Teaching world music with Skype. The next best thing to being there. Looking for partners.

2 10 2009


I teach world music and composition to grades 6-12 at Yokohama International School. I worked as a drummer for 30 years. And now have started teaching. In my first lesson I realized what a great opportunity I had while playing. My job took me around the world and I was able to discover and experience the music of so many countries first hand. How would I ever share those experiences with my students, and how would they ever be able to truly understand the music from a foreign culture without being able to travel there to experience it from the native peoples?

Then I found a virtual solution using video conferencing via Skype.

I was presenting a lecture to music educators in San Antonio last spring and one of the presenters was from the University of Vermont and I listened to her presentation. She discussed how she and her students connected with a school in Mexico and had a learning exchange via Skype.

The student teachers at the U of V were actually connecting with a music class in Mexico that had a music lesson via Skype.

I have attended several seminars this last year. The common phrase was “20th century learning”. They talked about how our students are using technology and that we better start to change the way we teach because the times are a changing! Unfortunately none of them really gave any constructive plans on how to do this other than use a computer and technology in your lessons. Well, Skyping to me is 20th century learning at it’s finest. It is using technology to connect with the source. Learning music from the native peoples from another culture. Just like I had done previously when traveling the world as a performer. It was using technology to improve the learning experience and make it better and easier. It wasn’t just using technology because the students use it.

I started a teaching exchange with the U of V students. The U of V connected via Skype (this is free by the way) with my grade 7 music class and taught them a couple of lessons on melody writing. My students sent their work for assessment via Web 2.0 music notation software called NoteFlight. (Another free gem of technology). It has worked out so well I am definitely going to expand this method of teaching. I am surprised though that even after putting out feelers that no one has contacted me about setting up an exchange with their school. If you would like to have an exchange of music with my classes here at Yokohama International School, please contact me. We have a wonderful Japanese Koto group and I am a professional percussionist/drummer. I would be happy to discuss future possibilities. Please leave a comment or send me an email.

Enjoy the Music

Brad Johnston
Teacher of music and media technology, and IB Music
Yokohama International School
Yokohama, Japan




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