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    Your Ideal Teaching Space

    I've been given the assignment to make some recommendations for teaching spaces (classrooms, seminar rooms, keyboard labs, large lecture rooms etc.) in a hypothetically new building. If you could design your ideal teaching space (for music theory and related courses), what would it look like and what would it include? What technologies (old and new) would you want to have in it? (We're also thinking ahead 40-50 years and trying to envision what technologies we might have in the future). For those of you who have designed new teaching spaces, what are some of the most important things that you learned?

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    • 7 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
    • Audio computers, notation software, controller keyboards, media computers to find music performance examples on Youtube, music libary/scores/textbooks, reference monitors, recording/production software, large computer monitors make using software much easier to view and manipulate, printers, and a piano of course!

    • 40-50 years is a long time. It would be nice to think that computers should be on every desk--but what happens in 40-50 years when all students come to class with computerized glasses that project 3-D holograms, thereby making computers (as we know them today) obsolete?

      One thing I would recommend is to make the classroom adjustable and to avoid having it focused all on one side of the room. That is, a typical class nowadays is set up so that there is a front of the room (where the teacher stands) and a back of the room (to which all students try to sit, as far away from the teacher as they can). I much prefer classrooms where there is no clear front and back, and I try to set up my own classrooms in such a manner whenever possible.

      Poundie Burstein


    • I think this is the right question put in the wrong way. Poundie correctly notes the traditional lecture focus of the room which enforces the traditional power relationship. Noting this turns the question in my mind into a much more interesting and potentially productive one: What Can We Imagine as Our Ideal Learning Space?

      If cost is no object, it's easy enough to stuff a room with technology & simply claim it will be updated as needed on the assumption the future will look like the present. But the past has taught us that the more likely outcome of that approach is not update but obsolescence. I think behind Brent's question is not how do we keep up with technology, but how do we get ahead of it? One approach*** ( - leaving the conclusion(s) open-ended for local solutions) might be...

      PO: 'the space itself somehow ought to be able to morph in support of the "occasion"'.

      Or, given that surprise and unintended outcomes are key components in learning, a more colorful provocation is PO: 'The model for the classroom of the future ought to be the holodeck on a Federation starship where the room's programs learn from & along with the participants.'

      As a student, I would have loved to have been able to say: 'Computer, the professor and I are having a slight disagreement about the second theme group in the 1st mvmt of the 8th symphony. Could we please speak to Professor Schenker? ... oh, and if he's not busy right now, please add Herr Beethoven to the conversation.' [variation on the famous Woody Allen Gambit, which of course could backfire badly.]

      ***[For those who have never encountered it before, to help the reality-grounded mind lose its inhibitions & get crazy long enough to invent something, Edward de Bono invented the word "PO" which stands for  'provocation operation'. 'It signals that what follows is to be used directly as a provocation (that is to say, used for its movement value). A PO provides the some sort of value that has been provided historically by accident, mistake, eccentricity, or individual bold- mindedness. The PO (provocation) serves to take us out of the comfort of an existing pattern.']

    • Hi Brent,

        Sorry I'm chiming in late on the discussion. If you haven't come across it already, you might want to check out Learning Spaces Collaboratory (I recently got to hear Jeanne Narum give a talk that was quite interesting). Many of the ideas are not discipline specific, but it can give you a lot of questions to think about in terms of how you might want to design a learning space. 

      There are also cool resources from a design perspective that might give you some ideas of possibilities (a recent read on this from Stanford's d.school is make space).

      Good luck and let us know how things turn out!



    • The reference to "computers" does not imply current "technology" as misunderstood in the remarks above. Rather computers and technology refers to whatever is current and in usage for any given time period. One can access scores, texts on sites like IMSLP.org instantaneously and hear practically any musical work instantly on Youtube with "computer technology." I would think that valuable for music theory education. Furthermore, software whether current or future applucations (3D holographic included) allows for a wide range scoring possibilities, orchestration, the writing of excercizes, and many more advantages not possible with pencil and paper. What good is it to talk about a teaching space that ignores the reality of contemporary life and technology used by current and future generations? Musicians rely on music technology now more than ever and that will only continue . . . Of course musicians can play musical examples discussed in analysis theory courses on acoustic instruments, but notation software is more comprehensive and adaptable to a plethora of forms and does not rely on instrument technique for results, rather compositional technique which is critical for the understanding of theoretical investigation. If theory is not only concerned with the past, technology also offers the advantage of exploring sound from the perspective of acoustical physics and structure of sound which is not possible with conventional acoustic instruments - not to diminish their importance and value. And creativity itself is easily explored with "computers and technology" - alternate tunings, alternate temperaments, form, complexity beyond human capability as demonstrated in works by Nancarrow and Zappa (realized on player piano and the Digital Synclavior). Technology also allows for the instant manipulation of teaching materisls and examples in a group settings and the audible results are instantaneous and accessible. I would think those components would be valuable in theory education. It is about the technology, not the space.
    • Thanks for the great resources, Phil. This is exactly what I was looking for. And if anyone else out there has an amazing room they've designed with theory pedagogy in mind, please let me know about it.

      Carson, space does matter. As teachers, we are constrained in what we can do by the space we work in. I can think of five classrooms I've worked in that have severely inhibited me in what I wanted to do, and there was no way to change it, regardless of the technology I brought it.

      I'm mostly concerned about layouts that optimize the ability for me to display things (often multiple things!) so they are easily visible to everyone in the classroom, room shapes/sizes that allow for greater mobility while allowing me to engage every student, flexible seating that allows for fast reconfigurations, ways of tucking away all of the equipment we need so that I do not feel boxed in by technology, etc. I know that the technology itself will change over the next few decades, but the space will not!

      SMT Discuss Manager
      Somewhere in the Universe
    • Yes of course the space is important - IRCAM comes to mind. Stanford also has a world famous music facility and lab responsible for important developments in synthesis and music technogy. Although music theory may not be as concerned with technology as those examples, what better spaces to utilize current understanding and research in cutting edge modern facilities designed with current knowledge of sound and music. Perhaps IRCAM snd Stanford might be considered as model spaces?