Donald DeVito: Further Perspective

(Donald DeVito) #1

Donald DeVito

**Oxford Handbook Response Questions

How has technology impacted the learning and teaching of music? How should it? What are the ramifications?

Technology up until the 21st century tended to be in the form of equipment utilized in the classroom to play and watch examples of music performance. Examples are the CD player for listening and the VCR or DVD player for watching recorded performances of local ensembles, classical orchestras and movies about famous musicians. While these were utilized to enhance the curriculum by viewing and listening to a piece of music from a given style or genre, simple technology exists today to greatly transform how interaction with music and musicians takes place in the classroom. The opportunity through Skype, Google Hangout and simple online communication technology to create real and enduring international connections into the classroom curriculum are widely available. The IPad is increasingly becoming considered as a music resource and especially with children with disabilities, an adapted music instrument. The same device can be plugged into a projector and with Skype or other readily available online communication program literally open the world of music to a classroom by engaging with musicians from all areas and professions. The ramification is that technology is no longer just a CD player and music literature in the classroom is no longer Americanized versions of traditional world music offered in state adopted textbooks. The manners in which these engagements take place are wide and varied.

The Sidney Lanier Center School where I teach serves students with moderate to severe disabilities between the ages of 3 and 22. The description of our program below includes each course by grade including supplemental music ensembles. The music program highlights a global music education approach that utilizes Skype to link our music classes with universities and community based programs around the world. The efforts of this music program have been published in peer reviewed journals, book chapters and international music education conferences since 2003. Institutions linked with the Sidney Lanier music program include: The University of Roehampton and the Univ. of London in the U.K., the China Conservatory, the Universidad de Londrina in Brazil, Limerick University in Ireland, Queensland University in Australia, the Special Education Centre music program led by Arthur Gill in Gujrat City, Pakistan, Group Laiengee in Guinea, West Africa, the Notre Maison orphanage led by Gertrude Bien Aime –founder of one of the few programs that serves children with disabilities in Haiti, the University of Minneapolis-Duluth, Pacific University, James Madison University, Jackson State University, the University of South Florida and recently the University of Miami. UM staff members have expressed interest in developing an online special education course that will include the Sidney Lanier Center as a part of the practicum training for the U.M. music education majors. This multi-cultural real time approach to music and special education has opened doors and adapted learning experiences for our students for over a decade.

A current project in development was brought about by an invitation I received to present on this program at the “Listen” Conference held by the Sabreen organization in the West Bank for Palestinian educators looking to develop music education as a course in public schools. A variety of presenters shared the latest approaches in music education development. As a result of teaching in local schools and this session, Skype collaboration will now begin between two special schools of varying populations that cater to children with disabilities, one in Bethlehem the other in Jerusalem, and the Sidney Lanier Center in Florida. The first school in Bethlehem was “Ephpheta Paul VI” Pontifical Institute for the audio-phonetic rehabilitation and the educator who accompanied me in the workshop was Luab Nayef Hammoud, a creative and dedicated music teacher at the school. One current grant project idea with the Jerusalem school was to share music education online and then have the activity culminate with an in person visit by children at the school in Jerusalem who would visit their colleagues in Florida. The inclusion of the developing project being included this Oxford Handbook on Music and Technology is an early and very meaningful distinction for of all the special schools involved.

What can technology do for music education?

Technology can break down barriers between cultures, create previously un-thought of educational and interaction opportunities in the music classroom and enhance the quality of life for underserved populations. Consider the following example. A public school in the united states that serves students with moderate to severe disabilities links with the University of Roehampton and the University of London in the UK through Skype to create facilitation of the newest approach developed there in creating behavioral response frameworks to music called Sounds of Intent which is shared with the Notre Maison orphanage in Port Au Prince, Haiti. This included the Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research (SEMPRE) based at the University of London, who provided a projector for group instruction for the orphanage to enhance the Skype experience to their entire orphanage at one time and Go Talk communication technology for facilitating a nonverbal communication approach for children with severe speech language challenges at the orphanage. This approach has been explored in a number of facets over the years with the Sidney Lanier Center utilizing Skype in the music education classroom. A variety of in person collaborations, trainings and shared music education activities have developed as a result of this approach.

After several Skype activities with the Notre Maison Orphanage in Haiti, I went in person to develop a music and special education program there and followed it up with enhanced Skype interactions with the students at Sidney Lanier upon my return. Documentation of this led to being involved with Projects for Haiti who invited me, and Gertrude the director of Notre Maison who we collaborate with online to travel together to Cap Haitian in the north of the country to train 400 Haitian teachers in the concept of music and special education inclusion developed at Notre Maison. The culminating activity resulted in hundreds of Haitian teachers volunteering in adapted arts activities in their communicates with children with disabilities, and the publication of their feedback to the Projects for Haiti training (which involved 12 other educators from the US) in a book on their approaches to developed inclusion in Haiti, edited by myself and Project for Haiti creators Bertrhude Albert and Priscilla Zelaya. All 400 Haitian educators are to be listed as contributing authors to this book which will be translated in Creole and distributed throughout Haiti. One cumulative effect will be enhancing their status in their communities and the further understanding of the ability of arts education to enhance underserved populations. All from the development of music education and Skype technology triangulated between the efforts of major universities in the U.K., public schools in the U.S. and community based programs in low resource areas such as Haiti. Further communication on this development and shared experiences is being continued with the Haitian teachers using simple technology such as cell phones that allow them to access Facebook to post and share their needs and experiences with this collaborative project.

In what ways has technology forced us to re-evaluate definitions of musicality? Of musicianship?

Musicality has changed with technology as the venue of music making has changed. This has been accounted for in several developments with the advent of technology. Namely, in relation to: a. venue, b. the definition of audience, and c. the manner in which music performance is shared and transmitted. With online technology, music is no longer primarily taking place in a single room or recital hall. It is being shared in greater real time settings with the transmission of music no longer taking place in a theatre or established hall. With this change in venue comes a change in acoustics and in the styles of music being transmitted allowing for real time blending of cultural styles and genres. The definition of audience is also changing with a much more varied integration of participants from school students to professional musicians of greatly varied cultures and backgrounds. The manner in which music performance is shared and transmitted is also changing with the advent of IPADS as a recognized musical instrument. In fact, informal music integration can take place in hand held devices with the differences in time zones becoming less of a factor with friends and colleagues simply adjusting their schedules or sharing spontaneous music activities during free time as opposed to set class scheduling or evening performances.

Of who is and is not a musician? In what ways has technology transformed our understandings of creativity? What are some of the untapped potentials in this area?

There seems to be a common perception that people with disabilities receive music therapy while those without receive music education. With advancements in IPad and other related technology that only require the movement of a finger to generate musical sounds, the ability to participate as an active musician in an ensemble is being redefined in some truly amazing and positive ways. In many cases, students with severe disabilities who are in a traditional public school would often be kept out of higher level performing ensembles because of their special needs (often through auditions, an inability to read written music, no mandate requiring their participation, and oftentimes the lack of consideration by the family that the student has the skills necessary to participate). Thanks to examples such as the global online program at the Sidney Lanier Center, students are having inclusive online experiences with ensembles from around the world and at all levels of accomplishment. Some of this collaboration in the aforementioned Sidney Lanier Center online program will include Gary Day, an expert in IPad music adaptation who is currently affiliated with the University of Roehampton in London, UK. He has already shared traditional Irish music with the students and will begin instructing the students on the utilization of IPads in shared music experiences in 2015.

In what ways has technology transformed our understandings of creativity?

The manner in which technology is utilized can transform our current understandings of creativity by opening the door to a variety of media that previously was not available. Currently, hardware can be developed that is specifically designed to minimize the hand eye coordination needed to create musical sounds while pairing with software that opens up a variety of methods for creating music. Specifically, music that can be enjoyed by the performer alone or adapted to include others in a concert environment. One such example was the development of a personal sound generated device by Mallory Moyer, a University of South Florida student who created a device that looks much like an oil painting with deep grooves and designs but becomes a personalized music instrument at most or a sound generating device at least for people with severe disabilities. The project required a study of music therapy, design, and technology which helped her to create a musical instrument with universal playability. The musical design of this instrument includes fun graphics and a touch sense technology allowing anyone to play and have fun. The goal was for people with disabilities to achieve the therapeutic benefits of playing a musical instrument. Throughout the project she introduced her instrument to a wide variety of people: musicians, doctors, and people with disabilities.

My music program had an incredible role in this project. I provided suggestions for the project, and my students approached the instrument for the first time at the school and had a wide range of reactions that revealed the potentials of this technological approach. It also revealed the potential advantages of having a touch sensitive instrument on hand in the classroom. It also opened up discussions on the possibilities of having instruments that are customizable, tailored to the individual. Choice of sounds, colors, graphics, size, and placement of the touch sensitive graphics could be considered. The most profound realization of this project was its potential for growth.
Mallory intends to continue to develop the project and work with our center school in the future. She will collaborate with creative minds to make new prototypes and instruments based on universal playability and music therapy and hopes to continue to utilize these insightful resources as she and her project grow.

Another example was the use of IPads by Phil Mullen and I at the 1st inclusive music performance held at the China Conservatory in Beijing coordinated by Professor Xie Jiaxing in 2012 and including adults with learning disabilities from the Anhuali Community Center. This concert utilized IPad apps that created a variety of acoustic and modern sounds that fit within a hands on pitched and unpitched percussion ensemble comprised of conservatory students and local adults with learning disabilities from the Anhuali Community Center.

What are some of the untapped potentials in this area?

One of the key untapped potentials in this area is the increasing ability of people to create and design their own apps for computer and personal device technology. I would guess in the near future the ability of people to develop their own music apps without relying on software engineers will become commonplace. What sounds represent music and what constitutes an instrument are being redefined as technology develops in the field of music education and performance. This should continue to change and develop over time. Originally, the format of music reception was through recordings which could be listened to individually or shared at dances and restaurant Jukeboxes. Technology is not only changing the context in which music is shared but the utilization of music performance and interaction by what may no longer be referred to as “non-musicians”. How we define who is a musician and who is considered to have the prerequisite music skills and expertise to be referred to as a performer will increasingly change or in fact become irrelevant with the advent of personal music technology-bringing music opportunities to all populations regardless of special needs around the world.