Here, George Hammond-Hagan, an Ivor Novello Award winner and founder of Studytracks, explains how music, technology and education are merging to provide today’s students with an engaging and effective way to study.
So what do earworms have to do with education?
As far back as I can remember, music has always been a big part of my life. It’s my passion and something I’ve always loved; thankfully, I’ve had some great career success with music too. But, I’d never given much thought to its effect on education, and whether or not it’s conducive to a productive learning environment; that was until my son was studying for his exams a few years ago. A lot of students listen to music when revising and say it helps them to concentrate and motivates them. However, I’m sure I’m not alone in my view when I refused to believe this. When I came home one afternoon to find my son blaring music while studying, I asked him to turn it off. It was distracting him from his textbooks, wasn’t it? Surely his brain was conflicted between the study words and song lyrics, right?
It got me thinking; if students enjoy listening to music and it motivates them, and lyrics can get stuck in our heads, then how can we combine the two; involuntary and voluntary learning? I decided to put this idea to the test. I took the instrumental of Fat Joe’s song ‘Lean Back’ and recorded some physics information over the track. I then played it to him: my son lost his mind - he loved it and was able to recall the information during his next physics lesson, and all because the lyrics had entered his memory, just like earworms.
After my son’s reaction to the physics song I created, I thought about how I could make these tracks accessible for all students. With nearly three-quarters of teens (Pew Research Centre) owning a smartphone, one of the most effective ways to engage them is through their tech devices, whether this be an iPad, iPhone, tablet device or laptop, for example. They love the instant nature of tech and enjoy having everything at their fingertips; so while the “old-fashioned” methods of revising with a textbook, paper and pen shouldn’t be side-lined, giving Generation Z an alternative way to revise that’s contemporary and tech-based is a sure-fire way to get them to study.
In February 2016, Studytracks launched on Google Play and the App Store, giving students an app that combines music, studying and tech. The app enables them to revise for exams on-the-go, and in a way that’s not only truly effective at developing their subject knowledge, but that also engages and enthuses them to study. The success so far speaks volumes (pun intended) as within three weeks of launching, we had 10,000 active users and over 34,000 users just a few months later.
A former cynic, I now wholeheartedly believe that, when used correctly, music can be a massive help to students’ learning. The power of a musical hook is undeniable: it’s why many of us can still remember songs that we haven’t heard in years. So when this concept is applied to learning and delivered to students using technology, it hits all the right notes, giving students the opportunity to learn information successfully, and in a way that engages and motivates them to study - something I’m sure parents and teachers everywhere will agree is no mean feat!