This afternoon I had the good fortune to enjoy a workshop about SmartMusic presented by Tom Carruth. In a nutshell, SmartMusic is a tool to help students as they practice music, and a tool to help teachers objectively assess students’ playing. (I’ll refrain from turning this post into a commercial about all the features and benefits. If you’re interested in knowing more about the program, click here.)
I am curious to hear from those of you who may use SmartMusic with your students. Have you been pleased with it? Disappointed? Somewhere in between?
If you use it, how heavily do you rely on it for grading? Do you require all students to use it, or is it optional?
Here are a few of my initial thoughts and observations. Those of who who know the program, please tell me if you agree or not.
– The program is incredibly well designed. It’s obvious this is not a first draft of the program. I think Tom said they’re on version 11 now, so most of the major bugs are gone, and the bells & whistles are getting really cool.
– There’s a ton of music already loaded into the system. It has virutally every popular method book and a ton of ensemble music ready to be used. For example, my students who use Essential Elements 2000 would have a very easy time practicing the music we learn at school with SmartMusic.
– Students can see the results of their assessment and get instant feedback on what they need to improve, at least in terms of playing right notes and rhythms.
– Since the nature of the program is very computer-centered, it requires students to have access to a computer. I teach in a primarily low-income district where most homes do not have a computer. It would be totally unreasonable to mandate that my students use the program. And since I teach primarily elementary, some students may lack the basic computer skills to do the work. In short, the whole element of using a computer could be an obstacle.
– The program is computer-centered, which might attract some students while discouraging others. Some students might be inclined to think, “Hey! I get to play my instrument AND use my computer at the same time! Cool!” while others might think, “If there’s anything worse than having to sit inside with a computer, it’s having to use a computer and practice my dumb instrument.”
– Students are required to enter an email address in order to enroll and log in. Some of the teachers at the workshop mentioned that some of their students do not have email addresses because they are not allowed to use the internet. (I realize that anyone can get free email accounts, but that’s not the issue.) Has the internet/computer usage issue been an obstacle for anyone?