Changing Circumstances: Unexpected Benefits

As I worked to incorporate the IPad (GoodNotes in particular) more often into Music Theory, I put off recording a video featuring its implementation. Then, as is often the case, it was the end of the semester and I missed my opportunity. Thankfully I had plans to start using the same program with the Jazz Ensemble in the spring of 2020. For that course I was going to introduce some easy improvisation lessons (12-bar blues, ii-V-I progressions, etc.) and work on them as a group during rehearsals. All we had to do was get past the Winter Band Festival concert in mid-February and the Big Band Snowball in early March. Then I would be able to record the planned video to share. Long-story-short…no video. Classes have been moved on-line and I once again missed the opportunity.

However, I was able to find other ways to reach students using the IPad during these unusual times. In Evolution of Jazz I will often sit at the piano and show the class how the music is put together or how one style differs from another. My piano skills are not particularly good (I’m a trombonist) but over the years I have found a few pieces that highlight different styles and can fumble my way through them while getting the point across. So in an attempt to share that experience with the students on-line, I set the IPad up on a music stand and recorded myself at the keyboard. After that it was easy to share with everyone in the course. So easy in fact that I think a great summer project will be recording a few more tunes and having them available for students to view before class or before exams. Stay tuned for more tunes!

This is the video introducing Modal Jazz to the class.

If the embedded video does not play for you, click here.

For reference, we just finished talking about much more complicated styles of jazz like Bebop, Cool, and Hard Bop. By contrast, Modal Jazz uses far fewer chords and requires a different approach from the soloists to maintain interest while the harmonies change more slowly.

My biggest takeaway from our DigPINS experience may be the flexibility gained by incorporating more technology in the classroom. I can always revert to more traditional methods when necessary but it is great to have these resources available when the time comes to try something differently. Many thanks for the opportunity and for the upgraded classrooms in APHFA!

(3) Comments

  1. Susan Ashley

    Eric,
    Thanks for sharing your experience with using technology, first in a face to face settings, and now during this unprecedented time in teaching and learning. Your video shows that lessons can still be taught in an online setting. I like how you keep your recorded lesson real and personable, while emphasizing the objectives you want students to take away from the lesson. One question though, using the Bryn Mawr Digital Competencies Framework, what skills would you identify align with your implementation of this initiative?

  2. Eric High

    Of course. Although this was my “emergency plan B”, I feel comfortable saying it fits (or gets close to) the following competencies:

    Digital Communication – While not exactly teaching the competency to the students, I had to deliver course material via digital media.
    Data Analysis and Presentation – This might be closest to what I tried to accomplish if “data” can equal the description of the musical form and use of harmony.
    Digital Survival Skills – I was presented with an unusual, emergency-type of situation and needed to adapt immediately to get the course material to the students.

    I’m looking forward to finding more uses for the iPad and other technologies this fall.

  3. Brian Pirman

    Don’t worry Eric. Some of us are on “Emergency Plan C”

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