Art, Words, Music,
Three teachers launched
a project and a program to bring together art, music,
creativity, technology, teachers and schools in a
team approach to education.
By Sandra Boetto
Take an idea, three teachers, one
supportive superintendent and add four co-operative
elementary schools. End up with groups of students
and teachers working on a theme, then presenting
their art, music, computer projects and classroom
work to parents and the school community.
In 1993, George
Brasovan, Mary Lou Sicoly and Allan Molnar were
working in the music department of the Metropolitan
Toronto Separate School Board. Each felt the need to
develop a new concept for the music and arts program
something to excite teachers and students.
Besides wanting to make music and arts education more
relevant to the curriculum, the teachers also wanted
to incorporate the use of computers.
written an article in 1991 that reflects the
groups rationale. He wrote: "It is almost
seven years since I first sat in front of a computer
in a half-hearted attempt to see what the fuss was
all about. I was teaching instrumental music in a
high school, and I wasnt so sure that computers
would ever play a significant role in education. Then
the MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface)
revolution began. Being able to link an electronic
keyboard and computer opens up a vast number of
applications that greatly improve the way music is
taught, learned, performed, composed, arranged and
of music and its ability to express emotions, create
images, and communicate, coupled with the
computers ability to store, access and
manipulate information, can trigger and assist a
learning process where sound, visuals, text and the
hands-on approach could be used to
benefit the learner."
Mary Lou Sicoly, George Brasovan and Allan
Molnar came up with the idea to integrate
creativity, art, music and technology in a
Brian Morris recognized their idea as an opportunity
for teachers and students to get excited about
learning and making connections. He asked the team to
identify a vision and put a plan together.
pilot project, called Project Discovery, was based in
a computer-assisted keyboard lab at St. Francis de
Sales Elementary School. The lab was funded by the
four participating elementary schools.
Sicoly, an itinerant performing arts teacher, was
responsible for the selection of a team of teachers
in each school who planned and implemented a thematic
unit of study that incorporated music, drama, visual
arts and technology into the classroom core
attended in-service workshops at the lab and left
equipped with activities and strategies for their
students. They established a lab schedule and the
students started work on the theme.
At the end of
10 weeks, the students held a "celebration"
of what they had learned about the theme for their
parents and school community. The students
presentation incorporated music, drama and movement
and various visual arts such as mask making,
puppetry, scenery and props.
technician taught student crews how to run a sound
board and microphones, and the students operated and
stage-managed the entire production. The students
also presented the computer projects they developed
on the theme and displayed their classroom work,
including journals and art.
The report of
the 1995 Royal Commission on Learning singled out
this pilot project as a success story. It described
Project Discovery (A Multimedia Centre) this way:
"Teachers in the Metropolitan Toronto Separate
School Board have a multimedia resource centre where
they can learn about the new technologies; it
comprises computers, electronic keyboards, materials,
and resources used to promote in-service workshops to
teachers in four schools. The workshops are organized
during and after school hours; students also have
access to the centre. Networking among the teachers
has already led to development of integrated theme
units incorporating the arts and technology."
unit, project-based model has grown. To maximize its
effect, team member Molnar, a music and multimedia
teacher, was placed at the secondary school Dante
Alighieri as well as at the elementary school Regina
Mundi. This elementary and secondary partnership has
also provided secondary students as buddies to assist
elementary students and teachers in their sessions.
So far, groups
of students from 30 elementary schools have
incorporated multimedia projects into their thematic
units through their weekly visits to the lab.
At each home
school, Sicoly is involved in pre-service meetings
with teachers, administrators and trustees, outlining
the philosophy behind the project as well as the
program areas covered in the process.
Dante Alighieri Academy, principal Sue Sillery has
helped the music department acquire a fully-equipped
computer keyboard lab. Enrolment in the schools
music program has tripled over the last three years.
As one music student says, "When I became
involved in the music program here, I realized what
an incredible program it is."
other departments value the interdisciplinary
possibilities offered by the multimedia program.
Parents have also noted the impact of the program.
One comments, "The teachers objectives
have cultivated the students interest in music,
making it relevant to the present."
School life at
Dante has been enriched in many ways and the
teams project-based model, which links into the
multimedia lab every week, is flourishing. This is
largely due to the teams focus on the program
incorporate arts and technology across the curriculum
assist students in establishing curriculum
provide activities and experiences that will
reinforce skills, knowledge and values and help
students become critical thinkers and creative
provide opportunities for students to become more
provide professional development for teachers
encourage networking among teachers within a school
and from one school to another
establish accountability through curriculum webs and
documenting students progress.
Brasovan, now head of music and multimedia at Dante
Alighieri, sums up the appeal of a multimedia
approach to learning: "The so-called
intelligent music software slowly started
to turn the computer into a more creative tool
capable of interacting with the user. Tutorial
software attempted to make the process of learning
the necessary skills faster, more effective and to
put the learner in control of the process ... This
Hypermedia approach to learning could
take a student from sound to image, to language, to
story writing, to drama, to movement, to math,
physics and computer science....
that computers and new technology are new tools that
should be integrated into our traditional programs.
They are here not to replace but to enhance, add and
respond to change. A computer can be a musical tool
just like a clarinet or trumpet and there is no
reason why they cant co-exist."
In this program
theyre doing more than co-existing. They have
enjoyed tremendous success, enhancing and reinforcing
skills through the use of a variety of tools.
1997 a new member from the computers in education
department joined the team. Lori Mazza now follows up
computer sessions at Dante Academy back at the
elementary schools with on-site workshops for the
teachers involved in the program.
This year, in
co-operation with these teachers, the process leading
up to the celebration is being documented through
video, still and digital cameras. The footage will be
edited to produce a CD-ROM.
hands-on approach to learning has resulted from many
hours of diligent work by the thematic unit team
members, most of it on their own time. Creative
sharing of staff and resources has created optimal
results for both students and teachers. It truly has
been a model of hard work and co-operation for
students and teachers and continues to attract
growing interest from other school communities.
Sandra Boetto is head of
English at Dante Alighieri Academy. The Project
Discovery team can be reached at email@example.com