“The benefits of music for mental well-being, concentration, memory, cognition and lessening anxiety are now well documented and accepted. As a music teacher, I feel I have an important role to play in bringing some diversion and hopefully some shared joy to my pupils in these uncertain times. Never has it been more important for children to continue wholesome and meaningful activities from home.”
(Verena Watkiss, Cornwall Music Service Trust (CMST) teacher and Area Lead)
In conjunction with this document please also read the following:
Learning online is a good way to help learners continue to enjoy the many benefits of music education when it is not possible to attend school. Although it is not the same as face-to-face music activities or lessons, it is still very effective for learning, and maintaining a virtual musical community.
For those who don’t have a fast enough internet connection for live online video lessons, CAVMS teachers will be able to recommend resources, and support students’ practice at home by other means such as phone and email. But for the majority of people, live online lessons will be the best way forward.
This guide sets out what is needed to make online and distance learning a fun and safe way to continue a musical education and will look at:
- How to get set up - devices, apps, and internet connection.
- How the teacher will invite learners to the lesson.
- How to get the most out of a lesson - setting a space aside for the lesson and having instruments ready.
- How to stay safe online - and how to treat the lessons in the same way that you would in a school.
- What we expect of parents and guardians.
Getting set up
CAVMS doesn’t insist on a specific app or platform for lessons to take place as we wish to make them as accessible as possible. You will need however a form of video communication, the most common of which are Skype, Zoom and Facetime.
You’ll need a PC, Mac, a tablet or a smartphone. Whichever it is, it will need to have a built-in camera, or a webcam attached. It will also need to have a built-in microphone and speaker, or for better quality you can use a headset with mic, or a pair of headphones that have a built-in mic (as often used for phones)
For most people the internet connection should be fine for good quality video and audio. It is worth testing this with friends or family before starting the first lesson. If it seems slow there are several things you can try:
- Move your PC/device closer to the router (if you’re far away the wi-fi signal isn’t as strong). Or use a network cable to connect your computer to the router.
- Checking that other people in the house aren’t using the internet at the same time (e.g., streaming video or TV).
- Test the speed of the internet connection, for example, here: https://www.speedtest.net
- If there is a temporary problem with your line, you can contact your service provider to ask them to check for faults on the line.
Not everyone has a fast broadband internet connection, or good mobile data signal. This can result in lower video quality, but generally the sound will be prioritised so you should be able to hear the teacher. If the speed is permanently slow (for both landline and mobile data) where you live then there are alternatives for distance learning.
Inviting students to lessons - how it works.
Once you’ve agreed to online lessons, the teacher will email the parent or carer’s email address with a date and time (which will normally be a regular time as it is in school).
How to get the most out of a lesson - setting up a space for learning.
Although homes may not have much “spare space” and may have other people around, it is helpful to think about where the learner is going to be and get things set up before each lesson. This should make it easier and safer to enjoy the lesson. The teacher will likely have other students after the end of each lesson, so being set up and ready on time means you can make the most of the time.
The space should be somewhere:
- With room to play your instrument, and to set up your laptop/PC/phone.
- Where you can focus, and that isn’t noisy (e.g., not with a washing machine on, or a TV, or other people coming and going).
- Within earshot of a parent, carer, or responsible adult (to help sort out practical difficulties, or if the internet connection drops, or if the learner is uncomfortable about anything).
- That isn’t an inappropriate place that you wouldn’t invite teachers and other students into (like a bedroom).
Staying safe online - treating the lessons in the same way you would in school.
There are some other things to think about as lessons will be taking place in the informal space of people’s homes rather than in the more “professional” setting of a school. It is important for the learning experience and for learners’ safety that the same behaviour is expected in online lessons that would be expected at school.
Responsible behaviour and dress.
To help make lessons safe and enjoyable, a parent or carer should be within earshot of the student taking part in the online lesson. Just as in a school or other face-to-face lesson, learners are asked to:
- Dress appropriately (e.g. not wearing pyjamas). Students are courteously asked to wear clothing that would normally be worn in public.
- Follow the teacher’s instructions.
- Ask the teacher before leaving the session (e.g. to go to the loo).
- Not take phone calls, message others, or use devices that aren’t requested by the teacher for learning.
- Not having other browsers or apps open during the online lesson to reduce the risk of inappropriate content being visible to other learners.
- Not take screenshots or record video of sessions (as in schools, written permissions are needed to take photos or video of children and young people).
- In a group lesson the background behind the learner will be visible to the teacher and other students. So it is good to make sure:
- That you try and have a neutral background that doesn’t show any personal information (e.g., screens with social media profiles), or personal items (e.g., laundry drying)
- Doesn’t have anything that might offend others (e.g., posters with inappropriate language).
- That there isn’t a TV/screen showing in the background where there’s a risk of age-inappropriate content showing.
If the learner (or you) have any concerns…
A parent/carer or responsible adult should be within earshot of the child during the online lesson. Students will be told that if they have any concerns before, during, or after a lesson they should ask the parent/carer for help. This could include for example:
- Technical issues with the computer or internet connection.
- Practical issues, such as arranging the appropriate space to play their instrument.
- Other issues, such as not being comfortable with what is happening in a lesson.
- Tuning of, or problems with the instrument.
The parent/carer should be aware that the reporting of any safeguarding concerns is the same as under CAVMS’ Safeguarding policy (just as it would be in face-to-face lessons in schools). Any concerns can be addressed to CAVMS’ Designated Safeguarding Leads (names and contact information are as per CAVMS’ Safeguarding policy).
And if the teacher has any concerns…
If the teacher feels the student hasn’t followed the kinds of behaviour expected in a school environment, in spite of prompting, or is concerned about something (inappropriate dress or language, for example), the teacher will stop the session for that learner, and then contact the parent or carer later to explain, and to help resolve any issues.
What we expect of parents or guardians, and their involvement in lessons.
Having the support of a parent/guardian is one of the key factors in young people’s musical development. And it is only natural that they may want to be involved and see what is happening in the lesson too.
Support from a parent or guardian in setting up the lesson is often needed. And being within earshot is important for safety as well as for practical help. Parents are expected to be present at the start and finish of lessons wherever possible, particularly for younger children. This helps teachers make sure everything is OK and ready to go at the start, and so parents/guardians know at the end of each session about plans for practice and the next lesson.
The level of involvement of the adult during the lesson will depend on the age of the student. Younger children may need a person in the room to help keep them focused and safe, particularly if it’s a new activity. But too much parental involvement can also be distracting or cause shyness with older students. In general, it is recommended that after the first few lessons, the parent/carer is within earshot but not “in the lesson”, particularly with older students wherever possible.
CAVMS very much looks forward to continuing with you on your musical journeys and exploring how to build a virtual musical community. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact your teacher, or the CAVMS office.