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skype - triggered by lost student
#1633998 03/05/11 09:41 AM
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The lost student thread included some discussion of skype, and I didn't want to hijack that thread.

I've been skeptical of how well it can work. But part of that is my own theory that a good bit of teaching is subtle nonverbal reinforcement of precursors, and neither teacher nor student is aware of that.

For the known mechanics, it might be harder to argue effectiveness. We've done golf and tennis stroke analysis by video for decades, for example. I watched several pianists in a recent local talent show that had fairly obvious arm and hand position faults that other kids didn't - items their teacher didn't correct that a skype teacher might.

I'm wondering if skype might raise the bar for piano teaching everywhere. A mediocre teacher might no longer hold the local students by default, when they all can get better lessons with a click of the mouse. And parents and other customers can actually get a sense of how the great teachers work and what kind of progress they should be making.

We know there are a vast number of mediocre teachers out there, because one of the constant themes on this forum is correcting the faults in transfer students. But the general public still thinks a teacher is a teacher, and makes their choice on price point. There is no evaluation or enforcement possible. But potentially skype could let the marketplace solve this problem.

If it works. I still don't know.


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Re: skype - triggered by lost student
TimR #1634480 03/05/11 10:49 PM
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I think Skype could allow teachers to trade students with teachers in other time zones. Then we could all work 9-5 and have dinner with the family. smile

Re: skype - triggered by lost student
TimR #1634628 03/06/11 03:50 AM
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I think Skype might become more widely used for piano lessons for older teens and adults. I doubt parents of younger children would go through the trouble of Skype if there was a teacher in their area.

Assuming there would be a limited number of good Skyping teachers, those teachers would only be able to handle a limited number of students. So the market would still end up paying them more. And the "mediocre" competition would still end up offering lower priced lessons, proximity and friendliness to find students.

Most parents of prospective students do not know what to look for in a teacher. For us teachers, this is our essential problem. Some might say, "But you can tell a good teacher by the prizes their students win." However, a prize-winning child could have been working on a competition piece for eight months and be lacking in a thorough music education. And the vast majority of parents don't care if their children are competitive in music and would not likely use this as a measure of good teaching. For them, it comes down to trust and appearances.

Mediocre teachers can flood the skype gates as well, and be just as enticing to parents, so I'm not sure the mediocre teacher who's holding the local students by default wouldn't continue to do so.

In short, I don't think Skype would raise the bar for piano teaching.





Last edited by Candywoman; 03/06/11 03:52 AM.
Re: skype - triggered by lost student
TimR #1634728 03/06/11 09:38 AM
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Skype has its own issues. I've recently started teaching my 13 yo niece who lives halfway across the country. When I saw her at Christmas she really showed an interest in piano (she was trying to figure out how to play Yankee Doodle by ear), so I offered to teach her on Skype.

The issues:
1) The picture is only as good as both video cameras, so sometimes it's hard to tell if her finger 5s curling while she plays or if it's just a pixilated image. Often times I will have to assume there's an issue.

2) You can't write things in their book or use any sort of written illustrations. I was showing her what a quarter note was and had to write it huge with a sharpie on white paper and hold it up to the camera for her to see.

3) You can't play duets. If two sounds happen simultaneously on Skype, it is similar to when two people talk on the cell phone at the same time: you can't hear the other person. Sounds can overlap, though, so like when 'm teaching my nephew voice lessons, I can play and note and hold it and then he can sing it and I can hear him as the piano note has faded. But if I try to play along with him singing, I cannot hear him. Perhaps this is a technical issue that I can overcome? I'm not sure.

4) These lessons generally take a bit longer. You need to demonstrate things differently, using more verbal than visual clues. For new materials, they must be mailed (as in books) or lesson assignments emailed. The first couple of lessons were a bit hard to get everything set up so expect that to happen.

On the positive side, I am able to spend time with my niece and nephew that I would never have been able to do otherwise. My niece especially needs something that she can be proud of, and the smiles on her face when she does something well and I complement her are worth all the hassles. Even if I cannot teach as well in this manner (and I think I will learn to be a better teacher this way over time), the fact that she is taking piano lessons and doing something that she's good at I know she will excel. My sister also plays piano and so I have asked her to help out when she's practicing to do the theory exercises with her, to share her stories about when she took piano lessons, etc. I think it has become a great bonding time for them as well.

As far as "raising the bar"? Due to the limitations of not being able to use hands on demonstration and the other issues described above, I don't think we're at that point yet. Maybe if we can teleport to a student's house, then we'll talk. laugh


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Re: skype - triggered by lost student
TimR #1634750 03/06/11 10:56 AM
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Whilst I agree with much of what you say, Morodiene, there are ways around some of the issues you raised.

There are Skype add-ons, such as 'white board' where you can immediately send an image, that you draw on your screen.

Many teaching materials can be sent ahead of the lesson, so you just need to ask the student to refer to 'Page 1', or whatever.

Files, such as pdf documents, images, etc. can be sent in real time, directly within the Skype lesson, when neccessary.

Audio files from your computer, can be played, again in real time, to the student, during the lesson.

Lessons can be recorded, for the student to review, at their convenience.

From time to time, I will send a follow up video, to illustrate particular points, which need a more in-depth explanation.

Skype lessons can be successful, with careful planning, and by finding ways to work around the inherent limitations of the medium.



Rob
Re: skype - triggered by lost student
TimR #1634763 03/06/11 11:31 AM
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Nothing will ever replace those moments in the lesson where the student places his hand on top of mine to feel what the hand and wrist are doing, or when I play on the student's shoulder so they can feel the articulation or depth of tone. That is an essential part of teaching Skype can't do.


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Re: skype - triggered by lost student
Minniemay #1634765 03/06/11 11:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Minniemay
Nothing will ever replace those moments in the lesson where the student places his hand on top of mine to feel what the hand and wrist are doing, or when I play on the student's shoulder so they can feel the articulation or depth of tone.


+1 ! +100 !




Re: skype - triggered by lost student
TimR #1634928 03/06/11 03:45 PM
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On the receiving end of skype (and I was pretty sceptical to begin with) I've been amazed how effective it can be. Having said that, I'm an adult and not a beginner. Any technical bad habits I've formed are now entrenched by the decades.

As a parent, I'd much rather have a local teacher for my child. They can jam together, and there are all those moments of quick human interaction that a 2-second time delay would just ruin. I ask myself - my kid is about to cry because he finds it difficult, can a teacher handle this over skype? Tricky.

Re: skype - triggered by lost student
R0B #1635308 03/07/11 12:11 AM
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Originally Posted by R0B
Whilst I agree with much of what you say, Morodiene, there are ways around some of the issues you raised.

There are Skype add-ons, such as 'white board' where you can immediately send an image, that you draw on your screen.

Many teaching materials can be sent ahead of the lesson, so you just need to ask the student to refer to 'Page 1', or whatever.

Files, such as pdf documents, images, etc. can be sent in real time, directly within the Skype lesson, when neccessary.

Audio files from your computer, can be played, again in real time, to the student, during the lesson.

Lessons can be recorded, for the student to review, at their convenience.

From time to time, I will send a follow up video, to illustrate particular points, which need a more in-depth explanation.

Skype lessons can be successful, with careful planning, and by finding ways to work around the inherent limitations of the medium.



right, which is why I couched what I said with there are probably things I need to learn. I mailed my niece her books and it took a few days for her to get them, but she had them in time for her first lesson. I'll definitely check out 'white board'. The lesson assignments I have to send afterward because since I'm using my laptop to do Skype, I can't be typing up the word document at the same time. Well I could, but then she's looking at me for a few minutes as I do that. I usually update things during the lesson so the document is ready by the time they leave. So I might as well wait until the lesson is done and email it.

Any suggestions for the pixilation? Is that just a problem with Skype, or can you get a really clear picture with a better webcam? I really have a hard time seeing exactly what her hands are doing. My webcam cost about $90 and it's a brand name, so I would think mine is good.


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Re: skype - triggered by lost student
TimR #1635315 03/07/11 12:23 AM
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I agree.
Sometimes video quality is not that great, due to the student's camera quality, lighting, or net congestion issues.
One thing worth checking, is that you are both using the same (latest) version of Skype. (currently 5.1.0.112)
Sometimes the automatic updates don't appear to be working, so a manual check, from time to time, is a good idea.
Also the later versions have a 'Screen sharing' feature, so you can place a document/picture on your desktop, and share it with the other party.

Last edited by R0B; 03/07/11 12:25 AM. Reason: Edited to include Skype version.

Rob
Re: skype - triggered by lost student
TimR #1635457 03/07/11 08:36 AM
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I think back to all the times when I needed a second (or third) opinion on something while preparing pieces for performance. I would call various teachers or colleagues who reside in various parts of the country. It's pretty cumbersome to talk about measures, locations of the phrases, or even things that are slightly ephemeral.

Not to mention the sound quality - when I would attempt to play things over the phone.

So maybe for a fulfilling lesson experience, Skype might be less than ideal, but for the 'check-up,' or a consultation, it's great.


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Re: skype - triggered by lost student
TimR #1635499 03/07/11 10:27 AM
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Remember when piano teachers came to your house? (yeah, I'm that old)

In some ways this recreates that.

But with two advantages: you're on camera, so any allegations of misconduct are unlikely.

And second, the student might be able to replay a recording of the lesson. (I don't know the technology here - I assume that's possible.) I know there've been a lot of times I was pretty sure I understood something at a lesson that was a lot less clear at my practice session.


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Re: skype - triggered by lost student
TimR #1635506 03/07/11 10:36 AM
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For what it is worth, when teaching a minor, via Skype, I insist that a responsible adult be present.


Rob
Re: skype - triggered by lost student
TimR #1635547 03/07/11 11:26 AM
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Originally Posted by TimR


And second, the student might be able to replay a recording of the lesson.


What dream world do you live in, and can I live there too? laugh


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Re: skype - triggered by lost student
Gerard12 #1635551 03/07/11 11:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Gerard12
I think back to all the times when I needed a second (or third) opinion on something while preparing pieces for performance. I would call various teachers or colleagues who reside in various parts of the country. It's pretty cumbersome to talk about measures, locations of the phrases, or even things that are slightly ephemeral.

Not to mention the sound quality - when I would attempt to play things over the phone.

So maybe for a fulfilling lesson experience, Skype might be less than ideal, but for the 'check-up,' or a consultation, it's great.


Yes, and if it was anyone other than my family, I wouldn't bother. I have plenty of business locally and set up for ideal teaching the way I want to do it. But it's great for those exceptions. I take voice lessons from my teacher via Skype when I am not able to fly there. It's less than ideal for that, too, but since he's worked enough with me one-on-one, I kind of know what I'm doing at this point.


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Re: skype - triggered by lost student
TimR #1635604 03/07/11 12:47 PM
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The quality of recording on skype is acceptable to hear what is being played and suggestions being demonstrated.

I did try several ways of recording. (me taking the lessons)

There is a record on skype

Tried the H4 Zoom which was one sided loud (my side) so not good.

Local is better but not always possible and for even a better benefit, to have communication with a great teacher who is not local! It does have some drawbacks though if your internet server is not fast enough receiving or sending, so check that (onsite places to do so)

I feel that there is a great possibility though for sharing music around the world with online piano buddies. Almost like a piano party. This has not been explored nearly enough!



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Re: skype - triggered by lost student
TimR #1635611 03/07/11 12:55 PM
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I've done things on Skype both formally and informally. It's better than not accessing someone at all, or trying to discuss things only in writing. Visual isn't even an option unless you have the equipment for it - both for sending and receiving (how as a student do you "watch" the teacher while sitting at a piano?). What about technique? Sound-wise: some distortion. Pitches get bent by more than a quarter tone at times. Registers transmit unevenly so that some high or low notes almost cut out. Can teachers here tell whether notes are well distributed as in voicing for example, when using Skype? I have a hunch that for those who were happy with it, that it involves doing particular types of things that Skype lends itself to.

Re: skype - triggered by lost student
keystring #1635613 03/07/11 12:57 PM
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Originally Posted by keystring
I've done things on Skype both formally and informally. It's better than not accessing someone at all, or trying to discuss things only in writing. Visual isn't even an option unless you have the equipment for it - both for sending and receiving (how as a student do you "watch" the teacher while sitting at a piano?). What about technique? Sound-wise: some distortion. Pitches get bent by more than a quarter tone at times. Registers transmit unevenly so that some high or low notes almost cut out. Can teachers here tell whether notes are well distributed as in voicing for example, when using Skype? I have a hunch that for those who were happy with it, that it involves doing particular types of things that Skype lends itself to.


My teacher had NO PROBLEM hearing or demonstrating touch and tone. It was a major part of my lesson!


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Re: skype - triggered by lost student
Morodiene #1635630 03/07/11 01:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
Originally Posted by TimR


And second, the student might be able to replay a recording of the lesson.


What dream world do you live in, and can I live there too? laugh


Hi
I am not a teacher, but I do take the lessons via skype from Rob. If you are using windows, google replay telecorder. It will save the video of your lesson crystal clear. You can set it up to see just the teachers camera, or set it up as a split screen to see both cameras. I just set it on Rob's camera. Have the video of each lesson, and pictures are clear, he is in Australia and I am in Pittsburgh.
I don't think anyone can go wrong with skype lessons.

Dale


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Re: skype - triggered by lost student
alberti #1635661 03/07/11 02:06 PM
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Originally Posted by alberti
Originally Posted by Morodiene
Originally Posted by TimR


And second, the student might be able to replay a recording of the lesson.


What dream world do you live in, and can I live there too? laugh


Hi
I am not a teacher, but I do take the lessons via skype from Rob. If you are using windows, google replay telecorder. It will save the video of your lesson crystal clear.


At a guess, I suspect M is alluding to the extreme unlikelihood of the average student wanting to review a lesson.

Some adult students, on the other hand, obsess over these things.


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