On the 2nd of April, 2015, as part of the Digital Learning Technologies class at EIT, my fellow students and I visited a music classroom on the campus. A tutor introduced us to and gave us a demonstration of the technology that is used to control and monitor the music lab's computers.
The music lab is equipped with Apple iMac computers, each with their own studio monitoring headphones and Midi keyboards. Apple computers are generally preferred in the music industry as they are considered more reliable and stable, which is imperative if they are being used for live shows and such. The last thing you want is Windows taking over your screen asking for your permission to update Java in the middle of a performance.
The teacher's computer runs software (Insight by Foranics) that enables it to communicate with and access the lab's computers. The teacher is able to add to and modify students' work, monitor the students screens, and give help where needed. Students screens can be shared on the projector, so if a student has a problem, the teacher can demonstrate solving the problem to the rest of the students seamlessly.
The above image shows the projector screen (showing the teacher's screen). The many screens you can see on the projector are the screens of the individual computers in the lab.
Here are some considerations around using the software:
- Editing - the teacher is able to edit students work while tutoring them, aiding them in solving problems.
- Demonstration - the teacher can easily demonstrate something to the whole class by putting a students screen on the projector for all to see. This eliminates the teacher having to continuously go over a common problem.
- Tutoring - the teacher demonstrate something to a student without having to leave his computer, by actually adding to or modifying (in real time) students work.
- Calling attention - as the students are working on music, there needs to be an easy way to call for their attention. The teacher is able to mute all of the headphones which allows the teacher to be heard.
- Privacy - a student may be working on a melody that he or she may not want others to hear at this point in time. For example, they may be embarrassed by it as it has not been developed enough, or they may have produced a golden riff that they don't want others to hear and take inspiration from.
- Authenticity - as the teacher is able to modify students' work, it is possible that the teacher may help the student a little too much, to the point where the student isn't fully creating their own work.
- Getting out of "the zone" - being continuously interrupted would be incredibly annoying for students who are deep into the development of their tracks and do not want to be bothered.
- Collaboration - a great feature of the software is that it allows two people on two separate computers to work on the same project. This is akin to a wiki or a shared Google Doc, in that many users can alter it at the same time. This could have a massive market in the digital music collaboration industry.
- Malicious users/hackers - the main computer has significant power in that it can access and alter all of the other computers in the lab. Should a malicious user gain access to that computer, they could cause some serious damage.
- Privacy (again) - it is an uneasy feeling knowing that your computer and therefore your work can be altered. However in this environment, you know who can see your screen, and the logical reasons as to why. But this does open your eyes to the privacy implications of the wider internet. It should be understood and accepted that anything an everything you do on the internet has the possibility of being monitored.