Research that emerged a few years ago indicating that listening to music can help a child’s cognitive development has been supplanted by research indicating that trying to make music is where the real benefits emerge for youngsters. Either way, schools are renewing their efforts to bring music back into elementary school classrooms. Technology can facilitate those efforts and take them in new directions.

Although music education has negative associations for many children (and even parents), it’s undeniable that most children love music. The key is to turn that interest into something of value in the classroom.

Electronic keyboards are one way of doing just that. These keyboards, used in combination with music education software, give students access to instrument sounds they would not get in the physical world, as those instruments are costly, unavailable, or difficult to play. Other exercises may teach students to find patterns by playing sound games.

Keyboards also enable students to try their hand at composition and performance with a sophistication far beyond their years. Add-on software can help record those compositions in proper musical notation.

Taking this one step further, teachers can encourage students to write music that builds on other projects they or their friends are doing–for example, providing a soundtrack to a video game or poetry. For students from other cultures, music is one way to share their heritage with their classmates.

Despite the promise of computer-aided music education, a recent national survey by Florida State University found that more than 60 percent of K-12 music teachers do not use computers or electronic keyboards regularly in their classes. They said they are unable to purchase proper equipment and do not have the training to use it well. But on the bright side, more than 90 percent of those responding to the survey said that they would like to integrate technology into their lessons.

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