Dyslexia, hubs and tablets

screenshot of Mr Fox Ipad app
screenshot of Mr Fox Ipad app

DM Associate Gemma Nash investigates resources for SEND music teaching – and listens to Ed Vaizey – at the Music Education Expo 2013.

Last week I attended the Music Education Expo conference at The Barbican in London. The event was a networking and development opportunity for music teachers. I went to see Karen Marshall from the British Dyslexia Association deliver a seminar on Dyslexia in Instrumental Music Teaching. As a dyslexic person myself I’m quite familiar with the difficulties dyslexic students may face and appreciated her ideology that teachers need to teach the way a student learns rather than expecting them to learn the way ‘we’ teach.

She suggested the following resources and materials might help music teachers to make their sessions more inclusive:

•’Let’s Read Music’ by Christine Brown

•Rhythm Flash Cards

•Life-size Staves

•Music Teacher Magazine – a free downloadable guide to dyslexia

More information can be found here: British Dyslexia Association: Teacher’s guide to music and dyslexia

The afternoon started with a Question and Answer session with Ed Vaizey, the Culture Minister.  The questions from the floor provided a real sense of concern that recently formed Music Hubs are too dominated by Local Authority music services, preventing smaller organisations from benefiting from them. There was also concern over the lack of transparency as the Art’s Council has not published the winning bids of the newly appointed Hubs.

Ed Vaizey assured the audience that two ministers from two departments are monitoring the effectiveness of Music Hubs and reviewing any need to change or develop them and suggested that any concerns be sent to the monitoring board. When he was asked how sustainable it is to give every child the opportunity to learn an instrument when funding is only available for one year, his response was that it is the responsibility of music teachers to be creative in the ways that they can offer continued involvement for interested students. He voiced his opinion that outside of the Government funding it was essential for organisations to work together to create new opportunities.

It felt as though there were many questions asked but few answers given; the most standard response from our Cultural Minister when presented with audience members difficulties implementing the plan, was simply “I do not recognise that picture”.

Last but not least, and by far my favourite session, was the ‘Teaching with Tablet Computers’ workshop delivered by musician and technology expert Chris Swaffer. This engaging session covered ipad apps to involve participants of all ages, experiences and abilities in music-making. Highlights included ‘Little Fox’ – an interactive musical world for children which allows them to explore a range of interesting sounds, create soundscapes and record their own songs; ‘R-Mix Tab’ – which creates visual representations of imported songs, allowing different parts to be isolated, removed, or replaced; and ‘The Orchestra’ app – a must have for those who love or are learning about classical music, including young children who can explore the classics through the primary version ‘My First Orchestra’. Luckily for me, I have just been granted permission to use some of my individual budget to purchase an ipad!

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