Definition: The prefix "inter" means between so interaction is action between two entities. Interactivity is not necessarily confined to computers. "Interactivity in the classroom implies that teachers and students collaborate in the learning process. They discuss and come to agreements about goals, aspirations, abilities, interests, activities, and evaluation." (1)


"Schwier and Misanchuk (1993) introduced a descriptive taxonomy on multimedia interaction based on the qualitative nature of interaction." (2) It has three dimensions which are:

  1. The level of interaction.
  2. The function of the interaction.
  3. The transaction at each level of the interaction.

The level of interaction was also further defined into:

Software is considered to be interactive when the user can control what is accessed in a non-linear way. Starting and stopping a VHS video cassette would be considered linear. The majority of interactive software and web sites fit into this first category of reactive. There is plenty of merit and potential within this category as the direct feedback or responses from the computer help keep the user engaged. "With the elaborated immediate feedback in the learning process, students can interact more with the learning content, process it more deeply, and perform better, which confirms the belief that the higher the interaction level, the better the instruction." (3)

The subsequent categories of proactive and mutual have yet to be fully realised as areas like artificial intelligence are still in their infancy.

There are two additional animations which I have made since the original six were shown to the viewers. These were made possible through funding for time release through Knowledge Bank. One deals with reading notes off the Treble Clef which is listed and explained in the Research methodology section. The other deals with key signatures.

The key signature animation

The following key signature animation was deliberately designed to be interactive. By allowing the user to play around with the different buttons, they will immediately notice that the number of accidentals (sharps (#) and flats (b)) changes for each key signature. This would be classified as a learning environment.

The use of colour was carefully considered. I used four different colours for certain components of the animation. These colours were then used as separate help functions using the term "Learn more."

Red was for the number of accidental which relates to the Major scale.

Green was for the layout which was the Circle of 5ths.

Pink was for the Relative minor.

Blue was for the intervals involved.

From a technical point of view it is also worth noting that this animation is 15 times smaller than the second smallest animation in this thesis. This is because it remained as a Flash (Shockwave) file instead of being transferred to video. No video was required as there was no voice-over to sync to.

The ensemble animation

I have continued to come up with ideas for more musical animations and most of them are Flash based, interactive animations. As this is beyond the limits of this thesis, they will be completed later as further study but I will explain two of them here as they incorporate some interesting teaching dynamics. Unlike my initial animations which explicitly taught musical theory using a voice-over, the following animation idea develops critical and aural skills in the format of a game which I have titled ensemble.

The inspiration for this game came from the following animation of the singing horses. (4) The idea of this is to get all of the horses to sing together by clicking them on and off.

Although this animation was made for its novelty and fun value, there are some other skills at work here. The program (and horses) never tell the user if they are doing a good job or not. Because the horses sing phrases of various length, there is actually skill involved in triggering the horses so that they sound good together. Even if the phrases were all of the same length, there would still be skill involved in making sure that they are in time together.

My favourite component of this animation is that computer latency is no longer a problem. Latency is the delay that each has when processing and this varies depending on the speed and settings on each user's computer. Because the user learns to compensate for any triggering delays when turning the horses on and off, the latency is essentially overcome.

My ideas for the ensemble animation is as follows:

As ensemble means group, the first setting the user would specify is the size of the ensemble. By selecting duo, trio or quartet, the user would soon learn these terms although all of this learning would be incidental.

The next setting would be the style of music for the ensemble to play.
  1. Rhythm Guitar
  2. Drums
  3. Bass
  4. Lead Guitar
  1. Double Bass
  2. Drums
  3. Piano
  4. Sax
  1. Piano
  2. Bass
  3. Drums
  4. Trumpet
  1. 1st Violin
  2. Cello
  3. Viola
  4. 2nd Violin
  1. Bass
  2. Drums
  3. Piano
  4. Trumpet
  1. Drums
  2. Bass
  3. Keyboard
  4. Piano

These buttons would cause the various instruments to appear as pictures which would be turned on and off like the horses. e.g. If the user selected Trio and Latin, they would get Piano, Bass and Drums. The instrumental samples used would reflect the chosen style and fit together accordingly.

The virtual drum kit animation

One final animation I would like to explain is called the virtual drum kit. (This is another one I plan to make at a later date). The idea is to show a drum kit on the screen and have various keys on the computer keyboard assigned to each drum. The layout of the keys would reflect the layout of actual drums where you have the bass drum at the front such as the space bar. When the user hits these keys the various drums are sounded. Each graphic could vibrate briefly so there is also a visual correspondence. The benefits of the virtual drum kit are:

  1. Developing actual musical skills. I was once involved in the production of an audio CD of drum backing tracks for other musicians to play along with. The majority of these tracks were created by playing them on a sampler where the various drum sounds were on the keyboard notes.
  2. There are various levels of accuracy that could be developed. The initial coordination and understanding of various rhythms would suffice on its own merits. The next step could be to play along with other music.
  3. As the computer is monitoring the keyboard input, an analysis of the input could be provided to shown if the user is playing on, before or after the beat. Each of these options is important in developing an understanding of musical feel.

Recommendation: The principle of engagement: people like options.

I have called this recommendation the principle of engagement. Even if the options are predetermined by the teacher, these options encourage students to commence an activity with their brains in gear. Providing learners with options helps them to make decisions. People need to gain experience in making decisions as decision making is one of the most important skills a person can develop. Such experience in decision making will help prevent people falling into procrastination and inefficiency.

Multimedia enhancements

Another way to utilise interactive technology is through multimedia enhancements. In a school in Boston, children read digital books using a program called "Thinking Reader". (5) A cartoon genie appears at various times to prompt the reader to stop and make predictions about the plot or summarise what has happened.

The following style menu is from an earlier draft of enable guitar. When you hover the mouse over one of the buttons, a picture of a guitar typical of that style replaces the word. In this way, most multimedia enhancements can be used to reinforce learning.

Style Menu


(1) Hackbarth (1996:229)

(2) Gao (2003:369)

(3) Gao (2003:383)


(5) Gordon (2003:79)

Main menu