Learning while playing

The basic structures of music is alive in songs. This world of music opens itself as children learn to sing.

We developed tabDo as a response to the following thesis:

The best way to learn how a melody functions is unconsciously.

Is this a provable argument? Science is only currently exploring this question.
Scientific research can sometime be quite slow to validate our intuitive experiences. It sometimes lags behind in confirming what we’ve already guessed.[1]

Nontheless, tabDo has had encouraging  and positive feedback from classrooms. The more tabDo is used, the higher our wealth of positive experiences from this music learning approach will pile.

Children learn their first language, movement skills like grasping, walking and even solving-strategies for cognitive problems unconsciously. However not everything can be learned without conscious effort.  There are many skills which can only be attained when attention is channelled directly at a single step of learning. These include calculating percentages and tying a tie.

Of course the question of where the limits of unconscious learning are and why they exist often follows this discussion: does it depend on a content’s complexity? Or are there special competency skills that we can learn only in a conscious way? At the moment there is only minimal data and much more research is necessary.

This excerpt is from an interview done by the Bavarian radio broadcast with Dr. Elisbeth Stern and Dr. Ralph Schumacher, University of Zurich.[2].

I am convinced that understanding melody is closer to speech-learning than to learning percentages (see above). Recent research, particularly that concerning learning a second language in infancy, hints support to my notion.[3]

Upon reviewing recent publications these hints strongly imply that the little observed aspects of  “melody” during speaking have enormous importance. They may be more important than ever previously assumed:

Babies learn rules of speech perceptibly automatically: Scientists from the Max-Planck-Institute for Cognition- and Neurosciences found that babies identify linguistic rules – including complex principles, which adults do not catch. An important precondition for this is obviously the ability of the children, to clearly and accurately distinguish between pitches.[4]

tabDo is an app, perhaps more accurately, a digital tool. Using a hightech digital tool to promote unconscious childlike learning? Can these two concepts truly find common ground?

The book Digital Dementia: How We and Our Children Loose Our Minds was published in Germany in 2012.  The author, Manfred Spitzer, is the director of the University Hospital of Psychiatry in Ulm, Germany. This book prompted a heated debate in Germany, and many scientists actively dissented its thesis.[5] Since 2012, as advancements in classroom technology have been utilized and have produced more data, these debates have quieted. No one can deny that new media opens great prospects for teaching when used sensibly.

tabDo is an App for music education whose target group is elementary school children.

I assert that children can compose melodies! Without notation and even if they don`t play an instrument. When children sing often and learn a repertoire of simple songs backwards and forwards, they learn how a melody functions unconsciously. When a child is able to compose a melody this child understands the foundations of music, he or she has an unconscious understanding of theory. Music theory is of course still a vital teaching tool, but one that can and should come later. Music-learning without music-making is a delineation without logical direction

The App tabDo (the acronym takes root in “tablet” and “DoReMi”) is a resource, not a game. tabDo is not a “distraction app” producing fantastical rhythms and chords with the push of a button.

For music education, tabDo is what the compass and protractor are for a geometry class. It is the paint pallet for a fine arts course, so to say, it is a „tone-pallet“.

A compass? Is this a symbol for conscious learning? Certainly not!
Kirchenfenster 2We are in the fourth grade, the children shall try to retrace the gothic window of a cathedral with a compass and protractor, pencil and paper. They concentrate on the window, they think about angles, they follow their instincts and they “somehow” find a solution.  The children don`t need special instruction. They need only the opportunity to reason, try, and double-check – they thus LEARN BY DOING. This learning technic is effective, intensive, and sustainable.

Within their practice what was conscious and what was unconscious?

Conscious learning, unconscious learning, and incidental learning – what are these exactly? What is learned by which method? These questions are still waiting to be solved in science – perhaps we never will solve them. To quote Ralph Schumacher:

The psychological research of recent years has shown that we cannot yet analyse unconscious learning and that we don`t yet know whether learning always requires a conscious effort or not. The clarifying of this problem is important, most especially for teachers: if a teacher could know exactly what students consciously learn, than this would change how material is taught.[6]

Conscious or half conscious – how children learn with tabDo plays no role in the teaching practice.

In the words of mathematician René Thom (recipient of the Fields-Medal 1958): „The only conceivable way of unveiling a black box, is to play with it.”  In this spirit I propose:

The best way to understand melodies is to play with them.

[1] Stadler Elmer, KIND UND MUSIK. Kapitel 7.1
[2] http://www.br-online.de/jugend/izi/deutsch/publikation/televizion/23_2010_1/
[3] Sehr angeregt hat mich: Klaus Müller, „Lernen im Dialog. Gestaltlinguistische Aspekte des Zweitsprachenerwerbs“.
[4] http://www.spektrum.de/news/babys-durchschauen-grammatikregeln/1164494
[5] Here some examples: 2.01.2013, ® www.welt.de › Wissen › Gesundheit / 10.09.2012, ® www.faz.net › Feuilleton › Debatten/2.01.2015, ® www.spiegel.de › Wissenschaft › Mensch › Cloud Computing
[6] http://www.swr.de/swr2/programm/sendungen/wissen/swr2-wissen-aula-pauken-wie-im-schlaf/-/id=660374/did=1956126/nid=660374/1wh7jlq/index.html


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