Last month’s article about teaching by skype generated a lot of interest and comment, so I thought I would update you on my progress so far.
I’ve taught two piano lessons by skype, working with my 11-year old student of three years, and it’s been more challenging than I imagined. Yesterday we were working on new material, and it was remarkably difficult for my student to pick it up without me being there. I realized that I have had a tendency to jump in and demonstrate, and of course, I was unable to do that. However, if my student is to improve, he will need to get better at working this out for himself, so I can see the benefit of stepping back a little.
I also used to write notes for him, and now he writes his own notes during the lesson. I would notice that he didn’t always read what I had written, so I think that the act of writing his own notes might help him to remember my suggestions more easily– another step towards maturity and ownership!
Another challenge for him is that he is a very shy and intense person, so looking into (and being observed by) a camera intimidates him. When I was there in person, it was easier for me to help him relax, have fun, and enjoy the lesson. I miss being there physically also.
In learning the new material, I asked him to clap the rhythm with me- only to discover that this wasn’t possible due to the delay. We had to alternate. As one of the comments on the previous article mentioned, this also affects being able to play duets together. In addition, if I speak while he is playing, for example to correct a wrong note, he can’t hear me.
To compensate for being able to show him new music easily, I’m supplementing the lesson with musicianship homework. Last week, I asked him to listen to two performances on youtube, answer some questions, and then we discussed them during the lesson. I’m also planning to introduce him to an online aural skills program.
So what are the benefits? Well, so far it means I am able to continue to teach my student. The sound quality is better than I expected, and he is making progress, although I’m having to give him extra time, simply because it takes so much longer to communicate this way. The biggest benefit may be the independence he will need to develop if we are to continue this experiment successfully.