Name: Josh Ottum
School: University of California, Irvine
Current title: TA Music Dept/MFA Integration of Composition Improvisation and Technology
Selected accolades: Composer/Musician w/ works featured on NPR, MTV. Several international tours.
What is your role at your school?
Music teaching assistant. I’ve taught traditional music theory class, a class on the Beatles and a general introduction to music. Students range from undergraduate music majors to non-majors looking to fulfill a fine arts requirement. I provide feedback on everything from essays to sound collages to music theory.
What is the best part of your job?
The flexibility of our program allows me great creative freedom to teach music in highly integrative ways. The ICIT program is unique in its openness to students from various musical backgrounds. Some composers/educators in our program display a fluency in advanced sound/video software such as MaxMSP, Jitter and Supercollider. Others focus on traditional ways of composition using antiquated analog synths and acoustic instruments. The point of the program is to bring the three core elements (composition/improv/technology) into a relevant dialogue.
From where do you draw professional inspiration? How do you stay connected and grow as an educator?
I draw inspiration from many friends in the music world. I like the being informed by the contrast of creative people in and out of the academic world. I am able to stay connected and grow as an educator by engaging the faculty at UC Irvine in an ongoing conversation of the successful use of technology in the classroom. Dr. Chris Dobrian, director of the Gassmann Electronic Music Studio and the Realtime Experimental Audio Laboratory, is an example of an educator who successfully incorporates the technology he teaches into his work as a composer.
For a teacher looking to use technology to connect with students, enhance learning or embrace 21st century skills, where do you suggest one begin?
Engage students in a dialogue about how they use technology, what role it fills in their learning process and what software/interfaces/modes of communication are most effective for them. This helps us speak the language of our students. Educators must not be afraid to ask for help. It can be a common scenario for students to have more understanding of a particular piece of technology than their instructors. If this is the case, instructors can challenge students to intelligently articulate their experience with the technology and give them opportunities to share their knowledge with other students, so that they themselves can learn through teaching.