Last year I got a call from a principal at a charter school in Philadelphia, PA. She asked if I could do a pilot program teaching music theory remotely to K-8 at their school (I was already teaching private piano online). I was nervous about it but very intrigued. I did a proposal pushing including some general music topics along with theory and started in their Fall term. Here's how it went.
This is a charter school where all students of all levels physically come into the school but have a laptop where they get much of their instruction. A teacher is assigned to every two levels. We worked out the sessions where I would do all classes one day a week with two grade levels per session (6-8 took together). K-1 went for 20 minutes and the other levels would be 45 min each. I used the wiziq.com learning platform to run everything.
Though I had a microphone and two webcams (one pointed to me, one pointed to my piano keyboard), they did not have webcams or microphones. Therefore, they could see and hear me but I couldn't see or hear them. We used instant chat for feedback, which was okay except for K-1. Their teacher would chat me for a few things and I "winged" it the rest of the time.
I was able to explore a varied menu of musical topics. I found that the Philadelphia Orchestra was doing Beethoven's 9th Symphony soon so we explored the composer's life and background of "Ode to Joy." I made a plug for the upcoming orchestra's performances. Other topics included Native American Music, The Nutcracker Suite, and the Music and Musicians on the Titanic. Here are some typical lessons I used:
Typical lesson , Grade Levels K-1, 20 min
Typical lesson, grade levels 2-8, 45 min
I think most everything went well. The lack of good feedback was an issue as well as technical issues on their end. I have to say that the older students LOVED the chat. I laid down ground rules that they only chat when I ask for feedback and all messages display to everyone including me and their classroom teacher. It never really got out of control. Once, as my 4-5 level session was getting started and logged-in, nature called so I left the camera for about 30 seconds. When I returned, one of the students chatted, "Where did you go?" Though I wanted to say none of your business, I just ignored the question.
It was a great experience even without a wealth of feedback that we all like in the classroom. I still teach one-on-one piano lessons online with great success. It's a great way for homeschoolers, adults, and those in rural areas to get quality music education into their life.
Terry Smith teaches piano and voice privately in the Phoenix, AZ area and online anywhere using an innovative approach called "PLAY NOW!"