By Jackson Wilde
When the Logan City School District began implementing its one-to-one program to provide every student a laptop computer, Chris Rasmussen knew one thing — computers would not be a fixture in his classroom.
“I want them to hold a clarinet or a trombone, not a computer,” said Rasmussen when he recalled his initial thoughts on the program. “I’ll never use a computer in class.”
Rasmussen has come around, though — and he thinks more music teachers will soon follow.
Rasmussen, the current band director at Logan High School, had once tried to use music learning software as a teaching tool outside the regular classroom agenda while teaching in Box Elder School District. Due to software cost, lack of equipment and opposition from parents and administrators, his plans never reached fruition.
“They’re just selling the software,” said Rasmussen as he recalled parents’ conversations with administrators.
The one-to-one program gives each student a personal Macbook Air to use at their disposal. According to the district, students are allowed to take the computers with them wherever they go with proof of homeowner’s insurance or a $50 annual insurance fee.
He said the program’s integration, coupled with the prices of modern technology, made his original idea more effective and easier to attain. Rasmussen said software prices have dropped from $2,500 in 1994 to a current, annual subscription fee of $40.
According to Rasmussen, all band students are running a software program called SmartMusic. He said the program has allowed him to assign music for his students to practice at home. Students record themselves playing the assigned pieces and the program assesses their performance. Rasmussen can then give students suggestions on performance or intonation after hearing the recording.
“I really enjoy that, one, you get to record yourself, but you get to listen to the recording at the same time,” said Stanley Ogden, a baritone player in Rasmussen’s jazz band. “It saves a lot more time.”
Rasmussen said the software allows students to play along with fully instrumented accompaniments, transcribe notation of MP3 files, and listen to assigned music. As a result, Rasmussen said, students are communicating more frequently and “doing research they never used to do.”
David Long, the educational and technical services director for the Logan City School District, said one particular student under Rasmussen’s tutelage had been unable to read music since he began playing in the school band. Both Long and Rasmussen said the student learned to read music after three days of using the new programs.
Rasmussen said another student, who initially began playing in August, is now proficient enough to play in an upcoming concert with ninth grade students as a result of the new teaching methods. He said the majority of those ninth grade students have been playing for three years.
Long and Rasmussen said these teaching methods are the future of education. According to Long, the students are appreciative of the one-to-one program and can’t use their computers enough. However, some teachers have yet to fully embrace the program.
“It could definitely be used more in certain classes,” Ogden said.
Rasmussen said some teachers are threatened by the notion of being replaced by computers, but he remains unflapped. He said while the roles of teachers may change, the personnel will essentially stay the same.
“I don’t feel threatened by it at all,” Rasmussen said. “I think it could explode by the end of the year.”