Inventing music with smartphones

A research project in Design Research format on creative and productive design with apps in collaborative forms of learning at school.

State of research and theoretical framing

Smartphones and apps are often attributed with the role of encouraging students' creativity and motivation. Various research projects and practice reports show that this is only true to a limited extent and that the use of digital technologies in learning processes can be successful, but depends on many factors. The majority of young people have a critical-reflexive attitude towards smartphones in the classroom and a desire to limit the use of digital media to individual learning phases. At the same time, the research results show that the musical activities of young people with digital media relate almost exclusively to reception and consumption.

The music-didactic research project "Inventing Music with Smartphones" in the format of Design Based Research at the Landeszentrum Musik-Design-Performance at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik Trossingen focuses on dealing with interactive media and material things within the framework of sociological theories of action and practice.

Interest in knowledge and music didactical questions

How can tasks and learning environments be designed in practical phases in music lessons so that interactive negotiation processes can take place and young people become artistically active with their smartphones? The aim of these interactive negotiations is to form aesthetically experiencing attitudes in or towards digital sound worlds by creating them themselves and inventing sounds. Which factors motivate or inhibit pupils to use smartphones as instruments for making music and inventing music?

The starting point is a production didactic approach that focuses less on musical products and more on the aesthetic processes of "inventing music" with given musical techniques (Wallbaum 2009, p. 37), in order to examine and further develop the music-thing-human interactions in the close-up perspective on musical experience and learning processes with the focus on the use of music apps on smartphones in music lessons for creative and productive aesthetic design processes.

Methodical approaches

As part of the design research project "Inventing Music with Smartphones: Creative and Productive Design with Apps in Collaborative Forms of Learning in Schools", learning environments with mobile digital terminals in secondary music teaching are worked out on the level of didactic development products. At the research level, the dimensions of the concept of the psychological basic needs of the "self-determination theory of motivation" and its influence on musical design processes are examined.

Video recordings and stimulated recall interviews will be evaluated in order to gain a focused access to the learner's (out)action and thought processes. The self-assessments of the dimensions of the concept of basic psychological needs (experienced autonomy, experienced competence and experienced social integration) serve as a stimulus. The students use their own mobile devices (BYOD) in the classroom and create a sound (invent music) with live synthesizers.

Evaluation and results

The iterative research process has gone through two mesocycles involving secondary school classes (grades 8 to 11). The videos about the group work phase, the self-assessments of the pupils, the reports about the class observation as well as interviews with individual groups were evaluated with qualitative research methods. In the various teaching experiments it was shown that small changes such as the choice of an adapter to transfer the sound to several headphones or the choice of headphones have a considerable influence on all three areas of basic psychological needs and thus on the prerequisites for aesthetic experience spaces.

On the level of didactic development, the development process aims at development products in the form of concrete teaching-learning arrangements, design principles for teaching design, as well as structuring and specifying the learning object. On this level the first results of this project are already public.

After the first research cycles of the last two years, preliminary local theories have emerged, which motivational aspects in music-thing-human interactions in musical experience and learning processes under the focus of the use of music apps on smartphones in music teaching are significant for creative and productive aesthetic design processes in secondary education and how musical experience and learning processes can be designed to enable aesthetic experiential spaces for inventing music with smartphones.

Project Management

Contact Us

Prof. Dr. Philipp Ahner

Staatliche Hochschule für Musik
Schultheiß-Koch-Platz 3
78647 Trossingen

Phone +49 (0)7425 9491-96