Music Technology: A Vehicle for Young Children's Music Learning
McDowall, Janet, Australian Journal of Music Education
Computer-based music technology is a normal medium for composition and performance realisation in the contemporary music industry and in leisure markets and this has been the case for some time. Almost a decade ago WiIliams and Webster (1999, p. xxv) explained: 'Computers and technology have quietly crept into the daily affairs of music making'. These developments have also impacted on music education contexts where there has been a steady increase in the use of computer-based music technology as a teaching and learning medium in many Australian educational settings, particularly in secondary schools and in tertiary music programs, catering for purposes such as aural training, music theory and music production.
However, use of computer-based music technology in education settings below secondary levels has tended to be much less common despite indications in the research literature of pre-secondary children's ability to both use and benefit from such experience. As far back as the early nineties Livermore (1992) collected compositions from sixty primary children between the ages of seven and eleven years. She suggested that 'the computer may well ... provide support by capturing fleeting ideas, making it possible for children to return to them if desired' (p. 199). More recently, Stauffer (2001) presented a case study of an eight year old child's composition experience, using the program Making Music, over a period of seven months. This program enables composition using non-traditional notation.
The studies by Livermore (1992) and Stauffer (2001) are exceptional since there is, overall, a paucity of research literature relating to the use of computer-based music technology by children. Moreover, the few research studies that have been conducted in this field have generally been conducted in contexts that have been set up for the purposes of the research rather than in normal classroom contexts. However, alongside the fairly sparse body of research looking at the use of computer-based music technology with students in the years prior to secondary schooling, some scholarly opinion is strongly advocating that these resources should be used with children. Almost two decades ago, Upitis (1989) argued for children's use of computers as creative tools, saying: 'I believe the most powerful software and hardware in music education allows children and adults to manipulate music sounds and forms, learning something about the craft of music composition through the creation of an original work' (p. 151). Around the same time, Webster (1989) drew attention to children's use of computer technology, in an article that focused on children's musical composition. He referred to 'the ease with which children can engage in composition with tools such as the personal computer and attached sound devices' (p. 164). Alongside such scholarly opinion, suggestions for use of computer-based music technology have regularly appeared in music curriculum publications aimed at the primary and early years of schooling such as Young and Glover (1998), Shehan-Campbell and Scott-Kassner (1994), and Pugh and Pugh (1998).
Although there have been indications for some time that computer technology can play a valuable role in children's music education, limited availability of appropriate software has until relatively recently been problematic with regard to young children's use of these resources. As Fatouros, Downes and Blackwell (1994) claimed, until recently most music-making software has been too sophisticated for use with young children. But even at that time this situation was changing, with developments in the scope and quality of software providing new opportunities for children's learning. Fatouros, Downes and Blackwell continued by describing a considerable range of music-making software that had recently become available. A few years later, further developments were indicated in a seminal article by Webster (1998). …