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PhD Student Seminar: PracticeCactus – A Mobile App for Piano Students and Teachers

Mon, April 25, 2016 @ 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm

Presenter: Heather Birch, PhD candidate, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education


PracticeCactus is a mobile app created through the Participatory Design (PD) process for use by private piano teachers and their students to enhance and augment independent piano practice between weekly lessons. Stakeholders in the design process included one researcher, 22 piano students ages 7 through 17, three piano teachers, and three programmers. In response to students’ feelings of isolation and boredom during independent piano practice, a virtual pet cactus was designed which “listens” and responds to student practice. Self-determination theory is used to frame the motivational structure for the app (Ryan & Deci, 2000; Ryan, Rigby, Przybylski, 2006). PracticeCactus also includes a web portal for teachers to access detailed information about students’ practice history. These data can be used by teachers to inform student-centred approaches to piano teaching such as “listening as pedagogy,” (Gouzouasis & Ryu, 2015) and teaching for critical and creative agency (Allsup, 2010).


Heather Birch is a third year PhD student in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. She is in the Knowledge Media Design Collaborative Program, with a particular interest in Participatory Design. She has completed degrees in Philosophy (BA), Religious Studies (BRS), Piano Performance (ARCT), and Education (BEd, MA). Her teaching experience includes ten years of music, drama, dance, and visual art among Kindergarten through Grade 8 students, as well as graduate courses about integrating technology in the classroom and teaching the Arts. Heather’s research interests include connected and inclusive arts education, participatory digital media practices, gamification of learning environments, and assessment.


Mon, April 25, 2016
3:30 pm - 4:30 pm
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Room 728, Bissell Building
140 St. George St
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G6 Canada
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