Technology: Teacher’s Friend of Foe?

Have you been uneasily watching students get their dopamine fix from beeps and tweets of so-cial media? Ah, valuable time that could be for piano practice! Yes, we’re quite convinced of this, yet we’re lured by an anxious feeling that we’re missing the latest technology for teaching. Don’t be dismayed…and don’t be misled.

Our students may be obsessed with all things digital and all things social, and we are tempted to mirror…to get in the game. Relax! Enjoy a bit of technology for yourself, but remember that we are entrusted with a loftier purpose. In fact, we offer a powerful antidote to digital obsession: person-to-person interaction, beauty of sound, expressive connection, tactile sensitivity and artistry.

It may seem odd to downplay the role of technology just as we announce the release of the Piano Adventures Player App. The key is to place technology in the toolbox for the purpose of arts education, but keep technology out of the driver’s seat. It is an option, not a mandate, as we will continue to emphasise in our digital offerings.

While there is no denying the momentum of digital development, recall that educators have en-countered a series of technology waves in the past. Radio, television, cassette tape, programmed text, videotape, DVD and interactive CD ROM have each carried the banner of breakthrough media in their time. Each was to forever change the face of education. In almost quaint fashion, each fell short of proponent claims and retreated to an appropriate, backseat role in education.

We can learn from this history. There is always hope and hype: exaggerated expectations and special interests. We can explore what new technologies offer, but retain a perspective of realism. I shudder when I hear federal policymakers mandating iPads over textbooks or curricular change that follows technology and sidelines the teacher. The educator must lead. Learning outcomes must stay at the fore. Digital technologies, just as technologies of the past, should follow and contribute to the mission. They do not supplant.

So it is in our piano teaching. Do what you do will. Connect with the student; share your passion and expertise. Add a bit of technology to your toolbox where it serves you well, but stay fo-cussed on the goal of developing musical minds and hearts. I’m not sure what would constitute a “digital mind and heart”, but it doesn’t sound good. So this is the perfect time to do what we do. The next generation needs soulful, heartfelt art, delivered with the richness and rawness of humanity. Technology can fall in line accordingly.

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