Common Sense Review
Updated July 2013

SoundJunction

Music site brimming with great info is a tad text-heavy and glitchy
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Common Sense Rating 3
Teacher Rating (1 Teacher Review) 3
  • The teacher resource section includes materials on specific topics, such as comparing the harp to the kora, a traditional African instrument.
  • Some teacher resources, like the educational articles, will be more useful than others; the forum, for example, doesn’t seem to be very actively used.
  • Students can also learn about music genres around the world and the emergence of different types of music.
  • The site offers detailed information about music basics and more detailed topics.
  • Unfortunately, some of the interactive tools, including the Composer tool, don’t seem to work.
Pros
An impressive amount of detailed information and the interactive tools that work help illustrate song components.
Cons
Plug-ins required for some of the tools can be problematic, and the one tool that works doesn't offer feedback.
Bottom Line
Kudos for the site's extensive music-related content, but adjustments to its tools would make for a better resource.
Erin Brereton
Common Sense Reviewer
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 3

The interactive sound and writing elements help break up the site's abundance of reading-related activities, but two major tools don't work. Additional activities would make return visits to the site more interesting.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

The breadth of information surpasses what's on many music sites. Students can learn about specific topics, ranging from instrument care to music history. Regional music types are covered, and kids can write songs with a basic tool.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

Teachers can access activity ideas. They can also share learning trails, assignments that involve creating specific guided pathways through the site to illustrate a concept, on a forum, but most posts are from site administrators.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

You can sign up as an educator to receive advanced user status (moderators must approve the designation). SoundJunction provides teacher resources in a section featuring music workshop ideas, learning objectives, and small group and individual user activities. Students can explore (independently or with teacher guidance) info on the history of different types of music, ranging from Medieval music to rap, world music styles, and music used in different dance styles. The articles and videos would be great supplemental materials for classes studying music history, music theory, or world cultures. You could also use the site's interactive tools as visuals in lessons.

An additional unique feature lets teachers create learning trails, predetermined paths through the site that will only display the navigation teachers want students to see. SoundJunction also offers premade learning trails on topics like discovering orchestral effects. You can share ideas for learning trails on a site forum, although most seem to have come from SoundJunction.

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What's It Like?

Some music sites primarily focus on either creating or listening to songs. SoundJunction, however, offers a significant amount of detailed information on song components, styles, and writing. Students can read about and watch videos discussing different types of instruments, musical genres, music history, and musician interviews. Some articles describe the process of composing and the role instruments play in a song. Interviews with musicians touch on topics like making a living as a musician. Students will also be exposed to a variety of genres, including classical, jazz, rock, drum 'n' bass, and pop, and can learn about music history, how composing works, and other topics. Several composers share information about how they created original pieces for the site.

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Is It Good For Learning?

The written information and companion videos on SoundJunction are phenomenal; students can really dig in and discover an amazing amount of info related to music theory, instruments, and music history. In theory, the site's interactive tools sound like they would be fantastic, too. The Note Canvas tool lets users click on notes to add them to an original piece, which can teach kids about the composing process. The Explorer tool is supposed to let users listen to a song, watch musicians perform it, see what instruments were used, and listen to each instrument's contribution. The tool could offer an in-depth view of how songs are structured -- if it worked.

However, like the Composer tool, the Explorer tool doesn't seem to be functional. Even after upgrading all necessary new plug-ins, both tools start to load but can't get past the initialization stage. That's too bad, because the tool supposedly lets users assemble their own tune, bar by bar, from hundreds of prerecorded guitar, drum, and other sound clips. Without it, SoundJunction still offers solid information on musical genres, structure, and history. but without enough interactive elements to balance out all the reading materials, students may not stick around for long.

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