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6-8 | The Arts | Other

Station WPBT in Florida

My Classroom Innovation

Over 500 economically disadvantaged students in NYC and Miami, FL participated in this action research project involving a free music technology tool called Synthesia to learn piano. Synthesia is a free and readily accessible multi-platform computer program being used by millions of people to learn piano/keyboarding. Students can learn through an animated vertical piano roll resembling "Guitar Hero." Synthesia acts like a game, scoring progress as it works with students providing feedback and controlling playback so that students learn at their own pace. The purpose of this project is two-fold. First, it explores beginning piano/keyboarding students’ perspectives on the functionality, feasibility and overall experiences associated with learning piano/keyboard through Synthesia. Second, it reports quantitative data regarding students who were measured on timed music learning tasks to determine the speed of mastery of piano music on paper compared with Synthesia. This mixed-methods approach captures the lived experiences and rich perspectives of participants through ethnographic field techniques, along with experimentally controlled quantifiable data. Ultimately, the purpose of this research is to highlight the ways in which music technology can address the evolving needs of the modern 21st century music education populace through the shared experiences and perspectives of students interacting with free and readily accessible music technology tools.

How Students were Engaged

The results of this research were remarkable. Since Synthesia is a free computer program, the students participating in this project, who are on 100% free/reduced lunch plans and are living in inner-city communities, demonstrated enthusiasm to not only learn music at school, but also at home on their own, with friends and family. Timed tests on students indicated that Synthesia users out-performed paper notation students by over 75% faster learning pace and over 40% level of accuracy on 7-day post tests. The best part about this research is that it seems to have energized a large population of students to want to learn and practice music at home, on their own time, and at their own pace taking education outside the boundaries of the school and hopefully into life-long learning contexts.

PBS Program/Content Used