As a music educator in South Los Angeles, I am always looking for innovative trends to educate, empower and inspire. With music being limited in our educational system, the only access many kids have is sadly through the same 10 songs that are in heavy rotation on the radio. In contrast, schools and communities that are fortunate enough to integrate music and arts education are developing youth who are more likely to be academically aligned, aiming for higher academic and personal goals and have an appreciation and respect for culture and diversity. I'm sure I don't have to be redundant in citing the statistics of high school dropout rates, gang activity, incarceration, etc., among youth without access to the arts.
A few years ago, I stumbled upon Silicon Valley based app creators Smule, most notably recognized for creating the most cutting edge apps available. "Magic Piano," "Ocarina," "I Am T-Pain," an auto-tune app and "Glee," have been among the most popular with millions of downloads. Co-founders Ge Wang and Jeff Smith are both highly respected in their field. Wang, a Stanford professor and Smith, a Stanford Ph.D. candidate, are not only brilliant, but incredibly clued-in to inspiring creativity through music and having fun in the process. I invited Turner Kirk aka "The Mule" from Smule to visit my classroom and demonstrate a few popular apps for the iPhone and iPad. My objective was to peak the interest in some of my most uninspired students as well as to show them that their teacher was kind of 'cool' and 'in-touch.' The results of the workshop were astounding. Even my most stubborn students who were learning music against their own will took interest and benefited from instant gratification, which is of utmost importance.
Keeping in touch with Smule and following the app giant over the years, I was thrilled to learn about their acquisition of Atlanta based app firm, Khush and the launch of several new cutting-edge apps. Enter Prerna Gupta, an amazingly brilliant young woman, CEO of Khush and app inventor who is responsible for probably what will be the hottest app to the hit the market for some time. AutoRap has the capacity to take anything that can be spoken and create patterns that are stretched into a rhtyhmic grid. Not only is speech turned into rap, but there are a variety of very cool original beats and popular rap songs to chose from. What is most amazing about this app is the duality it holds in the capacity of entertainment and education. I had the opportunity to speak with Prerna who shared with me that AutoRap is actively used as a learning tool.
Here is a bit more of what Prerna had to say:
It's incredibly exciting to see teachers around the country using AutoRap as a tool for education. They find that the entertaining "rappification" technology helps students memorize new concepts, such as multiplication tables and even complicated math formulas, and make otherwise drab assignments naturally engaging. Many teachers have also said that AutoRap has provided them the ability to connect with students in their own world, and come across as uncommonly cool!
So, could AutoRap be a missing link? Most kids I know can sing the lyrics to any song without even thinking. Here's where this concept can become interesting. Simply recording a lesson in multiplication, science, history or art into AutoRap turns the assignment into an interactive exercise that can be memorized as easily as a track from Carly Rae Jepson, Bruno Mars or Taylor Swift. Could the integration of AutoRap revolutionize basic learning, audio and cognitive skills as well as increase GPAs across the board? I'm looking forward to circling back to this subject very soon.
Check out AutoRap.