Last week Trevor and I took the girls on a mini-vacation… part of which involved a beautiful ferry ride through the Gulf Islands of British Columbia.
Given that we both spend a good amount of our working lives in front of a screen, we are obviously very passionate about the online universe, but nonetheless, we were still shocked by the hundreds of passengers who were glued to their smartphones as the ferry sailed by some of the most incredible scenery anywhere in the world.
No doubt these passengers were engaged with a smartphone app of some sort. It seems we’re in the midst of an app explosion. From flashlights to babysitters to language learning… there’s an app for that.
And piano education is right on board. As am I… sometimes…
Why My Piano Apps Play Second Fiddle
My iPad is loaded with many fantastic apps to help facilitate my piano students’ learning. And as much as they drool over the opportunity to put their face in front of a screen, I don’t ever turn to the iPad first when I’m looking to motivate my piano students during lesson time.
And here’s why…
My piano students need to move! They spend enough time sitting on a bench playing through repertoire, that when it’s time to shift activities… I’d much rather get them up and moving with physical games and piano exercises instead of having them sit in front of a screen (and this isn’t simply a matter of principle… the benefits of movement and exercise on brain functioning is well documented).
And if there isn’t a physical game to support a skill, then I’d rather have my piano students interact with me (not a screen) using something like a board game.
Now I’m not telling you to completely ditch your iPad for simpler times, but I am suggesting that before your students interact with an app, first ask yourself, “Can I teach these same skills through physical exercise or social interaction?”
If the answer is “YES”, then put the iPad away until it can be of real benefit to your piano students (or have them use the iPad outside of their lesson time).
When To Pull Out The iPad
We recently chatted with Tim Topham in a podcast that discussed how the iPad can be used in innovative ways in your lessons beyond just playing piano-related games. Apps that provide a collaborative playing atmosphere (like NoteStar), apps that make publishing your students’ music a snap, or apps that can support your students’ learning at home when you aren’t there (to enhance sight reading and ear training, for example) give piano students opportunities that would not normally exist. I wish I could be at my students’ homes to provide ear training drills or that my piano kids could play along with a band at the drop of a hat… and with these apps they can!
Decide When The Time Is Right
I’m all for “keeping up with the times” and incorporating technology into a piano lesson setting… but everything has its time and place. It’s easy to be lured into the flashiness of technology…but sometimes there just simply shouldn’t be a substitute for learning through physical play or good ol’ human interaction. Sometimes there isn’t always “an app for that”.
If you’re inspired to get your kids up and moving, then our crazy, zany, and educationally sound activities from Pssst… Your Piano Teacher Thinks This Is Theory or Shhhh… Your Piano Teacher Thinks This Is Practice are just what you need!