There is a place for both online learning and face to face, but being able to do this in a quiet spot at home away from the distractions and demands of school, and without the extra travel is a wonderful advantage.
This is a quote from Gurdun Argropoulos, a German Teacher at Hillcrest Christian College (as quoted in IE the Journal of the Independent Education Union, Vol 44) after her first experience of an online course. It sums-up perfectly my feelings about online PD and how important it can be for piano teachers.
If you have been reluctant to try online training so far, then I'd strongly encourage you to give it a go. Professional development (PD) is mandatory in many industries, and for good reason: it ensures everyone is up-to-date with the latest research, trends, expectations and regulations, it encourages networking, it helps broaden perspectives and gives teachers a real motivational boost.
In fact, I don't think I've ever returned from an extended conference or training course and thought, "Well that was a waste of time!" Perhaps I've been lucky, but to me, continually striving to improve their own practice should be foremost in teachers' minds if they are serious about their profession.
While nothing will beat face-to-face teaching, conversations and meetings, there are a whole heap of benefits to accessing training online. Here are some of the pros and cons:
If you are serious about your teaching, you should be striving for continual self improvement.
Professional development is so important for teachers. With online training becoming more and more common and accessible, time constraints should become less of an issue. When you might have previously tried to commit a full 7 days to attending a conference, perhaps you can now get a similar benefit online from 1 or 2 condensed days.
Many of us are already isolated in our workplaces due to the fact that we teach from home. It's very easy in this situation to feel that further training is unnecessary: perhaps you've got a thriving, busy studio, perhaps you completed your training years ago and feel that you're getting great results, or perhaps you're just a little bit comfortable with your current situation.
If this is you, then I encourage you to rethink your priorities.
If you really want to give your students the best educational opportunities, you should make your own learning a top priority.
Meeting other teachers (whether in person or online through forums and Facebook groups) to share ideas and help each other should be a regular part of every teacher's week, especially if they teach from home. Even better, try get along to conferences and access online training. It will challenge your viewpoints, give you new ideas and improve your teaching practice.
There are a number of great training courses now being offered online and the rest of this article provides a summary of some of these. Keep in mind that you don't need any software to participate in these courses - everything is accessed just like a normal website or YouTube.
Tracy has put together a fantastic series of interviews with teachers from around the world (including yours truly) to talk about everything related to piano teaching, especially how to build a studio and get more students and how to make the most of technology.
The webinars will be inspiring for teachers of any age or level including beginning teachers and advanced.
You can watch the videos at your own pace, from home as it's compiled just like an online course. It contains over 10 hours of practical teaching information for a really low price.
Make sure you check out the webinars here: Upbeat Piano Teacher Webinars.
Now in it's second year, musicedconnect.com is a great initiative from Michelle Sisler of Keys to Imagination. It is the first online conference for music teachers of its kind and it's being held next week!
It works very much like a normal conference except that everything is online.
The outstanding line-up of presenters has included Scott McBride Smith, George Litterst, Leila Viss, Bradley Sowash and many more (including me!).
Topics include using technology, studio policies, teaching groups, creativity and topics of technique and performing.
You can choose to watch the presentations live, or choose the "replay" registration, allowing you to watch any of the sessions in your own time for the next 12 months.
Full conference registrations include the ability to interact with presenters live by asking questions. Replay passes are ideal if you're on the other side of the world (like me) and would prefer to learn in your own daylight hours!
Here's what the schedule looked like in 2015:
There is even an exhibit hall where you can browse offerings from various trade vendors, many of whom are offering special deals for conference delegates. And if you like handouts, most of the presentations include download links to PDFs and follow-up notes about the topic.
Here's a great summary of how the cotsts of online conferences stack-up against their face-to-face counterparts:
|Registration||$200-$350||$129 / $99|
|Round Trip Airfare/Baggage Fees||$300-$400||$0|
|Loss of Teaching Time||$200+ daily||$0|
You've probably heard all about "webinars" but may not know what they are or how they work.
A webinar is just an online presentation by someone which you are invited to watch and participate in by asking (typing) questions.
The most common format of a webinar is to watch the presenter's screen displaying a slide show while you listen to them talk.
Webinars are often recorded and offered on replay meaning that you can easily pause, rewind and fast-forward as you take notes and learn new things.
Quite often a presenter will run a webinar live and invite people to watch and ask questions (much like the 'live pass' to the musicedconnect conference) and then upload a recording of the webinar for people to access after the event. Again, this is great for Aussies when it comes to watching US-based presentations!
I run webinars regularly on timtopham.com. One of the most popular recently has been a webinar on growing your studio through savvy marketing tactics.
It's called the Wild West of Studio Marketing and was co-hosted with Amy Chaplin.
If you'd like to get access to the webinar, just click the image below.
To find out about all my other webinars, click the button below:
Well known in Australia as the go-to person for training about using technology in education, ex-teacher Katie Wardrobe has a host of online training options on her website Midnight Music. If you're interested in getting the most out of your iPad, want to know how to use apps like GarageBand or learn more about comprehensive software like Sibelius, Katie is your trainer!
You can view her course options here. I've personally experienced a number of Katie's courses and I'm happy to recommend them to you as the best training for teachers in this area. She is an engaging presenter who always over-delivers and, most importantly, doesn't just show you what technology to use, but how to use it to greatest effect in your teaching.
Here is Katie talking about her training and the benefits of online courses:
While her courses might sound expensive, Katie's online training is top quality and I can confirm that you get what you pay for. She has been running these courses for years and knows how to explain complex processes clearly to ensure that you learn new skills in the shortest time possible.
- Special Offer -
Katie has kindly offered timtopham.com readers the chance to save $20 off any replay pass (normally $175), using this code at checkout:
I would be remiss to not mention my own foray into online training offerings for piano teachers.
In December 2014, I launched my first training under the PianoFlix banner called Teaching Pop Piano and the feedback has been extraordinary. Not only is this a topic that is clearly of great interest to teachers, the format of the online training has been very well received.
PianoFlix: Teaching Pop Piano is a series of 8 videos that range in length from 10-30 minutes that teachers can access online and watch at their own pace.
Videos feature clear, concise content, explained in a way that all teachers will be able to comprehend, whether you're a total beginner when it comes to teaching pop, or if you're already well on the way with this style of teaching.
Handouts, links and resources accompany each video and there is a chance to ask questions and see a discussion from other teachers about each topic.
Want to feel confident teaching pop piano right now?
Note: PianoFlix: Teaching Pop Piano is now part of my Inner Circle membership. Members get access to this course plus all my resources, most of which have never been released on the blog, online forums, masterminds and heaps more members-only online training.
As technology improves, online learning is becoming more and more popular. Indeed, many mainstream universities are now offering digital course options. Here are some other resources for online music teacher education that you may want to explore further:
While you can, of course, find tutorial and teaching videos online (I've got quite a few related to piano teaching on my YouTube Channel), if you're looking for comprehensive training in specific/niche areas, specially-designed courses and online conferences run by industry-leading professionals are the best place to start.
With more courses being released all the time, I'll endeavour to keep you up-to-date with the best options for piano teachers, so make sure you're a subscriber. I have a feeling that this is the way of training in the future and I'm looking forward to releasing the next course in my PianoFlix series this year.
Do you know of any other good courses online? Perhaps you've recently completed one? What's stopping you taking an online course? What do you prefer - online or face-to-face?
Share your thoughts below so that we can all benefit from this discussion.
Tim Topham has one mission in life: to stem the tide of children quitting music lessons by helping teachers maximise student engagement through creativity, technology and innovation. Tim hosts the popular Creative Piano Teaching Podcast, blogs regularly at timtopham.com and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as pedagogy, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, Californian Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.