Saturday, October 30, 2010

Power of the iPad

The ending of the video reminds me about the power of choice, freedom and Halloween. Don't take anything for granted.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Things I am Working On

1. I got smartmusic installed on one computer this week (3 to go...). I have been trying to get everything set up. I wish there was a way to enter students names into gradebook faster. This is taking forever. I know I should have the kids do it, but these are fourth graders.
2. I'm going to try to get Skype on to all of the iPads today. I hope that goes well.
3. I have a teacher workshop on November 2. Two sessions on iPads.
4. We got new outlets installed yesterday and hopefully we can get the TV and stereo installed shortly.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Smartmusic and Progress

I got Smartmusic installed today!

Now I have to figure out how to use it again. A lot has changed since I last used it (2005??). Tomorrow will be a day of watching smartmusic videos.

And the iPads are A LOT OF WORK. We keep testing things.

Progress Alert:
1. It took us one Chorale rehearsal to sight-sing Sweet Dreams. That would have taken us four rehearsals last year.
2. We sightread Beethovens Ninth in 5th grade band. That took us 3 months last year. Yippee!

Which iPad apps to Purchase?

I am nearing the time to make a decision on what iPad apps to purchase for the class.

1. Forscore: seems to be the most popular music reader in blog posts. However, there are several contenders. But....$4.99 each!!
2. GoodReader: I am not convinced I need this. I have been trying Smartnote, which is free. I don't know if we have enough need for a reader that we can mark up text with. Other disciplines might.
3. Percussive: $1.99 each. I need good electronic players. This one works real good and has good sound. But I'd like something that had more instruments in one package.

For each app I have to decide if I want it for all 15 iPads. Obviously this gets expensive real fast.

Any ideas to help me?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

more iPad apps

Twilight: The graphic novel looks pretty cool on the iPad.
Guitar Chords Lite: Handy reference for guitar chords.
Thum Drum: I can't really get this to function that great. Does not have very good response.
TED: I love TED, but this app is quite hard to use. Not searchable.
Smule Piano: First app I spent $ on. Cool, but I don't get the point.
Glee: This could be very useful. I could see a "Glee Club" happening with this app.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

4th grade band lesson

I get 30 minutes with the 4th grade beginning band per week. There are about 45 of them. Today was our second real rehearsal. Here is what I did:

1. We rehearse in the gym on the stage. I have the students come in and sit in front of the stage. They are coming from several different classes so they arrive 3-4 minutes apart.
2. I take attendance. This took about 6 minutes today. I take my time as I am trying to learn everyone's name. I also want them getting used to the procedure part of band.
3. I send the kids up by section to the stage and ask them to put their instrument together. This is the first day we have done that.
4. I reviewed stage and rehearsal technique. Silent and focused when I am on the podium, quiet and relaxed when I am off. Had to take sticks away from kid so he would stop playing while I was talking. It worked.
5. I taught them "parade rest" position, instruments up, and instruments down positions for each instrument.
6. We did 5-6 repetitions of me walking off the stage, coming back to the podium (parade rest), bring my hands up (instruments up), and us playing a whole note on any pitch. Got them to move at the same time.
7. I then added one layer of complexity as I asked the percussion to play quarter notes while the winds played whole notes.
8. I then asked all the winds to play a concert Bb in the exercise, and reviewed each note for them. Many eager faces. We discussed why this sounded better ("we matched sounds?").
9. Now I took out my trombone and we improvised a song. We have been doing this each week. I have them play Bb whole notes and I improvise a melody above it. Last week we did James Brown style song with mouthpieces ("Hit me!! Boom! Hit me two times!! Boom Boom !!) It works really well and they love it. I ask someone to name the song.
10. Time to go!

The lessons seems to be working pretty well. I should definitely record the songs next week. The kids love to hear the playback and it will be great to play it at the concert (in 12th grade!!!).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

iPads and Confidence

Frasier Speirs is way ahead of me. He has a whole school working on a 1-1 iPad deployment. That has to be cool. Working by myself its been hard to get everything working, installed, and deployed. Yes, I could use a few more hands.

Today Frasier wrote a very interesting post about how the iPad is changing learning in his school. Profound changes are obviously happening. For example, we are doing workshops right now about reading strategies and note taking. When I pull out the iPad many minds get blown. There is no question the adults in the building are having trouble with that and expect me to use a pencil and paper.

But the students? They seem to be growing in confidence. Especially in theory where the (in HTML5!!) has been a rather constant companion. Students are able to practice, get instant feedback, and design their own exercises. Yes, students are directing their learning.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Procedure Roadblocks

There are so many roadblocks in this job. Apathy is one. That's a big one.

But even worse is the procedure meeting. How will we do that? We need a procedure. So many procedures, and NOBODY believes in the procedure, they just know there is supposed to be a procedure.

Here is my procedure:
1. Ask "What can I do to help?"
2. Do it.

Just give me one day with that procedure and I would get so much done.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Only 3 percent of Cubans have been on the internet in the past year. Yes, I said year.

Question: are they missing anything?

I have to imagine that the guy with the internet connection is the most popular guy in town.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Music Theory Exam = Progress

We had our first theory exam. I have been writing about this class a fair amount. It is mostly seniors. Most are semi-musicians, but none have been in any HS ensembles, and few were in MS ensembles. This is the "iPad class".

We have been basically setting up an AP Theory structure. September was about basic vocabulary ("This is a treble clef"), starting dictation, introducing the piano, singing and writing basic solfeg. All the basics of Chapter 1 and 2 AP Theory.

They did pretty well on their test. I had about half of the class score around a 90 which means they didn't really miss any of the components. Nobody got below a 59. Now, that 59 was a GREAT score as most of the students would have scored a zero on the test before the class started.

We have been using noteflight,, the iPads, and plenty of discussion to reinforce things. Now that they have some basic vocabulary we can finally start analyzing and building songs. I hope it works.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Whats on my iPad so far?

We are no way close to running at full steam, but I wanted to get some notes put up about iPad apps. Here is the list of what I am using so far. All of these are free (or have free versions).

  • Mail: The mail on iPad is very easy to use. I really prefer it for checking mail. For more intense function of searching or composing serious messages it is a little tough.
  • Safari: Works well. I like the Chrome like function that displays all the pages. This makes it very easy for classes to go to the right spot quickly.
  • Maps/Google Earth: Great to have and very intuitive on the touchscreen. When was the last time a kid opened a paper map?
  • Calendar: Haven't used it yet.
  • Google functions: Very easy to view google docs, reader, calendar. Can't edit google docs yet.
  • Dropbox: Stores folders and documents for class. I set up an individual account and a class account. This seems to be integrated into a lot of other apps.
  • USA Today: I don't love this. But the crossword puzzle on the iPad is pretty cool and very easy to use. Could be a great way to introduce puzzles to kids.
  • NY Times Editors Choice: This app only includes the top 5-6 stories as choosen by the editors. But it does include video segments that are often hidden on the main site. This is a great way to get kids reading about the Arts. "What is the top Arts story today"? You can access the full edition through Safari.
  • iBooks and Kindle: I haven't bought any books, but I did download several free books. Very easy to use. I could see how a class/library could build quite a collection.
  • Virtuoso Piano: Very easy to use. Great for practicing basic scales or for learning choir parts.
  • Beatwave: Very simple visual sequencer. You can create 4 layers and you simply press dots to create your music. I'm not sure of the point of a lot of these. This is the best of the ones I have seen.
  • Soundhound: Freaky amazing. This is the app that blows people's minds.
  • Twitter: By far my favorite way to read/check twitter. Not as useful during "power use" time like for musedchat. But so easy to see links, tweets, etc...Can easily switch back and forth between accounts. A must have.
  • NPR News and Music: Close to perfect. Great way to catch up on news or favorite programs. I think the NPR music app is the best way to find new artists to listen to. I think this app is essential for class.
  • Netflix and ABC player: I am trying real hard to get the filter to unblock Netflix. There is so much content on there. All of those old Miles Davis TV shows, Leonard Bernsteins young people concerts, and much more. To be able to walk around the room with a TV in your hand is amazing. Think of how you could hand the "TV" to a kid and say "sit over there and watch Miles for awhile".
  • AirGuitar: It works, but I dont get it.
  • This is really cool. Great thing to listen to news and music from around the country and globe. Works astonishingly well.
  • Evernote: Everyone seems to use this. I havent quite figured out the best way. The app is very easy to use.
  • Labyrinth and Angry Birds: Fun games. Check out the Angry Birds physics lesson.
  • JamPad: Piano with a bit of synth and loops. Have to check it out more.
  • Nike Team: Worth checking out. Really cool for soccer teams. Hoping other sports to follow. Or for band?? Connects videos to drills to assessment.
  • Toy Story: Awesome. Must have. Great example to show how literacy and writing has changed. Hold up a typed MSWord version and then the app. We need to teach this.
  • Yahoo Sportacular: Very easy to use when tracking multiple games. I use this a lot.
  • Dragon Dictation: This works great. I can see many uses for this in the classroom.
  • Metronome: Very simple and straightforward. I like that you can watch the arm swing.
  • Guardian Eyewitness: One amazing photograph per day. Great for warm-up activities. "What song goes with this picture"?
  • 3D Brain: Pretty cool. I could see how 3D is much better than 2D for this stuff.
  • Weatherbug: The best place to get your weather. No question.
  • Groovemaker: Works pretty good to develop some loops and grooves. Have to spend more time with this to figure out how to load more loops and sounds.
  • History Maps: What did Europe look like when Mozart was travelling as a prodigy? Cool app for that stuff.
  • Rj Voyager: Visual sequencer. I admit I cant figure this one out.
  • Epicurious: Easy to use recipe interface. Works great.
  • Smartnote: There is a lot of stuff on this. I wrote about it here.
I have a few more, but I'm tired of typing. I'll add more later.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Smartnotes in Music

So I'm trying to figure all this out. I've been reading blogs, checking twitter, asking around. I have realized that a lot of people have WAY more stuff than I do and have been using it A LOT. This grant is a huge step forward, but I had nothing before. Not even a sound system. So I am a bit overwhelmed with all of the boxes.

I see there are a lot of people who have a 10-15 step process for getting music on the iPad. I agree with many that it would be nice (essential?) for publishers to offer properly formatted files for the iDevices. This would cut out 8-9 steps.

I have been looking at the free Smartnotes application and trying to figure out if this is the best use of my time. It seems like a game changer. So--what can we do? We import a .pdf using dropbox, the internet, or iTunes. The program allows us to highlight, annotate, copy right on the iPad. Thats pretty cool. It also allows us to create voice memos attached to the document. That is even cooler. You can attach video to the document (alternate fingerings attached to specific spots?? marching band drill?). Then you can upload the document or email it to the teacher.

So I think this might be useful. Students could keep their music folder in DropBox and download it whenever we were singing. It should keep the annotations and voice memos right on it. With headphones in students could be recording/listening to rehearsals from today or two weeks ago. I could see students singing into the iPad and rehearsing again at home that night just by opening their dropbox account.

The trick is to get that set-up where I am not at school dealing with scanning and accounts all Saturday (yes, I'd like a grad student intern) and its easy enough for the kids so they want to use it.

Crazy? Let me know.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Creating a Band

The program here has been in cycles of moving from 10-15 kids in an ensemble to 30, then back down again. This has been happening for decades. This is my second year here.

I have seven members of my high school pep band. Five of them were beginners last year in "Developmental Band". I'm happy they stuck with it.

Last night was our first pep band performance. Knowing we couldn't quite handle the music load I hired four students from Western Ct. State University to fill the band out and act as mentors for our students. That part went really well. All the kids played so much better and they were on their game. The positive vibe the WCSU student gave off was very evident.

In one year we have increased the 4th-5th grade band membership by almost 70%. We have almost 170 kids down in the elementary schools playing music (yes, I am still learning their names...) The wave is coming, I hope, and I need some leaders that will define what the Wildcat Band should be. I'm hoping we started created those leaders last night.

Friday, October 8, 2010

First Music Theory Exam

Theory seems to be going well. We have worked this month on basic vocabulary, techniques, and listening skills. The students seem to be picking it up really quick. We have started to use the iPads to reinforce all this.

Much of what I am trying to do this month is to set the basic framework for the AP test or college entrance exam. I still believe I want to get to January with a chance to push for it. So, I need to set up some of the structures (dictation, sight-singing, analysis) that are the basis of any music theory program. I have found that many of my students hope to go to school for music (they are seniors), yet they have no background knowledge of theory (nore have they been in ensembles). We have some work to do....

The technology driven projects we are doing have already been changing. For example, I noticed a student using BeatWave yesterday on the iPad. We had a good discussion about melodic structure, using Level 1 vocabulary, that would have been impossible four weeks ago. The students had no idea how to express their ideas verbally and to have a discussion about music. Vocabulary is so powerful The virtual pianos, youTube, and easy access to have been awesome on the iPad.

Here is the review sheet for the first music theory exam.

Theory Marking Period One Exam Review

Expectations --Written:

1. Identify pitches in treble, bass, alto, tenor clef.
2. Identify all major key signatures.
3. Do simple analysis of score (what key?, notes?, etc...).
4. Understand basic terms such as enharmonic, D.C., coda, repeat, time signature, clef, whole step, forte, etc....
5. Identify solfeg syllables.
6. Complete simple rhythmic and melodic dictation.

Expectations --Oral:
1. Sight-sing simple melody.

Expectations --Piano:
1. Sight-read very simple melody for piano.
2. Perform C, F, Bb, Eb, G, D major scales.

I will not try to trick you on any part of this exam. You will recognize every aspect of it. If you have made music theory a daily part of your schedule (even a small part) you will have no problems. Practice efficiently!

Tools to practice:
1. and
2. Use grouply to ask questions to the group.
3. Check your practice tests and worksheets.
4. Send me a question.
5. Find time on a piano! Have a partner quiz you.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


They seemed engaged today. We used the iPads in both choir and theory. I am really taking myself out of the equation as much as possible. I have made clear expectations about what the assessment will be (test, performance exam, etc...) and asked them to use the tools to prepare. Tools include the teacher, classmates, worksheets, the macBook, and 15 iPads.

Now, some won't get it done. They are making progress but they are not working hard. They show up, they are pleasant, they breathe in and out. But they are not sweating. They are certainly not practicing. Yes, in the 5th week of working on it I expect you to know where a D is on the staff.

Everything is going well but there is definitely a fear of excelling, of working hard, of taking a risk. I need leaders to lead.

A few numbers:
1. I had 22 in the HS program last year. I'm over 40 this year.
2. I had 70 in the 4th/5th grade band last year. I think I will have over 100 this year.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Using the iPad in Music Class

I got the iPads yesterday. I am about to test them using the students. I hope it works.

Here is todays exploration:

iPad Checklist:

Put in your headphones.

1. Play a C Major scale on the virtual piano.
2. Play Mary Had a Little Lamb in the key of G.
3. Read the top story on the NY Times.
4. Play Angry Birds for 3 minutes.
5. Sing On My Own, Twinkle Twinkle, or Star Spangled Banner into Soundhound. See what happens.
6. Find your house in Google Earth.
7. Listen to Trombone Shorty and Orleans Ave. on youTube.
8. Draw a treble clef in Doodle Buddy. Make it pretty.
9. Check the weather in WeatherBug.
10. Look at the pictures of the day in Guardian Eyewitness.
11. Get the top score in Lets Do Math.
12. Get to Level 6 in Labyrinth.
13. Get a groove going with 2 layers in Beatwave.
14. Check out Groovemaker.
15. Read Toy Story

Monday, October 4, 2010

iPad deployment

I got the iPad cart today and the remaining 14 iPads. I have also received much of the sound system. Lots of installation to take care of.

I synced almost all the iPads today. I put all the apps I put on the test machine. We will spend some time over the next few days learning what works.

I need to figure out the following:
  • How to use DropBox or other app to distribute and collect assignments.
  • Best way to "personalize" the iPad for the kids. It seems cumbersome to log-in to each app.
  • Stickers to label the iPads.
  • Whether we need a case for the iPad. We need to be careful putting the iPads into the Spectrum cart.
  • How to use a portfolio to collect music written in some of the sequencing apps.
  • What, if any, apps I will spend $$ on.
  • How to loan out the iPads to other classes.
That seems like enough.

My mom skyped into my 4th grade percussion lesson. That lesson has entirely too many kids in it (ten). They seemed to respond pretty well to it. Mom will follow along with the lessons as she bought sticks and a book.