Music/Mobile Tech nominated for Heart for the Arts award

We were absolutely delighted — and very surprised — to find out today that the Music/Mobile Tech project has been recognised as one of the best local authority arts initiatives of the year, alongside two other Southampton Music Hub projects: Sounds from the Stadium and Early Tweets!

Launching App Skills Books

We're delighted to announce the launch of our new App Skills Books — five iBooks packed full of video guides to help in delivering Music/Mobile Tech composition projects and music technology lessons. The books are free and can be downloaded from our resources page. They make a great compliment to the other free resources we have made available already.

The App Skills Books have been developed over the past six months. Based on project delivery from the Autumn term, they have been reviews and improved based on participant and setting staff feedback during the first five weeks of Spring term. As we launch these books, we wanted to share a little bit about the difference we've seen them make to the quality of music making taking place in Music/Mobile Tech sessions.

From the Youth Music Quality Framework:

E3: There are appropriate and sufficient materials and equipment to support the session

One clear, and immediate improvement that we've seen from making use of the App Skills books this term is that they have markedly improved the quality of the resources available to participants and setting staff in the sessions. 

E4: The duration of contact time and depth of engagement are sufficient and appropriate to achieve the intended outcomes

With music leaders spending less time delivering skills training, we've also seen more time spent discussing musical understanding with participants. We've also seen setting staff able to more confidently assist in skills training, able to more actively engage in the sessions, learning alongside the young musicians taking part.

Y1: Music-making is placed within the wider context of the young musician’s life, with recognition of the young musician’s existing musical identity
S2: The musical process (and what is expected of young musicians) is clearly explained and demystified
S4: Young musicians are supported to progress their musical skills, and other skills through music
Y4: Feedback on young musician’s practice is given, with next steps for improvement made clear (though not necessarily through spoken instruction). Where possible the pathway for improvement is identified by the young musician and their peers

The improvement we've seen in these three areas is interlinked. With video guides available to participants, they are able to be more self-motivated and independent in the way they learn new skills; they can move at their own pace, building on their own musical experiences and existing skills; and they can identify pathways for improvement and development.

We've been so excited to use our new App Skills books this term, and we hope you will enjoy using them too.

Performances and Workshops (Southampton)

Last week, we ended the half term with four performances and workshops in schools around Southampton. The aim was to inspire children, young people and setting staff with the possibilities of what music technology can do.

We were joined at Redbridge and City College by Ricky Tart, who delivered two incredible performances which blended music technology with other instruments, singing, spoken word poetry and visual art. After each performance he led songwriting workshops with 20 participants, showing them how to use technology as a tool for writing story-based songs. 

At Springhill, we were joined by Luke Targett, who demonstrated how he uses music technology for songwriting, performance and production. During the workshop afterwards, participants had the opportunity to create backing tracks in GarageBand using Live Loops, which they developed further using lyrics and instruments. At the end, we asked them if the day had given them new ideas of making their own music, and the answer was a resounding yes!

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We ended the week with at Shirley Warren, joined by 20 of their violin players who formed the string section of a song that we created together — the whole of KS2 — exploring ideas about using music technology for composing, performing and sharing music. In the workshop afterwards, participants wrote songs in pairs, adding instruments and lyrics to tracks made in GarageBand Live Loops.

All week we were joined by Sam and Dylan, a tech support team from Solent University who did an outstanding job of making everything work and sound great — thank you!

Reflecting on Performances and Workshops:

From the Youth Music Quality Framework:

S2: The musical process (and what is expected of young musicians) is clearly explained and demystified

Watching Ricky perform and lead workshops, was a great opportunity to observe and reflect on the performances and workshops, looking at how successful they are at achieving our project aims, reviewing how we can improve project delivery for the future. One area that stood out as something to learn from Ricky's delivery was the way he paired high-quality musical performance with clear and engaging explanations of his musical process. It would be very easy for performances from a professional musician to seem out of reach for the young musicians in the audience. However, by using his own performances as examples of the musical ideas he would explain, and later ask the young people to take part in, Ricky was able to demystify the musical process, inspiring young musicians whilst also equipping them for they would be expected to do.

Again, from the Youth Music Quality Framework:

M5: Project staff - beyond the music leaders - show commitment to the activities, and music leaders and other project staff communicate before, during and/or after the session

One of the greatest parts of last week — beyond seeing the response from the young musicians taking part — has been the response from the setting staff where performances and workshops have been taking place. We've had excited messages from every single setting, leading to supporting two of the schools in delivering the Music/Mobile Tech composition projects for themselves, as well as working with another to co-deliver songwriting workshops as an extra-curricular activity. 

Reflecting on Summer Community Workshops

This August we held the first of our community workshops at Newtown Youth Centre in Southampton. The centre has a regular attendance of between 50-80 young people and the workshops were available as part of their summer programme of events: four, two-hour sessions, over two weeks.

Over the four workshops, staff wrote journals reflecting on each session and evaluation forms were filled in by participants and setting staff. This blog aims to summarise and share what we learnt along the way.

Musical Assessment and participant Feedback

Staff have been using an evaluation journal format, developed based on the Youth Music Evaluation Toolkit. They are asked to reflect on our three outcomes in both a quantitative and qualitative way.

To measure the musical ability of students, staff use a "Composition Progression Framework" (downloadable from our resources page), a framework that has been adapted from the hub's Primary and Secondary Progression Frameworks.

When trying to get participant feedback we had two issues to learn from. Firstly, the open nature of the sessions meant that with participants coming and going freely, that whilst we were able to get committed participants to fill in an evaluation at the end of the session, it was much harder to get evaluation responses from participants who left early, or came back and forth. Secondly, some of the participants had additional learning or physical needs, and so filling in a paper evaluation form was not easy or appropriate in some cases.

For future workshops we will look at alternative methods of conducting evaluations at the end of the sessions: possibly giving all participants a token and asking them to put it in one of multiple labeled buckets as they leave, with the option to leave more detailed feedback if they wish to.

Developing Composition Skills

Over the course of the four sessions, we saw a diverse range of composition skill levels among participants. As open access sessions, we saw some participants take part for very shout amounts of time, and some much longer periods over multiple sessions. With those students who took part over longer periods, we saw a big increase in their composition abilities: some increasing their skills from level 1 on the Composition Progression Framework to level 3 in some areas. 

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Participant feedback suggests that they felt the workshops had really given them new ideas and apps that they could use to make music at home. They asked for more workshops, and more ideas to help them take this even further.

The biggest challenge in conducting workshops came with providing participants with ideas and skills for how to progress and develop their skills. The accessibility of the apps on offer meant that we saw high levels of engagement among participants, and the resources available to them meant that they had some options for knowing what they could do next, but accessing a wider range of resources more easily would allow participants to have a more self-motivated approach to making progress. 

Developing Confidence and Communication

It was frequently noted by setting staff that the workshops had attracted the engagement of young people who would not normally take part in the music activities at the centre. Whilst the open nature of the workshops meant that we saw some young people more comfortable with observing rather than directly participating, it also enabled young people to engage in their own time.

iPhone music composition challenge:

Matt Brombley (Music/Mobile ech project manager) has set himself a challenge this week:

This week, I set myself a challenge: find a location, compose a piece of music and create an accompanying short film.

Check out his progress as he tries to create a song a day using just his iPhone over on his new blog.

Creating App Guides on iPad

As part of developing resources for the Music/Mobile Tech project, we have been creating basic app guides: annotated screenshots of apps that demonstrate the core functionality of an app to students, staff and others. These guides allow us to give less time to skills training and more time to musical learning. They also allow students to learn independently, not relying on staff to demonstrate how to use an app before they can move on.

Here's a run down of how we created our guides so that you can make more of your own.

Step 1: Screenshots

Take screenshots of your app by pressing the home button and sleep/wake button simultaneously.

Step 2: Annotate your screenshots

This (yes, that is the name of the app!) is a great app for quickly adding annotations to screenshots. It's simple and easy to use. Some might say its functionality is too limited, but personally, that's a feature to me. The results look great and, best of all, it's free.

Step 3: Create a cover page

I've been using Keynote for this, but equally you could use any graphics app. It's just good to have an easy to read cover page for when you want to find the guides later on. I export my cover page as a PDF and send it to PDF Expert for later.

Step 4: Create your PDF

You could do this in Keynote, or Pages, or any other app that lets you import images and create PDFs, but I have decided to use a combination of Workflow and PDF Expert. I created a workflow (which you can find in their gallery) to let me select images, create a PDF and open in PDF Expert. With both my cover page and my images as PDFs in PDF Expert, I can merge them in to one document, change the order of the images if needed, and get it ready to share.

Step 5: Share

We put our PDF guides in to iBooks and leave the iBooks app in the dock on the home screen. From there the guides are accessible to staff and students at any time.

You can download the our App Guides from our resources page. If you have been using any of our guides, make any of your own guides, or have any ideas for how this could work better, we’d love to hear from you on Twitter: @musictechsouth

Why Technology? (Part 1)

"Quite simply, using music technology more frequently and more effectively to create, perform, record, appraise and improve pupils’ work is central to improving inclusion and the quality of assessment of music” (Ofsted 2012)

As someone who has been using music technology for over a decade, the benefits of technology for the children and young people I teach seemed obvious to me. One of the most encouraging aspects of putting together the funding bid for the Music/Mobile Tech project was getting to reinforce this instinctive understanding with research. With this series of blogs, I hope to share some of my findings with you. But first, I'd like to share a part of my own story with music technology.

There are two defining moments, over the past decade, that have helped me to more clearly see how technology can be used to unlock creative potential. Both of these moments involve this Korg sampler:

I was 19 when I first brought a Korg ESX1 sampler and, it quite simply, changed the way I thought about music and my relationship to music changed completly.

Before owning an ESX1, I had been a drummer, and a drummer only: tuned percussion wasn't for me; guitars were for my brother and I had never got on with piano either. But when melody was presented to me as a sequence of steps, ready to be manipulated through evolving changes, it was suddenly accessible to me in a way that made sense to my drummer brain. It wasn't that there was anything particularly magical about that piece of Korg gear, rather, it was just that it was a way of creating music that worked for me. It felt accessible to me in a way that no other way of making music had felt before.

Sampling and sequencing in this way unlocked a whole new world of creativity for me. I started writing and composing music. I started recording music. I started performing that music live. I started to learn about intervals and chords: where there were gaps in my knowledge of the melodic aspects of music theory, I filled them in as I went along. I moved on to sequencing and recording with more advanced computer software and eventually ended up going to university to study Popular Music Production. It was a journey that started with a sampler, but led me much further that I could possibly have imagined at the time.

This leads me on to my second defining moment: the day I saw the £600 piece of hardware that had unlocked my own creativity as a £15 app on the iPad.

I had been using my iPad for making music for a while when I saw the Korg iElectribe app on the App Store and so it wasn't that I'd never considered the possibility of the iPad for making music, but rather it was a clear realisation that came following seeing the expensive hardware that had unlocked my own creative journey as an affordable and accessible piece of software.

And it's not just one app. The iElectribe app is available alongside countless other pieces of software. Each piece of software with its own workflows, each waiting to unlock the creative potential of another young mind, just like the Korg ESX1 had unlocked mine.

Whether it's the "Smart Instruments" in GarageBand making chords accessible and understandable, or the way visually sequencing in Auxy or Beatwave makes scales and intervals come alive, the power of the iPad is in the way the software opens up new routes in to making music. For me, the Music/Mobile Tech project is about harnessing that sense of possibility, and using it to help young find their own way in to making music.

Project Management on iPad (Part 1)

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One of my personal aims for this project is to see how I can make better use of my iPad for work. As someone who is passionate about the transformative nature of mobile technology in education, I believe it is important that I'm willing, and able, to do my work every day, using the same technology that my students will use.

With that in mind, I have been using a 12.9" iPad Pro as my only work device since December 2015. As well as a whole bunch of music making apps (more on those in later posts), I create and manage planning documents and student records in Pages; I write drum scores using Symphony Pro; I create presentations and present using Keynote; I edit videos in iMovie; and I store most of my other documents in Dropbox. Alongside these apps, as well as the music apps we use for project delivery, I want to share the apps and workflows I am using to as I endeavour to manage the Music/Mobile Tech project from my iPad.

Funding Bid Application

I drafted and edited our funding bid in 1Writer, my personal favourite plain text editor on iOS. With split screen multi-tasking on iPad I was able to have research, notes or PDF documents (stored in PDF Expert) side-by-side with the funding bid. An Apple Bluetooth Keyboard also came in handy for longer periods of writing. But, equally handy, was having 1Writer also available of my iPhone for even more on-the-go note making and editing.

Project Launch

Press releases and blog posts have all been drafted and edited in 1Writer. The introductory video for the project (embedded above) was created in Adobe Voice and even the project logo was designed on iPad, using Autodesk's Graphic app.

Sadly, despite offering great iPad apps for updating the Music/Mobile Tech website, Squarespace required a desktop browser for the itial site setup. So, I went back to my Mac, briefly, and used Chrome to set up the site. Perhaps there are website platforms that would provide a better iPad experience, but I've used Squarespace before, and, I hope that now the site is set up, I will be able to manage and update it from my iPad at least.

Moving Forward

I'm still trying to get my head around how to tackle some of the challenges coming up: what apps do I use to keep track of timetabling and task management? what apps and files are best for sharing formatted text and other documents? can I create all the resources we have planned using my iPad? If you have any suggestions, you can join the conversation with us on Twitter (@musictechsouth).

Launching Music/Mobile Tech

I'm very happy to be the one who gets to write our first staff blog, announcing the launch of the Music/Mobile Tech project. After months of project planning and bid writing, followed by months of anxious waiting, we received the news last week that Youth Music would be funding the Music/Mobile Tech project. We're so honoured that Youth Music saw the same potential in the project that we saw when putting it together. We're also so grateful that we now get to the opportunity to try and fulfil that potential.

The Music/Mobile Tech project is an exciting opportunity for young people in Southampton and on the Isle of White to create and express themselves with the latest music technology. Smartphones and tablets are a huge part of our lives and the Music/Mobile Tech project is about helping our young people, as well as their families and teachers, to unlock the huge potential of these devices.

Our three aims with this project are...

  1. To help young people improve their composition skills
  2. To help young people build their confidence and communication skill
  3. To help staff to make better use of mobile technology

Between July 2016 and July 2017 the project will see over 2000 young people, their families, and setting staff taking part in a range of music technology activities, including...

  1. Ten-week composition projects
  2. Electronic music performances and workshops
  3. Community music workshops
  4. CPD training and resources for staff

Alongside the project, we also want to use these staff blogs to share our experiences throughout the project, including...

  • Sharing music apps and activities we're using
  • Reflecting on our experiences taking part in projects, workshops and performances
  • Sharing our experiences as we aim to run and manage the project on iPads

We hope that sharing our experiences in this way will help both ourselves, as we reflect upon and consolodate what we have learnt, as well as helping others to benefit from what we learn along the way.