Noah Keitel has been a music educator for many years. His business partner, Dan Flies, is a longtime musician. So when the two set out to create an app that would streamline music lessons and make life easier for teachers, they knew exactly what needs they wanted to address.
It’s been eight years since they launched the initial version of LessonLogs, a cloud-based web app that helps teachers and students collaboratively organize practices and lesson plans. A newly updated free version was released in August, and has racked up some 800 new users already.
“It’s a fast and easy tool for music educators that addresses methodology flaws that are decades old,” says Keitel.
The functionality of LessonLogs doesn’t involve actual music recording. Instead, it is a digital lesson plan organizer that can be accessed by both the instructor and student, allowing for increased communication, more extensive feedback and far less paper waste.
“We both have a lot of insight into music education and what makes it tick,” says Keitel, “so we can cater the interface very specifically to be easy for music educators to use.”
Keitel thinks back to his days as a music student, 25 years ago, when the standard procedure was to turn in paper slips signed by his parents indicating he’d completed his practice assignments. In the LessonLogs environment, students can log in and enter their practice details into the system, specifically describing what they worked on and commenting on where they may have struggled.
It was the outdated practice slip system, which Keitel calls “worthless,” that became an impetus for the LessonLogs app, but the app has grown to encompass many administrative aspects of teaching that can bog down an instructor’s day. New features added in this latest version include group scheduling and attendance tracking.
A web developer for a New Jersey-based non-profit in his day job, Keitel did most of the programming for the app himself, building around PHP, MySQL and jQuery. LessonLogs supports nearly every browser and the new version was designed with mobile compatibility in mind.
While the software is in its present beta stage it is free to use. Keitel mentions that at some point they may have to monetize it to keep it running but insists that those costs will be minimal because the app is web-based.
Down the line, he and Flies would like LessonLogs to evolve so that it can adapt to different learning styles, such as visual versus auditory or small-picture versus big-picture.
“That’s something that’s addressed pretty well in other academic areas such as math, science and history. Teachers with smaller class sizes are able to address student needs a lot better, and it’s something that’s kind of been overlooked in music.”
With a digital app that streamlines an instructor’s numerous tasks, the path to better and more personalized music education now seems clearer than ever.