Educating ‘the Net generation’: Enhancing student engagement with Web 2.0 tools and mobile technology in music education

Naomi McGrath and Alana Blackburn
University of New England

Armidale, Australia

Current undergraduate students are known as ‘the Net generation.’ These students have never experienced a world without information and communication technology. It is claimed that they have gained specific technical skills, new ways of thinking and different learning preferences, which require a new educational approach. Online education is increasing but the effectiveness of these online courses in certain areas of learning are still debatable, especially in music education. Instructors and instructional designers need to use new technologies effectively to enhance the delivery of music education to new generations who understand these teaching methods. Using Web 2.0 tools to create fun and engaging learning will not only encourage students, but also engage them in learning musicology in a progressive way. The challenge is to deliver a unit fully online and not ‘reinvent the wheel’ as such with traditional academic content. Creating and incorporating these tools add a richer online environment for students studying music online.

This paper outlines the design of an undergraduate fully online music unit which uses Web 2.0 tools and mobile technology to engage and create student interaction with the unit materials. The unit is designed for those with little or no knowledge of music. It provides an introduction to the fundamentals of musical styles and genres, the theoretical skills required for notating and reading music, and enhancing listening skills. Several ‘e -tivities’ were developed, taking advantage of Web 2.0 tools such as iPad apps, quizzes, chat sessions, asynchronous discussions, screencasts and a virtual piano. These tools were incorporated to facilitate interaction, and provide practical practice, authentic learning activity and collaboration within the unit. They enable students to learn through practice rather than stand-alone exercises related to each topic in the unit. Student data confirm that this approach is successful in engaging students with the materials and student grades obtained were higher than in the last offering of this unit.