Groovy City

1/15/2008 By: Chad Criswell

from Technology & Learning

Fun software for creating and composing music.

Groovy City

Sibelius's Groovy City helps kids investigate different music concepts.

Company: Sibelius

System Requirements: Windows 98/ XP/ 2000/ Vista; Mac OS X 10.2 or later; 1.4GHz; 512MB RAM; 100MB free hard-disk space.

Price/Grade: $69 single or $295 lab pack; 4–7.

Pros: Covers all aspects of traditional general music education; sequential or customized pathways; detailed teacher's guide.

Cons: No instructional feedback for wrong answers.

The newest program in the Groovy Music education software series, Groovy City focuses on teaching 9–11 year olds basic musical concepts, terms, and composition using fun, animated, and kid-friendly environments.

Groovy City is broken up into two main learning modes, Create and Explore. In the Explore mode students investigate and learn about any of a dozen different concepts from basic instrument identification to traditional notation, rhythms, and scales. Teachers can control both the progression of instruction and all lab desktop displays with the touch of a button. Students have their own login name, and their settings and rewards can be saved from session to session. Instructors will appreciate the teacher's guide that provides detailed lesson plans for each of the areas covered in the program.

In Create mode, students can build their own unique musical compositions by moving and manipulating various musical icons called "machines." There are dozens of these machines available to the student, all following the theme of a lively, futuristic city scene with musical buildings, clouds, and spaceships. Additional machines are given to students as rewards for completing the various sections found in the Explore mode. Students can also use an attached MIDI keyboard to create completely unique compositions by using the various skills that were learned in the Explore mode.

Overall, the program does a good job of transitioning students into reading standard music notation. Initial exercises are built using abstract graphical representations of note length and pitch, but as the lessons progress the student is exposed more and more to standard pitch and rhythm notation practices. Advanced students can shift back-and-forth between graphical notation and standard notation in many exercises. Weaknesses of the program include locking learners into a series of lesson pages that cannot be skipped or abbreviated, and assessment modules that respond to wrong choices with "Try again," or "That's not quite right," but no remedial "smart" feedback options.

Chad Criswell writes about music education and technology at www.musicedmagic.com.

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