Music – a help or a hindrance

Another interesting debate going on in the TES forums at the moment. Should we allow pupils to listen to music during ICT lessons, or lessons in ICT suites? And should it be pupils with headphones or one centralised (and controlled) source?

There are several different points of view, and some of those involved clearly have very strong opinions. I could bore you with them all, but if you’re interested you can follow the link.

I’ve tended to allow music during coursework lessons, sometimes through headphones from pupils’ own CDs or Pandora but usually from my own playlists. I’ve always found music to be helpful for me, particularly when it’s the same music, or type of music. Certain artists trigger memories, or states of mind. Listening to the the Beautiful South’s Best Of album takes me back to mid nineties playing games on an outdated 486, playing Metallica and/or Rage Against The Machine gets me straight into programming mode.

On the other hand I can see how music with lyrics can be a distraction, especially when pupils should be using the linguistic part of their brain to write. I have also seen pupils getting distracted by finding tracks to download or choosing what tracks get put into the communal playlist. I’ve had pupils shinge at me that they don’t like this ’emo rubbish’ (at which point I usually turn it off and be done with it for the lesson – they soon get the point).

I’ve also found that sticking iTunes on to playing anything in the classical genre actually works quite well at keeping pupils quiet and on task. One person on the forum pointed out that the 1 quiet kid that finds it difficult to concentrate with music playing might end up suffering silently as a result. I must admit that is a reaonably scary thought, that my attempt to make the lessons more enjoyable and easier to get through (coursework is dull, I don’t care what you say) might have a detrimental effect on pupils.

I haven’t really come to a conclusion yet about whether I should or should not allow music to be played during lessons. It’s a complicated problem with both benefits and drawbacks. I suspect I’ll continue to play music, but that the discussion will make me a little more careful and aware of exactly what I’m playing, how loud, what type and what individual pupils think about it.

Bit of a weak way to end a post really, but ho-hum. It’s late and I’ve got to be back at work in the morning. Eurch, a week just isn’t long enough.


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