Academic journal article European Journal of Social & Behavioural Sciences, The

E-Learning Environments, Opportunities and Challenges in Teaching and Learning to Play the Piano in Student Teacher Education

Academic journal article European Journal of Social & Behavioural Sciences, The

E-Learning Environments, Opportunities and Challenges in Teaching and Learning to Play the Piano in Student Teacher Education

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Finnish universities are currently facing a situation whereby they need to reorganize their educational entities, cut staff, and cope with declining resources. In the faculty of education at the University of Lapland, the student teachers' music program is under pressure, now with fewer contact lessons for student teachers and more autonomous studying. This creates challenges for both teachers and students. It is important to sustain the quality of teaching and equip teachers with a set of skills which will allow them to teach music in elementary, junior high, and high schools. We suggest that blended learning offers the necessary support to Finnish university music programs that are currently facing such challenges.

The University of Lapland uses Optima, used in many universities nationwide, as one of its main e-learning environments for students. Teachers are able to add study material to Optima for autonomous learning purposes. In this vein, the corresponding author created folders in Optima for student teachers containing information and tasks related to music theory and videos of a piano being played in such a way that the student can see the piano keyboard, the passage presented in Optima, and the movements of the player's fingers. The videos consist of five levels of difficulty for each piano arrangement with the first level being the easiest and the fifth level being the most difficult.

The second e-learning environment of this study is an online music learning service called Rockway. The courses and lessons of Rockway have a pedagogical structure suitable for students and teachers (http://www.rockway.fi). Due to technical reasons, the students in this research were able to take advantage of the environments of Optima and Rockway only from the fourth lesson onwards.

2. Problem statement

This study, conducted in collaboration with the University of Helsinki, was aimed at interacting and developing music learning experiences together with students. We have incorporated our findings on blended learning (BL) to become an integral part of our teaching practices. For this study, the very question of whether or not contact lessons are necessary was mooted. We revamped teaching methods and course content in order to uncover the means to effectively incorporate BL into music education. By revealing new ways to use BL in music education, this study invites music teachers at other universities and schools to develop innovative methods to teach music, and stimulates discussion on how to foster communication between teachers and student teachers.

Previous studies on BL in higher education have concentrated on an evaluation of BL (Hubackoca and Semradova, 2016). However, in the field of music education, BL has been studied by only a small number of researchers. A few years ago, several music academies from Norway, Finland, and Sweden participated in a study, which focused on teacher visions in higher education music academies (Juntunen, 2014; Ferm-Thorgersen et al., 2016). The study brought to light how to develop music pedagogy in academies, and it revealed potential commonalities between traditional instrument pedagogy and classroom music pedagogy (Ferm-Thorgersen et al., 2016). We aim to develop music pedagogy as well, but with BL. In the future, it will be important to study the potential of BL, especially as the number of contact lessons declines.

It is not possible to define BL as simply a mix of a and b. It is possible to see a true blend here, a melting pot of different learning styles, environments, and relationships (Bonk and Graham, 2006, xvii-xiii). Our study lies in the overlap of two fields, music education and BL. Anderson (2003) and Dennen et al. (2007) accentuated teacher-student relations in creating e-learning tools and platforms where interaction between teacher and student was valued as the most important form of interaction by the students themselves (Anderson, 2003). …

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