Oakland University Professor's iBook Series Promotes Inclusion in Music Class

Oakland University Professor's iBook Series Promotes Inclusion in Music Class

Deborah Blair, Ph.D., has made it her mission to spread the joys of music to everyone. Working with Oakland University's Ideas 2 Business (i2B) Lab, the associate professor of music education recently published her first iBook, "Songs for You and Me," an illustrated collection of sing along songs for children of all ability levels. The book features children's folk songs "All the Pretty Horses," "Great Big Stars" and "Shalom," and is the first in a series that aims to promote inclusion in music classrooms.

"Sometimes children need more time with music than the 40 minutes they may get in an elementary music classroom," Dr. Blair said. "The book is designed to help them gain confidence with music before entering the classroom so they may interact more easily with their peers."

Available for download through Apple iBooks, the collection features videos with illustrations and musical maps synced with each song, as well as videos of the songs played on classroom instruments, keyboards and iPad apps. Coupled with graphics, musical maps allow learners to follow lyrics as the songs are sung. Since the songs are offered in a mobile format, learners can sing and listen to them at their own pace at home or school. According to Dr. Blair, the technology enhances the classroom experience for all children, particularly those with learning disabilities.

"The book helps children with special needs interact with music in a way that keeps them engaged with the music and with their classmates," Dr. Blair said. "Since the technology is accessible to all students, everyone can participate and no one is isolated."

Dr. Blair added that the book may be especially helpful for students with autism "who value visual strategies for learning."

Through the i2B Lab, Dr. Blair enlisted the help of several students who helped take her idea from concept to completion. An art student provided illustrations, music students recorded the songs and a student from Cooley Law School reviewed legal aspects of the project.

After publishing, Dr. Blair piloted the book to a group of K-12 music teachers for use in their classrooms. One of those educators, Alice Hammell, Ph.D., is a university professor and leader in the field of teaching music to children with special needs. She described using the book to teach a child with autism.

"The 'light bulb' illuminated and my 9-year-old student with autism nodded in appreciation of the aural and visual representations of "Shalom" as I guided her fingers through the listening map in "Songs for You and Me." I was amazed at the way she grasped the iPad to own her learning through independent mapping skills I had not seen before. To watch the demonstration of a skill I had been preparing for weeks was a truly pivotal moment."

Dr. Blair is currently working on the second installment of "Songs for You and Me" and plans to pursue a third in the future. For more information on "Songs for You and Me," and other teaching resources, visit Dr. Blair's website at musicalmaps.weebly.com.

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