Using GarageBand for iOS app

Lauren Prentice. (2015). Using the GarageBand for iOS app to integrate composition tasks within a literacy unit in a generalist year 5 and 6 classroom. (Unpublished dissertation). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand.


This dissertation builds on current thinking and research and reports on a case study that integrates the iPad app GarageBand for iOS within a literacy programme as a means of incorporating music composition into a generalist Year 5–6 classroom.

The key areas of focus were: 1) the students’ attitudes towards the range of activities using the GarageBand for iOS app as a composing tool; 2) what guidance was required for the students to frame a response to a multimodal text in musical terms using the app; and 3) what kind of musical response to a multimodal text was generated through the use of the GarageBand for iOS app. To answer these questions, a programme of work was planned and implemented over two terms. Students explored a range of musical elements and developed their aesthetic awareness through a sequential process. This culminated in composing music in pairs to accompany a page from the text Colour the Stars by Dawn McMillan (2012). Data were collected through four methods: a questionnaire, a personal reflective journal, a semi-structured interview with a focus group of seven children and analysing students’ work. A thematic approach was used to analyse the data. Themes emerging were compared and contrasted with each other.

This study found that by using the loops all of the children within the class were able to compose music that reflected in some way their given colour. Through the compositional process, students explored the musical elements of pitch, dynamics, tempo and timbre and developed in their knowledge of these. Most children were able to adequately justify their choice of the musical elements through the post-intervention questionnaire. Particular guidance provided by the teacher-researcher included direct modelling, setting constraints to the open-ended task through a matrix, providing feedback to the students’ compositions, being flexible in the allocation of time, and supporting collaboration between students. Although experimented with, the ‘smart instruments’ (a feature within GarageBand) proved too difficult to use as the children lacked the required prior knowledge. The proscriptive nature of the task design allowed the children to demonstrate divergent and convergent thinking, as they approached the task in different ways.

These results indicate that the GarageBand for iOS app can successfully be used within a literacy unit in a Year 5 and 6 classroom to develop knowledge of certain musical elements and encourage aesthetic awareness within beginner composition tasks. It is the researcher’s belief that GarageBand has the potential to be an effective tool to counter the insufficient opportunities being offered for composition tasks in many generalist middle and upper primary school classrooms (Barnes, 2001; Bolton, 2008; de Vries, 2011, 2013; McDowall, 2008; Temmerman, 1997).

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