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Teaching music online in the pandemic has yielded creative surprises, like mixing ‘Blob Opera’ and beatboxing

From incoroporating video-based performances to learning new composition apps, teaching students virtually has forced music educators to learn and share new ways to reach students.

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Blob Opera, developed by Google and AI artist David Li, lets students manipulate a soprano, alto, tenor and bass quartet of blobs. (YoutTube/Google Arts & Culture)

Learning to make music is a full mind-and-body activity. Whether teaching how to play a musical instrument, or how to sing, teachers rely on learners’ physical cues to help them progress — cues that are often obscured either by watching someone on a screen or listening through a microphone. As a music educator, I’d hazard that few school music teachers would opt to teach their students remotely.

However, as many teachers and students have discovered in the last two years of on-and-off virtual school, music lessons during the pandemic have unearthed some pleasant surprises.

Going online has forced music educators to adapt existing ideas, or adopt existing technology, to discover, invent and share ways to reach students to keep music education alive.

Instrument-free music

During the pandemic, most school-based music teachers have faced the challenge that elementary students don’t have access to instruments at home. This often leaves online tools as the default. As school budgets are always stretched, it’s important for programs to be very inexpensive or preferably free.

At the elementary level, students can enjoy and learn from apps such as Incredibox, where students can explore beatboxing, combining rhythms and sound effects to create unique pieces. Beatboxing musicians who create complete musical works manipulating their breathing, mouths and throats inspired this tool’s development.

Or teachers can introduce students to choral exploration in Blob Opera, a “machine learning model trained on the voices of four opera singers,” developed by Google and AI artist David Li. In Blob Opera, students manipulate four operatic blobs — a soprano, alto, tenor and bass quartet — and can have them sing a variety of pieces on global stages. Students can “take the blobs on tour” where they might sing a Korean folk song in Seoul, or a piece by composer Erik Satie in Paris.

‘Making Blob Opera with David Li,’ video by Google Arts & Culture.

On various platforms, students are able to share their creations live with teachers and classmates. I’ve found that when we introduce technology to students, they often take it in unexpected directions. One student I was teaching set up a rhythm on Incredibox and left that window open and playing to accompany a Blob Opera set: not an obvious musical pairing but a wonderfully creative one.

Learning from home with instruments

Even before the pandemic, some music researchers were interested in helping educators overcome hurdles with teaching instrumental music online and how online lessons could benefit children in rural locations. However, singing and playing instruments online comes with its own set of technological issues, the most prominent of which is time lag — what some of my students refer to as “glitchiness.”

A boy with a clarinet looking at a screen.
Technological issues can make for some frustrations with virtual instrumental music instruction. (Shutterstock)

However, research conducted during the pandemic suggests that teaching students how to play instruments online can offer music teachers the chance to redefine curriculum, set new goals for students and consider new criteria for evaluation.

For students who have access to instruments at home, music teachers can use a flexible accompaniment app like SmartMusic. Without altering pitch (a critical capability), students can change playback speeds, manipulate the nature of accompaniment they hear, activate a metronome and even click on individual notes in a score to show the fingering and sound of the note for specific instruments.

This program costs money, but schools are able to purchase site licenses, thus making the resource accessible to more students.


Read more: Investing in technologies for student learning: 4 principles school boards and parents should consider


Sound exploration

Google’s Chrome Music Lab suite offers learning for K-8 students. Younger children can explore rhythm, or teachers and students can explore melody, harmony, form, duration, rhythm, timbre and tempo to compose relatively complex electronica, save projects and submit them for assessment.

At the secondary level, teachers can encourage students to explore and collaborate on Bandlab, a program akin to Apple’s Garageband. Students can compose pieces using standard western notation on the web-based Noteflight — especially accessible because it requires no downloads or sharing of personal information.

Some online offerings promote healthy movement at home. Ollie Tunmer, British body percussionist and former STOMP cast member, hosts professional development for teachers and short lessons for kids.

Body percussionist Ollie Tunmer leads an online lesson.

Other teachers have posted clips exploring form and movement in music, based on techniques from an approach to teaching rhythmic movement, listening and embodied music intuition known as Dalcroze Eurythmics and subsequent work by early childhood music educator John Feierabend.

Making music education more inclusive

Aside from making music at home accessible for many students, online learning that focuses more on pop music, electronica and rhythm-heavy musics tends to shift the curricular emphasis away from predominantly western art music like “classical” genres.

Music researcher Margaret Walker examines how music education in the West has traditionally advanced European exceptionalism and cultural superiority. Walker is one of many music educators promoting music education that reflects the cultural diversity of learners. Music education researcher Lucy Green found that students who have more choice about their own repertoires are more successful and stay with music longer.

Revising music curricula to be more inclusive may involve both introducing new forms of music, but also repositioning canonical artists like Mozart and Bach within a broader musical context to allow entry and success for more learners.


Read more: Handel's 'Messiah' today: How classical music is contending with its colonial past and present


Learning about music

Music curriculum calls not just for making music but also learning about music. Online read alouds, — narrated stories accompanied with music — existed before the pandemic but likely became even more useful in remote contexts. Favourites of my students include Sergei Prokofiev’s 1936 composition Peter and The Wolf and the 2015 children’s book Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews.

Actor Angela Bassett reads ‘Trombone Shorty.’

Music educators and students also benefit from the isolation-inspired composite style videos such as the Kingston Youth Orchestra’s performance of Cold Play’s “Viva La Vida,” especially when students cannot currently attend live performances.

For younger children, Evan Mitchell, conductor of the Kingston Symphony, launched a children’s online music series, Harmon in Space! The series sees Harmon, a fuzzy dog puppet, isolated on a spaceship. Harmon’s limited social contact happens via online chats with musical friends — members of the Kingston Symphony. The first episode has over 11,000 views on YouTube. When I interviewed Mitchell, he said he has received many letters from children concerned for Harmon’s safe return to Earth.

No one wants remote music education to become the norm for most students. But the creative minds who have made it feasible, fun and often productive have given us unexpected gifts and welcome strains of beauty amidst global noise.

Robbie MacKay does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Economics

New Work Foundation Index reveals UK workers suffering most from insecure employment

New in-depth analysis of UK job market data reveals women, disabled people, ethnic minorities and young workers have been consistently trapped in insecure…

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New in-depth analysis of UK job market data reveals women, disabled people, ethnic minorities and young workers have been consistently trapped in insecure employment over the last twenty years.

Credit: Work Foundation

New in-depth analysis of UK job market data reveals women, disabled people, ethnic minorities and young workers have been consistently trapped in insecure employment over the last twenty years.

The Work Foundation, a leading think-tank dedicated to improving work in the UK, today launches its new ‘UK Insecure Work Index’ that details the prevalence of in-work insecurity felt by workers across the UK, and reveals how this insecurity has changed over the last two decades.

Using ONS labour market data from 2000 to 2021, the Work Foundation index focuses on three elements that can constitute insecurity at work – employment contracts, personal finances and access to workers’ rights.

Results reveal four groups of workers consistently trapped in the most severe category of in-work insecurity over the last twenty years, which has affected 20-25% of workers every year on average and an estimated 6.2 million employees just last year:

  • Young workers who are two and half times more likely to be in severely insecure work than those in the middle of their working lives (43% of 16-24-year olds vs. 17% of 25-65-year olds)
  • Women who are 10% more likely to be in severely insecure work than men (25% compared to 15%)
  • Ethnic minority workers are more likely to be in severely insecure work than white workers (24% versus 19%). Men from ethnic minority backgrounds are 10% more likely to experience severely insecure work compared to white men (23% versus 13%)
  • Disabled workers who are 6% more likely to suffer severely insecure work, compared to non-disabled workers (25% compared to 19%).

Data also reveals the sectors most at risk of severe in-work insecurity are hospitality, services and agriculture, which see one in three workers affected, compared to one in five nationally.

Ben Harrison, Director of the Work Foundation at Lancaster University, said, “At a time of a cost of living crisis, those in insecure and low paid work are among the groups at most risk. Wages have stagnated and while millions more people may be in employment, the quality and security of the jobs they are in often means they are unable to make ends meet.”

Job market data captured during the pandemic demonstrates that those in severely insecure work face the biggest risks in a crisis. During Covid-19, these workers were at greater risk of losing their jobs, were ten times more likely to receive no sick pay, were more likely to lose out on support through furlough or other schemes.

 “Our analysis shows that job insecurity is impacting certain groups more than others – in particular if you are a young person, a woman in work, from an ethnic minority background or have disabilities, you are more likely to experience severe insecurity in work,” Harrison continues. “With the Bank of England predicting inflation could potentially rise to 10% by the end of 2022, workers may be facing the largest real-term wage cut we’ve seen in generations.”

Former Chair of the Social Mobility Commission, Rt Hon. Alan Milburn, said: “The challenges facing millions of UK families due to job insecurity, low pay and lack of full-time work shouldn’t be underestimated. As the country faces the worst cost of living crisis in living memory, it is clear that more urgently needs to be done.

 “Social mobility has stagnated over recent decades and the UK Insecure Work Index confirms that severely insecure work significantly reduces people’s chances of escaping poverty. It is a stark reminder of the need to focus on access to more secure, better paid and higher quality jobs if we are to truly level-up the UK.”

TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, welcomed the UK Insecure Work Index. She said: “Up and down the country, millions are trapped in jobs that have wildly unpredictable hours, low pay, and limited rights.

“For years working people were promised improved rights and protections. But ministers have now shelved the Employment Bill, which they said would help make Britain the best place in the world to work. 

 “Instead of tackling insecure work, ministers have sat on their hands and allowed it to flourish. In the midst of a cost-of-living emergency, it’s more important than ever that the government clamps down on low-paid precarious work.

“The time for excuses is over. We need to see government action to boost workers’ rights and end exploitative practices like zero hours contracts.”

Lord Gavin Barwell, Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister (2017-19) said: “Today for the first time ever, we have fewer people out of work than job vacancies. But, if low unemployment is a UK success story, the government and employers now face two challenges. First, how do we encourage people back into the market to meet the demand for labour? And second, how do we improve the security of those jobs and thereby level up the country?

“This timely report provides recommendations for what the government can do to improve security while maintaining the benefits of the UK’s current approach. The government is on the search for ways to use the regulatory freedom we now enjoy outside the EU: building on the success of the UK economy in creating jobs by ensuring those jobs are secure in the broadest sense of the word would be a great place to start.”

Ben Harrison adds: “In the immediate term, the Chancellor must raise Universal Credit in line with predicted inflation to ensure support through this cost of living crisis is targeted to those in low-paid and insecure work.

“And while plans for an Employment Bill that could have addressed many of these issues appear to have been shelved, the fact remains Government cannot hope to deliver on its ambition to Level Up the country without driving up employment standards and increasing the number of higher quality, better paid and more secure jobs on offer.”

The launch of the UK Insecure Work Index is the benchmark for the Work Foundation’s Insecure Work Research Programme, which aims to produce timely insights on insecure work in the UK going forward.

The UK Insecure Work Index report is published and available in full on the Work Foundation’s website on 26 May 2022: www.theworkfoundation.com.             

Ends


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Economics

5 Top Consumer Stocks To Watch Right Now

Are these consumer stocks a buy amid the earnings season?
The post 5 Top Consumer Stocks To Watch Right Now appeared first on Stock Market News, Quotes,…

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5 Trending Consumer Stocks To Watch In The Stock Market Now         

As we tread through the earnings season, consumer stocks could be worth watching in the stock market this week. This would be the case since a number of big consumer names such as Costco (NASDAQ: COST) and Macy’s (NYSE: M) will be posting their financials for the quarter. As such, investors will be keeping an eye on these reports for clues on the strength of consumer spending amid this period of high inflation.

However, despite the soaring prices across the economy, it seems that consumers are surprisingly showing resilience. According to the Commerce Department, retail sales in April outpaced inflation for a fourth straight month. This could suggest that consumers as a whole were not only sustaining their spending, but spending more even after adjusting for inflation. Ultimately, it could be a reassuring sign that consumers are still supporting the economy and helping to diminish the narrative of an incoming recession. With that being said, here are five consumer stocks to check out in the stock market today.

Consumer Stocks To Buy [Or Sell] Right Now

Nordstrom

retail stocks (JWN stock)

Starting off our list of consumer stocks today is Nordstrom. For the most part, it is a fashion retailer of full-line luxury apparel, footwear, accessories, and cosmetics among others. The company operates through multiple retail channels, boutiques, and online as well. As it stands, Nordstrom operates around 100 stores in 32 states in the U.S. and three Canadian provinces.

Yesterday, the company reported its financials for the first quarter of 2022. Starting with revenue, Nordstrom pulled in net sales worth $3.47 million for the quarter. This marks an increase of 18.7% from the same quarter last year. Its Nordstrom banner saw net sales rise by 23.5% year-over-year, exceeding pre-pandemic levels. Next to that, its Nordstrom Rack banner saw a 10.3% increase in net sales from last year. Besides, net earnings were $20 million, with earnings per share of $0.13 for the quarter. Considering Nordstrom’s solid quarter, should you invest in JWN stock?

[Read More] Best Stocks To Invest In Right Now? 5 Value Stocks To Watch This Week

The Wendy’s Company

best consumer stocks (WEN stock)

Next up, we have The Wendy’s Company. For the most part, it is the holding company for the major fast-food chain, Wendy’s. Being one of the world’s largest hamburger fast-food chains, the company boasts over 6,500 restaurants in the U.S. and 29 other countries. The chain is known for its square hamburgers, sea salt fries, and the Frosty, a form of soft-serve ice cream mixed with starches. WEN stock is rising by over 8% on today’s opening bell.

According to an SEC filing, Wendy’s largest shareholder, Trian Partners, is looking into making a potential deal with the company. Trian said that it is considering a deal to “enhance shareholder value.” Also, the firm adds that this could lead to an acquisition or business combination. In response, Wendy’s stated that it is constantly reviewing strategic priorities and opportunities. It added that the company’s board will carefully review any proposal from Trian. Given this piece of news, will you be watching WEN stock?

[Read More] 4 Semiconductor Stocks To Watch In The Stock Market Today

Foot Locker

FL stock

Another stock investors could be watching is the shoes and apparel company, Foot Locker. In brief, the company uses its omnichannel capabilities to bridge the digital world and physical stores. As such, it provides buy online and pickup-in-store services, order-in-store, as well as the growing trend of e-commerce. Some of its most notable brands include Eastbay, Footaction, Foot Locker, Champs Sports, and Sidestep. Last week, the company reported its results for the first quarter of the year.

For starters, total sales came in at $2.175 billion, a slight uptick compared to sales of $2.153 billion in the year prior. Next to that, Foot Locker reported a net income of $133 million. Accordingly, adjusted earnings per share came in at $1.60, beating Wall Street’s expectations of $1.54. CEO Richard Johnson added, “Our progress in broadening and enriching our assortment continues to meet our customers’ demand for choice. These efforts helped drive our strong results in the first quarter, which will allow us to more fully participate in the robust growth of our category going forward.”  As such, is FL stock one to add to your watchlist? 

Tyson Foods 

TSN stock

Tyson Foods is a company that built its name on providing families with wholesome and great-tasting protein products. Its segments include Beef, Pork, Chicken, and Prepared Foods. With some of the fastest-growing portfolio of protein-centric brands, it should not be surprising that TSN stock often comes to mind when investors are looking for the best consumer stocks to buy. 

Earlier this month, Tyson Foods provided its fiscal second-quarter financial update. The company’s total sales for the quarter were $13.1 billion, representing an increase of 15.9% compared to the prior year’s quarter. Meanwhile, its GAAP earnings per share climbed to $2.28, up 75% year-over-year. According to Tyson, these financial figures are a reflection of the increasing consumer demand for its brands and products. To top it off, the company was also able to reduce its total debt by approximately $1 billion. Thus, does TSN stock have a spot on your watchlist?

[Read More] Stock Market Today: Dow Jones, S&P 500 Rise, Wendy’s Stock Gains On Potential Deal

DoorDash

food delivery stocks (DASH Stock)

DoorDash is a consumer company that operates an online food ordering and delivery platform. In fact, it is one of the largest delivery companies in the U.S. and enjoys a huge market share. The company connects hundreds of thousands of merchants to over 25 million consumers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Japan through its local logistics platform. Accordingly, its platform allows local businesses to thrive in today’s “convenience economy,” as the company puts it.

On May 5, the company reported its first-quarter financials for 2022. Diving in, it posted a revenue of $1.5 billion, growing by 35% year-over-year. This was driven by total orders that grew by 23% year-over-year to $404 million. Along with that, it reported a GAAP gross profit of $662 million, an increase of 34% year-over-year. The company said that it added more consumers than any quarter since Q1 2021, due in part to the growth of its DashPass members. The growth in Monthly Active Users and average order frequency has helped it gain share in the U.S. Food Delivery category this quarter as well. Given DoorDash’s performance for the quarter, should you watch DASH stock?

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The post 5 Top Consumer Stocks To Watch Right Now appeared first on Stock Market News, Quotes, Charts and Financial Information | StockMarket.com.

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Economics

Philly Fed: State Coincident Indexes Increased in 50 States in April

From the Philly Fed: The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia has released the coincident indexes for the 50 states for April 2022. Over the past three months, the indexes increased in all 50 states, for a three-month diffusion index of 100. Additiona…

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From the Philly Fed:
The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia has released the coincident indexes for the 50 states for April 2022. Over the past three months, the indexes increased in all 50 states, for a three-month diffusion index of 100. Additionally, in the past month, the indexes increased in all 50 states, for a one-month diffusion index of 100. For comparison purposes, the Philadelphia Fed has also developed a similar coincident index for the entire United States. The Philadelphia Fed’s U.S. index increased 1.1 percent over the past three months and 0.3 percent in April.
emphasis added
Note: These are coincident indexes constructed from state employment data. An explanation from the Philly Fed:
The coincident indexes combine four state-level indicators to summarize current economic conditions in a single statistic. The four state-level variables in each coincident index are nonfarm payroll employment, average hours worked in manufacturing by production workers, the unemployment rate, and wage and salary disbursements deflated by the consumer price index (U.S. city average). The trend for each state’s index is set to the trend of its gross domestic product (GDP), so long-term growth in the state’s index matches long-term growth in its GDP.
Click on map for larger image.

Here is a map of the three-month change in the Philly Fed state coincident indicators. This map was all red during the worst of the Pandemic and also at the worst of the Great Recession.

The map is all positive on a three-month basis.

Source: Philly Fed.

Philly Fed Number of States with Increasing ActivityAnd here is a graph is of the number of states with one month increasing activity according to the Philly Fed. 

This graph includes states with minor increases (the Philly Fed lists as unchanged).

In April all 50 states had increasing activity including minor increases.

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