Website review by James Denby, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2020

EarSketch

Song builder with coding instruction will be music to students' ears

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Grades
7–12
Subjects & Skills
Arts, Communication & Collaboration, Creativity
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Pros: Helps students see the connection between code and creativity, step-by-step.

Cons: It might be overwhelming at first, and the built-in curriculum might require adaptation for some students.

Bottom Line: It's not an easy tool to master, but it's a great way for students to explore coding and digital creation in a meaningful way.

Because EarSketch blends coding with creating music, it's a great way to get students to learn some programming language within the process of making something they care about. For teachers who are confident in their Python or JavaScript skills and in teaching programming, it can be a concrete way for kids to use what they've learned in a context that's relevant to them. But it's also great for teachers who are new to coding and digital creation, because they can walk through the embedded curriculum together -- with some previewing, of course. 

If you want to focus on the programming languages themselves, you can give more background and do some direct instruction first before using EarSketch as a final project. Or, if your objective is more about the digital creation process itself, you can have students work toward a final product like a school theme song, a soundtrack for a short film, or a personal anthem. If students share their scripts (projects), they can co-create, which makes it a great tool for partner projects. And because you can create using Python or JavaScript, students who are dedicated to learning coding languages can try out both as part of a personal learning goal or independent study.

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EarSketch is a website that allows students to use code (JavaScript or Python) with musical tracks to create and mix music. Students can work with the built-in library of sounds, instruments, and samples or add their own to create original musical works. In terms of creating original music, it's similar to GarageBand, but EarSketch also includes the use of code to create scripts and program different functionality. On the right side of the user window, there's a curriculum that'll take students through the process of creation, teach them programming basics in the language they've chosen, offer musical concepts to help them build songs, and even give them information on copyright and fair use. If students want to collaborate, they can share projects with editing rights or in view-only mode. And if you use the contact form on their site, you can request lesson plans to get you started.

EarSketch isn't a simple tool, but it offers tremendous potential for teachers who want to really bring STEAM into their classrooms. It goes way beyond the common maze-based games that students often start with to learn coding and dives straight into using code to create brand-new media. It's also inextricably linked to self-expression and to creating music. Since coding doesn't interest all students, EarSketch has great potential to hook students with a passion for music and editing. They'll see a whole new way to use code. 

The approach to teaching and learning is systematic and builds knowledge step by step with hands-on projects. For teachers who don't have a lot of experience with media creation and/or coding, the curriculum is clear and pretty easy to teach with a little advance planning. The interface might be daunting at first, but once you dive into the walk-through, it's doable. Plus, it offers some music theory and copyright information, which is a bonus. So, if you can get students past the initial learning curve, they'll likely find EarSketch a challenging, rewarding tool.

Overall Rating

Engagement

Though the interface isn't the friendliest for new users, once students start creating, they'll discover that EarSketch is a challenging introduction to the use of technology and code in creating digital music. 

Pedagogy

Creating music they love as they learn how to code makes the process satisfying, and EarSketch has created a pretty solid step-by-step curriculum to help students along. 

Support

EarSketch isn't a simple tool, but the curriculum and instructions provided make it relatively accessible for combining code and music to create something amazing. 


Common Sense reviewer
James Denby Educator/Curriculum Developer

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