Wednesday, April 3, 2013

iPad for Assessment in Performing Ensembles

You may want to introduce yourself to your scanner -- the one that has been neglected for years.  You and he/she are about to become much better acquainted.

After using Notability (an amazing annotating and everything you can imagine app), I knew there must be a way that I could get the warm-up books and other music loaded onto the iPads.   My high school band is using a 25 page warm-up books, and I scanned every single page, of every single part.  But-- then the file sizes were enormous.


  1. Using Preview, save it as a .gif
  2. Save it again (with a different name to keep it clear) back to a .pdf    --- Doing this changed 40MB file down to about 11MB.  Much better! The quality and readability did not suffer too greatly.


  1. Using preview, select the pages you want in your first document.  
  2. File menu - "print selected pages"
  3. When the print dialog opens, click on the PDF button
  4. Save the pdf as normal.

Okay--  now I had the 25 page warm-up book files, AND I had them split into three separate files, for the different sections within the book.   The task now was to determine which app would best achieve the results I am looking for.


This app -- wait-- it is MORE than an app, it is a full website as well -- this PLATFORM is awesome.   I had the students upload the three different sections as separate "binders" into Moxtra. (I will tell you how next.)  For example - Flute Scales, Flute Etudes, Flute Chorales.

They open their Etudes Binder, and choose the page we are working on.

See the record button in the upper right hand corner?  You guessed it.  They can record themselves, while playing.  In doing so, Moxtra is creating a new page in the binder with the recording attached.  What I have done to eliminate multiple pages of the same warm-up book (because of recording different exercises on the page) is have the students create a "Portfolio" binder, to which they move all of their playing assessments from these documents.

Before leaving this page, I have students click on the text bubble icon (bottom right hand corner) and leave a comment as to what was recorded.  Once they are done typing, clicking the text bubble again makes it go away.

To move a note to the Portfolio binder:

Click on the back arrow on the top left screen.

Now you see the entire document, including the new note that was just created with the recording.  Click on the edit button (upper right hand corner) and select that page.   A series of option appear at the top. The second on the left (looks like a document with an arrow going to the right) is the option to MOVE the page.

A menu will appear, and the options to move to an existing binder or create a new one are given.

Once the student has moved the page into the portfolio binder, they email it to me.  The THIRD icon in the picture above (a box with the arrow coming out) is "share" icon, and this is universal through most apps.  Clicking on that brings up a window of sharing options.  Email,  text message, Dropbox, etc. This sends a link to a web-visible version of the page with the recording.

Rather than emailing large files and multiple steps, I created a Dropbox account for my school band, and uploaded all of the files. I created a folder for each instrument or instrument group, and had the students log in to my dropbox account and download the files they needed, and open them on their iPad, in Moxtra.

Students were so excited about this that they asked if they could try taking pictures of their band music and uploading it into a new binder in Moxtra --- and since it meant less scanning for me, I said ABSOLUTELY!

And there you have it.
Because the iPad is so small, it can rest on the music stand with their music and capture sound (or video), and doesn't take up any extra room.  Trying to capture video with the laptops required tables, or extra chairs.   The size alone has made a huge difference.


Other options:

Vimeo accounts:  I had students create a vimeo account for recording final summative assessments.  They record the video using the camera on the iPad, upload the video to Vimeo, and then they can email me the link, even while keeping the video completely private.

Chromatik: An up and coming music sharing platform that is doing a lot of what I am using Moxtra for. Similar features, but still quite a few bugs, which is why we are no longer using it right now.
The sharing features in Moxtra are easier than Chromatik as well.

Evernote: Many people use Evernote as their "go-to" organizing tool.  I have never used it to its full potential, so I can't rhapsodize about its awesomeness.  But I do know this: when you set up an account, Evernote gives you an email address.  I could have the students email their assessments right into my Evernote account.  But -- knowing myself, if it is in my email inbox, I can't ignore it!

Using other recording apps: This is how we used to do playing assessments, before using Moxtra.  There are so many great recording apps, but the one that we use most often is called iTalk Recorder (the free version).  It is an iPhone/iPod app, so it will not show up on your search until you click on the tab for iPhone apps.  There is a premium version, which I own, but for the students the free version is quite adequate.  There are limits to how large the recordings can be to send over email, which has made us learn to be quite creative in selecting passages to assess in this method.


These are just a few of the ways that I use the iPads with my band ensembles! Please let me know if you have questions!

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