Using technology in primary music education

Should we use technologies?

A resounding response to this is YES we should use technologies in music education! They have so much potential to contribute positively, yet what we should think about is how we maximise the use of technologies in ways that are meaningful, relevant and pedagogically sound. This takes careful planning, and teachers should be mindful of the following:

‘it is not whether technology is used (or not) which makes the difference, but how well the technology is used to support teaching and learning. There is no doubt that technology engages and motivates young people. However this benefit is only an advantage for learning if the activity is effectively aligned with what is to be learned. It is therefore the pedagogy of the application of technology in the classroom which is important: the how rather than the what.’

Higgins, Xiao and Katsipataki (2012:3).1

Whilst it is the case that many young people have access to the internet and to technologies in the home, we cannot and should not assume that this is universal and therefore make sure that we consider issues around equality of access. We should also consider regulated use of mobile technologies such as mobile phones with older primary pupils – the power of the technology they own is immense and the possibilities are great, but this needs careful management.

Music technology is integral to England’s National Plan for Music Education (DfE, 2011) and whilst some people were critical of music technology being included as an Annex rather than part of the main document, we should acknowledge that the Appendix is actually six pages in length and lays out many important points about the use of technology, including the following statement:

'Technology plays an important role in supporting, extending and enhancing the teaching of music. It can help connect communities in ways that rely less on location; be used to inspire, motivate and stretch pupils, including those reluctant to engage with music; help extend musical experiences; and help children with additional needs to further engage in music making. It complements other music teaching, while encouraging wider communication and collaboration with other pupils.'

DfE, 2011: 36.

It is not a case of exclusively using just musical instruments, voices or technologies – it is a case of exploiting the possibilities of combining many ways tools whenever appropriate and using them separately at other times. As such this whole section of the toolkit should be read in conjunction with the other sections and is only separated here for ease of reference. 

1Higgins, S., Xiao, Z. and Katsipataki, M. (2012) The Impact of Digital Technology on Learning: A Summary for the Education Endowment Foundation. Durham: University of Durham and EEF.