Focus on Humanities



In this age of technology it is important that we do not lose sight of the importance of a liberal education. With that in mind, we would like to focus on the following humanities software that can enrich the academic curriculum and benefit the character of the pupil for years to come.

A new video-based art curriculum program is Arts Attack, available for grades 1 through 6. It helps teachers with little to no art background create an art-aware atmosphere in their classrooms. Its lessons and activities sustain 1 1/4 hours per week of creative projects, instructional video and a thorough introduction to art history and principles of art such as color, line, shape, form, texture, pattern, balance and emphasis. It is described as a "sequential" art training program, which means that students build on what they have learned in previous grades and it prepares them for the next grade. Each grade level set includes 24 lessons, seven to eight hours of video, 10 large art prints and a complete teacher's manual.

For more advanced students, Clearvue/eav has introduced MasterStrokes: Painting and Drawing with the Masters. This CD-ROM is designed for grades 7 to 12, as well as adults interested in the techniques of the "old masters" and other famous painters such as Cezanne and Van Gogh. Here, technology has been employed to expose the underpinnings of famous works so that you can see by animation how some masterpieces were likely created, brushstroke-by-brushstroke. The program's six tutorials are divided into subjects, color, composition, animation, light and dark, hidden images and storytelling and finally, special techniques.

Also manufactured by Clearvue/eav is Instruments of the Orchestra, a video program for intermediate school students. It is a fresh introduction to the symphony orchestra that will whet the appetite for more. There are four lessons, one on each family of instruments - strings, percussion, woodwinds and brass. Each video combines instruction, interviews with young musicians of the orchestra, solo and ensemble demonstrations and performance excerpts of the Green Bay Symphony Youth Orchestra. After viewing the program students should be able to identify and characterize each instrument and explain how it contributes to the orchestra, explain the roles of composer and conductor and define musical terms such as legato, vibrato, timbre, etc.

Instruments of the Orchestra includes a teacher's guide for suggestions on presenting the program. Instructors will also find a summary of each lesson, vocabulary lists, discussion questions, worksheets and a complete transcript of the video. An audio tape of a contemporary composition, Slava, by J'el Blahnik is included as well.

The flagship product from Adventus, Inc., Piano Suite, teaches you how to play piano by way of a MIDI keyboard and popular songbook. It is suitable for children and adults who can read. A voice tutor guides you along lessons in music theory and gives feedback on your playing. Two years of music theory and practical games are packed in this software to make the learning fun.

There are 100 pieces to learn (the Premier edition has more than 400) including The Beatles, REM, Wilson-Phillips, Barbara Streisand and Boyz II Men. More than 300 biographies of famous composers and musicians are included. There is a composer/editor feature for composing and playing your own tunes. Moreover, Piano Suite can track the progress of and evaluate any number of learners. There are three titles currently being offered, Piano Suite Basic Edition, Piano Suite Premier and Piano Suite Bundle. The Piano Suite Bundle is the Premier Edition software with a 49-key, FATAR keyboard, 12-foot MIDI cable and power adapter.

For more practical lessons in music, Yamaha's Music in Education, Technology Assisted Music Program equips schools with MIDI technology for learning music. The curriculum is organized into 145 modules, which are divided into two Levels. There are introductory modules for kindergarten and first grade learners, but the curriculum is most fit for second and third grade learners.

The first level, the Basic Program, teaches essential musical elements. The second level, the Extended Program, further teaches musical concepts and, like Level 1, engages students in singing, playing, discussing and listening. Each module makes use of the index of songs, mainly classic and some folk, to emphasize the concept. Students progress at different rates according to their individual abilities. The curriculum is non-graded and there is no recommended pace for mastering each module and completing the program.

The software provides instruction to educators in the following areas: lesson planning; instructional activities; testing and evaluation; classroom management; and record keeping. For the students it provides instructional activities, listening, reviews and quizzes.

Another multimedia program for learning the piano is Piano Discovery by Jump! Software, Inc. The complete Piano Discovery system includes a 4-octave MIDI keyboard with 6 foot, 15 pin cable and CD-ROM, which contains more than 900 lessons, 70 videos and 60 popular songs.

The interface that launches the student into different aspects of the program is richly colorful and called Discovery Island. Here, students can choose to go to the Bungalow for practice sessions, the Schoolhouse for lessons, the Island Arcade for additional practice and games, the Discovery Studio for recording and the Performance Hall for playing the songs with an orchestra.

Each lesson is narrated and some are enhanced by a video and metronome. You can download more songs each month at no further cost. There is a software-only version for those of you who already have a standard MIDI keyboard. For greater effect, you can attach a foot pedal and other MIDI-compatible audio devices. For early learners and young children, Kids Piano Discovery is a simpler version of the

original. There are other special editions of Piano Discovery that continue music lessons with a select group of songs such as Gospel Collection and Christmas Collection. Piano Discovery software programs are "IMT Certified" and can run on the Van K'evering Interactive Piano with a touch screen.

For advanced musicians, Coda Music Technology has introduced Vivace software upgrades as SmartMusic Studio. It is a computer-based practice system for brass, woodwind and vocals. SmartMusic Studio plays accompaniment to your playing or singing and responds to you as a human accompanist should. The CD-ROM software is packaged with an instrumental microphone, vocal headset microphone, foot pedal, printed accompaniment resource guide, 14 free accompaniments including printable music and an electronic accompaniment database. You can further purchase accompaniments in a range from solo to conductor's packages.

The accompaniment database consists of more than 5,000 tunes in various music styles. SmartMusic Studio can transpose any piece to suit your instrument and range. The Intelligent Accompaniment can be controlled to respond to the student's spontaneous tempo changes. There is a built-in metronome and an online site for learning about a composer and composition notes. Singers can have a warm-up just like in a real practice room. The software is made to run on a Windows platform and of course, a soundcard is required.

Also by Coda Music Technology is PrintMusic! software, which allows you to create, play and print music from any MIDI file. It can transpose music instantly and includes more than 100 pieces made to edit, play and print immediately. There is a feature that writes the notes as you play on an attached instrument, such as a keyboard. Guitar players can also make fingercharts on the music. Moreover, you can show full orchestration on the printed music.

Turning our focus from music to literature, we would like to mention a couple of software programs that foster reading, writing and reasoning.

The latest edition of Scholastic Literacy Place offers more literature for K-6 grade subscribers. It features newly published literature as well as additional time-honored classic titles. Technology components of the program are placed on CD-ROM and Web sites. The new Teacher's Edition incorporates the latest research on phonics and includes up-to-date assessment tools for placement and diagnosis. The Spanish language version, Scholastic Solares, also offers a fine selection of award-winning literature to develop literacy. These twin programs are designed to build reading, writing and analytical skills. Units are based on a variety of themes that introduce ideas and aspects of the real world.

Fit to enhance a variety of subjects such as social studies and history, the new, expanded edition of Outstanding African-Americans: A Text Reconstruction Program for Improving Reading, Writing and Reasoning Skills has been released. The software consists of 28 biographies on notable African-Americans who helped shape our nation - women and men, historical and contemporary. In general, it is meant for middle school students, but may be of interest to older students, as well. The program aims to make the student an active learner by offering continuous feedback on the student's answers. Students must answer comprehension questions accurately in order to progress and learn new material. The program includes a data recording and reporting system that keeps a record of student progress for the teachers. It is developed by New Intelligence, Inc. for Windows-compatible environments.

Alessandra Lee


Arts Attack
Del Mar, CA
(888) 760-ARTS

Chicago, IL * (800) 253-2788


Piano Suite
Adventus, Inc.
Bridgewater, NS, Canada


Music in Education
Yamaha Corp. of America
Band & Orchestral Division
Grand Rapids, MI (800) 253-8490


Piano Discovery
Jump! Software, Inc.
Mt. View, CA (800) 289-5867


SmartMusic Studio
Coda Music Technology
Eden Prairie, MN (800) 843-2066


Literacy Place
Scholastic, Inc.
New York, NY


Outstanding African-Americans
New Intelligence Inc.
Grand Prairie, TX

This article originally appeared in the 11/01/1999 issue of THE Journal.