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Thomas J. West Music

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Teaching Digital Natives Requires New Approaches

Posted on January 27, 2015 at 7:50 AM

Teaching Digital Natives Requires New Approaches

As I finish off this round of grading projects for my high school Digital Music Composition class, I am once again struck by a few glaring consistencies:


1. Female students far outpace male students in academic achievement. The quality of the work being submitted can be divided right down the gender line. Only two female students are struggling, and one has an IEP.


2. So many students are choosing to waste valuable class time given to them rather than stay engaged. Why? They can't break larger projects into smaller pieces - especially when it involves extensive reading. Even when there are screencast videos available to walk them through portions of the project, they don't really watch them.


3. They don't check for quality before submitting by reviewing the required elements list. They also don't ask the teacher, who is sitting 15 feet way from them, to review their work.


Socialization seems to be the top priority. I work for a cyber charter school with an on-site program for the performing and fine arts, so their time in my building is really the only socialization they get. 


I am left with the inevitable conclusion that I must adjust and do the following:


1. More closely monitor and interact with them on a regular basis in class. Everything they need to do the projects being asked of them is right in front of them, but they still at ages 14-18 need an adult to push them and provide structure.


2. Create checklists they can easily follow through the projects.


3. Have students create a schedule based on which projects they select to work on and make them stick to it.


All three of these steps are going to require more of my time and engagement, which in my current setting will add additional stress to an already work-heavy environment. My duties at this school are numerous and varied, and the Digital Music classes were opportunities to keep my head above water while my students worked.


A minority of my Digital Music students are able to be successful in the current setup. The rest are pulling B's, C's, and D's. In some cases, there is a lack of interest in the subject matter - it's the only music course in the school that has no prerequisite. I can always suggest that they not take the course again if they show little interest. As an ensemble music teacher, I guess I've gotten used to the students I work with actually wanting to get good at what they are doing. I am glad that I don't teach another subject where this kind of indifference to the subject matter is common.



This article (c) 2015 Thomas J. West. All content on ThomasJWestMusic dot com is licensed under a Creative Contributions Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. Please contact the author before publishing on or off-line.

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