Are music apps educational tools?


At present we find at our disposal an endless number of musical applications ( apps ) that allow both children and adults to interact with musical material in a way never experienced before.

Under the label of educational, or with the excuse of learning, the users of these applications are not aware that on many occasions they work as entertainment, but they could not be considered educational tools. Most of the music applications are not very original, repetitive and, above all, they do not allow the achievement of achievements, or libraries that help the learning of music, so we can use them as entertainment tools but their educational value is negligible.

A change of concept: Apprenticeship

The use of mobile devices has undoubtedly changed the way we interact, but also the way we use and access information. Before turning 10 years old, most children in Spain have access to all kinds of screens . The acquisition of knowledge goes far beyond the classroom, overcoming barriers of space and time.

Social networks and the handling of applications have also irremediably modified the teaching and learning processes, both in formal and informal contexts.

Within this modification of the teaching and learning processes, one of the fundamental changes is the use of applications, which function as intuitive, useful and simple resources. Some experts praise applications for mobile devices that facilitate tools, activities and sources of information used in everyday life for the purpose of learning. It is what they call Apprenticeship , and they frame them in what they call “Personal Learning Environment” (PLE).

What are music ‘apps’ like?

Today, there is an expanding market for applications for learning music in informal settings. Most of the apps have been developed or updated in 2021, and they are not entirely free. This makes us think that there is a clear business in the field of educational applications in all areas of learning.

Taking into account the market niche they are aimed at, families tend to buy this type of content because they consider it pedagogical, and not only understand it as entertainment applications.

After analyzing numerous musical applications, it is observed that most allow adaptation to various levels and ages, although the age classifications that they include are not a reliable indicator nor are they often adapted to the psycho – evolutionary development of children. There is also no didactic design.

Universality vs customization

Most of these applications are created for both operating systems (ios and android), which gives access to this experience to a larger population and promotes equal opportunities. However, accessibility and navigability are extremely poor: they cannot be customized and they do not adapt to the evolving characteristics of the children’s audience.

Regarding its content, they work on the curricular contents of the listening block. They do it fundamentally through active listening through popular classics, where the user interacts with graphic elements making the experience more pleasant and playful. Content creation is a minority.

Another of the areas most worked on is instrumental interpretation: through interaction, the user plays different instruments or works with prerecorded bases creating their own compositions.

In practically all applications a combination of graphic and sound stories is made. The applications for auditory education do not have graphics, since this type of training only requires sound support.

How to choose?

The evaluation of users regarding satisfaction with the experience of using the application does not serve as a didactic or pedagogical indicator. Based on our own research, we propose a series of criteria that allow parents, teachers and developers to select applications that support music training, both in informal contexts and in the classroom context:

  1. Sound libraries must be as realistic and fine-tuned as possible, in order to help sound identification and auditory education develop correctly. In this sense, the level applications of auditory education of the ABRSM (Association of Royal Schools of Music, an association based in London) are a very effective complementary aid for the development of the ear.
  2. They must indicate which area of ​​music teaching they work and promote teaching and learning strategies through decision-making with the possibility of self-correction. In this case, a good example is the Meludia application , which in a very efficient, clear and precise way determines exactly which area of ​​auditory education is being worked on in addition to gradually leveling knowledge.
  3. They must promote achievements and creations on social media and the possibility of online play. In this case, we can take the Incredibox app as a model , which allows you to share creations with other users, save them and promote cooperative learning.
  4. In the case of creative and improvisational applications, free spaces for creation and experimentation should be encouraged. It is recommended that they include the possibility of guided learning. Educational resources should use realistic and tuned sounds, and if they have graphics, they should not contradict the sound. A reference application with constantly updated libraries that facilitates the creation and recording of musical content is undoubtedly “Garage band”.

The supervision of experts in the musical field is essential in the development of this type of resources. In this way, these applications can become true educational tools with a training guarantee.

Author Bio: Sara Dominguez Lloria is Professor of the area of ​​didactics of musical expression. Faculty of Education and Sports Sciences a the University of Vigo