Whether you teach music privately, for a music school, for a public/private/charter school, for a college or university, or some combination of the above, you have most likely used EdTech tools at some point along the way. Think about it: maybe you recommended an ear training or music theory website or app to your students, used an online metronome app during a lesson, or sent a link to an audio or video recording to your class. Now, think back to why you used these tools at that particular moment for that specific situation. Chances are, it was to fit some kind of practical need, such as increasing student engagement, approaching musical concepts from a different perspective, to more effectively reach student(s) who may be having difficulties understanding a given topic, or maybe something else entirely.
My point here is that regardless of the specific reason for using EdTech tools, it was likely done for a clear reason that would benefit the overall experience of yourself and your students, rather than just because it seemed cool or trendy or like it might be the “next big thing.” Sure, that may have played a role, but it was not the central reason, and this is so important to remember anytime you are considering adding EdTech tools to music teaching. If you don’t have a clear reason for why you are using the given EdTech tool as a part of your teaching, don’t use it.
Quality teaching can use several very simple or numerous very advanced technologies, so long as the “why” for each tool is clear in the mind of the teacher. In short, the “why” provides the answer for the “when.” When you have a good reason for using an EdTech tool, use it for that reason. If it seems there may be other contexts to use this tool, backed up by good reasons, then explore using that tool in those contexts.
How to use EdTech tools, however, is more variable. Each piece of technology has its own language and means of accomplishing goals. That being said, I’ve found over the years that repeating several loose-knit processes speeds up the time it takes from first hearing about a new tool to implementing it in your teaching. Here is a general process that I have found to be helpful for unpacking the “how” of EdTech tools:
(1) Learn about the tool. Ask and find answers for a variety of inquiries about it, such as: What is it built for? What can be done with it? What kinds of involvement does it demand from the student? How can this tool be used in my learning spaces?
(2) Try it yourself, with an emphasis on play and exploration and experimentation. This is probably not the time to try anything complicated (unless you are under a tight deadline, in which case do what you need to do to get the project done, with or without the tool). Have fun with it. Yes, you will make mistakes and exciting discoveries and there will likely be some frustration with the tool along the way. Your students will also have these experiences when you implement it, and experiencing the learning process yourself results in increased ability to problem solve and empathize with your students. It is also the best way I know of learning how to use the tool.
(3) Make sure that you have concrete reason(s) for using this tool that, if successful, results in a clearly better overall experience for both you and your students. If the only reason you are using the tool is because you like using it, it becomes much harder to get buy-in from students, which leads me to my next point…
(4) Make sure that this tool can likely be learned by your students within the given time constraints. If the tool has a steep learning curve, it can still be a highly effective tool, provided it is presented to students who have the skills (not just tech skills) to work through the early stages of learning how to use it. If students are skeptical of tech in general, introduce it slowly, with easy to use tools that and enjoyable and enhance the learning experience.
(5) After considering the points above, implement the tool, be attentive to student feedback, and continually adjust your approach accordingly.