Cadenza in the Real World, Part 1

As a long standing teacher advisor on the MEDA project (the creators and developers of Cadenza, Notemaker, and DREAM) I’ve recently been blogging with great excitement about Cadenza. I’ve played around with demo versions in the development stage, and I’ve play tested the final version with “dummy” student accounts. I originally titled this blog, “Cadenza for Dummies (aka, Me)”, but rethought it. I didn’t want to alienate anyone unfamiliar with that series of how-to books, so I re-titled it, “Cadenza in the Real World”. Now that the real version is out, I’ve been talking with other Cadenza-using teachers and parents and giving it a real-life go myself with my own real-life students. Here’s what I’ve discovered: I really do need a “Cadenza for Dummies” manual.

I’m a dummy. Yup. A fairly intelligent dummy, mind you, but still…. yeah. Here are my most recent revelations:

Facepalm #1. I neglected to tell my piano families the most basic direction, prominently placed at the top of this informative article. To use Cadenza, folks need to have a Google account in place for each student. In a nutshell, this means that each student must have their own g-mail address or they won’t be able to use it. I won’t admit to how many students I directed to Cadenza to set up an account there, and who dutifully did exactly that using their regular emails, leaving me wondering why they weren’t accepting my invitation to join my studio Cadenza family. For some only-understood-by-techies reason, they just weren’t getting my invitations! Parents of younger kids can be reassured that this g-mail account (and address) can be securely “closed off” through the google security settings, and miss or mister munchkin need never receive emails or ever use it again. Cadenza and Notemaker just prefer to use a Google platform.

HINT: if you’re not super security conscious, it will simplify your life bigtime if you make your Cadenza g-mail address and password the same as your regular one (for example,, password “abcde12345”, and, password “abcde12345”).

Facepalm #2: I have wonderful, cooperative piano parents. Several of them actually used their child’s existing g-mail account, set a new one up, or used their own parental g-mail account to successfully set up Cadenza. I then used said g-mail address to invite them into my studio Cadenza group and we used Cadenza right there at the lesson to create our first lesson plan – ahhhh, sweet success!

Not so fast. Lesson plan done (and, yes, I did remember to click the check mark at the bottom of each lesson addition to “save” it!), munchkin and parent toddled home. I spoke with a mum this morning who informed me that she and munchkin had sat down to practice – with Cadenza alongside – and after a good bit of time working on a tecassignment arrowhnique assignment, this mum realized that they’d neglected to press the little arrow to the right of the pink assignment box. “Wait. What’s this??”

Arrow is pressed….

…technique assignment page is accessed…and – voila!  – “start practice” button appears…start practice

…gets clicked…

practice timer

…and practice session (and timer!) begins.



Argh!! Mum and I are wiser, and now you may be, too. Another related headsup: if you click on the little pencil, you can manually adjust the time yourself (but don’t tell that to the kids!).

Angela Elster Receives Meritorious Service Decoration

On this past Thursday morning, June 23, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, presented Meritorious Service Decorations (Civil Division) to 52 recipients from various sectors across the country during a ceremony at Rideau Hall. One of the recipients was Angela Elster, who served on the Executive of the Music Education in the Digital Age (MEDA) project from the very beginning, until this past fall, when she left the Royal Conservatory to pursue new arts initiatives, all across our nation.

Angela Elster“I’m very proud to present the Meritorious Service Decorations, which gives me a chance, on behalf of all Canadians, to confer this honour on people who perform exceptional deeds and activities,” said the Governor General. “Congratulations to all of the recipients, who inspire us to find our passions, to show compassion, and to make this a smarter and more caring world.”

Indeed, Angela has done a great deal to make this “a smarter and more caring world.” Her Meritorious Service Medal was in recognition of her leadership in founding and shepherding the Learning Through The Arts (LTTA) program with the Royal Conservatory of Music. LTTA helps educators integrate arts-based activities into core subjects like math, science and social studies. As vice-president, she fostered the program’s growth by partnering with countless teachers and organizations, reaching over 350 000 students in a ten year period. One of the first MEDA projects took place in an LTTA school, where we used a digital tool to enable students to explore ecology through dance.

Congratulations from all of us, Angela! We’re thrilled at your accomplishment and honoured to count you as a colleague.

Cadenza and Notemaker, Together!

Do you remember that old commercial for those peanut butter cups?

“You got peanut butter on my chocolate!”

“You got chocolate in my peanut butter!”

Then both parties take a bite and suddenly their irate expressions turn ecstatic?

Well, that was me and several of my best “music geek” students a short time ago when Notemaker and Cadenza officially made their debut as a couple.

Now, I know it’s exam and recital season for many of us, so rather than wax poetic yet again about the wonders of each and both combined, I’ll just cut to the chase for now – they’re wonderful and…

…here’s where you can find them:

Notemaker (a.k.a. Notemaker-Cadenza) is an Apple app – sorry android folks! – and is free from the Apple app store here or just hit your app store app (don’t you just love the new English language?) and search for Notemaker-Cadenza. A small heads up:  you and your students will need gmail or google drive accounts, but please don’t let that slow you down.  How-to video links are included below!Notemaker appcadenza

Cadenza, on the other hand, is not an app. It’s a free online resource and it’s available to all platforms. You can find it at

Being low on the learning curve stinks, I know, and the kind MEDA folks know, too.  Here are several informative and helpful YouTube video’s they’ve made:



An overview of Cadenza’s features and teaching applications…

Notemaker’s features and use demonstrations….

…and finally, there’s a series of 11 more detailed Cadenza “how-to” videos.   You can access the full playlist menu by clicking the list icon at the top left of the box below.


Not sure how to use Notemaker?   There’s a series of videos for that, too.  Hint:  If you don’t have a g-mail account, I’d recommend starting at the end, with “Creating a Google Account”.

Next time:  your feedback and ideas for using Cadenza and Notemaker, whether innovative or day to day! Keep them coming, folks!


International Survey Winners!

international surveyBack in October, 2015, the MEDA Project launched a huge international survey of music students, parents, and teachers to find the answers to questions including…

  • What do students find most challenging in terms of practising between lessons?
  • What strategies do they use to become more self-regulated as learners?
  • What kinds of repertoire and genres do they enjoy most? How do parents contribute to the musical development of their children?
  • Do parents who have played an instrument or sing do things differently than parents who don’t play or sing? And what about the teachers?
  • How big are their studio practices?
  • How long have they been teaching?
  • In what ways do they think that technology might be able to help them engage their students?
  • What kinds of professional development appeal to them most?

Thousands of participants provided some very valuable data, and survey results will be available soon.

As a “thank you” for completing the comprehensive surveys, participants in each category – teacher, parent, or student – were also entered into a draw for a $500 Amazon gift card.

Prizes have now been awarded and, though we likely didn’t win (not fair, right? lol), here are the lucky winners:

amazon gift cardIn the “teacher” category – Alda Lee of Richmond, British Columbia

In the “parent” category – Sheila Pasay of Vegreville, Alberta, and….

In the “student” category – Dimitar Tomovski of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Congratulations to each, and a very big thank you to everyone who participated!



DREAMing … About Modes

A long, very long, time ago, I learned about modes. I didn’t actually learn about them in a proper “I’ve got this” way, but I did pass that section of the RCM rudiments exam. Yup, memorize the little acronym sentence (which I immediately forgot in my post-exam relief), calculate where the semitones fall, and identify it or write it out. Done and done.

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 2.19.59 PMNow as a teacher, I want more for my students. One of my goals is to introduce modes early on in a more organic, experiential way a la Forrest Kinney and his wonderful “Pattern Play” series (modes are in book 2). The Orff teaching philosophy emphasizes “experience first, thScreen Shot 2016-03-30 at 2.21.57 PMen intellectualize.” With this in mind, I’ve had my little and big students exploring the various modal colours and moods by “colouring within the lines” any way they wish. I give them some or all of the notes they can use and set them loose to improvise over my modal accompaniment pattern.

Students (or teachers with weak spots, like me!) can hear these modal colours outside the teaching studio as well. YouTube is full of some great listening examples and improvisation backing tracks. It’s also full of a lot of time-eating chaff. Here’s a pre-sifted, chaff-free list for you, care of DREAM!





Orchestral:  (dorian morphing into 8-tone/octatonic scale)



Play-along track:



Play-along track:


Piano:   (early-level, good intro to playing modes)












“iHarmony is a fully complete collection of all the scales, chords and harmonizations you can find in music. It’s very common for musicians getting confused about music theory… what notes is G# diminished 7 chord made of? What about the Bebop Dominant scale or worst… what about the harmonization of D# Melodic Minor scale? No more getting annoyed to search the web about the Lydian 7b scale, the Neapolitan scale or the Wholetone scale! Extremely useful when you write music, before a jam with your band, to do the functional analysis of jazz standards or to do your musical homework. “


Next time, the Big Reveal!! Cadenza, soon to be united with Notemaker, and creative ways teachers are using them.

Cadenza for Teachers

Welcome to Cadenza for teachers.  Back in Part 1, I waxed poetic about Cadenza’s student features, including features for students to:

  • upload their recordings and videos directly via the Notemaker app for teacher feedback and self assessment
  • take ownership of their practice sessions through the use of the timer, planning and reflection tools, and end-of-practice emoji ratings
  • Cadenza sign-in page

    Cadenza sign-in page

    clearly see detailed practice goals and when they’ve met them — learners will enjoy seeing and marking off tick-box tasks as they’re completed each day

  • receive motivational practice points to earn cyber badges (always good for a bit of friendly competition between studio friends!)

Here in Part 2, we’ll take a look at a couple of Cadenza highlights from the teacher’s perspective.

Who’s Practiced, What, How Much, and When?

From our main student-list page, we can see our students’ last login, and get quick access to our private notes on each, access to lesson history via the “list of lessons,” direct access to the latest lesson, and a “new lesson” button to make best use of those too-short lessons.

A quick click on “list of lessons” will get us a synopsis of a student’s lesson history which allows us and our students, with a brief scan, to see the bigger picture. Here, in my student persona, we can see four practice sessions, some better than others. Maybe it’s just a bad week, or maybe it’s part of a bigger pattern, but it’s easier to address if we can see it clearly.lesson overview

“I Didn’t Know You Wanted Me to Do That (So I Didn’t do Anything)”

How many times have we, as teachers, had a student say they weren’t sure what to practice so they didn’t practice at all? Hopefully not many, but there will always be that one little lost lamb (LLL) who benefits more than average from specific — often VERY specific — practice guidance and direction. The challenging part is to keep those lessons moving along but still be able jot down specific enough suggestions to keep LLL shepherded all week. Personally, I just don’t enjoy the tension of those minutes ticking by as I scribble detailed practice instructions into their notebook while my young pianist either retreats into quiet dreamland or throws himself into an energetic exploration of the “forte” capabilities of my fortepiano! Cadenza may save another life.

Let’s say I’m galloping into a new session with a student. I’ve clicked on “new lesson”, which brought me here to enter a few specific instructions: find themes 1 and 2  (check when completed) and learn each theme (play 3 times correctly).  Other options I could have chosen from were “repeat” x times; and “duration”, work on the assignment for a specified time. I chose “repeat 3 times”, but you might choose more or fewer repetitions.   To streamline the process, Cadenza has predictive typing — it anticipates frequently-repeated phrases or words, thus saving you precious keystrokes in the future. In the upper-right corner, you can see that I make the week’s target five practices, and that’s what will help decide the student’s automatic points and badges.

practice instruction choices

A quick click on “save”, and this is what LLL will see when they log into their account and start practicing:

new assignment student view

It’s clear and concise, and there’s something about unchecked tick boxes encourages more active participation than simply skimming instructions (if they get read at all!) from a page of notes. No tick, not done, no points. Many students need it to be that simple.

Cadenza points and badges

Cadenza points and badges

Stay tuned for more features and ideas from teachers in the trenches. To really explore Cadenza, we still need to wait til the official release at the beginning of April, but I’m quite certain it will be a game changer for teachers and students alike!

Cadenza, Part 1

Have you seen the BBC’s flying penguins documentary? Or 1998’s big news – telepathic Google searches? How about my favourite: the imminent Cadenza release?

What do they have in common? They’re all April Fools Day events … and they’re all scams. But wait! The Cadenza release really is true, but I did lie a bit — alpha testing is finished, and release is actually scheduled for March 31st (to avoid any “April Fools” associations, I’m guessing). Yup, in early April, music study will become far more intentional, interactive, and goal driven. The Cadenza alpha testers ranged in age from 8 to adult, and they were unanimously enthusiastic!

So what’s so noteworthy about Cadenza?  And what IS Cadenza?

Cadenza sign-in page

Cadenza sign-in page

MEDA’s first tool, iSCORE, clearly found its home with adult music students at the college and university level, helping them become more self-directed, self-assessing musicians ( The MEDA team was  determined to take the same benefits into the private music studio to help younger students learn to become more self-motivated and take a more active part in their music studies through short- and longer-term goal setting and regular self-assessments.

Enter, Cadenza — the same serious intentions with a lighter-hearted presentation. iSCORE’s large boxes for in-depth self analysis and planning have been replaced by several kinds of tick boxes, places for detailed teacher instruction and, yes, some student introspection if they wish. I mean, who doesn’t like to check tasks off a list and get stars and badges? My grownup day is seriously lacking in gold stars. Just saying.

Here’s a student page — my own advanced piano pedagogy viva-voce prep’ list for the Level 7 material. The week of January 20th, my teacher — me, in this case — assigned two pieces (marked with green bars), a blue sight reading task, and a pink technique assignment. Like the diligent student I am (ha ha), I worked on Aria four days out of the assigned three, indicated at the top right by a “target” icon. On the last two dates, the lower-right emoticons show that I felt pretty happy with the practice sessions.


assignment goals

Cadenza - active student-assignment page

Cadenza – active student-assignment page

After I clicking on “start practice”, my page became  active — I could tick off each task as it was completed during the session, choose the appropriate emoticon for that day’s mood. The timer in the middle of the page began ticking away automatically (I could manually add or delete time, too), and — coolest feature — I recorded a  video of my best performance via Notemaker and added it to my practice record simply by clicking “+Notemaker” (you can see the upload there, in the “media annotator” box).If I’d been feeling introspective, I could have added my thoughts to the “Reflection” area as well. A quick FYI – some teachers and students have ingeniously used this reflections area to send messages and feedback to each other.



At the end of each practice session, after I hit “save practice”, Cadenza automatically tallied my accumulated practices in the left-hand assignment column and, one by one, filled in each little “bubble”. It even added “+2” stars for more than one session in a day. At the top of the page I clicked the white “star” icon and saw my points (41!) and how many more were needed to earn a badge (only 9). Even as an adult, I found this feature foolishly motivating as I tried to squeeze in just another bit of practice here and there throughout the day!

Screen Shot 2016-02-13 at 5.18.24 PM

points and badges

Stay tuned for Part 2 — Cadenza’s teacher features!

Notemaker in Action!

“I love Notemaker!”

“Pretty cool!”

(in an excited text) “Did you get my share? :)))”

Christmas came early to my studio in the form of the Notemaker-Cadenza app and it’s a popular new toy amongst the students and myself. Now that it’s “back to back to back” RCM exam season again, with the usual tense excitement and last-minute bursts of motivation (read panic), it’s truly earning its keep. I’ve had several first timer’s feel an ominous rumble and look back to see that their January exam date has overtaken them quicker than they’d anticipated. For some, the weak spot has been their technique, and it’s hard for parents to help young students at home if they don’t remember from lesson to lesson what specific technical elements should look and sound like. For one young lady, her achilles heel has been her sight reading. Yesterday, as she and mum were leaving, I strongly advised her (again!) to do at least one or two sight reads daily from her 4-Star book. Mum looked perplexed. “How will we know if they’re correct??” A very good question which, this year, is much easier to answer. “Use your Notemaker app to send me a recording, and title it with the exercise number, and you’ll see my annotated feeNMclappingdback right where you’ve made any slips.” Their smiles of relief were worth every moment of our Notemaker app setup time. As an added bonus, I also knew I’d just gained a couple of “most valuable teacher” points with them, which is always good business.

Here’s our annotation conversation – hers at 2 seconds in (see the first vertical bar?), telling me which exercise she did, and my response at the 8-second mark (second vertical bar).


And here’s her original video via Notemaker:


We’ve been using similar quick exchanges via Notemaker to check her sight playing and repertoire questions. I also make “stock” videos to share as needed, demonstrating technical elements. Other music-teacher colleagues have used Notemaker to create interval-identification quizzes by recording a series of intervals with a gap between each.  After sufficient pause for students to come up with their own answer, they’ve inserted the correct answer into the annotation boxes for students to self correct from.

Here’s how I did it:

I audio recorded a series of intervals, then began playback…


…waited a few seconds to give students time to think..NMintervals1a




…paused the recording and annotated the correct answer…








….and repeated the process for each of the remaining intervals. See how the white dot is just past the third vertical bar? Students can scroll back and forth to repeat specific intervals or review the answers.



It’s truly a game changer, and ultimately a real sanity saver that will make your student successes even brighter. “That’s great,” you’re probably thinking. “But who’s got the time??” Get this: that one short quiz took me – quite literally – 3 minutes to make, including annotating the answers. Now that it’s saved, I can share it with any future students. Right now, though, I’m going to click share, check the name of my scrambling level-4 exam candidate, and off it goes into her google drive, ready for her to work her interval-naming skills on.

Next time: a closer peek at the Cadenza half of “Notemaker-Cadenza”


Notemaker: Right tool, right time

The Queen’s Gazette recently announced the arrival of Notemaker, the latest tool released just before the holidays. Notemaker is an iOS app, available through the Apple Store.

Excerpts from the article, by Andrew Carroll:

Thanks to a new app, music teachers and their students are able to collaborate effectively between lessons.

Notemaker allows users to make real-time comments on video and audio recordings.

Notemaker was created through the Music Education in a Digital Age (MEDA) Project, directed by Queen’s University’s Rena Upitis (Education), in partnership with Concordia University and the Royal Conservatory.

Annotation apps are not new, Dr. Upitis explains, but what makes Notemaker different is that it is the only one that allows a dialogue among multiple commenters directly on a recorded work, either video or audio. “So that makes it extraordinarily powerful,” Dr. Upitis says. “It’s dynamic, it’s multi-user, it’s the kind of teaching and learning that we are doing these days.”

Music lessons often take place once or twice a week and the communication often ends when the lesson does. However, with Notemaker, the communication continues.

“So when you are sitting at a piano lesson and your teacher tells you something, your teacher interrupts you partway through a piece and says try this differently. You get it and you pay attention but you can’t re-create that moment when you are practising,” Dr. Upitis says. “Whereas if you’ve done a video and the teacher writes a comment in ‘This is what I meant at the lesson, right here you need to raise your elbow,’ then you can play it again and again and see where your elbow isn’t raised and then say ‘Okay I get it’ and apply it to the practice. In a lesson the moment has passed but with Notemaker the moment can be brought back again and back again.”

The app is part of the larger MEDA Project, a multi-year project is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

Dr. Upitis adds that with its flexibility and multi-user sharing, Notemaker can be applied far beyond music education. If there’s a video and feedback being sought, whether it’s sports training, theatre, dance or creating a preparing a presentation for work, Notemaker is an ideal platform.

While it is an exciting, new tool, at the heart of the app is something that has always been the key to learning.

“The other thing Notemaker does is the most important of all, which is it motivates people. People are motivated to practice when they can see their progress and when they can feel they are getting feedback that is directed and helpful and they can link that feedback to their work,” Dr. Upitis says. “Ultimately it is motivation that matters in every kind of learning. If kids are intrinsically motivated to do whatever the task is at hand that’s what’s going to propel them forward. It’s not the app. It’s the learning. And when they fall in love with the learning and fall in love with the activity or discipline that’s what you want taking over. For us an app like this provides that motivational bridge, that pedagogical bridge, the collaborative bridge, but ultimately, in our case, it’s about learning to play and love music. Not about learning to love and play an app.”

The full article appears here.

iSCORE – Alive and Well in the Classroom

“The iSCORE Curriculum Fellows Program is designed for independent music teachers who are interested in radically transforming their pedagogy by integrating iSCORE into their teaching.  iSCORE is a web-based learning portfolio tool created specifically to enhance music teaching and learning.”

2014: For a short time, I considered applying for the Fellowship but, to be candid, in my private music studio setting, iSCORE was a ponderous and unpopular elephant no matter how hard I sold it to my families.

Jump to 2015: I just read the ongoing results of Fellowship recipient Nathalie De Grâce’s classroom-teaching experiences with iSCORE and I have to say, in that setting, it’s doing wonderfully!

In case you haven’t come across her work, a quick professional biography of Nathalie De Grâce reads:

“Nathalie De Grâce is an engaged music educator.  She gained experience teaching general music (gradeschool 1 to 6) and instrumental music (highschool grades 7 to 12 bandmusic) in Quebec, and in the Maritimes, all the while also working as a professional clarinetist. After completing her master’s degree in Wind Conducting (1995) at U of Calgary she moved back to her hometown where she invested herself in innovative projects for her college and university students. Since 2007, she has contributed many projects based on the use of technology Plattsburgh (2007-2009), Un Vent d’histoire (Prix Forces Avenir-projet engagé au collégial 2010), Projet Miami (2011-2012) and ISCORE Fellow (2013-present). Nathalie is currently completing her 3rd cycle Diploma in pedagogy (DPES) at Université de Sherbrooke on the subject of e-portfolio and formative assessment practice in music using iSCORE.”

I have to admit, it took a bit of work to read through and digest Ms. De Grâce’s most recent reports – I’ve included a couple of explanatory hyperlinks – but I found it a very worthwhile brain stretch! For those readers who want to learn more about the core beliefs behind e-portfolio learning, I’ve included her bibliography at the bottom.

“The act of learning is a social act”  (Dron & Anderson (2014), p.41)

According to recent studies, e-portfolio users assume more responsibility for their learning, better understand their strengths and limitations, and learn to set goals for themselves (Hillyer & Hey, 1996). Educators also believe that the use of portfolios develop their students’ abilities to think critically, thus promoting independent and self-regulated behaviors (Barret, 2007;Perry, 1998; Zeller & Mudrey, 2007). “A major part of the Cégep de Sherbrooke’s and l’École de musique de l’Université de Sherbrooke’s educational projects (Projets éducatifs) are devoted to fostering the development of qualities such as competence, autonomy, sustainability and a judicious appropriation of information and communication technologies,” explains Ms. De Grâce. In order to better sustain those qualities among college and university music majors, she has initiated several projects in Sherbrooke since 2013, implementing some of iSCORE’s most valuable features.

A significant part of iSCORE, a unique freeware available to all Canadians, is its integrated digital annotator which allows teachers and invited peers to provide real-time feedback on audio or video submissions from a student’s portfolio. Ms. De Grâce’s aim was to encourage both her clarinet studio students and her Ear training classes at Collège de Sherbrooke and l’École de musique de l’Université de Sherbrooke to use iSCORE:

  1. to explore a digitally based socio-constructivist approach to music learning
  2. as a vehicle for peer review and problem solving, but also mainly
  3. as a tool to develop self-assessment skills and musicianship.

”This element of the digital portfolio was a revelation to me, since it enabled me to observe concrete changes in my students’ understanding of their tasks, work, and even of themselves!”

In the following video, you will hear an ear-training student from her W-2015 class at the college level. Here is an example of this student’s self-regulated workflow:

  • recorded an assigned solfège excerpt with the help of the portfolio’s embedded audio plug-in,
  • placed it in the video annotator,
  • re-listened to his performance,
  • wrote comments he perceived at the second it was heard,
  • shared his annotated performance with peers/teacher for further feedback.

The ongoing metacognitive and cognitive processes involved in appreciating one’s own work not only helps the student to enhance their self-assessment skills, but also validates their perceptions of their own work.The networked interactions that follow can then impact on the student’s self-efficacy (Bandura, 1989), helping him to improve his self perception of competence in ear training and, in turn, giving him greater motivation and empowerment in his future tasks. According to Rolland Viau’s work on cognitive psychology (1994), those three components – value attributed to task, perception of one’s own competence, and control – contribute greatly to students’ intrinsic motivation,

Motivating Students to Listen, Appreciate and Self Evaluate

Early on, Ms. De Grâce used iSCORE as a digital learning portfolio to share content, schedules, and other digital media with her students, but found the next steps a little trickier.

“During these many explorations of the (iSCORE) portfolio, what challenged me the most was the correct use, in a classroom setting, of the inherent process loop structure built on Zimmermann’s (2002) model: planning/doing/reflecting.” 

As her students slowly adapted to iSCORE, Ms. De Grâce found that they were able to enjoy the music making while at the same time learning to apply their discoveries to improving future performances, thus becoming more self-aware and self-guided musicians. This was especially evident in her Ear Training IV class, an end of program Cégep music requirement. She found she had to significantly change how she taught the course:

“This adventure led me to completely remodel the course as follows:

1) Course centered on the web-based portfolio fostering an individualized as well as a socio-constructivist approach to practicing Ear training

2) Course based on self-assessment and a step-by-step “take charge” approach that allows students to transition from student regulated learning patterns to self-regulated learning patterns (includes written exercises, self-evaluation sheets, informative segments, and screencasts giving correct examples)

3) New design giving high priority to formative assessments (in a competence-based program) with a gradual appropriation of technological components.”

In conjunction with iSCORE, Noteflight (an embedded music notation tool available in iSCORE) allowed students to write a score quickly and legibly, as well as hear what they wrote through integrated midi sounds. For example, the student used the notation device as a helpful tuning and practicing device. Ms. De Grâce explains:

“After writing his descending circle of fifths, the student could make use of the midi sounds as a tutor.  Indeed, the student had to internally anticipate his next sung note BEFORE the midi sound’s correction. The metronome was set a little faster on each repetition, which progressively challenged the student. The recorded soundtrack could then be placed in the annotator for self-assessment purposes or be sent out to peers.  This innovative application of the device turned out to be a fun way of improving the student’s inner hearing and pitch accuracy skills using technology!”

Moreover, in the following example from a student portfolio, the student has practiced a series of complex sung modulations. Rather than have the software play the chords, this student has opted to play them himself while self-correcting (a rather more difficult task for this non-keyboard student!). The written annotation at the right margin highlights that this particular student has an excellent self-assessment skill since he was able to reflect on his own pitch accuracy problems without any help.

Ms. De Grâce explains, “This example suggests the need for new criterion-referenced grids to properly support students in developing their own judgment with respect to their performance, since the feedback will now be less from observations of the teacher’s response and more something originating from the student himself.”

An Innovative Competence Based Technological Approach Fostering Life-long Learning

In addition to turning the spotlight on the student’s learning, this illustrates an approach based on the development of skills – in this case, developing ear-training skills – rather than a result. “This approach to developing skills in musicians as part of an ear training course is innovative in my opinion.” According to Ms. De Grâce’s research on the topic, a curriculum such as this one, with a focus on competence based outcomes, are relatively rare and can be, “part of a journey that will support learning throughout life.”

Well done, Nathalie De Grâce and iSCORE!


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Cégep de Sherbrooke (2012). Place à demain 11-16. Plan stratégique de développement 2011-2016. Document téléaccessible à l’adresse <>. Consulté le 06 novembre 2015.

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