Technology has always driven humanity forward. Whether it was the discovery of agriculture and sanitation in the ancient world that allowed man to build cities or the development of the microprocessor that ultimately led to the internet revolution, our progress has been tied to the invention and use of tools. In his popular book Guns Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (1997) Jared Diamond points to the use of tools as the moment that modern humanity began:
“Human history at last took off around 50,000 years ago, at the time of what I have termed the Great Leap Forward. The earliest definite signs of that leap come from East African sites with standardized stone tools and the first preserved jewelry (ostrich-shell beads). Similar developments soon appear in Near East and in Southeastern Europe, then (some 40,000 years ago) in southwestern Europe, where abundant artifacts are associated with fully modern skeletons of people termed Cro-Magnon. Thereafter, the garbage preserved at archaeological sites becomes more and more interesting and leaves no doubt that we are dealing with biologically and behaviorally modern humans.” (Diamond, 1997, p. 39).
We have moved far beyond stone tools, but the technological tools at the fingertips of modern humans are dizzying in both their scope and utility, as well as the rapidity of new developments. Technology simplifies and enriches nearly all aspects of our lives and ironically makes it possible, for the first time since the formation of cities, for humans to disperse again and yet still maintain our connectedness and the spread of knowledge.
The development of Western Music has been driven by technology as well. Several years ago, composer Howard Goodall hosted a televisions series titled “Big Bangs” in which he discussed the major inventions and developments in music history and how they pushed the art form forward. The first of five episodes covered Guido D'Arezzo and the development of music notation, but other topics that were covered include the invention of opera, the piano, equal temperament, and recorded sound. We can point to each of these moments, and many more as crucial moments in the history of music.
Like nearly all human domains, music has played a large role in the development of education and pedagogical practices. In the past 40 years, the introduction of computers to our schools has created a desire to incorporate digital technology in all aspects of education. (For me personally, my first introduction to computers in school was through the gifted program at my elementary school in the early 1980's. We were introduced to the BASIC programming language on the TRS-80 computer and learned how to code very simple programs.) Unfortunately, this has most often resulted in teachers and schools using technology because it exists rather than incorporating as a tool to meet learning outcomes.
"Technology use is often not commonplace. When it is used, it is frequently not integrated in a way that optimizes its potential to support learning, and perhaps to even transform the learning experience of students through innovative pedagogical approaches and the study of unique content" (Bauer, 2014, p. 6).
It is clear that the use of technology in schools has not kept pace with the explosion of technology outside of the classroom. Perhaps teachers rely on what they know and understand and resist change, or perhaps they simply do not see an effective and efficient way to use technology that is accessible for all of their students and their contexts.
"When making decisions about whether or not to use a particular technology, teachers should conduct a cost/benefit analysis that considers the technology's affordances (benefits) and constraints (limiting features) in relation to learning outcomes and the classroom context. Technology approaches shouldn't be used for technology's sake. They should only be incorporated when there is a clear benefit to learning" (Bauer, 2020, p. 8).
This problem has been studied by several researchers, most notably Schulman (1986) and Mishra and Koehler (2006). The latter proposed a framework for thinking about the use of technology and how it interacts with content area knowledge and pedagogical practice. The Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK) model is a way to conceptualize the use of technology and make decisions about how to incorporate all three knowledge areas into teaching practice (Bauer, 2020).
In my own teaching, I have been forced by pandemic to embrace more technology into my own classroom. One example from my classroom that fits the TPACK model is the use of the Flipgrid with my elementary band students. For a recent assessment activity conducted via remote learning, I was able to record a pedagogical video for my instrumental students on Flipgrid. They were able to watch the video and ask questions before being required to provide a recording of themselves demonstrating the new skill. I was then able to provide feedback to them on their video and repeat the process as many times as needed. In this case, I was using the technology to meet my pedagogical goal and not for its own sake. I'm sure this is just one of countless examples of teachers finding new and innovative ways to deliver their content through technology.
The COVID-19 pandemic might be the figurative "big bang" that education needs to fully embrace and integrate technology in a more productive and student-centered way. Remote learning has forced teachers to confront the limitations and advantages of technology and find new and innovative ways to use the tools at hand to serve their student needs. One day we may look back on this moment as a turning point in education and the moment when we fully embraced the digital age and its many wonders in our classrooms.
Bauer, W. I. (2020). Music learning today: Digital pedagogy for creating, performing, and responding to music. (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199890590.001.0001
Diamond, J. (1997). Guns, germs, and steel: The fate of human societies. W. W. Norton & Company. https://doi.org/10.1080/13668790210001591614
Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6). http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9620.2006.00684.x
Schulman, L.S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge in the growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2). http://dx.doi.org/10.3102/0013189X015002004