Synthesia Piano Game


Mario Ajero, Assistant Professor of Piano Pedagogy and Coordinator of Class Piano at Stephen F. Austin State University and host of The Piano Podcast, introduces Synthesia, the piano equivalent of Guitar Hero. I’ll be the first to admit, if I didn’t already know how to play The Wild Horseman, I’d probably fail miserably at this game. I still can’t operate the Nintendo controller – my kids had no patience when it came to teaching me.

In this video Mario notes that although the game can’t teach fingering or correct hand position, it does provide immediate feedback on the number of correct notes. As far as getting kids to practice, he’s found this works for those students that are competitive or extrinsically motivated… which seems to be just about all kids.

Greg Sandow posted a link to an interesting article in the New York Times about a new school where students learn by playing games… video games. The article, by Sara Corbett, features game-designer Katie Salen, founder of the experimental Quest to Learn school in NYC through public school funding and grants from the MacArthur Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as interviews with students and other teachers.

One afternoon at Quest to Learn, I sat with Al Doyle in an empty office. Doyle had been teaching Sports for the Mind for only a few months — and at the end of the school year, he would end up leaving Quest to Learn to teach game design at a private school elsewhere in Manhattan — but the experience was causing him to think differently about what schools should be teaching. His students were building 3-D computer games and had also just finished a unit on podcasting. “Ten years ago, it would have taken a week to get kids to learn the difference between ‘save’ and ‘save as,’ ” he said. “Now I show them GarageBand” — a digital audio sequencer produced by Apple — “and five minutes later they’re recording and editing sound.” Doyle made a point that others had also made: whatever digital fluidity his students possessed, it hadn’t been taught to them, at least not by adults.

Here, perhaps, was a paradigm shift. As Doyle saw it, his role was moving from teaching toward facilitating, building upon learning being done outside school. He talked about all the wasted energy that goes into teaching things that students don’t need so much anymore, thanks to the tools now available to them. Why memorize the 50 states and their capitals? Why, in the age of Google and pocket computers, memorize anything? “Handwriting?” Doyle said. “That’s a 20th-century skill.” Realizing this sounded radical, he amended his thought, saying that students should learn to write, but that keyboarding was far more important. He took aim at spelling, calling it “outmoded.” Then he went back to podcasting, saying that after a student has written, revised, scripted and recorded a podcast, “it’s just as valid as writing an essay.” (read more)

Could it be that score-reading will eventually be outmoded as well? Is the future of music notation more along the lines of the Synthesia game… or perhaps even something different? In the meantime, try the game for free here.

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