The Partnership for 21st Century Skills introduced a new set of necessary skills that students today need in order to be successful learners and productive members of future society. These are summarized as the Four C’s of 21st Century Learning:
- Critical Thinking
In recent years, several education movements were initiated in the effort to redesign the childhood learning experience based on these new goals – including Maker Learning, Game Based Learning and Project Based Learning. Among the new trends, however, how many adequately address music learning integration?
The benefits of music learning go beyond academic success, but most programs found in schools today still follow a traditional approach and student participation decreases as students get older. What’s interesting for children right now in terms of music? DJing has been at the forefront of the music industry with the popularization of EDM and electronic dj/producer artists. Many children are familiar with the figure of a DJ, but few have a real understanding as to what DJing actually is. So what is the educational impact of DJ learning in relation to the Four C’s?
DJing is the art of mixing songs together. While the songs used in a DJ mix are produced by other artists, the creativity and innovation happens within the mix. Choosing which songs to blend together requires an understanding of genres and improvising filter effects or other mixing techniques is ultimately based on taste. Children use their understanding of the DJ controller to make songs their own by altering a beat pattern with rolls and loops or employing a sound effect to make the mix more interesting. Hear a student mix of 2 songs (“Rather Be” by Clean Bandit and “I Follow” by Lykke Li) and her original use of filters and sound effects.
DJing is also an art that inspires collaboration. The technology today has advanced so much that multiple DJs can play at once. In order for the mix to sound seamless, children DJs need to learn how to negotiate each other’s musical taste and work together productively. To accommodate both partners, they assign each other roles and make a plan for each musical decision that they will implement as they play their songs together.
The nature of mixing music requires critical thinking. Not all songs will blend together even though the technical properties of the songs are the same. DJ software can guide students to know that two songs are playing in the same speed and have matched up perfectly, but aurally something can continue to sound unnatural. The task requires an understanding of the different musical genres and song characteristics in order to determine which songs or parts of a song will flow together. Children need to actively listen to their choices as they decide the best one to insert into the mix.
Traditionally, DJing is an activity that connects the DJ to his or her audience. A DJ’s musical choices are often dictated by the reaction of the crowd. In the classroom, children are guided by their peers as they come up with song libraries that cater to their musical tastes. They share their mixes together and provide each other with feedback on other ways they can make the mix sound better. It opens up the line of communication among the students when they discuss techniques on the DJ controller that they can try or other songs that they can consider adding.
The nature of the actions on a DJ controller invites musical play and puts the fun back into music learning. The range of music technology available has made it accessible for even the youngest audience. It is a learning activity that is natural for children to engage with because it starts with instinct. There’s no right or wrong way to DJ. Through continuous engagement in the mix, children move from musical chaos to systematic organization of sounds. As educators explore new avenues for teaching and learning that better meet children’s needs, we cannot ignore the importance of meaningful music integration and its essential role in nurturing the Four C’s.
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