Now Available in the iTunes Store

Steward students partner with local app developer to launch a visual music app for iPad.

By: Tom Gallo, Upper School physics and Innovation Studies teacher and Steward’s constructivist for design and engagement, and Steve Van Dam, founder and CEO of Light the Music

Mini-xylophones, bongo drums, tambourines, and a tiny pair of maracas spread out on a piano key carpet. Students gathered and ready to perform: musicians, artists…computer coders? Suddenly, this is not the typical image of a Lower School music classroom, but that was the scene this past November at the Fine Arts Hackathon.

Fast forward to six months later, and ideas that started during that November Hackathon are now a reality. Presenting, the first of its kind, the “ORO Steward” app—now available in the iTunes App Store.

Working in partnership with local app developer Light the Music, a group of Steward students created this app. Like Light the Music’s original ORO Visual Music app (which has been downloaded thousands of times from the iTunes store), ORO Steward combines visual animations and sounds on a touchscreen canvas. Users compose their own music with a synesthetic tie to the accompanying graphics. This time, however, the “instruments” weren’t created by professionalsthey were created by our students.

Developing Modern Knowledge

By participating in this project, students at The Steward School were given the opportunity to learn with technology in a way that will help prepare them for their future. At Steward, we regularly integrate technology education with lessons about other academic subjects to help students understand its real-world applications. The perpetual growth of technology and the significant need for qualified software developers mean that authentic student experiences are more valuable than ever.1

With the help of Steve Van Dam, founder and CEO of Light the Music, this ORO Steward app development project has engaged our students in computer programming, digital production, entrepreneurship, problem solving, collaborative work, and design thinking. These are essential modern knowledge skills that will help our students stand out and thrive in their lives today and in the workplace of tomorrow.

The ORO Steward app project began last fall, when a group of juniors in my Innovation Studies Seminar met with local entrepreneurs and design thinking experts to develop a vision for the first-ever Steward Fine Arts Hackathon. Their goal was to create their own version of the ORO Visual Music app, which would merge the typically creative student skills of musical and visual arts with the analytical skill of coding. These students formed a “Hackathon Leadership Team,” which met regularly. Students became specialists with interests in project management, creative and technical direction, and musical production. This student team would ultimately lead a project that took nearly 50 students and faculty on a journey well outside the traditional classroom.

Tangible Results from Constructivist Methods

At the Fine Arts Hackathon in November, third- through twelfth-grade students participated in the four-hour event, which included Agile-style “sprints” that challenged student teams to create digital instruments with sounds and visuals. Students were organized into diverse teams of artists, musicians, and coders—merging individual creativity with collaborative design just like startups do in the real world.

Following the November Hackathon, a small team of dedicated students gathered to finish the work of the entire ORO Steward team. Seventh-grade student Claire Patterson acted as our art director. With her meticulous graphic design skills and unerring eye for visuals, she managed all visual selections within the app. Junior Xzavier Caldwell maintained his executive role as music director from start to finish, creating the futuristic sounds of this app from creative direction through final mix. Finally, fifth-grade student Ryan Copeland acted as our technical director. With his unquenchable thirst for code, he got up to his elbows in Apple’s Xcode, the very bones of the ORO app. Then, once the app was built, he hardcoded the app’s website in HTML, ‘just for fun.’

Mr. Van Dam sees the ORO Steward app as a shining example of student creativity, ingenuity, and countless hours of what start-ups call ‘sweat equity’: “This is STEAM. And innovation. On a touchscreen. This is not practice, or a mock-up. This is the real app the Steward students built. And not just built—concepted, designed, played, recorded, hacked, drew, painted, organized, collaborated, photographed, harmonized, troubleshooted, edited, graphic AND sound designed, and yes, even coded. It has become a learning tool, a working, worldwide distributed toolkit to be deconstructed and re-imaginedfrom the business models to the intricacies of the text-based code. Individual students with a passion for technology got real-world experience in the processes by which an idea becomes a product. Whether this ORO Steward app that we made sees hundreds of downloads, or millions, the skills learned and the growth that occurred inside the students are undeniable.”

Making Change through Innovation and Inspiration

The future of education and our children’s path through life will be characterized by an integrated view of collaborative creativity. Success in our vocational lives requires teamwork, empathy, and breadth of understanding. We all realize the need for combining our own various talents with the diverse skills of our peers. So inevitably, the silos of education must break down as we align the way we teach with the way our students will need to work as adults. Instead of focusing only on traditional knowledge, “students should be encouraged to consider distinctions, systems, relationships, and perspectives.Those of us in education may need to embrace disruptive methodology proven in business, while technology leaders may become innovators in the world of fashion. Musicians, artists, and even computer coders can (and will) work together to innovate in ways we can’t yet predict. Our job, as a community of educators, is to give our students opportunities to practice.

Click here to read more about the creation of the ORO Steward app, and to learn about a contest hosted by the app development team! 

Steve Van Dam is a lean music expert, drawing on his 25-year career as a music business entrepreneur. Whether playing hit songs on stages around the world, producing and composing tracks with millions of performances, or creating ORO Visual Music apps, he loves to connect people with musical experiences. He has a BFA in music composition from James Madison University.

Tom Gallo is an Upper School physics and Innovation Studies teacher, and Steward’s constructivist for design and engagement. As part of the coding, blended learning, and entrepreneurship teams, he maintains the belief that the future of education is student-centered. He believes in the power of student creativity as a tool to support traditional knowledge while empowering students to take ownership of their learning.

Follow LTM on: Facebook
Twitter: @LightTheMusic
Instagram: Light_the_Music

“Economic and Employment Projections.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 8 Dec. 2015, www.bls.gov/news.release/ecopro.toc.htm. Accessed 19 May 2017.

Fadel, Bailik, & Trilling. Four-Dimensional Education. 2015. p98-99.

 

Steward Voices

Steward is an atmosphere that fosters confidence—something we have seen in all three of our kids. Whether it is playing a new sport, running for a seat on the Honor Council, or singing a solo on Talent Night, they have been encouraged to try, to experience, and to grow.
- Dan and Kathi Campbell, Parents of Abbie ’19, Emma ’17, and Ben ’14

Steward Voices

Steward is the right place for Micah and Kiri because they are able to develop strong connections with their teachers, which in turn facilitates confidence and resilience in their learning. Everyone at Steward knows your name and makes you feel so welcome.
- Paul and Janet Yoon, Parents of Kiri ’27 and Micah ’26

Steward Voices

Steward helped me develop the skills I needed to succeed in college and the courage and confidence to set competitive career goals for myself. But, these skills weren’t lessons I learned just in Steward’s classrooms; they came from the athletic fields, in the hallways, and during Honor Council meetings, too.
- Grace Henderson ’10

Steward Voices

Steward provides Andrew with a nurturing environment which fosters his individualism, develops exemplary character traits, and continuously provides him with creative learning experiences. Consequently, Andrew ‘loves’ school and anticipates each day with joy, enthusiasm, and excitement.
- Betsy Jollay, Grandmother of Andrew O’Leary ’25

Steward Voices

I love all that The Steward School has done for Trace. Steward has uncovered Trace’s talents, celebrated his individuality, and strengthened his belief in himself. The faculty and staff offer an amazing balance of challenge and comfort, encouraging the best from all students. I can’t imagine Trace being anywhere else. Thank you, Steward School.
- Ron Coles, Father of Trace Coles ’19 and Grade 5 Teacher

Steward Voices

Being a member of The Steward School international program has been an awesome experience. The community has helped me tremendously along the way.
- Bowen Chen ’15

 

Copyright 2014 The Steward School

The Steward School Mission

Our mission at The Steward School is to prepare our students for college and for life in a community defined by robust academics, inspiration, engagement, and care. We invite you to learn why so many families have chosen to become part of our community.

 

Explore Campus      Learn from the Experts

Experience "The Steward Way"

The Steward School is committed to the kind of education that recognizes individuality and fosters potential through a differentiated approach. If you value small class sizes, close connections with faculty and fellow students, and a challenging yet supportive academic environment with broad opportunities, then Steward may be the right school for you.

 

Learn More     Schedule a Visit    Apply Online

An Education as Unique as Your Child

We are proud to offer a comprehensive curriculum to students in junior kindergarten through twelfth grade. Discover the incredible opportunities we provide for each learner.

 

Lower School     Middle School     Upper School

Explore the World of the Arts

Whether setting the stage, striking a chord, creating a masterpiece, or simply exploring individual talents and interests, exposure to the arts develops important life skills necessary for students to succeed in academic areas and everyday life experiences. By providing our students with multiple creative outlets, we seek to nurture talents, build confidence, and help students discover passions.

 

Visual Arts     Music     Theatre

One School. One Team.

Participation, skill building, and sportsmanship are the cornerstones of The Steward School’s athletic program. At all levels, our coaching program is dedicated to giving students the training and experience necessary to develop a lifelong appreciation of physical activity, skill development, and, above all, teamwork.

 

Athletic Calendar     Sports Programs

A New Way of Learning

The Bryan Innovation Lab is a 21st-century, problem-solving environment. Through experiential learning in this cutting-edge facility, students are able to grapple with real world issues, challenging their critical thinking and resourcefulness.

 

Explore the Lab

Beyond the Classroom

The Steward School is a place of learning for the greater Richmond community through various campus programs. Whether you're interested in attending our annual gala, signing your child up for one of our summer camps, or learning more about LEAP, we welcome you to the Steward community.

 

Special Events     Summer Experience

It's for Steward Students!

Your gift to the Annual Fund helps ensure that each student receives the best educational experience at Steward. With the Annual Giving Family of Funds, you can direct your giving and make an impact in the area that you find most meaningful.

 

Learn More     Give Today