Acoustic teaching…

a·cous·tic teacher (-kstk) (tchr)

also a·cous·ti·cal teaching (-st-kl) (tchng)

1. Teaching
a. Of or being a person that does not use or enhance learning electronically: an acoustic teacher; an acoustic student.
b. Being a lesson or unit that features such teachers or students: they learned about atoms with an acoustic project.

Scott McLeod has put out a call for people to participate in Leadership Day 2010.  Click here if you would like to know more or participate, or here if you would like to read a great example…and here for the full list of 2010 participants.

Dear Administrator…

I started playing acoustic guitar very late in life.  I can be very entertaining with it, but I am not very good.  I only know a few chords and I never practice to get better.  I only take it out a few times each year and I am in fact, getting progressively worse since I started to play several years ago.  A couple of years after I learned how to play, I was given an electric guitar by someone who was no longer using it.  It wasn’t just any guitar, it is a brand and model that when someone pulls it out of a case, you know they are a serious player.

I quickly dropped my acoustic and plugged in.  I became louder and faster. Created a student metal/punk band that performed in front of hundreds each year, and they even let me sing a few songs.  We worked hard to get louder and faster every year as we added more and more technology.  Some years we had kids in the band who were just learning how to play and simply plugged them in to distort the sound enough so that no one would know.  At the end of each show hundreds of kids screamed for us, we were full of smiles, and we went home happy.

Some bands have “plugged-in” and gotten better.  Some bands that admittedly had no idea how to play their instruments have gone on to stellar careers…Ramones, The Clash, and U2 are three that come to mind.  But they are the exception.  Looking back, plugging in didn’t make us better, it just amplified our mistakes and made them audible 1 mile away.  As a heavy metal fan, I am always amazed at how the best bands are even better when they play unplugged.  Their true skills and abilities really show when they don’t have all the wires, gadgets, and amplifiers.  What I have found, is that adding technology to these bands allowed them to do “more”  because they were great musicians BEFORE they plugged in.

So before you decide to push technology into the curriculum, I would just ask that you pause and find out if you will be amplifying mistakes?  or allowing some teachers to do more?  The best guitar teachers want their students to start off unplugged.  Drum teachers start off their students with a simple drum pad.

It’s not the sound of the amplifier ringing in your head that makes the difference, it’s the song, the meaning, the emotion, the connection, the relationship, the melody, the bond that the artist has with the audience that makes the difference–a bond forged with practice, patience, and perseverance.  I play many “songs” (lessons) each year with my kids.  Some “songs” are plugged in with hundreds around the world.  Some “songs” are solo vocal performances done just for our class.  Other “songs” we do as a entire class all together.  The most memorable “song” is the last one of the year, on the last day of school.  There are no cords, cameras, amplifiers or computers.  Just some simple props, and yes, at the end an acoustic guitar comes out and plays a songs with just two cords…and kids cry.  It’s the songs we write and sing as teachers that make a difference, not the instruments with which they are played.

Forcing technology into poor lessons won’t make them sound any better, it will just allow their impact to be heard farther into the future.