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1. Introduction
2. Collaborative Student Projects
3. JavaScript Projects
4. Methods
5. Evaluation
6. References

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Machaut to Puccini: A Kaleidoscopic View
Patricia Gray, Rhodes College

Beginning in 1995, the Rhodes College Music Department began to incorporate a variety of computer enhanced materials and activities into music history and appreciation courses. These classes, usually containing fewer than fifteen students, were taught in the environment of a small, residential undergraduate school. The aim was not to create a distance learning environment, but rather to use technology to add new elements of collaboration within the college and the community. In addition, study aids such as audio file dictionaries, online review quizzes, and slide shows added another dimension to work outside class. This paper examines uses of technology that have measurably increased students' positive reactions to classroom activities.

About the authors...

1. Introduction
Music history classes have traditionally consisted of lectures illustrated with recorded examples. In recent years computer technology has made it possible to add a variety of activities to the classroom experience that make it much more multifaceted. Some examples of successful practices can be seen in the work done in music history and appreciation classes at Rhodes College over the last five years. Rhodes is small, liberal arts college with an enrollment of approximately 1450 students, 70% of whom are residential. Students have easy access to the Internet at all times. Enrollment in the music classes mentioned is usually about fifteen. Each class has a large web site. These sites contain obvious things like the syllabus and the weekly assignments. However, each site also has distinctive elements tailored to the needs of the particular class.

External links to the author's sites of particular classes:
European Musical Heritage
History of Opera
Musical Heritage of Eastern Europe
Music and Society
Nationalism in Music

2. Collaborative Class Projects
In a small, liberal arts setting the focus of technology may not immediately be distance education. Online lectures and tests administered remotely may not be necessary in very small classes. However, one appropriate focus is the use of computer networking to connect the class with organizations or groups completely removed from the college. This allows the students to feel that their classwork is related in a concrete way to the world outside academe.

In 1995, the Rhodes History of Opera class began a joint project with Opera Memphis through which the opera company allows Rhodes students to attend rehearsals, interview performers, and sometimes participate in productions. In return, we design and administer the Opera Memphis web site. The first project in 1995 was the creation of an online documentary The Rigoletto Project in which each student covered a different essential part of the creation of an opera. Students interviewed performers, the marketing director, a member of the opera board of trustees, and the newspaper critic among others. The interviews, performance reviews and photographs were put online. Students felt a clear sense of pride and ownership in the project. Another benefit was that they gained a very concrete appreciation of the realities of successfully running a regional arts organization.

Opera Memphis web site.

Most of the students in the opera class are not music majors or minors. Therefore, it seemed desirable to design the next opera project to focus on the connections between opera and the various majors of the class members. This web site, The Butterfly Project, centered around the Opera Memphis production of Puccini's Madame Butterfly. It contained articles written from a variety of perspectives.

The Butterfly Project web site. This web site includes Butterfly on the Internet, Performance Reviews, Butterfly in History, Opera Memphis Interview, and Butterfly Trivia.

A senior anthropology major wrote an essay entitled "An Historio-Cultural Perspective on Japan through G. Puccini's Madama Butterfly" in which she identified quotations from the text with historical implications. She analyzed these and provided external links to relevant Internet sites. Another essay, "The Depiction of American Culture in Madame Butterfly" by a political science major examined the relationship between the United States and Japan at the turn of the 20th century. External links to American history sites create a new understanding of the political subtext of this opera. Other sections of The Butterfly Project included performance reviews, lists of Internet links to Madame Butterfly, and Butterfly trivia quizzes written in JavaScript.

These projects were assembled by having students submit their work in a digital format over the campus network. These submissions included texts, scanned graphics, and lists of external URLs. Computer networks were used to transmit and collect materials for the project. It was not necessary to have project design discussions online because of the small class size and the residential environment. Group meetings were easily organized. The storyboard and the graphic design were created after these student discussions, but the professor made the final editorial decisions. The students demonstrated the product to friends and invited guests at the end of the semester. They seemed to be gratified by the fact that the product would continue to be available on the Web long after the last class meeting and that subsequent classes could build on the work that they had begun.

A second type of collaborative class project was the creation of audio pronunciation guides for the names of composers, works, and musical terms. Ideally, students should learn the pronunciation from native speakers. In order to accomplish this we enlisted the aid of several members of the foreign language department to create recordings for our annotated audio dictionaries. The four sites created so far are:

A senior anthropology major's essay entitled "An Historio-Cultural Perspective on Japan through G. Puccini's Madama Butterfly".

A political science major's essay entitled "Madame Butterfly".

  • A Pronunciation Guide to Opera Terms
  • A Pronunciation Guide to Opera Composers and Their Works
  • A Pronunciation Guide to Russian Composers, Works, and Terms
  • A Pronunciation Guide to Czech Composers, Works, and Terms

In the case of the Russian audio dictionary, students created the list of terms, researched the information for the annotations and engaged a Russian exchange student to make the sound files. All the digital components were submitted over the campus intranet and put into HTML by the professor. Similar pronunciation guides for opera related terms were created with the help of members of the foreign language departments. These audio dictionaries are among the most visited sites on the Rhodes music server. The Pronunciation Guide to Opera Terms was recognized by Opera News (November, 1997) as one of the best opera sites on the Internet. These dictionaries of audio files are valuable to each new opera class as well as to visitors who connect by way of the Opera Memphis web site.

Opera Composers and Their Works

External links to the Pronunciation Guides:
Opera Terms
Russian Composers, Works, and Terms
Czech Composers, Works, and Terms

3. JavaScript Projects
Music history survey classes for music majors contain a great many specific facts, lists, dates, and events that must be memorized. To aid in the necessary study and review process online exercises can be designed with software products such as Authorware. These projects require the purchase of the software by the author and the installation of platform specific plug-ins and players by the user. The products can well be worth the expense and effort. However, with JavaScript it is possible to create quizzes that are completely Web-based, cross-platform, and free because they are created with a plain text editor. JavaScript is simply a text addition to basic HTML. As a result, it is more universal than programs requiring players and plug-ins.

Original JavaScript code can be difficult to create. However, it is relatively simple to adapt preexisting code. Once an appropriate model is located, it can be downloaded and customized for use on any web server. "JavaScript: Convenient Interactivity for the Class Web Page" contains a simple tutorial to illustrate this process.

JavaScript quizzes were not used by students to take tests for credit. Tests were still administered in class in the traditional way. Instead, these quizzes were used to review material from the assigned readings and to reinforce the memorization of important facts. The quiz format was designed to resemble GREs and graduate school placement tests.

An external link to the author's "JavaScript: Convenient Interactivity for the Class Web Page".

A related project in JavaScript was Gradus ad Parnassum: Exercises in Music History, a site created as a result of a grant from the Associated Colleges of the South. The purpose of the grant was to encourage the creation of course materials that could be shared over the Web and easily adapted for use by other colleges. This site is designed for music majors and minors who will be taking music history placement tests. It is made up of many interactive quizzes arranged according to subject matter. A typical quiz from this collection is the Piano Literature Score Identification quiz. This quiz creates a slide show of musical scores. The student navigates through the slides, fills in a multiple choice test, submits answers, and receives a grade. Correct answers are provided after any incorrect submission.

The Gradus ad Parnassum site invites collaboration by other music history professors in two ways. First, anyone wishing to add a quiz to the site may send it in plain text format to Submissions will be reviewed and added to the appropriate division of the site. Second, anyone can download the source code and adapt it for use at another site. Again, the process for this is outlined in the JavaScript tutorial mentioned above.

An external link to the author's Gradus ad Parnassum: Exercises in Music History.


An external link to the author's Piano Literature Score Identification quiz.

In addition to being the basis for the Gradus ad Parnassum project, JavaScript, combined with Centennia software, has also been used to create projects linking music history with geography. Centennia Historical Atlas, available from Clockwork Software, Inc., provides historical commentary and a graphic display of border changes at monthly intervals from year 1000 to 1994. It also creates animations for requested time spans. Customized maps can be made by taking images from Centennia and annotating them with Adobe Photoshop or some other graphics editor. An example is a map of France linked to an assignment sheet for the 14th century composer Guillaume de Machaut . Maps can be grouped as in the JavaScript slide show used in the Verdi map example from an assignment sheet for the composer Giuseppe Verdi.

JavaScript slide show used in the Verdi map example: Unification of Italy during the Life of Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901).

4. Methods
The activities described in this paper have been developed to run on a web server in a faculty office. The only other necessary hardware needed is a scanner. Software included an HTML editor and a graphics program. Adobe GoLive, Adobe Photoshop, and Centennia Historical Atlas have been used with these projects. At Rhodes, the HTML code and the graphics preparation were done by the professor. Students submitted digital files over the campus intranet and were involved in the project design and graphics creation. The professor supervised planning and programming sessions in extra meetings outside of class. In order to have a unified and appropriate appearance in the projects the professor made the final editorial decisions about the content and interface design.

If there is a drawback to this process it is the amount of time required of the professor to learn the techniques and to update and supervise the use of these materials once they are online. Students can help with many of technical tasks but the professor must ultimately be responsible for the final product.

5. Evaluation
The activities described above were conducted in classes of fewer than twenty students. Only one section of each class was taught per semester. Therefore, comparative studies involving control groups were not possible. In an effort to evaluate the effectiveness of the work, students at the end of a recent semester were asked to fill out surveys to measure their reactions to the new tools and projects. They were also asked for their reaction to teaching techniques in other classes they took in the same semester. The survey was given to 28 students who were enrolled in a total of 104 classes. The sample is too small to be viewed as scientific. However, the results do indicate a positive reaction and a willingness to depart from the traditional.

Student Reaction to Teaching Techniques*
Most Effective Least Effective
Multimedia/Internet 38% 9%
Lecture with Discussion 25% 6%
Lecture only 5% 60%
Reading 3% 25%
Field Trips and Service Projects 5% 0%
Labs and Individual Projects 25% 0%

Figure 1. A pie chart of the survey indicating student reaction to most effective techniques.

Figure 2. A pie chart of the survey indicating student reaction to least effective techniques.

Teachers may be disturbed that their students view lectures and reading in this negative light. However, these students' perceptions must be taken into account. The challenge is to create a satisfactory balance between the traditional and the experimental. Professors, as well as students, must concentrate on the quality of the content and not the flashiness of the presentation. Teaching students to be discriminating in their creation and use of web-based learning materials should be a primary concern.

6. References
Bannon, David. "Point and Click Opera." Opera News .November 1997: 48-49.

Gray, Patricia."JavaScript: Convenient Interactivity for the Class Web Page." Proceedings of the 1999 Mid-South Instructional Technology Conference . Murfreesboro, TN: Middle Tennessee State University, March 1999.

Gray, Patricia. "Rhodes College and Opera Memphis Web Project." Proceedings of the 1996 Mid-South Instructional Technology Conference. Murfreesboro, TN: Middle Tennessee State University, March 1996.

Noon, John P. ed. "Case Studies: World Wide Web Project Increases Student Interest in Opera." Syllabus August 1996: 24.

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IMEJ multimedia team member assigned to this paper Yue-Ling Wong