Technology plus music is an easy, accessible way to put STEAM in lessons — and students love it
The holy grail for those of us in education is a method that imbues students with higher-level thinking skills that stick, preparing them for what comes next in their lives. This means not just reaching all students with the content they must learn but making sure this information stays around in their heads to improve their school performance and knowledge base.
As we all know, this can be a tall order, but in my school district, we’ve been using the latest and newest technologies that help to engage kids in learning. Our results have been significant and, I believe, worth sharing.
My job involves instructing both teachers and students in how to implement technology tools into their lessons. All our middle- and high-school students in Moore County, N.C., have Chromebooks so our digital tools must be compatible. As part of our constant brainstorming of new ideas and tools, my team heard about an online music recording studio called Soundtrap that runs on Chromebooks and we developed a curricular program to use it at many schools in our district. I personally use it at both of my middle schools. One is a Title 1 school with a minority population of about 50 percent, and a free or reduced lunch status of about 65% while the other one is not a Title 1 school and its minority population is about 20 percent.
Regardless of how you use music, our results so far are demonstrating that as a learning aid, music is a powerful technique. Here’s how we’re reshaping our classrooms for the better.
It’s captivating kids
My strategy was to have students take information and turn it into a song. As soon as I told the kids that they would be writing their own songs in class and performing them, their eyes lit up. They were captivated by the idea of doing something so creative and different that was still part of their lesson plan.
The content could be something about World War I in history or it could be science or be about the planets or anything that teachers want them to remember. All students have to do is transfer it into lyrics then record it. We tell the kids to think of it as writing a poem using the information from class. Children at this middle-school age have such a strong connection to music and the famous singers who perform the music, so this approach really reaches them and makes them feel like they’re little superstars.
Brain research shows key role of music
Reinforcing the concept of our program was the fact that there have been neurological studies using MRI and PET devices that demonstrate how as people are involved with music, more areas of their brain are fired. Music engages practically every area of the brain at once, particularly the visual, motor, and auditory cortices. This kind of thinking boosts the ability to plan, strategize and focus on details, which translates to enhanced memory function.