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Music Education vs. Education Technology

Musical Instrument Learning and Cognitive Ability

Posted by Joe Lawson-West | May 14, 2018 | Secondary

If you ever found yourself arguing with a parent when you were a child over whether or not you should stick with your piano lessons, you might have been missing out on some serious cognitive benefits. Sure, that piano teacher might have been a touch sadistic or achingly boring, and you might not have felt you had the natural talent or free time in order to become the next Beethoven… but there really is a lot of truth in the concept that learning and playing musical instruments can enormously help your brain. For example, Donald A. Hodges claims in his research that students who recently play or was practising musical instrument at least for 1.5 year have better academic results while studying, especially when it comes to writing college academic papers or passing an important exam. 

Influence on Speaking and Writing

 As the science surrounding music and cognitive ability becomes clearer, and research delves ever deeper, the results continue to become more impressive and convincing. For example, if you fancy improving your French, give the textbooks a rest and have a go at learning the saxophone or ukelele in your downtime. The increased aural ability and memory development the music will bring has been proven beyond all doubt to make language learning easier, and the new vocabulary you learn will embed itself deeper in your active memory.

 While many of the areas of study surrounding music and cognitive ability are still developing, the results have been convincing enough to make huge waves in both the medical and educational communities. Now, where did I put my clarinet?

 Influence on Academic Development

 New research by Hua Yang has convincingly suggested that playing instruments actually changes the power and shape of the brain, and innovative medics and therapists are actually using musical instrument training during sessions, so effective has it been proven in improving cognitive ability.

 The figures are impressive: some experts are suggesting that you IQ can be increased by no less than seven points (in both adults and children) after undertaking musical instrument training of almost any type. Musicians have been found to have functionally and structurally different brains in comparison to non-musicians. While the part of the brain connected with playing and processing music is obviously more developed, impressive results have been found in the areas which deal with mathematics, problem solving, memory and language acquisition, among many others.

 On top of this, the parts of brain which control motor skills and general hearing (along with things like storing aural information) are noticeably enlarged when a person learns an instrument. The result? Better day-to-day coping mechanisms, higher levels of alertness, better planning skills and greater emotional perception. Suddenly, those piano lessons don’t seem like such a bad idea after all. 

 Music Education vs. Education Technology 

It is a well-known fact that the technologies have made a real breakthrough in teaching and education. Moreover, it significantly boosted the cognitive abilities of all currently living generations. Let’s ask ourselves a pervasive question: How adequate is creative education (in particular music lessons) in the age of information society? Yes, students have access to a massive amount of information, however, as educational institutions do not hesitate to use the benefits of the technology age. No one will be surprised if told, that teaching kids Math with iPad has become already familiar, as well as pupils don’t need paints for their Art lessons anymore. Going back to the question of music and its relevance in the child's cognitive development, we can confidently affirm the following: Just as students started to absorb information, like a sponge absorb humidity, their ability to learn any crafts has increased in direct ratio. Let’s take a look at the variety of music educational applications on Google Play or App Store, numerous video courses on Udemy and much more. Every music teacher can use all of these resources to encourage his students without violating any privacy policies. Apparently, studying solfeggio with easy-to-comprehend and straightforward schemes in the mobile application will help not only to shorten the program but also help students better understand complex aspects of music. Thus, combining technologies and music in education can be so useful for cognitive abilities, that we cannot imagine the positive effect on the student and whole society in general. 

 Widespread myths to avoid

 Of course, there are also a couple of myths flying around about the benefits of musical instrument learning, too. However, these are greatly outweighed by the realities of the improvements they can bring. For example, it isn’t true that everybody has exactly the same potential for brilliance when it comes to learning a musical instrument. While almost everybody has the ability to learn an instrument to a decent level, true virtuosity is quite rare and requires skills which are not yet fully understood by scientists. Don’t let this put you off, though - learning to play guitar, piano, violin or any other instrument isn’t about ending up as a musical genius (although, you never know quite how far you will go!).

 The other myths surrounding this concept should actually encourage - rather than discourage - you to pick up your guitar again. For example, lots of people believe that you can’t ever really learn an instrument in adulthood (the popular opinion is that the cognitive abilities you’ve acquired are already ‘set’ and that your brain can’t be reorganised after childhood). This has been proven time and time again to be complete nonsense, and only really works as a poor excuse for lazy adults to put off gaining a new skill! What’s more, the cognitive benefits of taking up an instrument have been demonstrated as being highly effective in test subjects as old as 65 and 70 - just by playing an instrument for an hour a week produces strong changes in the brain.

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