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The Steep Learning Curve of Teaching Piano Online

Teaching online has been a learning curve for me. Desperate times calls for desperate measures.

As of today, the worldwide pandemic has taken 30,000 lifes. In Singapore alone, we have 879 cases of people infected with the Coronavirus. The figures continue to climb and explode.

To curb the further spread of the virus, Singapore has taken measures such as recalling all Singaporean students studying overseas back to Singapore, closing the Causeway, closing incoming tourists from high risk areas such as Europe, USA, South Korea, and China.

Just last week, all enrichment centers have been ordered to close. Although I teach privately one-to-one, I have chosen to move my piano teaching online for 2 weeks. I believe that this is a good opportunity to drill my students for the real thing, ie. school closures. I have taught 3 days of online piano thus far and this is my observation.

Attitudes of Parents: Most parents are very supportive. They want what is best and safest for their children. Hence, they were willing to try out this new idea and way of conducting piano lessons. I do understand that for some group of piano students, online lesson might not work. Such students are those with short attention span, learning disability, and very young preschoolers. For this group of learners, if every school goes into closure, piano lessons will have to be suspended. Then there is the group of anti-online learning parents. Nothing will make these group of parents change their minds. “Nope, no online learning for my kids. I will postpone piano lessons until real lessons resume”. To this group of parents, while I understand the discomfort of the parents, they need to adapt their mindset to see that the future of education and life in general is heading in the direction of the virtual world. If they don’t catch up now, their children will be left behind. When MOE have the school go into blended learning, the government does not ask permission from the parents if they want their kids to go into online learning. The dynamics just shift overnight. So, a little flexibility goes a long way because safe distancing means just that, safe distancing. I totally think everyone can play a part in stopping the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Teachers are very creative by their career calling. I have seen how piano teachers in USA and Australia adapted quickly to move their piano teaching online with state imposed school closures. Teachers in Singapore can learn a lot by observing from our peers in other parts of the world. I think one good outcome of this pandemic is in a way it brought and unified communities around the world together to fight this situation. Teachers were willing to share resources, ideas, games….because we were forced to learn very quickly how to do what we do best but now, online.

Kudos to the Students! I must say that I really enjoyed teaching my students online. We did the normal rhythm clapping, sightreading, playing repertoire……I even taught my 2 theory students online.
Online Teaching platforms I tried out Google Hangouts and zoom. I felt that google hangouts had better sound quality. Zoom on the other hand had more functions, like screen sharing, whiteboard, pairing of my other devices like laptop, handphone and ipad. There was a lot of resources on Youtube about how to optimise zoom to teaching music. My only gripe is that some students had poor internet connection, which made streaming live piano playing a bit difficult.
I resolved this by pairing my online teaching with a piano practise app, Tonara. This app was a Godsent. Within the app, I can write the assignments, send pdfs, videos, audios, links. And my students can chat with me. Check out some of the videos where I talked about how the Tonara app has helped my teaching studio:

While I pray that Singapore may never need to go into school closures and nationwide lockdown, nevertheless, like the scout’s motto: “Be Prepared” is the way to go moving forward.

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