5 Steps for Successfully Incorporating a Sight-Reading App into Your Studio

Check out Anna Beth Rucker’s presentation at the NCKP 2023: The Piano Conference online event, How to Choose and Use Sight-Reading Apps to Enhance Student Learning Experience, on June 11, 2023 from 4:30-4:55PM. There’s still time to Register for NCKP 2023!

In recent years, sight-reading apps have quickly populated app stores and captured the minds of young learners. Not only are children more adept at using technology than ever before, they are drawn to interactive learning experiences. As teachers, this presents a motivating opportunity; however, effectively incorporating a new software into your studio can be overwhelming. With a tight teaching schedule, a flood of apps to choose from, and a studio of unique students to consider, where do you start? This post will provide a step-by-step guide for successfully incorporating a sight-reading app into your studio.

Step 1: Choose the Right App

The first step is to choose the app that is right for you and your students. To simplify this process, Irem Ozay and I are presenting a session titled, “How to Choose and Use Sight-Reading Apps” at the NCKP 2023 online conference. During the session, we will provide a breakdown of the six most useful sight-reading apps that will include their pros, cons, and features. In just twenty minutes, we will share everything you need to know to make an informed decision in choosing an app that aligns with your teaching goals and studio needs. You can register for the conference here.

Pro tip: If you aren’t able to make our session live, it will be archived until September 10, 2023 on the conference platform.

Step 2: Implement the App

1. Download and Test the App

While the initial steps of choosing and downloading the app may seem obvious, don’t overlook the significance of thoroughly exploring the app yourself. It’s crucial that you develop a complete understanding of the app, such as:

  • All the settings options
  • How it sequences lessons or exercises
  • What the student experience will be while using the app (and therefore what are reasonable expectations of use for the student)
  • The means of teacher involvement
  • If there are extra requirements for use (such as a MIDI-enabled keyboard) and how to set those up within and outside of the app
  • Billing procedures (where applicable)

Conducting thorough due diligence at this stage will make the rest of the implementation steps much easier.

2. Determine How You Will Use It in Your Studio

Next, it’s important to think about the logistics of incorporating the app into your studio. Will your students have a copy at home, or will you only have a copy at your studio? Further, determine when students will be expected to use the app: throughout the week, before lessons, during lessons, or at group classes. If you plan to use it in a group setting, will you need the app downloaded on multiple devices or will students each need to bring their own device? Plan to verify that your students have devices that meet the minimum device requirements for the app, and develop a contingency plan for any students who do not. 

Deciding how you plan to use the software within your studio will enable you to make efficient decisions for a quick implementation and to allocate time within your curriculum and lessons that utilizes the app to its full potential.

3. Decide How to Manage Costs

Regardless of the payment structure within the app, you will need to decide how to manage the fees. You may choose to consider it part of your students’ tuition, add it into your yearly studio book fee, or have the parents pay for it directly through the app.

Make sure parents are aware of the fee associated with the app, as well as how adding the app to your instructional plan will add long-term benefits and trackable progress to their child’s piano education.

4. Communicate with Parents

Clear communication with parents and students is the key to maximizing app effectiveness. For parents, make sure they understand the benefit of the sight-reading app and how it will serve to enhance their child’s learning experience. You can do this by explaining how the app integrates into your teaching philosophy and why you have determined it is a beneficial addition to your curriculum. Inform them of the billing information, the expectation of use throughout the week, and a few instructions on how to technically support their child while using the app. You may also provide for them a written version of these instructions, with links to appropriate app support pages for additional technical assistance. Remember to regularly update parents on their child’s progress—many apps make this easy through gamification and milestone settings. And, of course, address any questions or concerns parents may have throughout the process.

5. Communicate with Students

Lastly, dedicate time to familiarize your students with the app and clearly communicate your expectations. While this may initially take time away from other lesson activities, it is absolutely critical students understand the app and your expectations of use in order for them to receive the maximum benefits. The progress they will make will far outweigh the time invested in the initial setup. During this onboarding process, explain how you plan to use the app in their lessons or home practice, how often they are expected to use it, how to navigate the app, and how and when you will be tracking their progress. Encourage them to explore the app and to have fun! Your enthusiasm and support during these early stages will influence their attitude as they adapt to this new learning tool.

If you take the time to implement a sight-reading app into your studio following these steps, you will experience a seamless addition of a powerful new teaching tool in your studio and will be well on your way to seeing the objective, trackable progress sight-reading apps are able to provide. Happy sight reading!

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