Why it takes a year to develop our products

An insight into our product development process

It’s been an extremely exciting week for us here at the Fun Music Company because we’re getting close to finishing Whiteboard Music Lessons – Module Three. We’ve given this one a cheeky title: Play Up!!

This one has taken a particularly long time to get right!  It’s an upper primary module, so I do have to say it has definitely has had it’s challenges along the way!!

In just a few days time (so keep an eye out in your mailbox next week), I know you’re going to be very thrilled with the extreme value and most importantly, the time you’re going to save in lesson preparation. I am very confident it’s going to cut hundreds of hours of preparation time out of teachers’ lives and will help take the stress of planning away for many.

So I thought I’d give you just a small insight into our development journey over the past twelve months. Looking back I can clearly define the process into three stages:

Stage 1: The Vision and Research

The first thing we do whenever we create any new product, is we first research and collect data on the current teaching practices for the age level, and we work out what areas we can help the most.

We do this by talking to teachers, sending out surveys, observing lessons, and we have a detailed look at all the published literature on teaching the age group.

Most importantly we review in detail all the major syllabi around the world, including:

  • The standards for music (USA)
  • The key stages of the National Curriculum (UK)
  • The National curriculum of Australia

Initially we thought this product would be an extension of the work we had done in Whiteboard Music Lessons, Module two, ‘Music Jam’.

Module two is an introduction to playing as an ensemble for grades 3-5 (approximately 8-9 years old).  At this level children learn about the elements of music in a fun way via playing melody by singing,  some simple harmony using xylophone and learning about rhythm by playing a range of untuned percussion.

By the end of this mid primary or elementary course, the children have had loads of fun playing pieces together, singing a range of inspiring yet achievable songs and by activities that encourage learning to read and play music.

However, once we started talking to teachers and looking into developmental research and studies, we found that to just extend this idea for the older student wouldn’t work so well.

What we found teachers telling us was the older (“tween” 10-12 year old) student felt way too ”cool” to be playing xylophones: even though they would still do it if they were forced to, and were happy to do so when they were younger. By the time they reach this age,  they really get over it and find it too “babyish”.

Instead they want to be playing more rock orientated instruments such as the guitar and drums.

However, while they may want to do this at this age, developmentally they find it difficult to coordinate, especially in a class situation.

As a result we have come up with using some unique instrument choices which meet the need for being “cool” for the students and make them feel like the ”big kids of the school”. Most importantly though, we’re confident  these instrument choices also meets the developmental restrictions that teachers have to face.  And as an added bonus, they are all extremely cost effective ideas too.

We also found that developmentally (especially with the boys) these ages can be extremely hard to get the students to sing. Pushing boys to sing can be difficult and embarrassing for them if their voices have broken.

So to address this issue, we’ve designed a “Beat-boxing” element. This enables the children to use their voices in different ways while they are learning the sounds of the drum kit. Once it’s easier to say a beat or a sound, then it’s easier to play it. So learning about beat-boxing is a great step to playing it in later years.

Just recently we put together an introductory video on beat-boxing so you can see how easy it is to learn.

You can probably notice that in the song, there is still an option to sing or “rap sing”. So if your class still loves to sing, we’ve still got loads songs and options for them as well.

Stage 2: Content Creation and Development

This is the stage where we have the whole development team involved and working very hard. We work together with our very talented and specialized sound engineer, songwriter, graphic design artist and performing artists to achieve high quality, original recordings.

We also work together with computer programmers to enable all the activities and games to become reality. There are lots of little pieces of programming which come together to create our activities on the whiteboard.

Once we have the music, the sound files and the programming, we bring all of this together into the lessons. We use professional graphic design standard software, (which is very expensive) to develop the professional look of each lesson because you can’t get that look by using the software provided by the whiteboard companies.

While this part of the process sounds easy, it’s actually very specialised and requires not only a person with extensive  teaching abilities, but a person with high quality technical abilities as well. They need to know about using graphic design software such as Adobe inDesign, photoshop and illustrator as well as having expert teaching experience so they can picture what is going to work with classes. They also need to have extensive knowledge of whiteboard software because each slide then get put into this software ready for use.

At the Fun Music Company our head product developer works intensely at this stage. It’s around the clock work for weeks on end to bring all of it together.

Stage 3: Editing

This is the final, but also the most crucial stage to get right.

Our products are unlike loads of others because they are designed to go INSIDE whiteboard software. This means that you can edit, rearrange content, save where you are up to and use the pens as they should be used on the boards.
However, this also adds a big layer of complexity to our development process as we have to make sure that the content works beautifully in both of the platforms we support: SMART notebook for SMART boards, and Active Inspire for Promethean and all other types of whiteboards.

Now I know this sounds very basic to teachers who already use our products, but we believe that it’s an important part of the interactivity to use the functions that the whiteboard was made for. Loads of other resource companies don’t do it this way, because it requires so many options.

We also know that musical  terminology varies around the world, and users have different preferences on this, so we provide versions to suit these differences. You won’t find the terms ‘Crotchet’ or ‘Quaver’ in the US ready version, and similarly you won’t find the terms ‘Quarter Note or ‘Half Note’ in the European language version.

We also edit thoroughly and re-edit materials two to three times to help prevent errors. It is possible to update CD’s and materials, but because there are so many choices supplied on each CD, it takes a long time to update even a simple spelling error, so we try our best to get it right the first time. For this reason we have a great team of editors from people in the US, UK and Australia – who all know music teaching and how classes work.

So there you have it… that is our product development process.

We are always on the lookout for great content developers, so if you think you’ve got great skills in teaching plan preparation, songwriting and composing, plus you’re great with graphic layout software then please do get in touch with us – we’d love to talk to you!

2 Comments

  • By Jillian O’Reilly Reply

    Dear Janice
    I am a music teacher (primary) and have been teaching for many years. I have written songs and games which have proved very popular with the children I teach.
    Would you be interested in hearing them with a view to using them? I also worked in a piano bar for 25 years singing and playing piano. I have never had the time to do anything with my material before but have recently retired from the ‘entertainment’ scene.
    Kind regards
    Jillian O’Reilly

    • By kevin Reply

      Hi Jillian,

      Feel free to email me personally at [email protected] and we can discuss it further.
      Thanks,

      Janice

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