Sound Junction

Educational music-oriented collaborative environments
SoundJunction is free-to-use web-based tool for `exploring, discovering and creating music'. It has been produced by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) in association with Attic-media Ltd and designed for use primarily by young people. SoundJunction is an online resource that is conceived as an interactive, flexible, e-learning tool for engaging in musical exploration, development and creation and is supported by teacher packs for integration into the school curriculum. According to the SoundJunction website, on 3rd October 2006 the site picked up the Music Industries Association award for `Best Supplier Initiative'. Then on 4th October, it won two awards in the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) Online Publishing Awards: for `Innovation', and for `New Launch 2006'. On 9th November, 2006 SoundJunction won the e-learning award for `most innovative new product in e-learning' and on 10th November SoundJunction was shortlisted for the Bett Awards. It is clear that the initiative has been well received by the industry. The SoundJunction package has been developed in discussion with composers and a wide group of potential users in schools, as well as representatives of the music industry and those involved in the provision of music technology in the special needs sector. It si a good example of a holistic learning environment for music that also provides tools for making your own music and sharing your compositions. Unfortunately, some of the technologies are now parochial (e.g. shockwave).
Target Group: 
SoundJunction is produced by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. Si rivolge principalmente a studenti di musica, ma alcune sue sezioni sono dedicate a musicisti professionisti e compositori. Contiene delle pagine didattiche mirate al conseguimento del General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) in musica, quindi rivolte a ragazzi inglesi di circa 16 anni. La sezione per la condivisione delle proprie composizioni ha avuto un buon livello di attività negli anni 2006, 2007 e 2008, con una media di circa 100 prodotti musicali all’anno. Non si registra più alcuna attività da oltre un anno, forse anche per il difficile accesso agli strumenti interattivi, basati su una tecnologia (Shockwave) non più pienamente supportata.
MAIN PORTAL: Custom code written in ASP.NET, a Microsoft web application framework (part of the .NET framework) for creating dynamic web sites, web applications and services. TOOLS: - Playback of videos: Adobe Flash - Interactive tools: Note Canvas tool, Composer forum, Learning trail forum, Composer Tool: Require shockwave & quicktime plugins. Hangs in firefox; Crashes in Safari; Hangs in Chrome. COMMENTS: Shockwave requires the user to download updates, something that can deter many users. It is very difficult to make complex applications that work well across platforms, browsers and devices. Source: This information is derived from inspecting the site. The company who built the site (Atticmedia) have been contacted, but at the time of writing have yet to reply.
Usability and Accessibility: 
Sound Junction is introducing its main purpose under the following labels, displayed in the website header: Listen, Explore, Discover, and Create. Our first remark is that these very convenient labels, which categorize the different activities offered by the website, are not used as links to sections of the website. That feature would have enhanced the ease of use of the portal to a very large extent. Instead, users are using links spread out across the page to access the specific activities offered by Sound Junction. Consequently, link hierarchy is a direct concern resulting of Sound Junction’s page design, as it seems that descriptive material, help, and formal content is overpowering the collaborative and creative activities of the website. The collaborative and creative dimensions of Sound Junction are by Adobe Shockwave, and can be characterized as being interactive. Users can create, share and collaborate without leaving the portal, which enhances the user experience to a large extent, while retaining the standard concepts of music technology (score notation, piano roll editor, basic digital audio workstation concepts). As mentioned above, Sound Junction uses Adobe Shockwave to power its creative and collaborative features. Our main concern in this regard is the high probability of the user having to update the Shockwave plug-in in order to run the provided tools, which requires either the IT department of the schools to maintain their computer park up to date as far as web technology goes, or the user performs the necessary updates, which might involve permission issues on the systems.