Thursday, March 22, 2012

Resources for Music Educators

In this age of copyright confusion and media richness, music educators may feel conflicted when it comes to finding useful resources without legal issues attached. However, there are some gems out there on the Internet which can be used by Music instructors or others without fear.

The primary tactic, of course, involves concentrating old music old enough that is doesn’t carry copyright.  An excellent site for free sheet music of the classics is Mutopia.  Mutopia is a project that has over 1700 pieces of sheet music by the likes of Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Handel, Mozart, etc. This volunteer-driven project has placed these works in their online archive for free download. Files are in pdf format. If you would like to support the Mutopia Project, then you can order high-quality prints from the website.

For those of you teaching classes like Music Appreciation, there is always a need for audio samples. In this case, it is audio clips, and not sheet music that is needed, and Classic Cat is there to help.  Under current copyright law, Fur Elise, the musical composition is too old to be copyrighted, but any musician’s recorded performance of it is copyrighted by that musician at the moment of recording. Classic Cat is an archive of performances which have been donated by musicians for free use.

Classic Cat also has information on composers, sheet music downloads, and other bits that may be useful for the Music instructor or the student musician.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Concerns with Web 2.0

There's a quote making probably its nth round in the online social spheres I enjoy. In this iteration it's attributed to Jonathan Zittrain, a Harvard law professor, from a conference in summer of 2011:

"If what you are getting online is for free, you are not the customer, you are the product."

It isn't the first time this sentiment has been expressed. Lifehacker quotes a Metafilter user from a couple years ago (blue_beetle) saying "if you're not paying for something, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold."

There are other iterations of this same thought with various sources - but the salient point for us would be that it never loses accuracy: Each of these speakers was referring to one or some of the abundance of free online tools now available - likely the very same tools you're thinking of using in your class.

Even by requiring a student to sign up for a service, or requiring that a student connect to certain other people using that service, a little bit more of that student's information is connected for data-mining. If you're thinking of using a web-based log-in required tool, such as Facebook or Twitter, in your class, here are just a few of the questions you should ask yourself:

  • What learning objective am I meeting by using Web 2.0 / social networking tools?
  • Is my subject one where students will want to be connected to each other outside the duration of the course?
  • Am I comfortable using the technologies I'm suggesting?

The third one may be the most critical for student privacy - if as the instructor you are uncertain as to how to keep posts private, how your technology choice may be influenced by FERPA regulations, or about who owns the words and pictures shared on the technology after they're posted, then perhaps there is another, better, way to achieve your course goals.