Writing songs can be the teacher’s magic trick: it’s cool and fun, the kids love it, and it also develops creativity, cooperation, life skills and self-expression. Just grab an iPad, headphones, launch the pre-installed GarageBand application and explore what today’s technology has got to offer for the future of education.
The Future Songwriting method, child of Finnish INTO School is tried and tested in its native Finland, and is winning the hearts and minds of teachers and students across Europe. We asked Janne Hiedanniemi and Kari Saarilahti about the basics of the method.
What is the Future Songwriting project and method?
Our Future Songwriting project is based on the Finnish INTO School concept and method, and consists of two overlapping components: we give teachers in-service training in authentic environments and carry out creative projects in schools and kindergartens.
The goal is to offer everyone equal opportunities to take part in songwriting, and deepen the understanding of artistic, technological and individual dimensions in creative work and composing music.
We bring technology into the classroom to assist the songwriting process so that everyone has access to the world of music-making regardless of their background.
What tools to use?
We use mostly GarageBand for iPad since it’s easier for beginners, but there are also excellent Android-based alternatives. For example with n-Track and FL Studio you can do pretty much the same things as you can do with GarageBand – to write, record, mix and share music with others.
Of course, we’re not leaning solely on digital tools, but using also a great variety of instruments like the guitar or the piano, thus mixing digital technology with more traditional practices.
We use multi headphone splitters to connect more headphones to one tablet, therefore pupils can work on the same song as a group.
How do kids start composing, which instrument comes first?
Getting started is often the hardest part, even for professionals. There’s no wrong way to start. Some like to begin with the beats while some start with the lyrics, chord progression or outlining the song structure.
How do they pick a theme for their song?
In this project we have the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) as an overarching theme, and children process the topic as it relates to their world. Many of the songs tell about friendship, global climate change, summer or ice cream. 😉
What can be done during a 45 min or a 90 min session? How many instruments can one program or record during a limited amount of time?
One could do a whole bunch of crazy things, but we want to emphasize that creating music isn’t a speed contest! Everyone has their own unique style and pace of development. Supporting each student’s strengths, needs, skills and interests is the very core value of the INTO SCHOOL method and the Future Songwriting project.
Can you connect real instruments and microphones to an iPad? Can you use the microphone of the tablet too?
Yes, through an audio interface you can easily connect real instruments and microphones. Actually, the iPad’s built-in microphone is surprisingly good if you know how to use it correctly.
What happens at the Future Songwriting school pilot closing parties?
The end results of the kids’ songs and creative work are celebrated and presented in concerts to the entire school community, parents and friends.
We feel that it is extremely important to celebrate children’s achievements. Many kid’s self-esteem gets a remarkable boost when their success is recognized and appreciated like this.
Future Songwriting introduces a new model to music education. Using creativity and digital tools to activate children’s innate potential; the project aims to pave the way for the future of teaching music. The two-year project is co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Commission.