Amy Burns, TI:ME, Technology, and SmartMusic

The Technology Institute for Music Educators (TI:ME) is a non-profit whose mission is to assist music educators in applying technology to improve teaching and learning in music. I recently spoke with TI:ME president Amy Burns about her personal experience with technology in the classroom.

Bob Grifa: From receiving the first TI:ME Educator of the Year Award in 2005 to becoming the President of TI:ME, you have long been a champion of using technology in the music classroom. What inspired you to use technology as part of your teaching?

Amy Burns: When I completed my undergraduate degree in the mid-1990s, technology was not a requirement for the music education degree. I began teaching elementary general music where a colleague received a grant to install a 16-keyboard SoundTree lab in her music room. A year later, she left when her husband relocated. I didn’t know much about the technology in her room, but thought it best to get on board and learn about the technological tools that could enhance my curriculum.

I heard about TI:ME and took TI:ME Level 1 and 2 courses over the next few summers, where I learned from some great teachers, including Tom Rudolph, Scott Watson, Don Muro, and Lee Bilotta. I was inspired to utilize technology in my elementary general music classroom, and as a result I was able to reach more students.

BG: What effect has using technology had on your teaching and your students’ learning?

AB: In my classroom we play instruments, move to music, sing, and much more; technology is simply one of many tools that I use. A few of the more pronounced results I’ve experienced from my use of technology include making it possible for much younger students to compose music (achieving MENC standard #4) and helping me to relate better with all my students.

BG: Do you have any advice for teachers who are considering the use of technology?

AB: Yes, start small. Using technology in your classroom can be as simple as using an iPod with playlists assigned for each class or grade level that you teach. When you get more comfortable, utilize networking tools like TI:ME and Musicpln to connect with other music educators so you can bounce ideas off each other on how to utilize technology in your classroom. Finally, when planning to use technology in your classroom, always remember that technology is simply another teaching tool. It is always wise to think of it this way instead of planning any lesson around technology. Let technology assist you in teaching a musical concept.

BG: Have you had the opportunity to use SmartMusic? What do you think of it?

AB: Yes, I use it with my fifth grade instrument class and my fifth graders adore it. They love the quick assessment when they are performing songs from their method books. I enjoy using SmartMusic accompaniments with students working on solos. In my summer graduate courses I’ll demonstrate how SmartMusic can be used in the elementary instrument classes and these students love what they see too. One of their favorite features is the performance and assessment of band scores.

BG: What can TI:ME offer to teachers that are interested in learning more about technology in their teaching?

AB: TI:ME offers many benefits. There are summer courses that teach music educators how to implement technology into their music classrooms. There are articles and newsletters with great information about software, curriculum ideas, and more, plus we provide grant and research information to members of TI:ME. One of the greatest benefits is the lesson plan database, where members can access over 600 lessons, written by music educators, ready to implement into their classrooms. I’d encourage everyone to check out TI:ME today!

BG: I couldn’t agree more, and would like to thank Amy for sharing her personal experiences with us today.

Are you familiar with TI:ME? Do you have questions about implementing technology? Let us know what you’re thinking by clicking on “Comments” below!

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