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How digital technology can revolutionise the way music is taught in rural areas

Laura  Barnes
How digital technology can revolutionise the way music is taught in rural areas

Poor broadband in rural areas is limiting young people's access to equal life opportunities, including music tuition, according to a new report from youth music charity NYMAZ.

The charity has stated that it is adding its voice to the growing campaign for better broadband in the countryside, saying that digital technology could revolutionise the way schools provide music tuition.

“Children in rural areas are missing out because it can be too expensive and time-consuming to provide them with a well-rounded music education offer,” said Heidi Johnson, director of NYMAZ. 

“We have worked with schools across England to identify a high-quality, cost-effective way of offering remote instrumental tuition and live-streamed professional performances to pupils in isolated areas. Yet, there’s still one big sticking point: reliable, superfast broadband access.”
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NYMAZ has partnered with UCan Play, the University of Hull and Music Education Hubs to develop Connect: Resound, an action research project exploring how technology can enable better and broader access to music education. 

The focus is on live, online learning, where pupils are connected with instrumental teachers virtually but in real time. The project also provides enrichment opportunities, for example, schools can tune into live broadcasts of music performances from the likes of The Hallé Orchestra, as well as interviews with bands such as Hope & Social regarding their careers in music.

“Music Education Hubs serving areas with a large rural population are hindered by cost, transport and logistical barriers,” continued Johnson. “By incorporating the Connect: Resound model of virtual tuition into the weekly schedule, teachers could spend less time travelling and more time teaching.”

Echoing the findings of Rural England’s “The State of Rural Services 2016” report published earlier this year, NYMAZ’s Connect: Resound project highlights that dependable broadband access is vital if children in remote locations are to have equal life chances.

David Inman, director of Rural Services Network, commented: “ The Rural Services Network feels that broadband is both a massive opportunity and a potential serious divide for rural areas. Strong future proofed telecommunication and broadband links are essential for ground-breaking innovations to become a reality.

“The alternative is that we risk remote areas becoming ‘not spots’: what hope does that give our young people? We feel strong connectivity for all is vital.”

The Connect: Resound model makes use of Skype software but emphasises the necessity for additional audio-visual equipment to ensure a richer experience for teachers and pupils – for example, better quality sound and the ability to have multiple camera angles and close-ups.

Schools and teachers involved in the 2016 phase of research were provided with an online teaching kit, supported by training, which comprised of?an internet-enabled computer, Roland VR-3EX audio-video mixer/streamer, three video cameras, a full sized tripod, two desk tripods, a wearable clip on microphone for teachers, and a condenser microphones (matched pair) with stands.

Dr Jonathan Savage, managing director of UCan Play added: “UCan Play has been delighted to support this project with innovative approaches to live streaming featuring affordable, reliable and robust technology from our key partners such as Roland UK. Moving forward, we'll be exploring new solutions that build on the latest technology and the simple yet powerful controls that they offer for sharing audio and video online. “

Following a successful pilot in North Yorkshire in 2014/15, Connect: Resound rolled out its approach to four additional areas, working in partnership with the local Music Education Hubs - Cornwall Music Hub, Cumbria Music Hub, Durham Music Service (lead partner in the Durham and Darlington Music Hub), and East Riding of Yorkshire Music Hub.  This phase has been supported by public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and the JP Getty Jnr Charitable Trust.

For more information visit www.nymaz.org.uk/connectresoun.

Tags: education , music education , charity , Technology , broadband , NYMAZ

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