About me

Award winning
Head of Creative Arts
at Willows High School Cardiff

My name is Gareth Ritter and I am a music teacher based in Cardiff. I graduated with a degree in Music in 2003 at the Royal Welsh College of Music and  Drama. I completed my PGCE in Music at UWIC (Cardiff) in 2004.I have always been interested in the use of ICT in the music classroom and over the past 6 years I have created technology-rich learning and teaching resources. I have delivered inset to many schools on the use of ICT in the classroom.

In 2006 I was awarded a distinction in the Training and Development Agency for Schools Teaching Award for Outstanding New Teacher category.

In 2010 I became a Microsoft Virtual Classroom Tour award winner and was selected to represent the UK at the European event in Moscow.

I am currently the Leader of Learning for Creative Arts at Willows High School, Cardiff where I oversee many faculties which include the Music, Drama, Art and PE departments.

What is Ask the Music Teacher all about?

Ask the Music Teacher is a place where ideas and inspiration are drafted out into tutorials that you can benefit from. Ask the Music Teacher is based around the topic of innovative teaching and the use of technology in the classroom, particularly within music. It is the home to a range of posts that aim to give ideas and inspiration to teachers. Whether you’re a seasoned teacher or fresh from teaching practice there’s a range of tutorials here to sharpen and develop your skillset and keep your lessons interesting.

I have a passion for innovative teaching to inspire students to succeed. And as a teacher myself, I know how handy online resources such as tutorials can be. On this site you’ll find tutorials covering various techniques and ideas for using technology in the classroom, as well as a looking into various other creative teaching topics. There’s also a range of links to help you along with your teaching.

Many students are engaging in ‘good learning’ outside of school

What is good learning? That may be a subjective question. But it’s likely that many educators would give answers that fall in the same ballpark…

“Students collaborating and discussing ideas, possible solutions “, “Project-based learning, designed around real world contexts”, “Connecting with other students around the world, on topics of study”, “Immersing students in a learning experience that allows them to grapple with a problem”, “Gaining higher-order thinking skills from pursuing the solution”.

To many educators, these notions are music to their ears. Would it seem terribly strange then to hear that students indeed are doing these things regularly outside of their classrooms?

While Timmy or Susie may not be running home from school saying, “What fun, deeply-engaging learning experience can we do today?”, they are engaging with new technologies that provide them with the same opportunities. Everyday, many students are spending countless hours immersed in popular technologies—such as Facebook or MySpace, World of Warcraft, or Call of Duty—which at first glance may seem like a waste of time, and brain cells. But these genres of technologies—Social Networking, Digital Gaming, and Simulations—deserve a second, deeper, look at what’s actually going on.

When you hear ”Facebook” or “Call of Duty,” what do they bring to mind for you? What emotions do you associate with them? Have you heard of them before? Your students have, and they almost certainly have strong opinions about them. You don’t need to be a teenager to use or understand these technologies, or to use them in your classroom.

These technologies are already demonstrating how they impact the way we think, learn, and interact—and they are also demonstrating the tremendous potential they have in these areas as well. The emergence of social networking technologies and the evolution of digital games have helped shape the new ways in which people are communicating, collaborating, operating, and forming social constructs. In fact, recent research is showing us that these technologies are shaping the way we think, work, and live.

The youth of today have been completely normalized by digital technologies—it is a fully integrated aspect of their lives. Many students in this group are using new media and technologies to create new things in new ways, learn new things in new ways, and communicate in new ways with new people.

Technology can have a reciprocal relationship with teaching. The emergence of new technologies pushes educators to understanding and leveraging these technologies for classroom use; at the same time, the on-the-ground implementation of these technologies in the classroom can (and does) directly impact how these technologies continue to take shape. While many new technologies have emerged throughout history, so has the cry for educators to find meaningful ways to incorporate these technologies into the classroom – be it the typewriter, the television, the calculator, or the computer. And while some professional educators may have become numb to this unwavering ‘call’ – and for good reason – it is crucial to consider that the excitement over games and social networking isn’t just business and industry “crying wolf.” Indeed, those previous technologies have a powerful place in instruction and the classroom; but without them, strong lessons and learning objectives can still be achieved.

With these more recent technologies, we think educators should take the call, even if only on a trial basis. Undoubtedly, without these recent technologies (i.e. digital games, Web 2.0, etc.) in the classroom, strong lessons can still be achieved, but there’s a sharp disconnect between the way students are taught in school and the way the outside world approaches socialization, meaning-making, and accomplishment. It is critical that education not only seek to mitigate this disconnect in order to make these two “worlds” more seamless, but of course also to leverage the power of these emerging technologies for instructional gain.