Happy Halloween! Life continues to fly by as winter approaches…this past week I’ve attended the Wisconsin Music Educators Association State Conference, had my first meeting with our Mixed and Women’s Carolers ensembles, gone through a full day of iLife training, and watched a lot of news as the iPad (4th Generation) and iPad Mini begin to arrive–and the Microsoft Surface has been released (RT version).
First–to those who have sent notes regarding my presentation at WMEA; thank you. It was a pleasure to present that session, and I will apply again. My session was a juxtaposition of two presentations I’ve given in the past–fast paced but informative. A number of music educators have taken the time to send me lists of their favorite apps that I didn’t mention. I will put those into a future blog post (and acknowledge those music educators).
The Microsoft Surface is an intriguing device to me–I’ll eventually buy one (I have to figure out how to afford a 4th Generation iPad and iPad Mini first). I’ve seen a lot of very snarky remarks between Apple fanboys and Microsoft aficionados. In this heated political season (even though I have a political bias, I stay away from those discussions on this blog and my personal Twitter feed), I’m sick of the ads and attacks from both sides, so my tolerance of tech wars is growing low, too. I joked that I’m a recovering Windows user (which is TRUE, but Windows is not an illness) at the WMEA conference–but I really don’t want to exclude anyone. Use what makes you happy. Just expect me to advocate for the technology which I believe will work best for music education and all subjects.
I’m not convinced that the Surface will make a dent in education (with one exception) because of its widescreen display (the exception will be IT people who are anti-Apple [there is a segment of the IT world that falls into this category]). Tablets, by their very nature, work best when they help us begin the SAMR model with “Substitution.” We are still a paper-based world, and we need tablets to be able to substitute for paper. Trust me–Hal Leonard isn’t going to change its format from 4:3 anytime soon! The same goes for all of the widescreen Android tablets (In fact, the only 4:3 Android tablets I’ve seen have been cheap Coby models running a forked version of Android 2.3, or my HP TouchPad). Apple could have gone 16:10, but didn’t. There’s a reason for that. I’m not going to say that the Surface is bad (again, I’d take one) or that Android stinks. I have other reasons for preferring the iPad, but that is the main reason why I think those other devices don’t “cut it” in education.
I enjoyed meeting a couple of people that I follow on Twitter or on the Internet at WMEA. I enjoyed meeting Sarah Mayer (@musiced20 on Twitter) who has a blog at www.musiced20.com (That’s Music Ed 2.0). I am going to add her blog to the blogroll–probably in the Band category, even though she teaches elementary students and general music education topics as well. I also enjoyed talking with Tom Johnson, the main presenter for Finale. He’s a kind man, a great (and entertaining) speaker, and he knows how to diffuse people’s fears when it comes to technology. You can see his videos at www.finalemusic.com. He was kind enough to help me with a few of my tough Finale questions. I also had the chance to visit with Bruce Pearson, author of various band methods (Best in Class, Standard of Excellence, Tradition of Excellence, all with Kjos). Bruce was my college band director, so it was great to have some time to catch up professionally and personally. Finally, I had a great time talking with Sister Anita Smisek, who runs a small publishing company called Alliance Publications (http://apimusic.org). They specialize in Czech and Slovak music, and have a great deal of fine choral, band, and orchestral literature which is a bit off the beaten path of Hal Leonard and Alfred Music. As a publisher, Alliance is trying to plan for the future, and how to save the music in their repertoire as time marches on. They have no desire for that music to be lost to the world–as what happens to pieces that go permanently out of print with the large publishers (Hal Leonard probably has rights to more music that is out of print than they offer in print). I find the networking at these conferences to be highly valuable. There is also an upcoming iBook from Interactive Listening that looks highly interesting (a multi-media approach to music appreciation/music history). Check out their website.
As for my iLife training, I didn’t find many new concepts in the training that I had not been already aware of; the approach was to use iLife from an educational context rather than a personal context. Therefore: can you make a Slideshow from iPhoto, a Movie from iMovie, or a Podcast from GarageBand that can be geared towards your subject? (Rhetorical question: answer is always “yes.” ) The one “Aha!” moment for me was realizing that I could make a monthly calendar for my choir using iPhoto, and print it out as a PDF, blow it up on our poster maker, and put it in my room. Granted, that’s a small change in thinking–but it was a simple way to get more use out of iPhoto in education.
In other news, I found out that both of my sessions for TIES–the Minnesota Technology Education Conference–have been accepted. I will be presenting one session on Keynote for the iPad (very general), as well as my popular “60+ iPad Apps in 60 minutes” sessions. As I continue to say, iPads aren’t about the apps, but they are certainly a starting point.
If you haven’t seen the news, there has been a lot of shake-up at Apple, where two Senior Vice Presidents are no longer with the company (one is staying on in a role as a consultant, but has been removed for all intents and purposes). The big news is the new organization, where one person deals with software, another deals with Apple’s new semiconductor interests, and Jony Ive, the designer, takes over ALL human interaction decisions–ultimately putting him in the main role of the company. Wall Street has been closed due to the hurricane, but all pundits seem to think that Jony Ive’s increase in authority will result in very little fall-out over the firing of two SVPs. From an outsider’s perspective, I think we will now continue to see the development of devices (and software!) that delight us, and no longer follow a specific release cycle. I think the 4th Generation iPad is proof of that.
Finally, the first speed tests of the 4th Generation iPad are out, and it’s a screamer. It is twice as fast as the iPad 2 or 3, and is faster than the iPhone 5. If you were waiting to buy an iPad…and you are planning to buy new…buy the 4th Generation iPad. Its speed will be worth it. Even if a new iPad comes out in March/April (no guarantees at this point), the 4th Generation iPad should have a shelf life of three years. After all, Apple has to keep the iPad 3 up-to-date with OS updates through iOS 8, which the 2nd Generation should be able to handle as well–meaning that the 4th Generation iPad may see iOS 9 (but by that time, you might want to upgrade again, as it will be 2015).
I hope you are having a tremendous fall, and have been enjoying the technology news as well as learning as much as I have!