Collaboration between Queen’s University, Concordia University, and The Royal Conservatory has led to the ongoing development of a suite of tools - iSCORE, DREAM, and the Annotator - that can be used both in classrooms and to support teachers and students in independent music settings, such as homes. The tools can be used with all levels of learners from children to adults, and with all instruments including voice.
iSCORE is a free, bilingual, web-based tool to support and enhance instrumental learning, as well as enhance relationships between student and teacher and among students. Its design and development were guided by extensive research involving studio music teachers and university professors in music education and built on a tool called ePEARL, originally designed for use in the classroom. The tool has promise for applications by independent music teachers, as well as for classroom usage.
Teachers can set up an iSCORE account through The Royal Conservatory and invite their students to join their iSCORE class. iSCORE is now available at iscore.rcmusic.ca
Music Learning: iSCORE is designed to make practice sessions more effective and beneficial for students. The Work section of the e-portfolio facilitates this through three distinct stages:
- Planning – the students outline their goals and tasks and select strategies from a Strategy Bank that they think will help them complete the tasks. They outline general goals for the year, in addition to more specific, short-term goals.
- Doing – Students can record their work using a recorder embedded in iSCORE or upload video recordings, and both students and teachers can annotate the work using typing or audio commentary directly on the recordings. A summary of their work plan helps them track their progress against their goals. Students can also use iSCORE to compose, improvise, and save their favourite music.
- Reflection – Students are asked questions to facilitate consideration of their progress, as well as successful and less effective strategies.
Communication: Another key component of the e-portfolio focuses on communication. iSCORE has its own, secure messaging system, as well as a more widely shared discussion board for messages and links to documents. Students control access to their work by choosing those who have complete or partial access to viewing and commenting on the recordings of their practice sessions. Using the Calendar tab, students can schedule practice sessions, or communicate with their teachers and/or other students to set up rehearsals, master classes, and other events. A filing cabinet feature stores documents, recordings, and other materials that teachers make available to all students, as well as resources for help in using iSCORE.
Dr. Rena Upitis, Principal Investigator and Professor of Arts Education at Queen’s, described iSCORE as having potential for creating “musical pen pals.” In one application, classrooms in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Wurzburg, Germany, and Toronto, Ontario were linked. The composition begun in Fort McMurray was layered and built up through contributions in the other locations.
Resources for Teachers: Teachers wishing to use iSCORE can access free webinars online and get phone and e-mail support as well. The online iSCORE iDEAS offers tips for recording, attaching files, creating classes, viewing portfolios, and using iSCORE for practice, composing, and as an online dictation book. Sample lesson plans, research articles, and a user guide can also be purchased. The iSCORE YouTube channel offers instruction on use, testimonials, and videos of student using iSCORE.
Benefits for Students: The iSCORE Student Advisory Committee prepared a video on the benefits they have found from using the e-portfolio, including ongoing teacher feedback and comments and support from peers, improvements in listening and critical thinking, understanding the process of learning with goals and strategies, ability to focus on one aspect of music at a time, sense of accomplishment, measurable progress and confidence, and awareness of trends so that repetitive errors can be avoided.
DREAM, the Digital Resource Exchange about Music, is the second component of the suite and provides a clearinghouse of music resources, that any educator, student, parent, or person with an interest in music and music education can access. As described by Dr. Upitis, “DREAM functions, in many ways, like Trip Advisor for music.” The resources can be searched, by instrument, grade level (such as grade 4 cello) and even platform (such as iPhone), and, unlike sources such as You Tube, the resources have been assessed for quality by a small group of music experts before being posted.
Searches are guided by the areas that teachers have shown the most interest in, so additional related materials are suggested to supplement results. In addition to searching, users can rate the resources, see others’ ratings and recommendations, and suggest new resources to be added to the database, creating a contemporary and vetted resource of quality material.
DREAM will be launched in Summer 2014 and will be available on the website of The Royal Conservatory. It is expected to have wide appeal for people involved in music education, with the special benefit of reducing the isolation of teachers who teach out of their homes.
The development of the suite of tools is a collaboration of the Centre for the Study of Learning and Performance (CSLP) at Concordia University in Montreal, in partnership with Queen’s University in Kingston and The Royal Conservatory (RCM) headquartered in Toronto. The design and development phase was funded by Canadian Heritage, TELUS and the Matthews Family, with contributions from Concordia, Queen’s, and the RCM. Ongoing funding is from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the RCM, Queen’s, and Concordia.
The development, over a ten-year period, is led by Dr. Rena Upitis, with Dr. Philip Abrami, the Director of CSLP at Concordia, Ms. Angela Ester, the Vice President, Academic at the RCM, and Dr. Julia Brook, an adjunct professor at Queen’s.
The Annotator App: The third component of the suite of tools is under development, to be released in Summer 2015. The Annotator app expands on the annotation capacity already available in iSCORE, making it available for mobile devices as a stand-alone tool. Practice sessions by students and demonstrations by teachers can be recorded and then annotated by text, with students asking questions, teachers providing feedback and encouragement, and peers offering comments. For example, a student may send a teacher a video of their practice session between weekly lessons, giving the teacher an opportunity to offer support and advice; the student is informed by the app that the teacher has responded. The tool is aimed at increasing student engagement through increased communication and the use of tool, such as their smart phone, that they access outside of music study.
The ongoing funding will support both expansion of the program and in-depth research. New equipment allows the sharing of newly developed digital curriculum materials and the provision of laptops to the music teachers taking part in the research. A national study is underway on the use of iSCORE in education, leading to the development of curriculum supports and teacher professional development modules and the extension of access to the tool.
For Further Information
Dr. Rena Upitis
Professor of Arts Education
Faculty of Education