Do “Bouncy Balls” help our students to learn music?

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There’s no doubt that technology is fast becoming part of many classrooms worldwide. According to a recent PBS Survey 74% of teachers Say Technology Enables Them to Reinforce and Expand on Content (February 4, 2013).

However reports such as this one written by Joan Ganz Cooney Center also states that teachers can be skeptical about technology “For many teachers, technology must add demonstrable value to justify incorporation into the learning process” (page 16)

In other words, are we using technology for the “right” reasons where an educational outcome can be reached better via technology or are we using technology just because it’s there to be used?

This question comes up for us here at The Fun Music Company often because there are so many things that can be done with the technology we have available… But the question is should we?

One particular example we are thinking about right now is the use of ‘bouncy balls’, or ‘light up notes’ or whatever to indicate to students where they are up to in a piece of music played on a screen.

Video #1:

Video #2:

Both videos use the same content and they are used to teach young children to play rhythm instruments as a group.

Video 1 uses a “bouncy ball” to show young players where they are on the music. It requires no teacher pointing or conducting and will always show the students where they are in the music

Video 2 doesn’t have a bouncy ball. Instead it relies on the teacher to point or explain to the children how it works. When the children are experienced enough they could even play this on their own without any guidance or pointing etc.

What do you think?

Which video is better?

Do you think that using technology tools such as this “bouncy ball” feature helps our students to learn music more effectively?

Do you think because the “bouncy ball” can be done it should be done?

Anyway…..I would love to know what you think about this, so please leave your answer and a short explanation of why you feel the way you do about your preferred video in the comment box below.

We personally check all these comments and feedback and every opinion really does count. So please make sure you let us know and contribute to the discussion below because we want to continue to make the best in classroom music resources for you to use.

61 Comments

  • By Carroll McCarthy Reply

    I prefer notes that light up. The bouncy balls can be distracting to some studios. Their eye movement tracking away from then back to the note. Lighted notes bring attention to the note, help with tracking and can be very engaging.

    Can you have the note sound at the same time it lights up? Incorporated ear training?

  • By Maureen Fiudo Reply

    I was excited to see this article in my email this morning. Just yesterday I was thinking how great it would be to have the notes light up or a bouncy ball show the students which notes they were on. I find that for the young elementary kids if we do anything with the rhythms on the board I need to point along. This is fine expect I am always blocking the way, or I am needing to redirect one student and have to step away from the board. When I step away of course no one knows where we are and there is much more chaos!
    So, yes I think the bouncy ball is great for the younger grades. I can still explain what they are seeing and why. Later on, I can take away the bouncy ball and they can read it!
    (Just one question, is there a website or some resource to be able to add a bouncy ball or make the notes light up that I can include in my lessons?)

    Thank you,
    Maureen Fiudo
    Tiffany Ridge Elementary Music Teacher

  • By Lyndell Reply

    I would like the option of both.i.e. Turning the balls off and putting them on. The advantage would be for me after teaching/explaining as I go I would like to be freed from the board to walk around the class observing/correcting etc.

    Just an addon…
    My students just LOVE the lessons. It’s been amazing to learn so much and enjoying the ” ride “. It’s also ver accessible for Education Support that also join in some classes. They love the quizzes with the little avatars.
    Thanks heaps for this program. I love it!

  • By Lisa Reply

    I really don’t like them. Often students rely on them to know where they are in the music rather than counting.

  • By Karen Reply

    Having the bouncy ball would suit teachers who would otherwise be standing and pointing to the music as it enables one to walk around and give specific help whilst the conducting is being done for you.

  • By Mrs. M. Pyrtle Reply

    I prefer the one with the bouncy ball. There are so many icons on the page, students can get distracted, or feel unsure of where to place their focus. I would even change the bouncy ball’s color to coordinate with the color of the instrument being featured, with two different-colored bouncy balls for when the instruments play together. The option to have the bouncy balls ‘disappear’ would be ideal for when the students have progressed to a level where they no longer need that extra help.

  • By William Southerland Reply

    As a general music teacher, both are useful. Some classes require with, some classes are able to function without. The goal is to get every student to read independently, but the specific students in each class will dictate the ability and utility.

    I don’t have much music with “bouncy balls,” so I do a lot of pointing using a “finger stick.” I try to stop pointing, but honestly the kids just do SO much better when I do. Usually, we’ll practice with pointing 1-2 times, and then do it once without pointing.

    Let’s be honest with ourselves–reading music is *hard*. I never really learned it in my primary level classes, even though my teachers tried. 45 minutes once a week just isn’t enough time.

    Compound the lack of time with the face that I have lots of kids with ADHD and reading disabilities in every class. Without some help keeping focused, not only do these students get lost reading the music but they also start to demonstrate behavior issues.

    If we could stack classes so high-level readers and low-level readers were placed together, I could do a better job of deciding which group needs what assistance. However, since my classes are diverse in their learning abilities, I tend to point more often than not.

    I have started using screenshots of Finale to fake the bouncy ball idea, since the green playback line in Finale helps the kids stay focused. But this is not a perfect system, and some kids still just don’t get it. Bouncy ball music would help me to be able to move around the classroom and assist and assess students without being tied to the board the whole time.

  • By jeannie myers Reply

    I do not use bouncy ball in my studio/lessons. W/O bouncy balls each student can learn to conduct. Everyone gets a chance at leadership. Not all technology is actually helpful; many times technology makes a person lazy because they do not have to think or concentrate. Teachers need to be creative and when we can use someone else’s’solution in a box’, it tends to make us lazy.

  • By Teresa Suszko Reply

    I think children should learn music from a conductor, not a bouncy ball. It teaches them to watch the conductor, look at the music, and blend with those around them. Conductor cues are very important as children progress through their musical journies so they should start out with a conductor.

    I think the bouncy ball activity would be useful for someone who had to teach their own music and they had little to no knowledge of how to do so.

  • By chris ghilani Reply

    I like the bouncy balls but can you make it so that you can use both ways?

  • By Carol Wiggins Reply

    I liked the use of the bouncy ball in the first video to teach young music students. In addition to allowing the student to keep up with where they are in the music, it also helps students develop that “inner pulse” that should be an integral part of every musician. It also allows the teacher to play along with the student and allows them to demonstrate the instrument(s) being played as they are performing without having to point to the notes. The bouncy ball also seems to make the music come alive.

    However, I realize that there will come a time when the students need to sail on their own without the use of the bouncy ball. It would be nice if there was an option to turn them on and off as needed. But as for an effective, temporary learning tool, absolutely!

    If the bouncy ball can be done, then I am all for it as long as there was an option to turn it off later. I would not want students to become dependent on it, but overall, I do think it has its advantages.

  • By Sophie Reply

    I find the bouncy ball VERY annoying and makes the music look too busy. Light up notes are slightly better but some children find it hard to follow up to tempo. Musch better to have the teacher point it all out!

  • By Sandy Reply

    Hi Janice,
    I see the bouncing ball as a way to train very young children to track the notes but if overused, they will just watch the ball and not the notes. I see it as similar to your animal rhythms where they progress from animals to animals and notation and then just notation, a stepping stone. It would drive me crazy after awhile so I would just use it briefly to help train their eyes to track.

  • By Jill Reply

    The bouncing ball is the same as the teacher pointing to where the student(s) is in the music. Once the student learns the song with the bouncing ball then they should play it without the bouncing ball. Using the bouncing ball to first learn a song would be much easier on the teacher and easier for the student to follow. I like the bouncing ball.

  • By Lisa Kosier Reply

    I think the bouncy balls are very helpful with younger children especially who are just learning how to “follow” music and keep the beat. I have found that many children understand the concept of beat and number of beats per measure but they don’t understand how it moves throughout the piece of music. They also tend to see a measure as an individual entity as opposed to a part of a larger piece.

  • By Julie Long Reply

    I think the bouncing ball is great to get the children started, as a demonstration. For actual performance, children can easily use the notation. Maybe have the bouncy ball for the first measure or two to show when to start, but then face out.

  • By Lesley Reply

    I agree with Sandy in that I would initially use it as a tool, but then take it away to build independence. Often, I find myself pointing (as the human bouncing ball) when we begin a piece to track where we are, but also show the steady beat. However, I take that “crutch” away quickly to help them read on their own. Would it be possible to include both videos in the resources so teachers could use both as their situations require?

  • By David Reply

    Bouncy balls are great as “training wheels.” They are great for for beginning students. Keeps me from having to point all the time to train their eyes. After awhile, the training wheels need to come off. Is it possible to have a choice? A file with the BB and one without?

  • By Laura Reply

    i agree with Sandy’s comment. I would probably use it sparingly but can see where it might be helpful in training students to follow the notes. if you use it, please include one with the bouncing balls and one without them.

  • By Angela Reply

    The bouncing ball could be a great way to “scaffold” learning to track correctly in written music. I would use it at the beginning to help students learn to follow from left to right and to read to the beat, but I would not always use it. Just like any scaffolding tool, it needs to be phased out to build independence!

  • By Frances Smith Reply

    The bouncy ball would be good because usually it’s me up there helping them to follow the rhythm and I get in there way.

  • By Jan courtney Reply

    I like the bouncy ball example because it not oly shows the children where we are in the music but iia more engaging? The children are more interested but are able to follow along better. For my first and second graders who are still learning beat they will be able to follow the beat whi
    E i watch them and assess. Thank you

  • By jan mason Reply

    Definitely with the bouncy balls! Is is so much easier on the teacher! I don’t have to constantly be looking at the board and pointing. Instead, I can look at the student’s and assess their performance! Great!!!

  • By Samantha Reply

    Hello
    I prefer the vertical line that goes across the staves; the bouncing ball to me is really distracting so I would not use that sort of technology. But then I teach older students who might need to read several staves at once.

  • By Molly R. Corwin Reply

    I think it would be beneficial in the beginning. Is there a way you have the option of using the bouncy ball or not?

    Thanks for asking. Keep on working to help make our students better musicians!

    ~Molly

  • By Christa Reply

    Hi Janice,
    I see the bouncy balls also as a wonderful guide for young music students. I agree with Sandy, that you would want to take it away after a while.
    I DO like your thoughts of having the notes light up or something rather than the bouncy ball, though. This would ensure that the kids are actually looking at the NOTES rather than just the ball. That might be an easier transition to reading the notes all by themselves. I think the lighted notes would also be beneficial when you have longer note values. It would force the students to keep their eyes on the note that is still getting value.

  • By Linda Reply

    Hi Janice,
    I like the bouncing ball. This would be great for
    the autistic population. I like the idea that it
    could eventually be faded out. I think it would
    help the students to focus and know exactly
    where they are in the music.

  • By Annamaria Myers Reply

    Hello Janice,
    I prefer the video without the balls. I think it is a little distracting and sometimes the balls were not lined up quite right with the beat.
    I prefer pointing with a pointer and then seeing if students can follow on their own after a while.
    Thanks!
    Annamaria

  • By Candyss-Ann Fleming Reply

    Hi Janice
    I agree with Sandy’s comments. For young children, the bouncy balls would aid them in following the notes. It would train them to follow the music. After they have mastered that, I would stop using the bouncy balls.

  • By Danny Reply

    Hi Janice,
    I think there is certainly a place for the ‘ball’ (or similar) but I would definitely prefer to have the option without. Simply, some classes probably need both and I would use a mixture, but obviously be aiming for the end point without!

  • By Victoria Reply

    The bouncy ball is driving me crazy right about now!! I think that light up notes are definitely more helpful than bouncy balls, and I think that bouncy balls are useful (like in sing-a-long videos) but I think students should be working up you just pointing at the start of each line of when to play. I think they could be useful in the younger years but then should be discarded.

  • By Lynette Reply

    I find bouncy balls generally far too distracting, taking away from the music itself. Perhaps as an initial introduction for a young group it may be useful but I prefer the note colouring instead in this situation. It can be a useful stepping stone but not one I would use regularly.

  • By Tony Reply

    I see the ‘bouncy ball’ concept as a great idea, but it should be optional. As part of a differentiated program, children working at a lower level/ juncture, might need this addtional support. It should not take away what I as a teacher should be teaching the students anyway but rather add too. If you could turn the feature of a boucing ball on or off, and adjust the tempo to meet the needs of the students it would be great.

  • By Mary Wilson Reply

    You must admit that the bouncing ball is MUCH easier to follow especially for younger students. The video without the ball would loose students quickly and they would not be able to keep up the accompaniment effectively. Technology is a great tool to peek the interest and keep the interest of today’s technological savvy students.

  • By Maureen Reply

    I like the bouncing ball for helping children track the notes and it leaves me more able to move around the room to monitor students and help them. I think the bouncing balls would need to be taken away after a time so students progress and read the notes by themselves.

  • By Catriona Reply

    The bouncy ball is very useful at the beginning, especially for visual learners. I have been pointing then clapping for this activity which means I am not facing the class properly and my focus is not so much on the children.

  • By Robyn Tipping Reply

    I love the bouncy ball because I find I am always having to point with my ruler anyway. It is difficult for young learners to follow the music especially if they miss a beat or get lost during the piece.
    The best thing though would be to have the option of turning it off so that as students develop their skills, a teacher can eliminate the ball to further stretch them.

  • By Donna Lawther Reply

    Of the two, I prefer the bouncy ball for all the reasons other supporters have given but do think that light up notes would be better because then you could light up all coloured notes to be played, as some students would get confused with the ball bouncing on top which notes and lines it refers to.

  • By Chris Lane Reply

    I love the bouncy balls! it would allow me to watch the students! And the movement would help them know where to go. But being able turn it off would be great too. And being able slowing down the music would be great also.

  • By Ashley Reply

    I do not like the bouncy ball as much. I think it is an important tool that can help students recognize where the ensemble is playing in the music but I feel like it messes with my rhythm as I listen to the music and watch the cursor. The second video is less interactive but I assume that the class instructor would be notifying the top or the second line when it comes.

  • By Anna Fry Reply

    I think it is great fun and I am all for children experiencing all sorts of ways of reading music and focussing. Hopefully there will be a balance of methods used and they won’t become reliant on bouncy balls or pointing. Children learn through different methods and at different rates. Keeping them interested and having fun is an important aspect and the ball certainly is fun.

  • By Maggie Lemken Reply

    My immediate reaction was the same as many of those in your blog before I even read it. Lighted up notes are the best like those used in composition software.

  • By Lorna Anderson Reply

    I like the bouncy ball because it helps the kids stay focused on the lesson. Let’s face it children today are very visual. It’s a great tool!

  • By Clarissa Larsen Reply

    I think it would be great to be able to use both. I get tired of pointing all of the time and not being able to keep an eye on the students that need managing. I agree with some of the other teachers that said a light up method would be preferable. The bouncing ball is a bit too much going on, but I love the concept. Giving teacher a choice is always the best. The goal for many of use is to use the bouncy ball method to start with and then move to the students being able to track it themselves.

  • By Dawn Reply

    I like bouncy balls for a single line of music with my young children. Then we could progress to lighted notes for my older students and when using multiple lines of music. I would also like the ability to turn off either help.
    Love the ideas. Thanks for asking us.

  • By Deirdre P Reply

    I think there is a case for all three, the ability to turn one or the the other on. Initially the bouncy balls are good as they help with left to right, and ensuring students count rests, light up notes are a step away and then students work without anything, more like ‘real life’. It would be great to have the option of being able to turn on and off the different features as students progressively improve with the reading task required.

  • By Jane H Reply

    I love the bouncy balls but agree with most comments re having the option of both.

  • By Eugenia Charles Reply

    I like the idea of the bouncy ball. It can be very helpful to the short attention span student but could be distracting to others. It can be a draw back to teachers to keep attending to the two. Is there a followup to bouncy balls in future lessons?

  • By Boon Teng TAN Reply

    I feel that the bouncy ball is distracting as it moves a lot, especially when it goes back to the beginning from the end. Students will be distracted and follow the movement of the ball instead of counting. Lighted notes are better. But, whatever it is, they should be teaching aids. The teacher should still explain and teach till the students understand how to count, how to repeat, when to play and when to rest.

  • By Denise Hoff Reply

    I think it would be helpful to either have the ability to turn off the ball or have it it appear only on first two repeats of each section. Get the kids started then turn off–

  • By Judy Duggan Reply

    I LOVE the bouncy balls!!! This would help so much!!!!!

  • By Eric Varillas Reply

    I think it’s a great teaching tool, as long as it’s only used to help them become more fluent readers… I would NEVER use a bouncy ball with a strong reader… as soon as the purpose of the bouncy ball is no longer required, it makes no sense to keep it there… like the training wheels on a bicycle. You would never see an adult with training wheels, but if a young child were using them, you’d think that it’s just a tool they’re using until they get to the next proficiency level.

  • By Hannelie Peck Reply

    Hi Janice
    I prefer having the option of both. Some students need to have that extra stimulation to be interested in something. But then it is also good to do it without the boucy ball.

  • By Margaret Reply

    I would prefer NO BOUNCING BALL. Instead I like the option of light-up notes for eye tracking and the option of turning them on or off. I think it would be great to use your eyes to follow the pattern first (note lights on) and then use your ears to find the places to play the tambourine or triangle (note lights off). Before distributing instruments, students could model this first on the body with a two-fingered clap to the palm for the Tambourine and a finger-to-finger clap for the Triangle.

    That said, I have a set of tennis balls in the classroom that we bounce to find the half-note pulse in various songs. It’s a great favorite in the second grade and when we bounce on the rug, it helps them to control the balls better. Sometimes we bounce to a jump rope rhyme and then count how many bounces they can do on a steady beat. Once I introduce this, they beg to do it over and over. So much for technology!

  • By Pauline Reply

    I think both are great. The children can learn with the ‘bouncy ball’ and then progress to playing the music without, or you could differentiate for different classes-some may need the bouncy ball some not. In conclusion I prefer th option of both-but a great way of teaching children to read music and play percusssion instruments.

  • By Heather Schneider Reply

    I agree with several statements above:
    1. Notes lighting up or changing colors to keep the time rather than a bouncing ball.
    2. The option of turning the “help” light or ball on and off. That way as students improve, they can follow the music on their own.

  • By Megan Reply

    I prefer the bouncy ball because then I can watch the children and see who is engaging, keeping up, etc, instead of having to point to the notes on the screen, in the initial phase of familiarising the students with this work.

  • By Gordy B Reply

    Hi, I like the bouncy ball but would agree that it might be very distracting.
    However, I would be very interested in similar tool that could be used for learning new pieces of music. As a beginnerish sax player I often get lost during practice with the band. Some software that would indicate where I should be, even approximately, would be really helpful. And I do appreciate the problems of tempo etc for this type of tool, however I don’t think they would be insurmountable.
    Thanks

  • By Amy S. Reply

    I agree BOTH options would be great. It would be nice to introduce with the bouncy ball, and then have them play without.

  • By Jane Gusdal Reply

    I think the bouncy balls are great for teaching tracking for beginners, allowing me to be more aware of what the children are doing instead of looking at the music to point out the beat. Eventually it would be nice to be able to remove the balls or lighting up of notes, when students become more familiar with how to follow the music on their own.

  • By Tricia Graf Reply

    My kindergartners really followed the bouncing balls – much easier than without it- loved it!

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