Web 2.0 For Rookies: Music While You Work

When I was a teacher I used to play music in the background, whilst the students were working. Not House, or Funk or whatever the current fad happened to be, but baroque music such as, and especially, Vivaldi.

I found that the music calmed the students down if they were a bit 'hyper', and they also worked better, and for longer. I didn't know it at the time, but there is, apparently, some research which shows that this was not a figment of my imagination. Listening to baroque music is not only soothing but it also, or so I've read, makes the brain waves more coherent, ie work together, like meditation.

If you think about it, that is, counter-intuitively perhaps, exactly what one needs when working on a highly logical problem such as the ones encountered in ICT.

Notwithstanding such benefits of this type of music, was I abusing my position of authority by not allowing the students to listen to the music they liked? I don't think so, because the purpose of the exercise was not for me to enjoy 'my' music, but to create a calm, ordered atmosphere in which we all get on with our work. Much as like the deep bass drum, hi-hat and general 'groove' of House music, I have never heard anyone argue the case for its being conducive to quiet, serious work.

If I were teaching now, I would involve the kids more, simply because the technology allows it. For example, I might ask them to compile playlists based on users' preferences. That would entail compiling a questionnaire, collating and analysing the results, coming up with a solution (or set of solutions) and then  seeking client feedback. It would also entail examining copyright issues, an whether it's worthwhile paying for advertisement-free versions of services like Spotify, rather than make do with the no-cost version.

In short, I would be able to integrate the use of background music into the ICT curriculum in a way which would not have worked as well when the selection was confined to my CD selection. How come? Because ultimately, whatever solution my students would have come up with would have been unfeasible unless I happened to have those CDs in my collection, and we had the time to record, mix and compile a physical playlist – illegally. In fact, unless I had the CDs in my possession, or the local library had an extensive selection, even sampling different sorts of music or artist would have been far too cumbersome a process to be viable.

With Spotify or Last.FM or similar services, you can easily find different types of music, find out what others rate as worth listening to, try out different combinations of tracks (another example of modelling) and come up with a draft solution to run by the client.

And at the end of the whole process, the whole class can work with their own playlist going on in the background.

If that isn't an incentive to approach the work seriously, I don't know what is!