Benefits of Teaching Online
How to Start
This may be something you've thought about for a while or something you're just now considering. Regardless, the big question is "What do you really want to accomplish?" Various teachers could teach online with different goals in mind. Here are a few possibilities.
As an example, my long-term goal is to establish something similar to an online academy where I offer piano, recorder, and native American flute courses with videos, audio files, printable components, and a messaging forum where they could video their assignments and submit to me for feedback. Students could also schedule regular live, virtual sessions with me or just occasionally when they need help. I'm not there yet but on my way. And, possibly, I could contract with other instrumental teachers to join me.
What tools would help you achieve your teaching goals?
There are several directions to take in achieving the goals you have. They can range from a simple video conferencing tool to a learning management system where you can create self-paced online courses.
The good news is that I don't think one has to be a "techie" nowadays to accomplish these goals. The tools are more intuitive and automated than ever before. Here are some essentials and "nice to have" items you will want to consider.
The Essentials for Online Teaching
Video Conferencing Tools
Though it's essential, I left it to the last because, well, it's the big one. You can have the best equipment but if you don't have a good software tool to connect - no one cares.
Not sure why but I love researching technology tools in the learning and educational areas. I also enjoy experimenting with various learning management systems software to the point of near confusion. We'll call it "quirky." Video conferencing apps/services, of course, do different things and have various pricing, including free. My current favorite is www.appear.in. It offers better audio/video quality than most and is - so far - free. The following are others I've tried in order of my opinions (1 being most liked by me). I've also included a few characteristics of each.
Late-breaking addition: I just tried the video-conferencing tool (Jam Session) in the Drooble.com site and I was VERY impressed. Though I was having microphone issues, the audio and video quality for my testing partner (in Austria) was incredible! I will be testing this one again. FYI, Drooble.com is like a Facebook for musicians, a very interesting site and they have some teaching features already integrated into their Jam Session tool.
Tips and Tricks
Things to remember when teaching live online:
I hope this information helps. Please let me know how your experiences go with online teaching.
Last year I got a call from a principal at a charter school in Philadelphia, PA. She asked if I could do a pilot program teaching music theory remotely to K-8 at their school (I was already teaching private piano online). I was nervous about it but very intrigued. I did a proposal pushing including some general music topics along with theory and started in their Fall term. Here's how it went.
This is a charter school where all students of all levels physically come into the school but have a laptop where they get much of their instruction. A teacher is assigned to every two levels. We worked out the sessions where I would do all classes one day a week with two grade levels per session (6-8 took together). K-1 went for 20 minutes and the other levels would be 45 min each. I used the wiziq.com learning platform to run everything.
Though I had a microphone and two webcams (one pointed to me, one pointed to my piano keyboard), they did not have webcams or microphones. Therefore, they could see and hear me but I couldn't see or hear them. We used instant chat for feedback, which was okay except for K-1. Their teacher would chat me for a few things and I "winged" it the rest of the time.
I was able to explore a varied menu of musical topics. I found that the Philadelphia Orchestra was doing Beethoven's 9th Symphony soon so we explored the composer's life and background of "Ode to Joy." I made a plug for the upcoming orchestra's performances. Other topics included Native American Music, The Nutcracker Suite, and the Music and Musicians on the Titanic. Here are some typical lessons I used:
Typical lesson , Grade Levels K-1, 20 min
Typical lesson, grade levels 2-8, 45 min
I think most everything went well. The lack of good feedback was an issue as well as technical issues on their end. I have to say that the older students LOVED the chat. I laid down ground rules that they only chat when I ask for feedback and all messages display to everyone including me and their classroom teacher. It never really got out of control. Once, as my 4-5 level session was getting started and logged-in, nature called so I left the camera for about 30 seconds. When I returned, one of the students chatted, "Where did you go?" Though I wanted to say none of your business, I just ignored the question.
It was a great experience even without a wealth of feedback that we all like in the classroom. I still teach one-on-one piano lessons online with great success. It's a great way for homeschoolers, adults, and those in rural areas to get quality music education into their life.
There are many ways to learn to play the piano. Especially nowadays, one can surf the Internet and find many options to learn anything, including how to play something on the piano. If one wants to really make piano playing a good hobby or profession, however, the choices are fewer.
After teaching for a fair amount of years, I classify piano methods into two major categories: reading-based and playing-based. I began piano lessons in the second grade of elementary school (US). Most or all piano methods were (and many still are) very traditional (reading-based). This meant I started learning the complex language of music notation from the very beginning. Since it was a requirement that I had to learn to read the notation of a piece before I was able to play it, the first couple of years were filled with super simple and boring pieces that, frankly, I'm not sure I would want to push on anyone.
Was this the best way for students to learn to play piano? I assumed so. All piano teachers in my area taught this way so I also taught this way for many years while constantly trying to think of another, better way. However, I wasn't aware of some important concepts that blow this way of learning out of the water.
Music is a language, the learning of which can be compared to our own language.
How do we learn our language? As toddlers, we start learning words, then experiment with putting them together into sentences. Only several years later do we learn what those words and sentences look like on the printed page - that is, we learn to read. And along the way, we've made many cute mistakes in grammar and pronunciation and that was okay as that's part of learning.
Terry Smith teaches piano and voice privately in the Phoenix, AZ area and online anywhere using an innovative approach called "PLAY NOW!"