Female musician and guitarist, leading an online video class, via video conference, teaching her young female student how to properly play a guitar. (Getty Images)
With the pandemic affecting everyone’s everyday lives, virtual learning has become the norm for a lot of students, parents and teachers. Many tutors and teachers wonder how they can make the most of the online world to make learning fun and effective. The same goes for learning and teaching music. It might be quite a change for some, but there are still ways to keep each other inspired. In this article, we will be looking at several ways in which you, as teachers, are able to share various resources with your students virtually, so that they receive the same level of learning as they would within your classroom. But most importantly, these digital tools can help us maintain our love for learning and music.
One of the most well-known ways to communicate online is via email. To share resources with your students via this method you will need to know their email addresses, although usually they will be given a school email address upon starting. Then it is important to know how to share files via email, which can sometimes cause problems dependent on internet speed and ability, a few ways to do this is by attaching the document to the email, compressing the file before sending it, or using a cloud service (one of which will be outlined further down). You could host a virtual at-home choir rehearsal via a video chat like Facebook, Google Meet, or Zoom. You could also pre-record a rehearsal and send it via email later.
Sometimes our videos or files can be too large and impossible to send via email, that’s when we could use a tool like Dropbox. Dropbox is a platform that allows you to upload work and use different settings to allow people to view and edit if you choose for them to do so. It will require the recipient to have a Dropbox account as well, which is free, but once they have one and you give them permission, they are able to view the files that you save in it, either via a link that you have sent out or by inviting them directly. You could include a hello song in the folder that you share. You could open dropbox during the online class and share songs with simple motions and movements like clapping hands or activities where kids have to move around in time for your beat.
Share your screen
If you wish to share a resource while teaching online using a program such as Zoom and have the resource open in another document on your computer, it is possible for you to share your screen with the students. This is a good idea if it is something that you want to talk through while pointing out different things and can work the same way as an interactive whiteboard on your end. You could use the share your screen feature to include musical examples through visual forms.
It is important to remember though that the students will be able to see what is open on your screen while you’re sharing your screen, so it is best to stay on the document you want them to view unless you choose to freeze the image for them so you can switch between windows.
As mentioned, when discussing the use of Dropbox, you can share resources by sending links. This idea is closely linked to sending emails, as should you be unable to attach a file or the resource you wish to use is a video on YouTube, for example, or a webpage, it would be easier to send students a link so that they can access it on their own computers when it is needed. For instance, if you want them to learn via videos, you could share a channel that explains music theory in fun and engaging ways. For exercises, you could use online resources such as MusicTheory.net, to learn about the music around the world.
Google Docs is a simple to use cloud service, where you are able to share documents and resources with different people. It is possible for you to set up the settings so that you can send the link out to your students and allow everyone who has the link access to the resource, or you can limit who is able to see the document. This is a free service that can be used with everyone who has a free Google Mail account at their disposal. It could also be used to help them send in work that they have completed as the students will be able to send you the link to their Google Docs. Another useful Google tool to use is Google Slides. You could create Google slideshows with song visuals, rhythm patterns, and ear-training activities for children to do on their own.
Be aware of cyber attacks
Anyone using the internet should exercise some basic precautions. Cybersecurity is an issue that affects everyone. The more you use the internet, the greater your risk of being hacked. To protect yourself from these breaches, there are three things one can do: invest in cybersecurity software, use a VPN while browsing so no malicious website gets control over what information enters into their system, and stay aware of common attack methods because they will attempt to find something new each time.
Hopefully, these points have given you a few ideas on how to virtually share music resources with your students. Quite a few are linked together and it is advisable to make sure that each student has access to a computer and email address so that they can access the work that is being sent to them. If not, you will need to resort to sending paper copies through the post to enable those students without access to see the same material.