Even technology can have a holistic approach to learning how things work through digital music. The "Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education" conference met today, March 9, 2013 for its annual meeting which ran for the past few days. One of the themes focused on whether a digital sound and music class can help motivate more students to major in sciences, engineering, or similar technologies?
It's a holistic approach to use music to inspire students to major in science, technology, engineering or medicine. Also see, "The SIGCSE Technical Symposium | SIGCSE." To students in Jennifer Burg's computer science classes, making music is the main objective. But her goal is to get them to understand how the underlying technology works – and to love it so much they decide on a science-based career path. Check out the site, "Linking Science, Art, and Practice Through Digital Sound."
This project's objective is to develop curricular material that explains the science and mathematics of digital sound in a way that makes their relationship to applications clear, using examples from theater, movies, and music production, according to the project's website. This is a collaborative project among computer science, education, and digital sound design professors at a liberal arts university and a performing arts conservatory.
Workshops noted on the site, "Linking Science, Art, and Practice Through Digital Sound will be held for college-level teachers of digital media from computer science and art disciplines to refine and disseminate the curricular material. The intention is to engage students' interest in science by linking it more tightly to practice, including artistic applications. The vision is to draw more students to the study of computer science by means of its exciting connections with art and digital media.
Understanding how technology works: Will it attract more majors in science, technology, or engineering?
Understanding how a variety of underlying technology works – and to love it so much they decide on a science-based career path, Burg's study has shown, has helped Wake Forest University fulfill the national imperative to increase the number of majors in the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math. Students don't learn linearly anymore.
Among 15-year-olds in 30 of the world's developed nations, the U.S. ranked only 18th in math and a dismal 24th in science. How can that ranking improve? The results of Burg's research, "Computer Science 'Big Ideas' Play Well in Digital Sound and Music," has been published today published during the upcoming Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education conference, on March 9, 2013 in Denver. Two National Science Foundation grants totaling $700,000 funded the study.
Why is the U.S.A. lagging when it comes to training scientists and engineers?
"We know that the United States is lagging when it comes to training future scientists and engineers – the people who will keep us at the forefront of developing technology," Burg said in the March 8, 2013 press release, Sing a new song: Computer scientists use music to lure students to STEM majors. "We're trying to find a way to make our piece of the STEM universe interesting and engaging to more students. It's easy to motivate the kids in our classes now, because they get to make music."
Burg and her colleagues – Jason Romney of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and sound designer and audio engineer Eric Schwartz – decided to use music projects to help students in lower-level classes latch onto highly technical concepts in digital media.
They had to "flip" the classroom more than once, Burg said in the news release, throwing the traditional lecture structure out the window. She used to make reading assignments about computer science concepts, and then lecture on those concepts and, lastly, test students' knowledge.
"I was trying to give them this foundation of knowledge first, so they could go in there to learn the tools," she explained in the news release "But I bored a lot of the kids before I got there."
Apps using Audacity and Sonar
Now, she doesn't approach her class in that traditional, linear way. She lets students immediately use the tools, such as applications including Audacity and Sonar, while she asks questions and performs demonstrations. Then she assigns textbook readings, followed by a quiz. After that, the students use the technology again – but this time, they have a project to complete, instead of just trying to get the technology to work.
Across the board, students in Burg's Digital Sound and Media course reported increased understanding of such topics as sampling and quantization; sound synthesis for MIDI; and aliasing. On average, those students also showed increased aptitude and interest in electronics, physics and math, among other topics.
"Students don't learn linearly anymore," Burg said in the news release. "They are of a much more need-to-know nature, because there is so much more information out there. It's accessible in a web-like fashion, and they go out there and learn what they need to know when they need to know it. "Educators need to fill in the gaps between those webs of information, without boring the students."
Burg now uses this approach in higher-level classes, as well
Burg, Romney and Schwartz created an interactive, online text to accompany the coursework, and the team is working on modes of publication. The eight-chapter text and accompanying tutorials are accessible for free at the site, Digital Sound and Music. The package, which has been used in classes at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of North Carolina (UNC) Asheville, also includes demonstrations (demos) and exercises, keyed to the chapters.
Burg also plans to expand the curriculum concepts she introduced in this study into a program dedicated to increasing STEM majors at Wake Forest University. A study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2003 showed that, among 15-year-olds in 30 of the world's developed nations, the U.S. ranked only 18th in math and a dismal 24th in science. In 2007, the National Academy Sciences challenged the U.S. to increase the number of STEM undergraduate degrees awarded.