Netcasting as a Method of Authoring Educational Music Material

This paper will be presented at the 2003 Conference of the Association for Technology in Music Education (ATMI) which will be held in Miami, October 2-5, 2003. Philip Donner presents a package of netcasting authoring tools for use in the production of study material in music education. The paper focuses on the role of educational technology in the knowledge construction process. The author advocates a holistical approach, where mastery of the content, alongside with pedagogical and technological skill seems to be a necessary condition for the success of nationwide information society programs.


The presenter has developed a framework for the preparation of music education material by utilizing the software engine provided by RealNetworks free of charge. The RealNetworks applications have been complemented with a set of utilities developed by the author. These tools are being used to train music and virtual university teachers in preparing educational material for distance education. The paper reports the research and development process as well as the outcome of the pilot courses.


In this project software development skills are being combined with methods of participatory development research. The author has the necessary knowledge in C++ programming in order to create the graphical user interfaces and the functionality needed to provide effective content production.

It is assumed that music teachers are in a good position to acquire Information and Communication Technology (ICT) competence. Compared to other information society actors it seems, that their communication, presentation skills and tactile abilities are above average. These are often supplemented by knowledge in the use of audio-visual equipment.

Motivating music teachers and teachers at large to become producers of netcasted educational material requires an understanding of the teacher's working situation, in the conditions of learning and in the methods of constructing a common conceptual base. These are transmitted in the learning group through a participatory learning process.


1. The undertaking started as a music technology seminar at the music university. The students were quick to set up a broadcasting situation by utilizing their knowledge in sound engineering and internet technologies. Quickly the group started to address problems related to the actual production situation.

It turned out that RealNetworks streaming can be enhanced with very simple means. Netcasting scripts don't have a complicated structure, but they must strictly adhere to the relevant XML-related specifications. This can easily be achieved through automation. In this way utility becomes an abstract tool in the hands of the author. The effort resulted in a number of simple utilities with a simple graphical user interface, analogous work process and authoring methods for multiple types of content. The process was carefully documented and evaluated in a series of interviews with the students.

2. The first version of the package was launched at a workshop called 'Sonorous Texture' which was held in the periphery of the country. Here local students of multimedia had been trained to become tutors of the participating university teachers. The students acting as teachers became confident in their ability to handle pedagogical situations. The university teachers felt, on their side, comfortable among tutors with lower-level formal training.

This workshop formed the starting point of a series of pilot training sessions, where the package has gradually been refined to suit the needs of educators participating in the country's virtual university program. The final strategically important issue has been to find ways of motivating the planners to make netcasting education material a vital part of the repertoire used in video-oriented education. It is envisaged that this can be achieved when sufficient learning content has been produced by the followers of the program.


Virtual university training in Finland tends to separate substance from technology. The paradigm is based on the assumption that problems formulated by the users of software can easily be solved by software engineers. The project indicates, that ICT music instruction must rest on a balanced knowledge base where skills are drawn from both sides. Even the formulation of the problem becomes narrow unless the actors integrate social, technological, pedagogical and substance skills.

In an environment where focus is on the development issues rather than the complexities of music technology, the crucial factor in unleashing development is the ability to raise confidence in existing skills. When the learner's activity can be concentrated on the process of structuring substance, the effort gets an angle of development and construction rather than passive reproduction.


The author's home page contains some related items. The following documents may be useful in orienting the reader to the topic: