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    Academics: Smart Board/Auralia

    As I began my teaching assistantship in the spring of 2011, one of my primary goals was to drag the music theory department into the 21st century.  I believe the stagnation to be only somewhat attributed to the faculty, because to be fair the topic of aural skills and music theory does not lend itself well or easily to technological integration.  Much of what we do is completed while seated at a piano, and written on the board.  Thus, I had to find a couple of different ways to put a technological spin on the course.

    My first attempt was to adopt some Smart Board use in theory.  The rooms in the School of Music had just been refitted with some Smart Boards, and I was bound and determined to use them.  Needless to say, this proved quite difficult.  I believe that not only does the teacher have to become fluent in Smart Board use, but the students need to as well.  This should become easier as they get familiar with the technology through elementary/high school, but for the moment a bit of class time was spent on getting it to work instead of the topic at hand, which is never something you want.  However, it did prove itself valuable when going over chord spelling, Roman Numeral analysis, and other analytical techniques where the combination of a larger screen and colors helped students identify musical characteristics.

    My second attempt I believe was much more successful, and in my mind almost a necessity.  The department had been using theory software called MACGamut to administer tests and have students practice outside of the classroom, but the software itself could be described as archaic.  Upon launching a dialog box comes up asking for students to open a preset file, and the whole thing feels as though it hasn't been iterated since Windows '95.  Thus, I sought out new software to use, and landed on Auralia.  This software looks and feels fresh, and provides just as much support to the program and learning process as MACGamut, but in a better package.  I believe with new technology a great barrier to its effectiveness is its aesthetic and ease of use,  and this wins over MACGamut any day of the week.  Additionally, we have been testing the developers' new cloud syncing service, which has made adminstering exams and viewing results that much easier.  Overall, I believe this to be a great asset that I hope can acheive permanancy in the department.