Online Lessons: A How-To and Why-To

See the screenshot beside this story? It's a student project. What makes it more amazing is that it's not on the teacher's computer, but the student's. Live, online and in another country. Midtown Music School proudly demonstrates the future of music education, right now.

Midtown Music School has stated, since its inception, to use technology in a very real, tanglible way that can create educational opportunities never before possible. For proof, we'd like to share a story about how to have a lesson and maintain a student-teacher relationship when thousands of miles separate both people.

A long-time student, Leah, has been studying theory on and off with Midtown Music School teacher David Stone for a few years. Leah is an excellent student, but there's one problem getting in the way of regular instruction: Leah lives in Boston, studying music at the world-renowned Berklee College of Music.

David was thrilled with Leah's abilities and attitude as a student, but the commute was making lessons a bit difficult.

When settling on a new major - film composition - Leah had several assignments that, while she was doing well, felt she needed some extra instruction.

"I learned all my chords and harmony in the jazz program, but I feel like I'm missing some of the fundamentals of harmony, of function," she explained.

A little technology, mixed with a little know-how, has enabled David and Leah to continue working together on a regular basis. Both are thrilled with the ability to have a regular lesson that truly is almost as good as being in the same room.

Here's all that is required:

- two computers, equipped with webcams and a reasonably-fast Internet connection

- an online chat program such as Skype

Once both parties have exchanged contact information, it's as simple as making a phone call and being online at the same time. But that's just the beginning.

Most online chat programs allow users to Share Screen. This allows people to actually view, live and in real time, what's happening on the other person's screen. Better still, it allows both people to work together on a single desktop.

In David and Leah's case, Leah opens up her current composition project in Finale 2009 - a music notation program; think Microsoft Word for sheet music - and David can take control of the pointer, circle an area of interest, and even mark changes directly on the score while both can listen to the changes together, live.

It's an exciting first step towards the future of music education. While it doesn't replace the live interaction of teacher and student, in the case of David and Leah, it's a dynamic, interactive and feasible solution to a previously-unsolvable problem. Midtown Music School is proud to be on the forefront of this emerging field.

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