Archive | April, 2013

Reflecting on MTEC 2013

April 14, 2013


I’ve been trying for the last couple of days, with some difficulty, to write about this month’s MTEC 2013 Music Technology in Education Conference in Melbourne. There was just so much going on that I’m not sure I can really do justice to it all.

Halfway through day one, even though I’d registered for all my sessions beforehand, I was still changing my mind and trying to decide which ones to attend. There were so many fantastic seminars and hands-on lessons that it was impossible to get to even a quarter of the ones I would have liked to see. By the end of that first day, I felt like my brain needed its own personal iCloud hovering just beside it, so I had room to store everything that I was learning without the danger of my head exploding.

I was especially excited about this conference because, just the week before, I splurged and bought myself a new iPad 4. Initially I had been suffering from an ever-so-slight case of “buyer’s remorse”, but mtec2013 put paid to all my misgivings and I had lots of fun, starting with Antony Hubmayer’s iPad band which I attended on the first day.

My main personal goal this time around was to get my head around PA systems and sound mixers. I’ve moved to a new school where they have a VET music program and the other music teacher used to own a recording studio, so a very strong music program has been established with the use of these technologies. They represent a side of music which I have always struggled with. I had a number of opportunities to get my head around the basics, and now it’s all finally starting to “click”. (Thanks Keith!)

Some of the sessions

Dr James Frankel showed us a range of resources which are available in”the Cloud”, like noteflight, Charanga, and Soundation, to name a very few. I did a bit of cloud-based work last year, mainly with my maths class, although nowhere near to the extent demonstrated by Jim Frankel and others (notably Samuel Wright, whose work with iBooks blew my mind. Go check his website: he’s very generous and makes his work available for free).

“The Cloud” was one of the constant themes of this conference. Practically every session I attended referred to it in some way. I was using it plenty myself on my new iPad. My apps of choice were Evernote, Dropbox and Notability. I loved how I could upload all the conference notes to the Cloud, download them onto my iPad, then make handwritten notes on them using a stylus.

This isn’t to say that anything cloud-based is automatically “good”. There are some great applications for teaching and learning through the cloud, but it has its pitfalls like anything else. That’s another blog post for later, though.

There was a session by Craig Bentley on the “flipped classroom”, using video to teach the content to students while they were at home, then doing the exercises or practical work in the classroom, with the teacher present as the “guide on the side”.

What I took away from that session was this: flipped classroom does work well, but if you undertake the creation of the resources yourself, it’s a lot of work. You also have to weigh up certain risks, like potentially finding your video posted on Facebook, for example.  Having said that, if your video is a good enough teaching resource which puts the content across clearly, is there a reason to worry about where it turns up? Each individual teacher would need to weigh this up in his or her own mind before going ahead.

Other sessions I attended focussed on the ins and outs of PA (Keith Huxtable), constructivist music pedagogy (Antony Hubmayer), the important issue of copyright pertaining to the use of digital media in the classroom (Barbara Freedman), using the iPad as a sheet music viewer (Tim Nikolsky), arranging and mixing using (legally obtained) stems from songs like “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye (Katie Wardrobe), creating 30-second compositions for jingles and ringtones and using the iPad as a digital mixer (Adrian Alexander),  the student-centred notation class (George Hess), and creating online resources using iBooks Author (Samuel Wright). That’s just a tiny snippet of everything that was going on each day.

Can I just add here: I’m really sorry to the presenters of each of the above for not going into the content further, but I’ll never get this post published if I try. The fact is that I’m still trying to absorb everything that I learned from you, so I’m not sure how much I could articulate at this point. Hopefully I’ll be able to blog about my work with your ideas later down the track.


There were three great keynote presentations delivered by Scott Watson, Barbara Freedman, and James Humberstone. Composition, and the various ways to approach it, was a recurring theme and there were points coming from each presentation which seemed to connect and tie in nicely with each other. Scott talked about limiting the choices or parameters given to students in order to let their creativity take off. Barbara’s angle was, “I hate the phrase think outside the box. I say, teach kids the box.”

James talked about project-based learning and the necessary requirement for the teacher to do the project first. But he pointed out that this is in the nature of music teaching anyway: we always do it ourselves first. So instead of advocating for music to merely have a place in the curriculum, why not advocate for music to lead the way in curriculum? Hear hear!


This was the group who performed for us at the conference dinner and gave a session on live-looping the following day. They gave what I thought was a great performance combining the classic barber-shop quartet with loops recorded on the spot. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and now I’m wondering whether a looping system might fit in the school’s budget so I can try it with my classes and/or choir.


I’ve owned an Avid M-Audio Producer microphone and an M-Box mini for some time now, but (surprisingly for a geek) I never got around to using them. I had tried to connect up Protools and an M-Box at my last school, but technical hitches always got in the way so it never ended up working properly. Maybe the new teacher will figure it out now that they have some new hardware. But I was reluctant to pull this stuff out and connect it up at home, as a result.

Well, mtec2013 has inspired me to try again, and I have finally gotten around to using a usb mic with Audacity. I was up till something like one o’clock last night recording a choral piece I wrote into a thirty-voice choir. I’m not quite ready to post it here yet; it still needs a bit of cleaning up and polishing. But my relationship with recording and mixing has begun at last.

On that note, I really can’t not share this little video that Barbara Freedman showed us in her keynote:


Hopefully my own choir piece doesn’t need quite that much polishing!

To finish, here’s an idea: how about all the keynote speakers for mtec2015 wear different coloured fluourescent odd socks?


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