“From a music teacher's perspective, Gigajam is a unique music programme that does what no other software I have seen does; namely actively keeping music live by encourage pupils to learn to play musical instruments.”
Jenny Hulme, Haywood CLC


Gigajam in action

Family Learning Workshop, Haywood CLC, Stoke-on-Trent

Introduction

Haywood City Learning Centre (CLC) provides mentoring support to local schools in the use of technology in teaching and learning. One of the CLC's chosen projects is Gigajam which provides opportunities for students and teachers to learn to play a musical instrument. The first five lessons for each of Gigajam's courses for guitar, bass, keyboards and drums are available to all Stoke-on-Trent students as part of the WMnet region. WMnet purchased early content on behalf of all Local Authorities in the West Midlands region.

Haywood CLC has supported the WMnet central purchase of content by investing in musical instruments, so that students can get the most from the online music lessons. The CLC shares the equipment with local schools and makes loans to surrounding schools. One of the local schools, Smallthorne Primary School in Stoke-on-Trent, decided to introduce Gigajam to parents and children by holding a family learning workshop. Parents and students were able to work through a Gigajam lesson and assess their performances on their chosen musical instruments.

Objectives

Children and parents were given the opportunity to:

  • Learn how to use the software, including how to watch the video clips, listen to examples and backing tracks, and how to analyse their performances
  • Learn how to play their chosen instrument - guitar, bass, keyboards or drums
  • Evaluate the ease of use of Gigajam software

Implementation

The students and their parents attended the session at the City Learning Centre, which is fully equipped with computers and MIDI-enabled musical instruments. The group was shown how to work through the lesson notes, including an explanation of the symbols used throughout the Essential Skills Course, and how to use Gigajam's play-along and evaluation tools, Analyser and Xtractor.

The group worked through several lessons at their own pace, with the support of their teacher and the CLC staff. They worked through the lessons relatively quickly and were able to record their performances using Gigajam's software. In addition, they were shown how to change the tempo of the backing tracks, so that they could play along at a speed they were comfortable with.

At the end of the session, there was an open discussion to evaluate the software.

Impacts and Outcomes

  • The group and teachers were very positive about the software and the way they were able to interface with the technology
  • Although the electric guitars were in the main too large for the students' fingers, they managed to stretch and achieve the chord positions required of them to master the initial steps
  • The students were comfortable using an e-learning programme
  • The group found the videos to be well-written, filmed and edited, and gave them all the information required to complete each lesson task
  • Students enjoyed using Analyser and Xtractor, and once they had achieved a reasonable score, they were keen to share it with their friends and parents
  • Parents used Gigajam with ease but instead of trying to learn the instruments themselves, most of them were keen to coach their children

Jenny Hulme, Haywood CLC said: "From a music teacher's perspective, Gigajam is a unique music programme that does what no other software I have seen does; namely actively keeping music live by encourage pupils to learn to play musical instruments.

"In addition, Gigajam is able to engage every child at their own level without necessarily taking up the time of the teacher to explain every detail and support them. Gigajam stands out as an inherently musical product, which is without a doubt also personalised, independent learning at the very highest level. For our family learning workshop, parents, students and visiting teachers were entranced by the prospect of engaging with this programme and it is apparent that the joy of playing a musical instrument shines brightly through it all."

One parent commented: "I wish we'd been given an opportunity like this to learn an instrument when I was at school."

A student said: "I like doing the lessons because you can watch the video first and then copy what they are doing. It's brill."

Future Developments

Haywood City Learning Centre is loaning local schools the Gigajam instruments until July 2007, after which schools will be encouraged to purchase their own Gigajam set-up to continue family learning and music curriculum development. The CLC is providing further mentoring support on a rotational basis, checking on the use of the equipment and progress through the lessons. The CLC will also be recommending further opportunities for parents and the local community to learn with Gigajam.

Participants

  • Children and parents from Smallthorne Primary School, Stoke-on-Trent.
  • Haywood CLC staff.