How it Happened.


Here you will find out how Russ Brown and P. Headley created a vision for the future of education.


The development of Compumedia evolved over three years, with each element being added to solve a new problem.

Initially, the key problem within all of the classes appeared to be the inability for one teacher to individualize instruction. A second issue involved the monitoring of students and equipment while individuals or small groups worked within the practice areas. Although instruction was identified as the key issue, security of equipment became a higher priority when an $800.00 flute was stolen. This theft precipitated the purchase of one camera and one monitor. The camera was placed in the equipment storage space while the monitor and VHS recorder were placed within the office. Within a very short period of time a second camera was added to the large instructional area.

The second camera provided a means by which instruction with a large group could continue and fair, accurate teacher assessment and diagnosis could also be conducted. The camera was and is used to record individual students as they performed within a large group setting. Video was and continues to be used for the teacher to assess students, small groups and more importantly, it provides individual, immediate visual and auditory feedback to the students. Self monitoring and peer modelling on the video playback, led to further indirect instruction. It became evident that the first camera, initially purchased for security purposes, could assume a similar role to that of the second camera.

Mr. Brown had, inadvertently, hit upon a highly motivating means of individualizing the assessment and instruction of students. A third camera was added to monitor the upper and lower practise hallways, ensuring students were on-task during small group practice times. The third camera was and still is used to record and provide feedback for student conductors.

As time has progressed, more cameras have been added to the setup. Now, there is a camera in every practice room, to allow Mr. Brown to monitor / individualize instruction for all students at all times, especially guitar.

Problems relating to classroom management and the security of expensive equipment in a difficult physical setting, had been resolved. However, monitoring students and equipment did not adequately address the issues relating to challenging individual pupils. Secondly, although video was important, music is sound. Hence it became more imperative that auditory systems be fused with visual systems for large group analysis and instruction. Interestingly enough, students who had a technical interest became involved at this point. their involvement led to the following equipment being interfaced: a television, a sound system, and a monitor. They were wired so that they might be controlled from the office area.

New computer software for a MAC LC became available. The first software purchased included: "Finale" -- a high-end music composition and notation program; "MiBac Music Theory" -- an individualized theory instruction program; and "Practica Musica" -- a more complex individualized theory and instruction program. The computer system was coupled with a Sound Canvas and a DX7 MIDI Keyboard by students who had computer expertise.

Two new problems arose. Although initially students were highly motivated, the programs were not "user-friendly" for the vast majority. Secondly, only one or two students were able to utilize the technology in one instance. Thirdly, the investment, in terms of dollar costs, was not meeting the needs of large instructional groups. In short, the goal of individualized instruction had not yet been totally reached.

To address the issue of "user-friendliness" some means of instructing the large group in use of the computer and its programs was needed. A Power PC Macintosh 6100/60 AV was the solution. This computer allowed all of the computer programs to be transferred to a large screen television without distortion of any of the sound or picture. This Solution created another problem. A standard mouse could not be extended 10 meters to permit access to the television from the office/PC site. Macintosh technical support said that extending a mouse was not technically possible. The problem was not solved until several months later, when an innovative and inventive computer repair technician at the University of Saskatchewan, constructed a ten meter extended mouse. It continues to work effectively.

Technological glitches preoccupied much of the development time and we did not initially realize that our need was to solve a computer problem, would evolve into a total reorganization of instruction in music. Nor would we realize that we had finally addressed the key issue initially identified -- quality individual instruction for diverse students. We believe the aquisition the Power Mac lead to the integration of media and the birth of compumedia in music education.

Compumedia works in a multitude of ways that are constantly changing as new technologies are added and as teacher and student needs are identified. It is best explained by examining several of the key computer programs now used in the instruction of music at Bedford Road.

The music curriculum involves ear training, theory, individual projects and the development of performance skills. To teach listening skills, interval discrimination, tone colour, instrumentation, style of music, scales, and modes; the computer program -- "Auralia" -- is transferred from the office computer to a television in the large instructional area. The concept(s) being taught is visually displayed on the television, and heard through the sound system. A track ball connected to a 10 meter extended mouse is used to demonstrate and "break down" the concept both visually and auditorially. In doing so, instruction reinforces the concept both visually and auditorially. Having seen and heard the concept, immediate feedback as to mastery is given when, the television screen is blanked and only the sound is heard. Students review, practice and self test mastery of the concepts using this system on an individual basis. Large group instruction also occurs in a similar manner.

"Performer 6.0.3", a MIDI sequencing program is used to develop compositional skills, associate visually the act of playing with written musical scored, transpose music, compose on sixteen tracks with the individual setting parameters for each track, transposing music for a variety of instruments in a variety of tempos and pitches. Arrangements are then printed in "publisher" quality scores through a computer printer. Individual parts may also be printed.

What this means is a creative student who has strong performance skills, but a weak grasp of computer theory, reading or compositional skills, can play a melody into the computer using a guitar, keyboard or mouse interface. Their original melodies can then be arranged for an ensemble, small group, rock band, or full orchestra. The sound of each part, each section, each instrument, each note is accessible and movable so that the original melody may be enhanced. Enhancement may take the form of improved instrumentation, accompaniment, or melodic revision based on the users first hand visual and auditory experience. The student composer is able to hear their composition with the exact sampled sound. Similarly, a student with excellent music skills, can compose and hear his/her compositions played with the accuracy and tone colour of a professional full orchestra. Work completed by individuals, and small groups is easily accessible for teacher evaluation. The process as well as the final product may be evaluated accurately and immediately. Self evaluation in also evident. Students at all diverse skill levels are involved in the learning process and empowered.

Interactive CD-ROM programs allow student to see and hear instruments, and ensembles while exploring music development. For example, two hundred instruments, including instruments not easily available for study (eg. the zither) are accessible. In an other sub-section the learner is able to visually see the four major orchestras (eg. baroque, classical, 19th century, 20th century) with corresponding sound. Typically, after three minutes of randomly accessed orchestra styles, the screen is blanked and students are asked to recognize these styles. Most students achieve 80% accuracy. Perhaps it is important to realize that prior to using this program, students were taught this material through a picture and recordings. CD quality sound and high quality graphics on a large screen television are motivational, life like and move abstract concepts into to concrete experiences. CD-ROM programs are also used to teach composers and music analysis in an interactive manner.

"Claire" or its male form, "Clarence", is an interactive vocal/instrumental, listening, and intonation computer program. Claire first identifies the student's vocal/instrumental range, and then sings to the student within that range. The student is asked to sing or play back the stated pitch. The program then analyzes the student's intonation. An individualized program based on the strengths and weaknesses of the student is developed by Claire. Computer generated interactive practice activities, complete with oral encouragement, and a graphic display of achievement is conducted with the individual student. As Claire's pitch is perfect, the student is provided with an interactive vocal/instrument coach. The pace, the achievement levels, the complexity and progress of learning is controlled directly by the student and indirectly by the teacher. A second use of Claire is in a large group setting where teacher directed instruction guides the choir/band students to play in pitch and to understand the importance of intonation. A cordless microphone system allows students to interact with the PC and Claire who remains positioned in the main office.

Simultaneously, individual students may be testing, practicing, or participating in small or large teacher directed instruction groups.