Showbie and Schoology

Last year, my 1:1 iPad School decided to have every teacher use the free version of Schoology. The free version lacks a number of features–and as such, I kept using Showbie in my classroom even as I used Schoology.

This year, our district is piloting the full (enterprise) version of Schoology, which has a greater number of features. I am still using Showbie in my classroom–but at a much reduced level.

Showbie now calls itself a “light” learning management system. Originally an iPad app (and growing device agnostic year by year–a growing solution for Chromebooks, too), Showbie allows you and your students to share all kinds of documents–as well as to invite parents to see them. You can grade submissions in Showbie using a quick grading tool (I still had to transfer grades into Infinite Campus by hand). If a PDF is used in Showbie, either the student or teacher can annotate the document–which is a wonderful feature (Schoology currently only allows teachers to annotate). Showbie can also accept audio, video, GarageBand, and more file formats. Someone asked how a GarageBand file could be shared by a student or teacher…and Showbie is an option for that. There is a free version of Showbie, as well as a paid version. I have paid for the program for the past three years, with a renewal coming soon.

In my early days, students completed worksheets in Showbie, I used Showbie for their music (you can create a folder that only class members can access and upload music–and page turns are left/right and allow for annotation), and I eventually used Showbie for audio and video assessments. I would upload a PDF of a rubric and have students submit audio or video recordings (most recorded in class during an ensemble rehearsal), and later grade them using the rubric. I even had students assess themselves on a rubric (I cannot figure out how to do this on Schoology). I call this methodology a “light” approach to red note/green note software–my friend Paul Shimmons at ipadmusiced.wordpress.com uses SeeSaw and Google Classroom in a similar way.

Last year I moved away from having students write answers to daily questions in Showbie (from the S-Cubed Sight Reading Method) and instead used Schoology’s quiz feature (self grading). And this year, Schoology’s enterprise version allows students to submit audio recordings, and rubrics on Schoology work great (we are also using Schoology as a grade book and only copying end of term grades to Infinite Campus, our actual student management system). This year, rather recently, I have temporarily abandoned the written part of S-Cubed (sticking with the content and tasks)…so I am not using any system to grade written work.

I am still using Showbie for student music–and it is worth every penny of the annual subscription ($125?). Admittedly, for my current use, I wouldn’t need to pay–but the service is so useful (and we use it with so many students) that I want to make sure we are supporting the company. With Showbie as our music folders, I can easily send out new music, delete music (or an entire folder), and students still can flip left/right and annotate their music. Schoology can’t do that–yet.

How do I make sure students are using Showbie instead of messing around on their iPads? That’s a tricky question–but generally the answer is that I use Apple Classroom to monitor their app use. I could look at screens…but I figure if they are in the right app, that’s most of the battle. Some kids doodle throughout the hour on Showbie…but they would be doing the same with paper music.

Some readers may wonder why I wouldn’t use forScore, unrealBook, NextPage, Newzik, or PiaScore (free) with my students. There are two reasons. Showbie only allows my students to see their music, turn pages, and annotate. All of the other programs include too many options for my students–they press every button. Cost is also a factor. If forScore is $9.99 (worth every penny), it would cost 50% of that for an educational version of the app which can be withdrawn and reassigned). For my 300+ students, it would cost $1500 to get forScore on every iPad. Showbie is $125 per year. And finally, I love being able to quickly assign and withdraw music from a classroom “assignment” (it is really a folder). No other app has this level of management (although forScore has played with groups and Newzik is working on solutions). I should also add that Showbie is super-simple for students to use and to figure out. It isn’t surprising that Showbie is popular for all grades, K-12 (I don’t know a single math teacher would wouldn’t love Showbie). All of this may change if Schoology offers annotation and left/right page turns in the future.

With the enterprise version, our Google accounts work for Schoology–removing a barrier–and Showbie still works with GAFE accounts. The non-enterprise version to Schoology was a mess with e-mail accounts and passwords.

Ultimately, what I want to convey is that we are in our 5th Year of 1:1 iPads, and due to external influences, my workflow continues to adapt to both available resources and the expectations of my school/district. If you have the enterprise version of Schoology…try in-class or out-of-class (band/orchestra) use of the audio recorder and a rubric for assessments. And if you are in need of a super-easy solution to digital music (not perfect, as page turns require swipes and there are no “hot spots” to allow for repeats or DC/DS markings) look at Showbie.


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The Paradigm Shift of Apple Music

Twenty-seven years ago, I left my parent’s home with the intention of becoming a music teacher. This journey led me to Northwestern College, where I was prepared to become a music teacher. In the process, I learned a lot about music, and I listened to a lot of music. We were encouraged to attend performances (student rush) of the Minnesota Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Minnesota Opera–as well as to go to performances by outstanding college choirs, bands, and orchestras that made it to the Twin Cities. We also listened to a lot of music, and I made it my goal to buy a CD of everything we studied. This was before you could easily burn a copy of a CD onto another CD, and also before mp3 and aac formats. Buying a disc that was DDD (digital recording, digital processing, digital finishing) was a special thing at the time.

I talk about this not to show how old I am (45 as of November 3rd), but to stress that OWNING music was a big thing to me. Jewel cases (some cardboard), CD liners, and so on. I didn’t get into digital formats until 2003 or 2004. At that point, I had a Dell DJ (a competitor to the iPod which lost, like so many others) and started converting my music library on the Windows platform. In 2005, my wife-to-be and I decided to get iPods for Valentine’s Day, which was what started my love affair with Apple. I had to re-rip my entire library and my wife’s smaller library…and did the painful process of tagging albums, getting artwork (scanning if necessary) or so on.

I eventually did the same thing with my movie library, which was also extensive.

It wasn’t long before my CD (and DVD) collection became very dusty, as I was only accessing my music (and movies) on my computer or on my personal devices.

When the iPad came out in 2010, I sold my CDs and DVDs to pay for my the first iPad (pennies on the dollars compared to the investment in music), and later subscribed to Apple Music Match ($25 a year) that legalized everything in my library and made a redundant copy in the cloud.

I didn’t need Spotify or Pandora, as I had all of my music in the cloud–including ensemble recordings and reference recordings (e.g. accompaniment files for solo and ensemble literature). When Apple Music came out, there were problems. Several music aficionados experienced a loss of their Music Match library when enrolling in Apple Music. I didn’t see the need to pay $9 or $15 (family) a month for music when I could buy new music myself if I wanted it. So I didn’t do that.

Well, this summer, we decided to enroll in Apple Music, as you get three free months. And the truth is that I probably don’t use it as much as I should (most of my time in the car is spent listening to podcasts) but the $15 a month is already recovered when my wife can pull up songs or albums that she wants to listen to. And music match continues to work. I just added some ukulele accompaniment tracks to my iTunes Library…and sure enough…they were almost instantly available (under “My Music”) in Apple Music.

I might even be able to deduct the $15 a month (as well as the $25 a year for Music Match).

This is a paradigm shift for me. I have gone from hoarding plastic boxes (in specialized cases) to hoarding things on an external disc to simply paying $15 a month to have access to just about any music that I would ever want or need to listen to. It’s pretty crazy to think about.

I think back to the days that you had to buy a cassette or full CD to listen to one song that you liked. Millennials have grown up buying a single track at a time ($0.99 or $1.29). And now, you get pretty much everything for $15 a month. That’s less expensive than a single CD.

So why is it so hard to make that shift? As musicians, we need Music Match so that our performances and our ensemble’s performances can remain accessible to us. But if you aren’t a musician with your own recordings to manage–you don’t even need Music Match! I even know some super-tech-savy music educators who digitize everything and are still holding on to those jewel cases.

Ultimately, I hope and trust that artists are being paid appropriately by Apple and others. And I also desperately want to see these same options for movies. I would love to be able to move away from hosting my own collection on my own hard drive.

If you have been thinking about making this move, I do have some suggestions for you. First, have a physical copy of your own music on hand, particularly the material that isn’t going to be available in the cloud. Music Match saved my bacon once, as a hard drive failed. I had a copy of the movies on that drive…but not the music. Thankfully, the music was all in the cloud and downloaded (over time) back to the new drive. Second, think about how much you spend on music (to listen to) or could spend on music. Or that your family could spend on music. When you join Apple Music (or other services), you won’t be spending $13-$16 per CD, or $1.29 per song. You will simply have access to just about everything (some artists delay streaming releases…but that music eventually makes its way there, too). And there are tools to find new music that you might like, too. It is very exciting–and really quite affordable. There is nothing to fear.

Sadly, your old CDs (and DVDs!) have lower resale value than ever before. I think I sold most of my collection for $1 per CD or DVD seven years ago…and you would be lucky to get that pricing today (in bulk). Even collectors editions do not really fetch any value any more. So, don’t expect any kind of return on your old CDs and DVDs. But that isn’t why you bought that music in the first place. However…once you have access to everything–consider selling or donating your collection, because you aren’t going to need it any more. Simplify your life–get rid of things you don’t need anymore!


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Patreon and a new WordPress template.

I have decided to start a Patreon account for my work that I do at techinmusiced.com and ukestuff.info.  You can access my Patreon account at patreon.com/cjrphd.  I have set up some reward levels and incredibly lofty goals–but in general, I would like to hear what suggestions you might have for additional content or resources you would like on this site as well as what specific reward levels might offer.  I will probably include a tag line in ever post about Patreon–but I don’t expect to post specifically about Patreon again…unless I do meet those lofty levels of support.

I finally grew tired of my old WordPress theme, and decided to change to a different theme.  I hope you like the new look (not much has changed with the different theme).


New Episode of the MET Podcast (#11)

Well, it appears that the archive.org/WordPress/FeedBurner/Apple Podcasts solution to podcast hosting is working–and I just uploaded our most recent Podcast with Mark Shelton, an author and percussionist/teacher who wrote a book entitled, “Give Me a Tablet.”  The book is available through Heritage Music Press and can be bought at any music dealer.

The podcast is available via Apple Podcasts, as well as archive.org.

Link to the audio: https://archive.org/download/METPodcast/MET%20Podcast%20011.m4a


Technology in real life

As the 2017-2018 school year is underway, I thought I would talk about how I am using technology this year.

In terms of daily use in class (choir), I am using YouTube videos to start each class (thanks to Katie Wardrobe for this suggestion), while I do attendance in iDoceo.  This is followed by using Keynote to project warm-ups and announcements, ForScore to read and play music (via a Bluetooth speaker), and Sight Reading Factory to make sight reading and rhythm reading examples between each of the songs we sing in choir (trying to make exercises that mimic Dale Duncan’s S-Cubed method).

I was using Schoology for daily questions (based on the S-Cubed reading method), but now I am planning on using Schoology for summative audio assessments (sight reading and literature), graded with Rubrics.  I will eventually also use video assessments with rubrics for ukulele.

Personally, I am using Notion (Mac and iOS), Finale, PhotoScore (Mac and iOS), Sheet Music Scanner, iReal Pro, and GarageBand to make arrangements for my choirs and to create performance tracks.  I am using LumaFusion to make play along videos for ukulele, along with AnyFont (iOS) to allow me to use ukefarm.com’s ukulele chord charts.

This work flow covers a huge percentage of my use of technology (not counting social media).

We have a new principal (who is great, and I’m not just saying that), but I had decided last year to not apply for any conferences other than TMEA, and I was not accepted to TMEA (technology, S-Cubed, or Ukulele sessions), so I am not attending any conferences this year.  Perhaps I will do so next year.  I don’t know what my future holds, as my stepson graduates in June and for the first time since my wife and I were married, we literally could go anywhere in the world–so I could stay where I am, move to a different position in my current school district (we have bidding rights), begin a college career, move to another school, move to another state or country–or even find a job out of education.  It’s really rather exciting and scary–please keep us in your thoughts as I start to look through the many doors that I could not look through the past eleven years!

I haven’t been blogging a lot–life has been busy with school, family, and my new found focus on the ukulele–the ukulele has been a great release of stress and something that has brought a lot of joy to my life.  And when I do have time for technology, I have been working on ukulele materials or literature for my choirs.

The one thing I am excited about tonight is that I think we have found the solution to hosting our podcast…it seems that archive.org might work–you have to upload audio, copy the link to a WordPress page (we had an existing MET Podcast WordPress page), and then use Google’s FeedBurner to link your WordPress RSS Feed into a Feed that Apple Podcasts can recognize–copying the FeedBurner link to Apple Podcasts.  If everything works out correctly–the feed should be correctly refreshed tomorrow–and all of this costs nothing.  I am excited about that, because then we can podcast without having to worry about hosting fees–and can just get on with the business of supporting technology in music education.  We have another Podcast coming soon…we recorded it about two weeks ago and I edited the conversation earlier today.  I’ll record an intro tonight and then add Paul’s MET Podcast music and try adding it to the feed.  If everything works correctly–we’ll be in business.

I have had a number of e-mails from people that are interested in having their products covered on the blog.  It is always nice to hear about new products…and I’ll do my best to try to get back to those people.  It does seem that there is a growing number of red note/green note programs–and this just makes me wonder how many products the educational environment can support until the market crashes.  Dorico continues to improve with each update (I’ll try it eventually), iOS 11 has been out for a while (You can listen to Robby Burns’ podcast with Paul and I about it).  GarageBand just had some updates (I’m a little sad that there isn’t a ukulele sound yet), and many apps are being updated to allow for the “notch” of the brand new iPhone X that was released on Friday (I bought an iPhone 8 Plus in September–which has most of the features of the iPhone X other than face recognition, smaller size, and the notch).

I hope your school year is going well–and that you are finding ways to integrate technology into your teaching.