The Switch to Online Lessons

Little girl on computer

When the lockdown hit in March and lessons went online it was a big change, but I knew we could survive it. What were we going to do, sit back and let this thing destroy our livelihoods? No way. We must maintain routine and a schedule to keep us from thinking about the crazy movie-like never ending pit of unbelievable that is 2020! Sure, there were a lot of new things to learn, none of us had used video conferencing much, but there’s a first time for everything! We teachers grabbed the bull (aka Coronavirus) by the horns and said “I’m not going to let you kill my livelihood you miserable virus!”

My first few online piano lessons were challenging. I struggled with the settings and trying to screen share and ALWAYS forgetting to click the little box to ‘share my sound’ with the student when we listened to video clips online (why can’t you hear it?!?!) I took minutes just trying to pull up a photo of their music that their parent had texted me before the lesson and then learn how to annotate on the music so the student could see what I was talking about, but they could never write back. It was a headache and I had a headache at the end! The kids were great though, they just laughed and laughed at me and never offered any suggestions! Kids!

After a while, it got better but was still choppy and then the program would freeze and I’d have to restart my computer and connect again with the student. So maybe not THAT much better but I convinced myself it was. One thing about online lessons is that it creates this whole other teaching dynamic with your student where the student really has to listen to your instruction and process that and then apply it to their playing and you as the teacher have to create such a clear description of what it is you are asking your student to do, so that you both end up learning new ways of using your brain together at the same time! Rather then rely on the teacher to point at notes while you play, or physically put their hands in position, or tap you so your rhythm can even out, you really have to learn to listen and understand. The kids really did great with adjusting to that!

I started making a list of all the features that were missing in the online platforms I used and then following posts in online teaching help groups and connecting with teachers and gathering their likes and dislikes of online teaching. It was really helpful to know that I wasn’t alone in my frustration. These lists went into the construction of Musicology and the lists are still going!

I had a meeting with the developers this week and we talked about how the layout would look, went into detail about the Grand Staff milestone and the guitar visualizations and how they would present themselves in the app (like a guitar or ukulele dropping down from the screen and you can place a dot on the fret board to show the student what chord to play – same for the piano.) We talked about details for the metronome which will feature not only a calm and natural wooden sounding click but also a voice (hopefully equally calm and soothing!) that counts the beats out loud. We talked about enhanced security and the ability to access meeting rooms with PIN’s and photos of students (if they wished to add them), so the teacher can simply click on the photo and connect with their student for their lesson. We talked about how you can pin whatever window you want as your main view. We ended our discussion with a hilarious talk about toasts and emojis. We talked about seasonal stickers and animated emojis that will be very visible and then fade away. Those kinds of little things make teaching online super fun for kids and also fun for teachers!

Things are moving and they’re moving fast right now. We should have beta testing available very soon as well as some sample graphics to share. Until then, I thank you for your patience and again promise you it is well worth the wait.

Please comment with anything at all that YOU would like to see built into the app. We want this to be a creative project that is built by teachers FOR teachers.

Be safe and be well friends!

Rebecca