In 2015 I was very fortunate to be asked to present at the first AMIS (Association for Music in International Schools) Workshop on Technology and Composition. Held at The International School of Beijing China, this conference offered a series of hands-on workshops for students and their teachers as well as the Honor Boys Choir Festival. It was wonderful to be in a place where students and teachers learned together.

AMIS 2015 Technology and Composition Conference

“The Workshop in Composition and Technology was a bit of a milestone for our Association. By running the event alongside the Asian Honor Boys’ Choir Festival, we were able to cover nearly every facet of the musical process. High school students and their teachers spent their time developing their compositional skills while learning how to utilize the most up-to-date technological tools. The Honor Boys’ Choir spent their time in rehearsal, including a commissioned work by Dr. James Humberstone, who also served as our head clinician for the Comp & Tech Workshop. Dr. Humberstone’s original piece for the boys informed his compositional work with the high school students. The culminating gala concert truly encompassed a 360-degree fulfilment for all concerned. There were live performances of the commended works from the AMIS Young Composers’ Competition as performed by the ISB High School Orchestra. The audience was filled with composers, performers, teachers, parents, and community members. It was difficult not to feel extremely proud. Keith Montgomery, Executive Director of AMIS

My role was to engage students and teachers in real-world music learning that incorporated good pedagogy with technology. Dr James Humberstone, Music Education Lecturer at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, presented the latest research on technology in music education while provoking teachers to look into what constitutes good use of technology in the classroom. One inspirational take-away for me was Sugata Mitra’s “Build a School in the Cloud.” If you haven’t seen this video it is worth watching.

Throughout my presentations I tried to incorporate this same idea of curiosity equals discovery and learning. When we did a movement activity to Austin Wintory’s Journey score or followed Youtube tutorials to create in Propellerheads’ Reason the students learned through action. They listened, applied, experimented and did so alongside their teachers.

Here are some photos from the conference showing visible learning and engagement!

A quote I keep in mind from an article entitled ‘Teaching our kids to scratch their itch‘ outlines the way students in the 21st Century engage with learning. The teachers loved this too!

Scratching your itch is what all of us do when we want to learn something new. We hear a song on the radio, then YouTube it and listen to it a hundred times…Then we borrow a friends guitar, look up some tutorials on how to string it and tune it properly, ask our friend for advice. Watch some more tutorials on where to put our fingers, how to strum, what chords to play…and then we practice and practice, again and again.
Finally, one day we wake up and play the song correctly…Then we share it with others and play for them…There are mentors and teachers along the way, but it is a natural process of inquiry and action…it starts with an itch we have to scratch. A.J.Juliani

I do still believe, as an educator that students learn more when they have structures for their curiosity and you will see this element in the keynotes below. With Harvard’s Project Zero it has been shown that with good scaffolding the way students actually approach thinking and learning grows with each opportunity!

Below is a playlist of three student compositions within my presentations. Each video outlines the students own work, how engaged everyone is with hearing them performed live and the different ideas that are presented. Good use of technology? I’d be interested to hear what you think:

This coming year in Poland I will be running another set of four presentations at the AMIS Music Educators Workshop 2016. Visit the AMIS website to see the full list of workshops and presenters. It is hosted by Katie Stein at the American School of Warsaw.

AMIS Music Educators Conference 2016

Cover image Photo Credit: