Preservice and Elementary Students Form an Online Music-Making Community


Joseph Michael Abramo, Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut

Natalie Gibbs, Montgomery County Public Schools, Christiansurg, VA


In line with the theme of the conference, in this presentation a teacher educator and a practicing music teacher describe an online collaborative community created by preservice students in the Northeast enrolled in a course on popular music and informal learning and elementary general music students in the Southeast.


Music educators have become increasingly interested in how informal learning (Green, 2008) and online music making (Tobias, 2013) may enrich formal music education. Similarly, teacher educators have become interested in “practice-based teacher education” (Grossman & McDonald, 2008), where learning of educational theory is embedded within “approximations of practice” (Grossman, Hammerness, & McDonald, 2009). In these “approximations of practice,” teacher educators scaffold for novice teachers in order to create teaching situations that are less complex than authentic settings. How may music teacher educators collaborate with practicing teachers to provide approximations of practice of informal and online learning for preservice teachers?


Students and teachers collaborated via, which is a website that facilitates “virtual jam sessions,” where users record performances of songs and others can add tracks. In this project, the elementary students requested “cover” songs they wanted to learn how to play on ukulele to their teacher and also composed original songs. For “cover” songs, the preservice students scaffold for the elementary students; preservice stufents were required to record tracks of these songs on Bandhub and provide instructional materials to help elementary students learn ukulele parts. The elementary students then added their parts to the tracks prepared by preservice teachers. In one song, preservice students created an additional lesson that addressed the meaning of the song’s lyrics. For original compositions, the elementary students recorded their songs, and the preservice students added tracks to create full arrangements.


To document this experience, the researchers collected data, including videos from, fieldnotes written by the elementary teacher, and transcribed interviews with the elementary and preservice students. The teacher educator and elementary teacher openly coded data for themes. These processes were approved by an IRB.


Findings suggest this relationship was mutually beneficial. By collaborating with elementary students, the preservice teachers were required to address common “real world” issues associated with the use of popular music and technology. These included changing of key to accommodate elementary students’ technique and the changing of “inappropriate” lyrics. Arranging elementary students’ original compositions elicited questions of the ways notating students’ compositions might normalize their compositions into regular meter that the students did not intend.


Preservice teachers found this to be a practical application of theories discussed in class.

Through this project, preservice teachers applied theories discussed in a course on popular music to work with elementary students in “approximation of practices” under the scaffolding and feedback of a music teacher educator and a practicing teacher. In a non-invasive way, this practice blurred the lines between preservice and in-service, and joined a teacher educator and practicing music educator to create a mutually beneficial community of learners.




Green, L. (2008). Music, informal learning and the school: A new classroom pedagogy. Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Grossman, P., & McDonald, M. (2008). Back to the future: Directions for research in teaching and teacher education. American Educational Research Journal, 45, 184– 205.

Grossman, P., Hammerness, K., & McDonald, M. (2009). Redefining teaching, re imagining teacher education. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 15, 273-289.

Tobias, E. S. (2013). Toward convergence: Adapting music education to contemporary society and participatory culture. Music Educators Journal, 99(4), 29- 36.