Sharing from our Zoom conversation about making online music delivery accessible


A few weeks ago our Think22 programme hosted an online conversation for the music education sector.

The discussion centred around a key question for our current situation: How can online Music Education provision be inclusive and accessible for Disabled musicians?

We have been running webinars for a while, taking a different topic relevant to musical inclusion each time and presenting our learning on it. This event needed to be different. In this current crisis we are all on a steep learning curve, us included, about how to make music together without being in the same room.

So, we decided to take a new, conversation-based approach.

How we planned it inclusively

We planned for the webinar to be inclusive in as many ways as we could think of. The event was free. We had a transcriber to create closed captions. We did our best to audio describe the different images, slides and screens we were presenting. We varied the pace, taking a slow start to allow people to settle in to the platform we were using (Zoom), to get comfy. We added a brief ‘interval’ in half way through. We asked for any access issues to be flagged up to us in the chat or via direct message. We tried to follow our four principles of Inclusion: Belonging, Understanding, Participating/Contributing and Valuing.

We used lots of the different functions of Zoom during the session, breaking up the conversation with small activities, including:

  • Using the ‘Reactions’ button to ‘take the temperature of the room’
  • Polling participants on questions such as “which platform have you found most useful”
  • Showing a new music video and asking people to respond to it in the chat
  • Utilising the ‘hands up’ feature to ask for help with technical issues
  • Showing slides sometimes and gallery view at other times, to see each other’s faces
  • Using breakout rooms to allow for manageable conversations, beginning with one with 3 or 4 people in each room meeting each other and sharing something positive from the past few weeks.

The main conversation happened in two parts and in lots of rooms.

We had around 75 people in the discussion, so we needed to split people up into smaller groups for any actual conversation to take place. We used the breakout room functionality for this and combined it with a Google Doc for recording those conversations – a process we learned from our friends over at Sound and Music.

Breakout discussions #1 – What’s your experience of online spaces?

We posed the question “What’s your experience of online webinar/chat spaces (like this)?” and asked each group to share “Challenges” and “Solutions”.

One participant in each room added their group’s discussion to a shared Google Doc. Becky from the DM team then read through and picked out key highlights/ repeated topics and read through these ‘headlines’ to share the individual conversations back to the whole group.

The headlines from the first discussion were:

  • The issue of young people without good/any internet access, space or tech needed to participate
  • Equipment challenges for the music leaders, especially around creating their own good quality resources and getting stuff up online
  • Safeguarding
  • Quality control
  • A challenge around connection, intimacy and not being ‘in the room’ – this meant people felt like they were having to take a more ‘transmission’ approach, rather than an ‘artist in the room’ approach
  • The steep learning curve of this new situation – for us, for participants, for parents. All learning new tech, new language, new ways of being. Tiring and challenging.
  • Hard to do ‘pace’ online, especially with the suddenness of everything we are currently facing
  • The challenge of lag/delay/audio settings, trying to make music at the same time. Trying to maintain interactivity.
  • Teaching new things is proving more difficult, going over things people have already experienced is more successful.
  • Participants are responding to this new environment in different ways. This means we need to provide different responses (e.g. ‘live’ vs video) and this makes the learning curve for online delivery even steeper.

As well as these headlines there is a wealth of specific detail, practical advice, rich conversation, resources and suggestions in the Google Doc, which makes it well worth 20 minutes of your time to read through.

Explore the full co-created document

Breakout Discussions #2 – Ideas for what we need to do to create an inclusive online version of music education

The second breakout aimed to ask people to share “Your ideas of what we need to do to create an accessible and inclusive online music education experience (and how)?”

This session was shorter as, despite our best laid plans and efforts to keep to time, the schedule slipped. Despite the shorter timeframe the groups created lots of useful, grounded ideas which can be used straight away to support young musicians and music leaders through this challenging time.

Here are a few example comments to show the fantastic thinking the groups were doing and to encourage you to head in and read the whole document:

  • If possible, a support-worker/family member could help at the participant’s end. Reinforcing pulse, tempo, when to join, etc.
  • Less is More. Looking after yourself is a big part of offering what you can for other people. Being Honest. If we’re tired, we can remember that it’s the same for the people we’re working with.
  • Keeping lesson plans to original time frames, might be asking too much from CYP. Shorter more condensed lessons feels more approachable. Also smaller groups might help CYP feel more secure and more comfortable interacting/ less scrutinised.

We could share so many more… head over and read the full thing now.

A Soft Ending

Finally, we ended the session with a slow goodbye, rather than the rather abrupt cut off of a Zoom deadline. We kept the room open for an extra 15 minutes to allow people a chance to say bye, pick up on something with a specific person if they wanted, to have little chats and generally drift away… much like in a real life meeting.

Thank you so much to everyone who joined in these conversations, for your insights, openness and resourcefulness. One of the groups shared this in the Google Doc, and we couldn’t agree more:

It felt like in this group people wanted to know they were part of a wider community of people who were all thinking and caring about all of this. This felt useful.

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