The smartChoir Module: A Prototype
      for Teaching Teachers to Develop
      Online Instruction/Rehearsal Enhancement
      Using the National Standards for Music Education

      James F. Daugherty

      Center for Music Technology
      University of Kansas
      jdaugher@ukans.edu

      Anne Millard Daugherty
      The Online Academy
      University of Kansas
      adaugh@falcon.cc.ukans.edu

      Introduction

      Equipping the nation's schools with up to date computer technology and internet access has been a focus of efforts at federal, state, and local levels. Yet the impending success of this national crusade uncovers a dilemma aptly depicted by Guernsey (2000): "O.K, Schools Are Wired. Now What?"

      Numerous studies suggest teachers lack sufficient preparation and background to incorporate substantive electronic learning into their teaching contexts. The Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress (1995a, 1995b), in one of its last reports, reveals that while over 50 per cent of teachers feel comfortable with traditional computer applications (e.g., word processing, tutorials, games, publishing), less than 10 per cent consider themselves competent to use more involved formats such as electronic network collaboration, problem solving applications, or multimedia. In a similar vein, the National Center for Educational Statistics (1999) reports that only 20 per cent of teachers feel prepared to integrate electronic learning into their classrooms.

      Bosch and Cardinale (1993) find that many pre-service teachers have not experienced useful models that embody instructional use of computers in their undergraduate courses and field experiences. Baron and Golman (1994) indicate that pre-service teacher education tends to focus on less sophisticated computer skills that do not lend themselves to problem-solving applications or higher-order thinking skills. A recent study released by the Milken Exchange on Educational Technology (1999) finds that of 416 teacher preparation institutions surveyed, most report that technology use is not integrated into regular coursework or field experiences.

      Context of the smartChoir Module

      Benefits and dimensions of electronic learning for enhancing choral music rehearsals and choral music education courses have been identified and discussed by Daugherty (1999). Strategies associated with web-based rehearsal notes and links, web forms, electronic portfolio assessment, audio and video files, discussion boards, and electronic collaboration can relate "knowledge of" to "knowledge about" music making in creative ways that foster the active participation and reflection of each singer. Yet, students who, as learners, may favor such online engagement in their own education at the undergraduate level appear to have little clue how they, as teachers, might design such electronic learning opportunities for eventual use in their own classrooms and rehearsal contexts.

      In the fall of 1999, pre-service teachers in a choral music methods class at the University of Kansas engaged in a pilot project designed to ascertain the feasibility of teaching teachers to develop electronic learning resources. A particular focus of the project was to design electronic learning experiences in conjunction with the National Standards for Music Education and specific examples of choral literature suitable for school choral ensembles. Specifically, this pilot project sought to gauge the effectiveness of using models or templates that could readily be adapted for use with various real-life contexts and objectives.

      It was assumed that these pre-service teachers would have some experience with traditional computer applications, but no expertise with more advanced skills such as creating web pages, designing web forms, or crafting electronic learning experiences. Rather than teach technology per se, the project sought to enable pre-service teachers to contemplate and design opportunities for electronic learning by providing them only the minimum technological tools needed at any one time to achieve their pedagogical goals. Provision was also made to empower teachers to progress beyond these minimum tools when they discerned a need to do so.

      Participants and Timeline

      Students (N =14) in the choral methods class were juniors and seniors pursuing certification as music teachers. Four students intended to teach public school choral music upon graduation. Ten students were instrumental music education majors. For all students this course was a requirement for state certification as music teachers. There were three female students (21.43%) and eleven (78.57%) male students in the class.

      Six fifty-minute class periods were devoted to the project, including brainstorming ideas, constructing the modules, and sharing the finished products. The class met 45 times during the semester. The smartChoir project, then, encompassed 13.33 per cent of total class time.

      As indicated in Table 1, prior to the project 11 students (78.58%) described themselves as either "totally lost" (50%) or "uncomfortable" (28.58%) about designing an instructional web module. Of these students, two (14.29%) did not own a personal computer and five (35.71%) did not have internet access from home. Only three students (21.42%) described themselves as "somewhat competent." Interestingly, all students had completed a one semester music and technology course required of first music education students.

      Table 1
      Self-reported competence/comfort prior to smartChoir

      Before

       Totally lost Uncomfortable Somewhat Competent Competent Very Competent
      Respondents
      7
      4
      3
      Percentage
      50.00
      28.58
      21.42*

      *Compare to national estimates(OTA/NCES) of 10-20%

      The smartChoir Module: Method and Design

      The smartChoir Module consists of six components. (See Figure 1).

      Figure 1. smartChoir splash page (click for a larger image)
      The first section, "About smartChoir," relates the module to research based strategies for effective instruction, discusses the philosophy of the module, and provides links to the National Standards for Music Education.

      The second section (see Figure 2) features examples of modules crafted with the use of smartChoir. These modules are categorized by the specific National Standards and choral literature to which they apply. Included here also are links to some electronic learning opportunities in use with choral ensembles and choral methods courses at the University of Kansas.

      Figure 2. smartChoir Examples
      The third section illustrates various formats for constructing electronic learning. Included here are interactive web pages for learning to use web forms, bulletin boards, and discussion/chat formats, as well as incorporating audio, graphics, and links to the World Wide Web.

      Section four provides templates of these formats that pre-service teachers can copy and modify to their own specific contexts and needs. These templates include instructions for synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities, as well as quizzes and directed questions in various formats. Among these modes of assessment are options to create multiple choice questions that have an auto response from the computer, reflections and answers that can be sent to the instructor for comment, and others where students can compare their responses to exemplary responses provided either by the instructor or fellow classmates.

      Section five shows how to use browsers and FTPs. It also features basic tutorials on writing basic HTML code and viewing source code information from other web pages.

      The final component of smartChoir provides a wide array of links to online materials of potential interest to music educators. These resource links constitute both a means of further research and exploration and a collection of useful materials that teachers might profitably link to the modules they are crafting.

      Throughout its six components, smartChoir endeavors to show teachers how to design and construct electronic learning opportunities without requiring teachers first to accumulate large amounts of technological savvy. Rather, the emphasis remains on the pedagogical possibilities of electronic learning, and teachers are invited to jump right in and work with this pedagogy from the beginning.

      Results

      Following completion of the project, 13 students (92.86%) described themselves as basically competent in their abilities to design an instructional web module (see Table 2). Of these students, seven (50.00%) felt "somewhat competent" and six (42.86%) described themselves as "competent." No student felt "very competent." One student described himself as "uncomfortable" both before and after the project.

      Table 2

      Self-reported competence/comfort before and after smartChoir

      Before
        Totally lost Uncomfortable Somewhat Competent Competent Very Competent
      Respondents
      7
      4
      3
      Percentage
      50.00
      28.58
      21.42*

      After
        Totally lost Uncomfortable Somewhat Competent Competent Very Competent
      Respondents  
      1
      7
      6
      Percentage  
      7.14
      50.00*
      42.86*

      *Compare to national estimates(OTA/NCES) of 10-20%


      As indicated in Table 3, between 78.57% - 85.70% of all participants reported that they agreed or strongly agreed that teachers could design instructional web modules , that modules adapted to the National Standards and specific choral literature could be a valuable part of school choral music instruction, and that they would likely incorporate some form of online instruction in their teaching careers. The same student who described himself as "uncomfortable" both before and after the project consistently reported disagreement with such statements.

      Table 3

      Self-reported views of instructional web modules in choral music instruction


      Choral music teachers can learn to design and implement online instructional modules by following a pattern/model such as the one I used on my project:
       
      Strongly Disagree
      Disagree
      Neutral
      Agree
      Strongly Agree
      Respondents
      0
      1
      2
      9
      2
      Percentage
      0
      7.14
      14.28
      64.29
      14.28

      Web modules adapted to the National Standards and specific literature being rehearsed can be a valuable part of school choral music instruction.
       
      Strongly Disagree
      Disagree
      Neutral
      Agree
      Strongly Agree
      Respondents
      0
      1
      1
      6
      6
      Percentage
      0
      7.14
      7.14
      42.85
      42.85

      I will likely incorporate some form of online instruction into the choral music classes I teach.
       
      Strongly Disagree
      Disagree
      Neutral
      Agree
      Strongly Agree
      Respondents
      0
      1
      2
      7
      4
      Percentage
      0
      7.14
      14.28
      50.00
      28.57

      Technological issues constituted the bulk of responses to questions concerning both what students learned most from the project and what was most frustrating to them about the project. Students also stated they learned a lot in examining choral literature from the perspective of the National Standards. In addition, students offered practical suggestions for improving this web project in future classes, most of which centered around allowing more time for finishing the project and more instruction in writing html code. Many students commented on how much they were able to learn in a relatively short amount of time.

      Discussion

      Results of the pilot project suggest that an approach such as smartChoir holds promise for enabling pre-service teachers to comfortably design electronic learning opportunities without extensive prior experience in advanced computer applications. More research is warranted, including field testing in contexts where choral music education students are not previously accustomed to e-learning in their regular coursework.

      Further refinements of the smartChoir module may include a more extensive sample base of templates, provision for users' self-assessment of skills imparted by the module, and a database of exemplary choral literature for ensembles of various abilities and voicings. It must be recognized as well that not all choral music education professors are proficient in those technological skills typically associated with ability to design e-learning enhancement opportunities. The smartChoir module, then, should be further refined to serve as a self-instruction strategy that both pre-service teachers and their instructors can utilize comfortably.

      Results indicate that pre-service teachers were able to advance considerably in their abilities to understand and design electronic enhancement experiences for choristers in a two week timeframe. However, more time is likely necessary to incorporate smartChoir into a typical undergraduate choral methods course. In a meta-analytic research review of 36 studies addressing the impact of computer use on student achievement, Khalili and Shashaani (1994) found that duration of instruction may be a primary variable. Instructional strategies incorporating technology appeared to be less effective when they lasted less than three weeks, and more effective when four to seven weeks in duration. Future trials of smartChoir might well encompass a four week period.

      Following experience with the smartChoir module, approximately 93% of students described themselves as competent to some degree to design and implement e-learning experiences. Moreover, 78.57% - 85.70% of participants evidenced favorable attitudes toward use of online enhancement strategies for choral music classes. As noted in Tables 2-3, one student remained uncomfortable throughout the project despite the fact that he was able to create a very good e-learning module linking the National Standards with specific choral literature. One or two other students took a neutral stance concerning the value of online enhancement strategies.

      This dispersion of attitudes serves to underscore some value considerations inevitably associated with electronic learning in a choral music context. Some research (Laffey and Musser, 1998), for instance, indicates that a preponderance of students entering teacher preparation programs may be negatively disposed toward teaching with technology, perhaps because they believe that technology may interfere with teacher-student relationships. The extent to which such an attitude might be characteristic of entering music education students, whether more or less so, is worthy of further investigation.

      Nonetheless, the case of the doubting student who stuck to his guns throughout the smartChoir project raises important philosophical and pedagogical concerns. On the one hand, it might be argued that the purpose of any teaching strategy is to enable students to learn. In a choral music context the music-making itself must remain a primary focus. If, for whatever reason, the major focus shifts to the technology per se, or the prospective teacher is less comfortable or less efficient using technology, student music-making may ultimately and adversely be affected. In that situation, making an issue of technology might be counter-productive.

      On the other hand, it may be that pedagogical concepts and practices associated with electronic learning, not particularly the technology itself, are legitimately threatening to some teachers. Such may be the case for those whose presently held beliefs about the nature of music teaching and learning, particularly in the context of performing ensembles, are constrained by a more teacher-centered, objectivist perspective. In this case, an argument for keeping music-making as a primary value might well make the point that student music- making is arbitrarily constrained and stunted by the teacher's rather narrow beliefs. As Nicholas Cook has argued, most recently in Music: A Very Short Introduction (1999), what music making is and the ways we teach and talk about it may be two different things. In a similar vein, Christopher Small (1998) discusses the "cult of the conductor." An outgrowth of the aesthetic approach to music typically found in the western classical tradition from the late 18th century forward, such prominence afforded the conductor may arbitrarily usurp or obscure the responsibility of ensemble musicians to contribute fully both to the process and product of music making.

      Such considerations point to two primary ways of viewing enhancement of choral music rehearsals though electronic learning: (1) the technology may allow teachers to become more efficient and more intentional in some of the ways they presently teach and structure rehearsals; or (2) the technology suggests and makes more feasible a pedagogy that may essentially change the ways teachers teach because it can change their concepts of music and music education.

      If the technology behind electronic learning is viewed primarily as a value-neutral tool, then pre-service teachers should become apprised of this technology and skilled in it to the extent they are prepared to utilize it or not according to their present perspectives on the nature of choral music teaching and learning. In this sense, the smartChoir module may become a sensible means of enabling pre-service teachers to attain sufficient technological skills in a relatively short amount of time.

      If, however, there are pedagogical values immanently, though not necessarily, made more feasible by electronic learning, then the smartChoir approach may serve as an entree to what can be fresh worldviews on the nature and practice of choral music instruction. The shape of that practice, to some extent, might perhaps be glimpsed from discussions of the past decade, particularly in math and science education, under the rubric of "constructivism" (e.g., Postlethwaite, 1993; O'Haver, 1999).

      Whether pre-service teacher education should serve to support and make more efficient present ways of teaching school choral music, or whether pre-service teacher education has a role to play in reforming accustomed ways of practicing choral pedagogy in the schools, is an old tension raised anew by electronic learning. Dynamics associated with that dialectic, however, merit continuing reflection at this time because they underscore an essential value question about the proliferation of technological hardware in today's schools: Now what?

      References

      Baron, L.C. and Goldman, E.S. (1994). Integrating technology with teacher preparation. In B. Means (ed.), Technology and education reform , 81-110. San Francisco: Josey-Bass Publishers.

      Bosch, K.A. and Cardinale, L. (1993). Preservice teachers' perceptions of computer use during a field experience. Journal of Computing in Teacher Education, 10 (1), 23-27.

      Cook, Nicholas. (1999). Music: A very short introduction. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

      Daugherty, James F. (1999). Online enhancement of choral music instruction. Proceedings of the Sixth International Technological Directions in Music Learning Conference. (San Antonio, TX: IMR Press), 144-149.

      Guernsey, Lisa. (2000). O.K., schools are wired. Now what? The New York Times Education Life (January 9), 32-38.

      Khalili, A., and Shashaani. L. (1994). The effectiveness of computer applications: A meta- analysis. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 27(1), 48-61.

      Laffey, J. and Musser, D. (1998). Attitudes of preservice teachers about using technology in teaching. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education.(6), 4, 223-242.

      National Center for Education Statistics (1999). What happens in classrooms: Instructional practices in elementary and secondary schools ( Document 1999348).

      O'Haver, Tom, compiler. (1999). Essays on constructivism and education. Maryland Collaborative for Teacher Preparation:http://www.inform.uma.eau/UMS+state/UMD- Projects/ MCTP/WWW/Essays.html

      Office of Technology Assessment. U.S. Congress. (1995a). Teachers & technology: Making the connection. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

      Office of Technology Assessment. U.S. Congress. (1995b). Teachers & technology: Making the connection. OTA report summary. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

      Small, Christopher. (1998). Musicking: The meanings of listening and performing. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England.