R. Upitis1, P. Abrami2

1Queen's University (CANADA)
2Concordia University (CANADA)
Millions of students take weekly music lessons from independent music teachers in addition to their school music instruction. But many students stop taking lessons just as they approach proficiency. Why? How can they be encouraged to keep playing? Can digital tools help? These are some of the central research questions of our tool development and research project.

Evidence suggests that implementing new teaching technologies can encourage students to practise more efficiently and take greater joy in their music-making, and help teachers enliven their collaborative professional networks. It is for these reasons that Music Education in the Digital Age (MEDA) research and development project was created. Our project is thrives on a partnership between Queen’s University, Concordia University, and The Royal Conservatory. This seven-year project, which began in 2011, was founded on an evidence-based approach to digital tool development. We started with one tool, iSCORE, and will soon launch four inter-related digital music tools, called the Music Tool Suite, which are described in the paper.

Two tools are already in circulation: iSCORE and DREAM. Notemaker and Cadenza will be released in 2016, based on the research evidence we accumulated on the use of iSCORE and DREAM.

iSCORE is a web-based practice tool based on the model of self-regulated learning. It is designed to motivate and guide students to take responsibility for their practising and overall music learning. iSCORE helps students set goals, create new work, edit and share their work, and respond to feedback. It also enables teachers to communicate with their students between lessons through a video annotation tool. DREAM stands for Digital Resource Exchange About Music. DREAM is an online and mobile device tool that helps teachers to learn about digital resources related to music education. DREAM enables music teachers to evaluate resources, to read about other teachers’ views of the resources, and to add resources to the DREAM repository. All of the resources are searchable by title and key words, and users can also filter the resources by instrument, ability level, or digital platform. DREAM also recommends resources to users based on their prior choices. Notemaker features the annotation tool that is embedded in iSCORE. In our earlier research, it became evident that the annotation tool had great promise in supporting students during their time between lessons. As a result, we determined that creating a stand-alone app would be welcomed in music studios. Cadenza is a tool that, like iSCORE, embeds self-regulated learning support, but is simpler to use and more intuitive for young musicians.

Data on user experiences for iSCORE and DREAM were gathered through focus groups, surveys, and user statistics. Over 200 student, teacher, and parent participants have taken part in the research to date. During the session, we will highlight how these data shaped subsequent versions of iSCORE and DREAM, as well as the newest tools, Notemaker and Cadenza.

Even though there are demonstrated benefits for using these tools for music teaching and learning, one persistent challenge is that of marketing the tools effectively so that a strong user base is developed to support further modifications as required. The discussion focuses on how to integrate tool development, research, and marketing to achieve a sustainable model for new teaching technologies.