Saturday, April 6, 2013

What will MLTI iPads have IF we get them?

I spent some time reading through the proposal for iPad, and was very relieved to see a comprehensive list of apps and programs, and solutions presented for consideration.  Among them were all three of the iWork programs (Pages, Numbers and Keynote) and the iLife programs iPhote, iMovie and Garageband.

Also listed were several apps that though not created by Apple have become staples for educators.  One  great app I was thrilled to see make the list is Notability, which is one that we use extensively in my district.

If you are interested in seeing what Apple has proposed, here is a link to their proposal.  The best part (apps they recommend, and then how they see the iPad being used in all different subject areas) starts around page 86.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Noteflight on iOS (Safari)

Rather than creating an app, Noteflight developers put their time and efforts into creating a version of their site running in HTML5, that mobile devices could run.  

They claim it is ready for Safari and Chrome, with other browsers soon to follow, but I have used it successfully with many browsers! 

Open up your browser to and check it out!

Look at that picture!!   Choose the rhythms, and touch the note you wish to play on the keyboard.  SO SIMPLE!!

I applaud the Noteflight developers for making this a reality!
In the mean time, have fun!

(By the way-- don't steal my masterpiece up there that I created in 30 seconds flat. Okay?  Ok.)

iPad Apps for the (Music) Teacher

I am trying to get as much information formulated into blog posts as I can, so that it will be available to music teachers as our state transitions to iPads from laptops.  I have been using the iPad with my high school students for two years, though only this past year has it been 1 to 1.  Here are some of the apps (or tricks) that I use every day.

PowerTeacher  -- This is the mobile version of the PowerTeacher computer program. It has all of the functionality, though it does take some adjustment to get used to the layout and how things need to be entered. It is much quicker to load, and very easy to use if you are doing a quick walk-around the room assessment.

Bookmarks saved to Home Screen from Safari (or other browser):  I often will find the mp3 recordings of the pieces we are playing from JW Pepper, and then save them to the home screen -- it makes a little app box,  which I then turn into a "folder" that has all of the music for any given grade level.  It saves a lot of time having it right there.

Puffin Browser - This app is amazing.  The free version gives you access to flash websites for 14 days. I didn't realize that it was only a trial when I first wrote the post about it, but -- $2.99 to access all flash websites? It might be worth it for the state to consider pushing this to all of the iPads.  There may be an app that does this already in the suite of apps they are considering, but we don't know what they are yet.

Chrome for iPad -- I am a Google Chrome person. I just like it. However, the convenience of being able to open lots and lots of tabs means that, well. . . you have to close LOTS and LOTS of tabs.

Moxtra  - see my in depth description of how we are using this amazing app for creating a digital portfolio, and for assessment.

Fairway Solitaire - I can't explain it, but I love this game. Seriously. When I play all of the levels, I delete it, re-install it, and start over.  It is that addictive.  So- maybe you should stay away.

First Class Email - If your school uses the First Class Email client, the app is very handy.

GarageBand -  I use this app every day -- and I am SO EXCITED about the possibility of using it with my seventh and eighth graders next year!!  I discover something new every time I use it.

Nearpod   -  a very cool classroom management, presentation app that allows you to take control of the students' iPads.  Doing interactive quizzes using this platform is an experience!!

TED Talks - And endless source of inspiration and creativity!  Look up Evelyn Glennie, Bobby McFerrin -- and get lost in the results from a "music" search.

Cloud storage resources -- I use many!
Google Drive
Cloud On

iReal b -  Imagine every real book you have every seen plus Jamey Abersold play-along track!  That is what this AMAZING (worth every penny of the $9.99 price tag) is.  Not only that, you can create your own songs, inputting the chord changes you want the "band in a box" to play.  I love this app!!

These are some of the apps that I use all the time!  I hope this list has been helpful!

Great resource for new iPad users!

My friend and colleague at the elementary school has created a wonderful document that provides a very nice introduction to the iPad. She was gracious and is letting me share it with you all!

Here is a link to the .pdf document.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Puffin Browser for iOS = Music Teacher DREAM!!!

HOLD THE PRESSES, my friends!   This is BIG NEWS.

I am thankful that my Rover app (browser designed to handle flash websites) wasn't working, even after deleting and re-installing it.  Because if this had not happened, I would never have searched for another alternative.

But -- I did search. And I found:

The Puffin Browser

I loaded it, wondering if the bold claims it was making could be true.
I went to the Noteflight website, and was able to use the FULL site, not just the mobile version.  Some of the capabilities were off because of not having a mouse to click, and that sort of thing, but the actual site? It worked just fine.

It occurred to me that perhaps the wonderful MusicTheory.Net site might work.  (Because let's face it -- none of use can afford a $3.99 app per student to be able to use all of the features on the iPad.)   So, I opened up the Puffin browser, and typed in, and for less than one second that familiar, heart-breaking red box that signifies a flash issues appeared....  but then it was gone, replace instead by a beautiful five line staff, and the rest of the tutorial.

I even gave myself a test of intervals, which I rushed through too quickly and called a minor 6th a major 6th (because it sounded too happy to be minor), and I was even more grateful that such an incredible resource will not be lost to us if the MLTI  (Maine Learning Technology Initiative) decides to choose iPads for next school year.

Woo-hoo!!  Anyone else feel like celebrating?

**** Update ---  The day after posting this I realized that the Puffin free browser is a 14 day trial of the flash capable browser.  There are options (referring friends) to continue using the capabilities for an additional 4 weeks, or the full version of the update is only $2.99.   For complete access to ANY flash based site, that seems very reasonable.  I have checked with my science colleagues and tested many of the sites that they use on the laptops and all of the FLASH based sites did work.   Shockwave based programs will not work with Puffin.

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!

iPad for Music Classes - Overview

We are all waiting (impatiently) for the decision to be made regarding next years MLTI offerings.   The thought of changing technology completely with so little time to prepare is a bit frightening.  The iPad is looming as a very clear front-runner for selection, so while we wait, I decided to compile a list of what I have been using for the last year with my high school band.

Benefits of iPad:

  • Instant availability to free apps: tuners, metronomes, audio recorders, video recorders
  • Digital sharing and portfolio creation
  • Constantly in development -- people are ALWAYS writing and improving apps
  • Small, fits on music stand
  • Garageband -- the new format is AWESOME!

Disadvantages for a music teacher:

  • Garageband.  (Yes-- listed both as an advantage and a disadvantage.) The iPad version is nothing like the computer version.  Cool things can be done with it --  I LOVE using it.  But it is very different.  I think with exploration, the units you may have used with the computer version could be done, but in a different way.  
  • Lack of physical keyboard (for typing)
  • Flash -- any websites that required flash will most likely not work on the iPad. However, there are browsers that can handle flash.  And since this problem is NOT one that is going away, development is happening at a rapid pace for apps

What you are DYING TO KNOW.

Are there musical notation programs? 

iWriteMusic  is a simple notation tool. It is free, and very basic.  

NOTEFLIGHT can be used the Safari or Chrome apps on the browser, but it is still VERY glitchy.  There are many issues.  They are actively working on it though, so perhaps it will be a useable option by the time the devices are deployed.

-**** Edited -- Noteflight is much better now! They have really revamped their site to be tablet friendly.

Do kids get distracted and play games on them (or worse -- find a way around the firewall and access facebook)?
YES.  They do.  My experience has been with high school students who are incredibly savvy about knowing how to appear that they are on task, and knowing what apps to use to bypass our school filtering software.  
Does this present an overwhelming problem?  No. I use the iPads at the first part of class, and sometimes throughout class if we are recording and assessing some of the music, and after that, they place them under their chairs.   I also tell them that the transition between songs was not designed as an opportunity for them to check facebook.  They laugh and get back on task.

Best Tuner App:

InsTuner    --  LOADED with options.  Best part?  It can be transposed to the student's instrument key. Alto saxophones can see the note they are playing, instead of having to transpose quickly.

Even better?  FREE, and also works on iPod or iPhone.

***** Edited -- in the time since I have written this, the FREE version does not have all of the options, but it still my favorite free tuner and the one that I ask my students to download.

Here is a video where I explain this app to my students and the next app I mention. (Pro metronome)

Best Metronome App:
Pro Metronome  -- tap to set, change time signatures, click wheel to change from faster or slower

Fun Music Apps:
Music Studio Lite - the lite version has great piano keyboards to use,  and it is very fun to use.

Guitar!  - an EXCELLENT app!  A great alternative for my guitar class if students are sidelined from playing because of an injury.   The one thing that I love is that it requires touch both at the fret AND the string for notes which are not played on an open string, which mimics the actual playing of the guitar.

iRealB - Imagine every real book you ever owned combined with Jamey Abersold play-along cds and you have the iRealB app.  I use this every week with my jazz band practice.  It is a phenomenal tool, with a forum with helpful members who can help with questions, issues, or anything.  It is $9.99, and worth EVERY penny.  It is also available for Android platforms, though the two are separate purchases, of course, which is why I only have it on the iPad.

GarageBand - I mentioned earlier that the iPad version is not the same as the computer version.  The emphasis of the app is the creation of sound, rather than choosing already created loops.  BUT there are created loops available.  Simply make sure that you are looking at the track screen of the project, rather than the individual instrument, and the familiar "loops" loop icon appears.  If you click on the icon, a window appears where you can choose the instrument family, genre, or other descriptors.  The database is not as extensive as the computer version, but it is VERY useable!  (And I just found this feature TODAY while I was writing this post!!! Yay!!!!)
Okay--- besides finding the loops (hooray!), this app is amazing.  The smart piano, smart guitar, smart bass and smart drums make putting together a quality project a breeze.  It is a very different process, and I am still learning things every day.  But the more I use it, the more I love it.

An article about the 10 best piano apps!

Coming up--  using the iPad for assessment and portfolio building.