Maidstone Grammar School for Girls, is a selective school with 1250 girls on roll. They play a significant role in the Kent Music Education Hub – Soundhub and in July 2013 Bob Chapman, Head of Music hosted a Hub Network Meeting with Ellen Reynolds from Soundhub together with local Music Teachers.
After Bob’s presentation we were able to ask him about his experience and use of Gigajam and are able to share his thoughts and observations. It is worth noting that the children at the school have uploaded over 18,000 exercises since they started with Gigajam in November of the last academic year 2012/13.
What problem were you trying to solve?
There is an expectation that every child has the opportunity to learn a musical instrument and the only model that is affordable for all is through whole class learning. I looked for solutions, came across Gigajam and was drawn to the fact that whilst allowing whole class tuition, its interactivity means that learning is personalised to the individual.
How did you implement Gigajam?
The programme was rolled out in November 2012 and was instantly successful. It is used by both music teachers in the department with the initial focus on learning the keyboard.
As well as use in the curriculum the children have access to Gigajam before school, at lunchtime, as well as after school.
Pupils and their parents have responded positively to the opportunities presented by learning the keyboard and progress is being made by all pupils.
During the last academic year over 80 pupils have reached the grade points of either debut, or debut and grade one.
What specifically attracted you to Gigajam as a solution?
Gigajam was selected for the whole class model as it is interactive for the pupils. This means that pupils receive immediate feedback. Additionally the courses are very progressive, as well as appealing to young people. Our pupils are engaging with Gigajam in the classroom and are keen to extend their learning beyond use in the curriculum. We wanted to provide more musical skills in Key Stage 3 and the skills being learned have supported the students across all their units of study.
How easy was it to deploy Gigajam in your department?
We had very little to adapt to embrace Gigajam. We have plenty of keyboards in the department, as well as computers and access to the internet. Our only outlay was the purchase of a small number of midi interfaces to be able to connect all the MIDI keyboards to the computers.
How have you been able to measure impact?
In addition to the increase in participation, with all key stage 3 pupils now learning an instrument, the quality of skills has also gone up. Pupils are playing better, with more fluency, more fingers and both hands.
Opportunity and quality are equally important and all pupils now have a genuine chance to learn properly now. This is something we simply couldn’t have done on our own.
The very best thing about this method of whole class tuition is that pupils can make progress at their own pace and it is both clear to see, as well as clearly evidenced in pupils’ e-Portfolios.
Pupils are on their own personal pathway of skill development. Pupils are playing better and more confidently and they know their way around the instrument.
How have pupils responded to the use of Gigajam?
The children have been extremely positive and they really enjoy the lessons. Parents have also commented on their children’s enjoyment and the pupils want to do Gigajam.
Although we as a school implemented this, the truth is that the pupils are driving this now. They want to do it and I want them to have life-long music skills and be able to play instruments.
What impact has Gigajam had on your approach to teaching?
It has changed our role in the lessons and we have more time to mentor. We are not required to be the motivator anymore and can work around the whole class and target our support more accurately and more effectively.
As head of music I have been very well supported by my teacher of music, who also loves Gigajam. Although we have cut down on some of the music units we were teaching, this has meant that we get greater progress from the children. We can both see and evidence the progress and that means that the children can access the whole music curriculum much better.
There is another advantage to using technology in this way, as cover lessons are now much more meaningful. It is invariably a non-music specialist supporting the learning and the pupils can be sure they are getting a full a music lesson as opposed to a ‘cover’ lesson.
How do you see Gigajam being used to develop your department?
Having seen the impact of Gigajam for learning the Keyboard, I invited my line manager into the department during class and break time to see the usage. The fact that we had 100% engagement, as well as significant self-selected additional learning encouraged the school’s Senior Leadership Team to support the department’s bid to purchase drums and guitars so that pupils could learn all the instruments and start to form bands and play in ensembles.
We now want to extend the use of the technology to the other instruments and then on towards more group work. The pupils understand the method of learning and interaction with the programme and they will be able to easily transfer that to learning guitar, bass and drums.
A packed room full of active learning seems to be the key to unlocking investment. The department has benefitted from a much greater profile within the school as a result of the numbers now involved in music making.
We have 180 pupils in each of our KS3 year groups learning with Gigajam and I want them all to have the chance to take those skills, learn more instruments and play together in ensembles.
Have there been any unexpected results from using Gigajam?
The reporting Gigajam provides has enabled us to differentiate and pitch support to individuals, as well as measure their progress over time. The reporting for evidence of progress is automatic and saves an enormous amount of time. Where I have pupils who have already achieved one or two grades in music previously they can enter the programme and continue at their own level.
Most of all it has supported our baseline assessment process. It has enabled us to confirm our gifted and talented pupils more accurately. The baseline assessment, alongside the progress pupils are demonstrating and recording has provided an accurate triangulation. This enables us to see the pupils who are showing aptitude, but perhaps are not already playing an instrument. The progress they make with Gigajam, alongside their baseline enables us to accurately target and offer progression routes and other music making opportunities to pupils. I can feel confidently informed when I write to parents. I can see much more clearly when individual pupils are making more than average progress something that was almost impossible to spot previously in year 7.
For more information on Gigajam please contact Brian Greene