I spent some time this afternoon researching Chromebooks in music education–and most of the search engines pull up my own articles about the Chromebook and how I feel it is lacking for music education. That’s a little disconcerting, because I certainly don’t see myself as the world’s leading expert in integrating Chromebooks in music education. I really want to be proven wrong!
One of the sites I tripped upon featured a Chromebook apologist (I’d typically call myself an iPad apologist) whose main complaint about iPads was that administrators were choosing the iPad based upon trends from other schools. He also complained how principals attended conferences and pulled out iPads, and simply took notes typing into the iPad’s “Notes” application, one finger at a time. Meanwhile, he sat at the same conferences, able to type sixty words per minute on his keyboard equipped Chromebook. Legitimately, these were the basis of his anti-iPad stance.
I want to make this clear–you need to have a game plan if you are adopting iPads for your school; they won’t work wonders by themselves. There may be schools that would make better use of Chromebooks, particularly if the focus of their integration will be typing papers, searching the web, and creating presentations. If you are choosing the iPad for these purposes–you are choosing the wrong device.
What I am passionate about is people using the technology at hand in their teaching–and whenever possible with their students. My preference for music education is the iPad because of what it can do (endless options). But if you have Chromebooks, MacBooks, or even “just” an interactive white board in your classroom, you need to be able to use those devices. In many cases, you may even be evaluated on your ability to integrate that technology in your room, even if the technology isn’t the best for music education.
Put another way, I have a number of former students that sold their iPad as they went to college. Why? Because they felt they needed a device that allowed them to type notes (for most of them, the solution was a MacBook or MacBook Air, so it wasn’t an anti-Apple thing). I took a lot of notes in college (and through 2.5 graduate degrees), and there wasn’t a single class where typing would have been an advantage. I think there is greater power in taking notes by hand, drawing illustrations as necessary–and even doodling to stay awake! As a music major (most of my students are not), I also needed to draw music notation by hand. I find that Notability is my increasing app of choice (as much as I love Noteshelf) because of its ability to open PDF files (including blank staff paper). [I'm hoping that Noteshelf will finally add this when they update their app for iOS 7]. Once you’ve created your notes, you can even upload them to Evernote where they become searchable. That would have been incredibly powerful when I went to college (I was a junior twenty years ago).
Using the iPad for handwritten notes far outweighs typed notes, in my opinion (you can type if you need to). And don’t forget about the ability to simply take a picture of a presentation slide or a whiteboard, and to insert that into your notes (most laptops do not have rear cameras).
So…what I want to say is that if you aren’t using the technology in the creative ways that the technology can be used–regardless of platform–you might as well just use paper and pencil. My goal is to help you avoid that and to help you find practical ways to integrate that technology in your teaching, regardless of what technology you use or are forced to use.