STEAM in Music Class with Coding
Updated: Nov 29, 2022
This blog post has been adapted as a chapter section that has been accepted for publication by Oxford University Press in Technology for Unleashing Creativity by Steve Giddings 2022.
Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math, or STEAM, is an approach to education that prioritizes cross-curricular learning with the five mentioned subject areas through project-based and inquiry-based lenses. It is often seen as STEM, not taking into consideration the arts as an important avenue of learning in this way (as science often does, unfortunately). Modern music making easily takes into account the STEAM approach as most music produced and performed today incorporates technology. Here are some apps and devices you can use to integrate coding into your music classes.
STEAM in Music Class with Coding
The Makey Makey is an invention kit by JoyLabzTM designed as a STEAM facilitating device. Makey Makey can be programmed with the help of a computer device like a laptop or a phone to do many different things, but namely, it can be programmed to produce sounds and act as a MIDI controller of sorts. It facilitates the use of alligator clips to connect to conductive material (fruit, Play-Doh, copper tape, etc) to the device that can be activated just by touch.
Block Coding and Scratch
Block coding sites contain pre-set blocks of code that can be mixed-and-matched to program a game on a screen or a piece of hardware like a Makey Makey or Micro:bit. There are useful music and Makey Makey-specific extensions to make programming easier. The following video is a fantastic lesson on how to create a ukulele with Scratch and Makey Makey, and even gives a way for learners to explore theory in an approachable way:
Learners can use Scratch without an account and can also save their code for future use. If learners save the project to their computer, it saves as sb3 project file that can be uploaded at any time to rework. Another similar site for block coding is called MakeCode. There are also lots of sites that use traditional text-based coding for more advanced programmers as well with sites like Python.
Scratch Desktop and Scratch Jr
Scratch is available on Android devices from the Google Play Store and also has a downloadable desktop version for Windows, ChromeOS, and Mac Operating Systems. Please note that if you are plugging any inventor kit into a mobile device, you will likely need an adapter cable to switch standard USB to whatever input your device uses. Scratch is catered to learners aged 8 to 16 and also has Scratch Junior catered to 5-to-7-year-olds available on the App Store and the Google Play Store. This means that Scratch Junior is only available for iOS and Android-powered devices. There is currently no web-based app for Scratch Junior. The touch-screen interface means that young learners can easily drag and drop their code into the space at the bottom and tap it to see what happens. They can also design a character or a picture to go with their composition. A great way to introduce arranging, recording, and composing. They could also create a character and record a short motif or theme music to go with them. They could even make their “sprite” dance to a prescribed song. They could even choreograph a dance to go with the music all in-app.
Github is where many software developers write code for a variety of different open-source apps and software:
The modifications for BeebBox (ModBox and others) were written in GitHub.
You may also notice that the Mario Paint Sequencer was written in GitHub too.