Online and on key: technology and music education

Melbourne Conservatorium senior lecturer Dr Carol Johnson is delving into how modern technology can enhance the learning process for both amateur and professional musicians.

Despite music being an ever-evolving discipline, modern music pedagogy often remains locked in traditional methods. Dr Carol Johnson says there has been trepidation among music educators in adopting new methods and technology.

“We don’t want to use technology just for technology’s sake. It’s important to have the conversations around effective uses of technologies and how we can learn to use them to benefit students’ learning,” she says.

Dr Carol Johnson. Photo: Rod McGaha.

As an internationally-renowned saxophonist and academic, Dr Johnson is now turning her eye to the new role of Senior Lecturer in Music (Online Learning and Educational Technologies) at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. Fittingly, she is the first to hold this post, as few before her have investigated the role that technology can play to attract and retain students.

“Not everything we learn can be taught in a book, and traditional learning methods do not suit everyone,” Dr Johnson says.

With the average, modern-day musician being proficient in the use of technology, and in other aspects of life, there is an opportunity to encourage the integration of technology into learning.

“Teaching in an online environment is a way for students to tailor their own lessons and musical development. It’s a great equaliser, providing instruction to musicians who may not have the opportunity to attend one-on-one classes.”

In her young career, Dr Johnson looked for ways to connect her love for music performance and technology. Out of this passion she founded The Virtual School of Music. Used internationally, her music teaching resources are recognised and endorsed by award-winning musicians.

Recently, she co-edited Pedagogy Development for Teaching Online Music with USA-based academic Dr Virginia Lamothe after recognising a gap in peer-reviewed research into online music teaching methods.

“We had found that it was difficult to locate research and literature that supported music instructors with online teaching practices, so we sent out a call to the music education community to see how they were researching the practice of online music teaching,” she says.

“What we ended up with is a book filled with current research in the field, research-informed practices and strategies, and some of the history of the development of online music teaching.”

In her work lies the belief that the heart of every culture is cradled in its music. Using pedagogically-informed tools created by technology experts, music and it’s performance are kept alive. Dr Johnson seeks to continue her focus on supporting effective learning opportunities for future musicians and educators.

Researcher profile

Dr Carol Johnson

Selected publications

Johnson, C. & Lamothe, V.C., Eds. (2018). Pedagogy Development for Teaching Music Online. Hershey, PA: IGI Publications.

Johnson, C. (2017). Teaching music online: Changing pedagogical approach when moving to the online environmentLondon Review of Education, 15(3), 439–456.

Johnson, C. & Hawley, S. (2017). Online music learning: informal, formal and STEAM contexts. International Journal for Innovations in Online Education, 2(1).

Johnson, C. (2016). Online music education stream introduction. International Journal of Innovations in Online Education, 1(1).

Further reading

Interview: Carol Johnson, online music expert

Dr Carol Johnson's website