Category Archives: General Musings

General Musings

IMEC and Welcome New Readers

A engine from the Iowa Interstate Railroad, painted in colors to honor the old Rock Island Railroad.

A engine from the Iowa Interstate Railroad, painted in colors to honor the old Rock Island Railroad.


Today I had the honor to attend and present a session at the 2014 Illinois Music Educators Association Illinois Music Education Conference. The picture of the train on this post may seem strange, but as I left Peoria, I saw this engine and had to act quickly to take a picture of the train. The train is painted to honor the old Rock Island Railroad, which once spanned throughout the Illinois and the midwest. Two years ago, one of my men's choir sang “The Rock Island Line” published by BriLee (scroll down to the song here:, so it only seemed fitting to take a picture of that train. I love trains, although I don't spend as much time train watching and model railroading as I would like (as in: not at all).

My session today was on SmartMusic and Choral Music. I will put up the notes and presentations soon. What made my presentation interesting this time was that MakeMusic pushed out an update about 24 hours before I gave the presentation, most of the time which I was driving. I brought my two young boys to my parent's house near Milwaukee, and then drove the rest of the way to Peoria today (waking up at 3:30), and then back to my parent's house. We will return to Minnesota tomorrow (we actually live right on the Wisconsin/Minnesota border, so close enough).

There was a nice sized crowd to learn about SmartMusic and Choral Music, and a number of people stayed afterward to introduce themselves and to thank me for the blog. To those people, I simply say this: you have no idea how wonderful it is to hear that my blog is of assistance to you. That's why I write this blog, and why it remains free–I want to give back to the profession that has given so much to me. I believe that financial opportunities will find their way as a result of the work, making the free blog worth the time it takes to write. Those financial opportunities include selling copies of my books on the iBookstore, consulting and training, and even other future opportunities for employment.

The Peoria Civic Center is a wonderful place for a convention; Peoria isn't a huge city, so getting around is quite easy, and the facilities are wonderful. The vendor area is also quite nice, and a large number of exhibitors attend the conference.

In my presentation, I talked a bit about the costs of SmartMusic, which include the educator's subscription, individual subscriptions, and practice room subscriptions. I mentioned that I had seen my all-time favorite fundraiser in the vendor area, Ozark Delight lollipops. We used to sell them at one of my former high school positions, and they were a huge hit with kids. We stopped selling them when we could no longer sell during the school day because Minnesota has new “no sugar” rules in play during the day. However…you can sell these suckers before school or after school, and they really are the best product…they sell themselves.

I wasn't paid to mention the company (or paid to represent SmartMusic), but I mentioned them because they work as a fundraiser. Afterwards, I stopped by the Ozark Delight booth, and the gentleman from the company gave me a bag of suckers for mentioning the company (a number of people from the presentation had already been down to visit him), and I just wanted to disclose that. My own children will be in stock for suckers throughout the summer.

If you choose to sell these suckers, buy just one case and determine what suckers sell at your school, then custom order (yes, they do this for free) only the suckers that sell for the bulk of your order. I believe you make over $300 a case of suckers at $1 per sucker (back in the day, they were 2 for $1.00. Sadly, those days are gone).

This is the sample bag Ozark Delights sells very affordably at conventions.  I can't recommend them strongly enough, but do have to admit I was give this bag as a thank you for mentioning them in my presentation.

This is the sample bag Ozark Delight sells very affordably at conventions. I can't recommend them strongly enough, but do have to admit I was give this bag as a thank you for mentioning them in my presentation.

I will post more about SmartMusic in the future (next few days), and I also need to address the update to PiaScore, which has been our free solution to reading music on our iPads, and was also updated yesterday.

So…thank you to those of you who came to the session. Make use of the links on the right side of this blog to find other blogs pertinent to your area of study. Please feel free to e-mail for help or suggestions at any time…I will do my best to be of assistance. And again, thank you to those that introduced themselves and had kind or personal words about the blog–it was great to meet you!

Note: in the original post, I was calling Peoria “Joliet,” which I have since corrected. My brain was fried after nearly 16 hours of driving in less than two days, so for some reason I mixed those two towns up in my brain…and they are clearly very different parts of the state (Joliet is a bit outside of Chicago). I think there was an iPad summit in Joliet where I had considered attending, resulting in that mixup in my brain. Clearly, I made it to Peoria to present!

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Open for Business — Help available for all.

Six operating systems.  Back row: Asus T100 (Windows RT & 8.1), MacBook (OS X 10.9), Chromebook.  Front Row: HP Touchpad (Android 4.3), iPad (iOS 7)

Six operating systems. Back row: Asus T100 (Windows RT & 8.1), MacBook (OS X 10.9), Chromebook. Front Row: HP Touchpad (Android 4.3), iPad (iOS 7)

Although I can’t possibly own all devices on the major platforms, I am now able to address technology on the following platforms:

iPad (4th Generation iPad running iOS 7)
MacBook (late 2008 MacBook Aluminum Unibody running Mavericks)
Android (HP Touchpad running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean)
Chromebook (Samsung 303 series)
Windows RT and Windows 8.1 (Asus T100)

Therefore, I am set up in a way to be familiar with nearly every modern OS. If you are a Linux user, I’m probably not going to be able to help you. But otherwise, I’m open for business.

As a side note, only the iPad and MacBook were relatively expensive. The iPad was $699, and the MacBook was $1599 (I had no recollection that it was that expensive). The Touchpad was $99 (bought it the morning of the “fire sale”), the Chromebook $216 as an open box item, and the Asus T100 was $379.

I still can’t believe the MacBook was that much…and that doesn’t include the extended warranty (which I am grateful that I bought because of optical drive issues and one replaced drive; but now that optical drives are not generally in MacBooks any more, I am not sure I would buy another extended warranty). Still, my MacBook will be 6 years old this October (it is the same age as my son), and this is the year that we will probably buy new MacBooks (probably 13″ MacBook Airs…if they go retina) for both my wife and I (my wife is using a 2007 White MacBook which we purchased used in November of 2008, shortly after I bought my MacBook) for $800. If iPads are updated in 2014 (they will be), it will be time to update the iPad as well. And if there is an iPad Pro, as a musician, that may need to be my new device. We will see.

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“Don’t Forget the Electives”

This morning, I presented a session entitled, “Don't Forget the Electives.” The session comes from my efforts to support music teachers in their efforts to integrate technology into their classroom. Here are the major points from my presentation:

  1. Many technology iniatives are based on the need for a keyboard, particularly to “write papers.” Keyboards get in the way of many elective courses, and clamshell devices literally do not fit in many elective courses.
  2. GAFE (Google Apps for Education) is no longer a reason to choose a device, GAFE is becoming more device agnostic all the time.
  3. There is no such thing as a perfect device, and the best device today may not be the best device in a year.
  4. As a music teacher, I am convinced that the iPad is the best device for music education, and will continue to advocate for that device until something better comes along (and I will keep looking)
  5. Many elective courses require specific software or functionality–GAFE is not enough.
  6. Many elective courses cannot “substitute” or “augment” instruction with a specific device.
  7. If you choose a device, it may not be useable “in” an elective course without extensive modification and redefinition. You need to have different expectations for elective courses in terms of how they are expected to integrate technology in their courses.
  8. If you choose a technology initiative, be honest about its limitations (yes, even the iPad has them) and stop trying to sell that your device of choice can be equally used in all courses across the board.

I will post a link to my presetation later today.

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Day 1 at TIES

As I am attending TIES, one of my favorite things to do is to visit the vendor area. As I attend this education technology conference every year, I am able to see trends product growth.

Many of the vendors here are representing back-end technology that may influence my life, but I will never deal with. Others are representing products that I will not use professionally, or have lost interest in.

In 2013, more than any of the other past years (back to 2010), it is clear that the iPad is a major trend in just about every vendor booth. Interestingly, Chromebooks are a major topic of discussion but they are not really featured at all in the vendor area. It may take vendors a while to catch up with the Chromebook.

What vendors are catching my eye at TIES?

One vendor is Digital Doc, a company that provides repair services for iOS devices. Since my bad experience with another Minnesota iOS device repair company, I have been looking for a company that could provide repair services. Digital Doc may be that company. The prices are fair ($139 for an iPad 4), and the company is located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. You can find them at

Another vendor sells EVA foam iPad cases in multiple colors. They are basically kid proof, and protects the iPad from a 6 foot drop. I'm thinking about these as gifts for my brother in-law whose little kids play with their iPads all the time. I also think they might be a viable solution instead of the Griffin Survivor cases that we use on our achool's iPads. You can find these at

I need to add that I have received no services in place of these mentions; these are just items that intrigued me.

I have attended several sessions today, including a presentation on technology in elementary music by Katie Krueger (I arrived a bit late), a session about 1:1 iPads in Middle School (Farmington, MN), and the Keynote address by Marc Prensky, who coined the term “digital native.” I was not able to attend the session on creating iOS apps…it was packed out.

I also presented a poster session on Numbers for iOS; a few people stopped by, but I don't think Numbers is a very “hot button” issue for many educators. I do try to present a session every year at this conference that is more broad than my normal topics about technology in music education.

There are a few more sessions of interest that I will be attending today and tomorrow, and I will also be presenting a session entitled, “Don't Forget the Electives!” at 8am tomorrow morning.

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A new quote I coined this morning…

This morning I was thinking about a presentation I am going to give in a week entitled, “Don't Forget the Electives,” which will focus on how different technology initiatives impact the elective subjects.

Many integration efforts are based around keyboards. You often read, “We needed a device with a keyboard.”

Okay, I'll buy that…but if that is the case, then here is my new “coined” quote:

If keyboards are so important, why are schools universally eliminating keyboarding/typing courses when they should be mandatory?

I don't buy that kids become naturally proficient with QWERTY keyboards because they are digital natives, and there aren't enough activities in elementary school that build those skills. I think we have encourgaged a generation of hunt-and-peck typists.

How in the world can a keyboard be so important if all we truly teach is hunt-and-peck?


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