The ability to interact meaningfully with tools and work collaboratively with others are two skills that are central to modern cultural engagement, according to Jenkins, Purushotma, Weigel, Clinton, and Robison (2009). These skills, distributed cognition and collective intelligence, are also central to modern musical engagements that students may encounter in their lives. Tobias’ (2013) “typical ways people engage with music in participatory culture” (p. 30) all include some element of these two skills as individuals and groups work together to make use of digital, analog, and acoustic instruments, tools, and applications in creating remixes, covers, tutorials, etc. The development of such skills not only opens up pathways to the types of musical interactions indicated above, but also can afford students ways to engage in forms of participatory culture--affiliations, expressions, collaborative problem solving, and circulations (Jenkins et al., 2009)--in a music classroom, thereby creating new ways to connect and participate in such a setting. It is on these two skills, distributed cognition and collective intelligence, as well as the notion of collaborative problem solving that this music curricular project seeks to help students foster while encouraging them to play with sound in new and interesting ways.
The project described below involves student groups creating an intermedia product (Tobias, In Press) that connects sounds, a motion controller, and movement sequences in a unique way in which all the individual parts fuse together to create a unified product. In the project, students will generate and record sounds to be triggered by a motion sound controller they construct using the web-based computer programing tool Scratch. Students will then test these controllers by composing movement-sequences as a way of assessing the product’s possible effectiveness as an interactive sound installation. This project makes use of the instructional approach of design-based learner (Barron & Darling-Hammond, 2008) that operates on the understanding “that children learn deeply when they are asked to design and create an artifact that requires understanding and applications of knowledge” (p. 45). This approach encourages students to not only create a product that exemplifies their understanding and takeaways from certain experiences, but also to dialogue with the product and other members of their design team as they refine their work in a way that is dynamic and organic. In order to help with the refinement process, the project includes elements of pilot-testing and iterative design from the works of Birringer (2005) and Dena (2011).
The overall intent of this project is to give students chances to foster skills needed so they can more fully participate in modern cultural activities, including musical activities. Music teachers must realize their role in helping students develop these cultural skills and see, as Jenkins et al. note, “[e]veryone involved in preparing young people to go out into the world has contributions to make in helping students acquire the skills they need to become full participants in society” (2009, pp. xiv-xv). In developing these skills in musical settings, student will also develop musical analytical and creative skills in their explorations of multiple musical dimensions as they generate sounds to be used in the project, during their development of a motion controller, and while they explore space and pilot-test their work through movement sequences. A secondary overarching goal of this project is to demonstrate other ways that students and community members can engage with musical sounds and products in more participatory ways that do not necessarily function within the tradition of common participatory performances (Turino, 2008). This is embedded within the culminating sharing event. Finally, I hope that this project can illustrate ways of opening up creative and collaborative spaces for more participatory interactions with music within music classroom settings. Such spaces would RATHGEBER SOUND + CODE + TEST 4 allow for lower-barriers to expression and engagement, a focus on creating and sharing musical works, higher-degrees of social collaboration, and greater student agency and ownership over their contributions (Jenkins et al., 2009) in the ways of musicking