about musical form, affect, and texture into their own composition.
Huddled around their I-pad, students can either edit segments together of pre-recorded instruments to make a full length song, or they can record their own instruments.
I-pads are not the only tools students use at Carpenter and Webber. However, they have their benefits.
"Because it's visual, it's a very useful frame for thinking about their musical thinking," Dr. Blair said. "Just like a child who is writing a story—they have to have a beginning, they have to have a middle, they have to have an end. They have to have characters, they might have a setting—young composers make the same decisions older composers make."
In this way university and elementary students can get on the same level.
"What instruments am I going to use. How are we going to start, how are we going to stop, is it going to be loud or quiet, is it going to be smooth or jumpy. They are making all the same decisions older composers make, they're just making it at their own musical understanding level," she continued.
"Whether it be on I-pads, or xylophones or with their voices, these are just tools to get to all those understandings," Cooper added.
Throughout the year as they learn about big, musical ideas, famous composers, and take pages of notes, the end of the year will bring reflection.
"At the end we're going to take all those notes and make a new piece with all these new understandings," Cooper said. "So they're going to see where they were in the beginning, how they grew, and where they were at the end. It's going to be a really, hopefully profound shift for them."
Cooper's goal is not only to create passion within his students, but for them to apply their growth to all parts of their lives, something the iteration of the I-pad can teach.
"It teaches kids that the first time they do something, it might not be great, but when they try it again, its better, and when they try it again it's even better," he said. "The idea of iteration becomes an important part of their life. It is a really important thing for me to teach them because failure only happens when you quit trying. Otherwise you struggle and that's good. Getting kids to understand that at a younger age sets them up for success throughout their life."