Frost School lecture explores relationship between music education, video games

Some Frost School of Music students are learning a new way of teaching music education — by using video-game theory.

Carlos Abril, director of undergraduate music education, is editing a book on “Innovative Approaches to Teaching Music in Schools and Community Centers.” He invited Penn State professor Ann Clements to UM’s Music Education Forum on Jan. 24 to talk to students about how “technology and gaming can inform music education practice.”

“Learning is a joy and a pleasure, and only in schools is it repressed,” said Clements, who is writing a chapter in the book.  “Schools are just providing the game manuals and not the games themselves.”

The main point of her talk was how incorporating the idea behind video games into classrooms, of all grades and ages, would motivate students to learn.  She also said video games would motivate students’ passion to learn.

Clements believes that students will respond to failure in a more positive and constructive way if the failure is creative and fair.  If so, the students will have more interest and motivation to overcome the failure and become successful, which is the goal in most video games.

If schools collaborate using creative and sophisticated methods, they will see the average number of students retaining information increase dramatically.

In terms of music education, learning music is “an emotional and collaborative experience for every student,” according to Clements.  Video games increase social bonds with others and expand the creativity of the student’s mind, which can help in becoming musically literate.

Some games she used as examples included Guitar Hero, Step Sequencer and Dubber.  In Guitar Hero, for example, though the notes may be different, the game helps teach the rhythms and beats in the song, and that ability could also be strengthened with classroom teaching.

Sophomore Kathleen Wang attended the forum because the topic fascinated her.  As an avid gamer, she wanted to see how Clements would bridge her hobby with music education.

“I thought it was really interesting that using a video-game-like method could get back that want to learn,” Wang said. “That’s how we became successful as a species.”

Abril is currently incorporating some of Clements’ ideas in his music education courses, though not necessarily using the video games themselves.

“Gaming theory tells us that players are more engaged when they receive objective, immediate and continual feedback on performance within a game that has clearly defined rules and objectives,” Abril said.  “We take this idea and work on making transfers when designing lesson plans and implementing them with children.”

Everyone at the forum audience seemed to enjoy Clements’ fresh, new spin on how music education can be spread through the masses. Junior Joey Franco, a music education major, liked what he heard.

“I thought it was fantastic,” he said. “She touched on a lot of good points on video games and their benefits.  She did a great job of linking video games to music education, real life, and even to the entire world.”