Maine now hates iPads

That title gets your attention, doesn’t it?  Over the past two days, a single news item has been circulating the tech blogs.  The best example comes from Fortune: http://fortune.com/2016/05/23/maine-schools-ipad-macbook-air/

As a person whose iPad is his primary device, the fact that single voices (read the article closely) are dominating the conversation:

Even students were harsh, with one saying that iPads are designed to “play games on” and ostensibly not to be used for work.

And another:

One teacher said that students often use the iPads as “toys,” adding that they have “no educational function in the classroom.” 

Let me be very clear: iPads aren’t perfect.  Classroom management in a 1:1 has been a nightmare, because Apple has been slow to provide appropriate tools.  We deal with gaming every day.  We deal with misuse and mistreatment of devices.  We deal with off-task behavior.

If you think that Chromebooks or MacBooks are going to stop gaming, you are fooling yourself.  If you think kids won’t mess around on a Chromebook or MacBook, you are living in a fantasy world.

“These devices are only for serious work.”  Yes, that’s because there are NO HTML 5 or Flash-based games on the web  [There are.  More than you can count].

With iOS 9.3 (released this Spring), Apple finally introduced management features that are going to change the game  (yet again) with iPads in the classroom.  These tools are just 3 years too late.

And to the teacher that says iPads have no educational value, my answer is, “Seriously?!?”  In the world of BYOD and 1:1Chromebooks where such programs are less favorable to music education, we are always told, “Surely there has to be some educational value to using these devices in music.”  My response would be that the quoted teacher isn’t a very good teacher if they can find NO educational use for an iPad in their classroom.

The article also critiques using the iPad for Word Processing (Too bad Pages and Word are available for the device).

Let me translate that for you: “The iPad doesn’t have a keyboard.”  I heard that argument from some of the English teachers in my school about a month ago.  I have a Bluetooth keyboard for my iPad, and there is nothing stopping a school from requiring students to provide an external Bluetooth keyboard.

We purchased two hundred keyboards when we went 1:1 .  Most of these haven’t been used at all.  When our English teachers wanted to use them, it turns out the keyboards do not have individual Bluetooth identifiers, so all of them show up as the same keyboard in the pairing process (even though all of them have unique BT addresses).  As a result, an entire class can’t pair at the same time, basically requiring so much time to pair that it becomes pointless to use them–and you want students to unpair after using the keyboard so they don’t accidentally hijack someone else’s iPad that forgets to unpair in another classroom.

So I get it–iPads aren’t perfect.  But the solutions keep getting better.  MacBooks are wonderful, but the clamshell device doesn’t fit well into most music classrooms.  

Incidentally, this news item came out a few days after Google announced that Chrome OS will soon be able to run most (if not all) Android apps.  Having taught in an unrestricted app environment–I can tell you exactly what is going to happen when the “best” Android apps are on every student Chromebook.  Google promises central control of apps for schools–but implementing that procedure is more difficult than simply saying that you will provide it.

And to readers in Maine–you don’t all hate iPads, but you should know that the tech press has basically said that you want to ship every iPad out of your state.  If you like iPads and can see that they have some benefit in education–you might need to speak up, as your voice is clearly not being heard.

Notation Software (and Dorico)

There has been a lot of coverage today about the announcement of Dorico.  Dorico is the notation app that the developers at Steinberg have been working on for over three years.  Pricing seems to be equivalent with Finale.  As I am not a Sibelius owner/user,  I am not familiar with Sibelius’ pricing, but I seem to remember that they moved to a subscription model (continuous income) versus a “version” model.

You can find lots of articles on Dorico, so I won’t go into any detail about it.  I haven’t seen the app in person, so my opinions on the program would be worthless.  If you want to learn move, visit the Sibelius Blog [a lot of detail here], Steinberg’s blog, or even Paul Shimmons’ Blog.  Heck, it was even mentioned on The Loop.

What I did want to write about is the environment in which Dorico enters.  Twenty years ago, there were two main players on the market, with a bunch of smaller notation apps.  Those two programs were (and are) Sibelius and Finale.  A lot of smaller notation apps have come and gone, but one interesting development occurred: MuseScore.  You can download a notation program that works well for most users for free.  If you ask college students most of them are using MuseScore (so would you, if you were in college).  With that in mind…what notation software are you using right now?  Chances are you are using the software that was used in your college.  What does that say about paid programs and the future?

There are a number of smaller apps on the market, such as Notion (which I love, particularly for its iOS app), and even Overture is back.  Don’t forget about other notation apps such as Symphony Pro (iOS), Noteflight, and flat.io.  And of course, the unique situation with StaffPad which works best on a single device (Windows Surface).  What a crazy time to bring a new notation program into the world!  MakeMusic has already announced its next version which will be massively rewritten.  Sibelius has released continual updates, as promised.

Here is my question: when MuseScore exists, how many $600 “professional” music notation programs can the market support?  What is going to give?  I don’t think there will be a swarm of new users.

If you know the history of Dorico, the main team is made up of the Sibelius team that was let go by Avid.  As they have created this new program, they have done so with a very strong background in notation program (even developing a standard music font).  They have had to design a new program that doesn’t copy any part of Sibelius–so my main guess is that they have made Dorico the program they wish Sibelus could have been.

And with that in mind, I think their main target will be Sibelius users.  That said, $600 is a lot of money for most people, and even a limited time cross grade price of $300 is still a lot of money.  I fully realize this is the actual cost of development and support–but these are purchases that must be planned for (unlike a $15 iPad app).

The other question is if a major publishing company will abandon one of their current programs and adopt Dorico.  That alone would guarantee the success of the program (and the possible failure of the program that is abandoned).

There is still a lot of time before Dorico is released (Q4), and a lot of time for Steinberg to tell us more about the program.  For example: I am wondering what relationships they will have with scanning software.  I expect to see a number of introductory videos and social media updates that will help us to know more about the app when it is time to actually pull out a credit card for the online purchase.

We should be thankful that we have the choices that we have, and to be glad that another choice is coming.  What would Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and the rest of the gang been able to do with the tools that we have today?

**Incidentally, if we ever figure out time travel, I am going back with a MacBook, keyboard, notation software, and Mr. Fusion and showing Bach how to use it.

A great “nugget” from the Sibelius Blog…

Read the full article here (link).

The good news is that you won’t have to wait long for that [News about the new Steinberg notation app] — details about the product, including its name, will be unveiled this coming Tuesday, May 17. At that time we’ll have more coverage.

I have been waiting to see what Steinberg creates, how much it costs, and how it impacts the world of music notation that has been rewritten with the existence of MuseScore.  I love that Philip has the connections to cover this field, because I don’t think anyone else does!

Incredibox: Another app joins the “Dark Side”

If you follow the tech news, you will see nothing but negative news about Apple these days.  Stock is currently trading around $90, every product is being called a failure, not innovative enough, or boring.  Every eductional article lauds the Chromebook and its success in education.

You might as well tell Apple to close their doors and go home.

While the stock price is not a good thing for investors, the company itself is plugging along.  Apple introduced a smaller iPhone (remember when EVERY tech journalist demanded larger phones?) which is still backordered, introduced the small (9.7″) iPad Pro, and refreshed many of their notebook computers, including the controversial 12″ MacBook which in the minds of many tech journalists, has both gone too far (One USB-C Port?  Burn down the Apple stores) and not far enough.

And it is a very quiet cycle in new products and apps.  Most companies scale up to CES (January) or Winter NAMM (also January), and we are really in the “calm of the storm” before Apples WWDC, where developers will learn what iOS 10 (if that is what it will be named) will bring and start programming for the eventual device releases in the fall.  I am waiting to move to the (12″) iPad Pro until the fall.  I saw one again last night at Best Buy and continue to be amazed by the sheer size of the device.

In this relatively quiet time of the year, it has been fun to see some apps that were previously web-based (I.e. Chromebook friendly) make it to iOS.  One of those apps was SoundTrap.  Another is a recent release of a popular music web app called Incredibox.  Incredibox was a Flash-based app, so it wouldn’t work on iOS.  The iOS app was released at the end of March, and already has had four major updates.  It is available for $2.99, and can be bought with educational pricing for $1.49 in groups of 20 or more.  I love seeing a previously web-only app make its way to iOS, just as I love seeing iOS apps move to Android and Chromebooks (There is some speculation that Chromebooks will soon run Android apps.  We will need to watch that development).

Incredibox is basically a looping app, where a group of guys are on a screen, and they make different looped sounds based upon the articles of clothing that you drag on the figure.   On the iOS app, if you don’t like the sound, just drag the clothes off the character.


As a choral and band educator at the secondary level, I struggle trying to integrate looping apps of any kind (including GarageBand) into traditional performance classes.  But I do know a lot of educators that like to teach with such apps (e.g. Disco Fingers, GarageBand)–and I know a lot of musicians who love to practice and perform with loops.

What I can tell you is that Incredibox is incredibly fun to play with, and the iOS app works perfectly.  If you would like more ideas about how Incredibox can be used in your classroom, I would simply forward you to posts on the subject by Katie Wardrobe (link) and Amy Burns (link).  Just remember that you can now purchase Incredibox for iOS, too.

SoundTrap is on iOS!


Last week, SoundTrap released an iOS app.  There is no secret that a number of web-based services, while in the universal HTML-5 format, do not work well on iPad.  Some services require a keyboard, others just don’t work right.  Another example is flat.io, which works best on computers and Chromebooks.  Flat.io has mentioned that they, too, are developing an iPad app.

SoundTrap is a web-based digital audio workstation, offering an interface similar to GarageBand.  Basic functions and loops are free, but subscriptions are required for full functionality.  Educational pricing does exist.

If you have an iPad, you might wonder why you would want SoundTrap instead of GarageBand, and unless you are into SoundTrap’s collaborative features (you might be!), there really isn’t much benefit for using SoundTrap.  However, if you teach in a BYOD environment or a mixed technology environment (e.g. Chromebooks and iPads available), SoundTrap files can be created on iOS or Chromebook and then opened in the other format.

Like the basic function of SoundTrap, the app is free, and is worth checking out.  I have not had time to attach any MIDI devices to SoundTrap, and will have to do that at a later time.

I love this move.  It opens SoundTrap to use in 1:1 iPad schools, and it acknowledges the place of the iPad in the world of music technology while still offering solutions on all those other platforms.  I wish SoundTrap all the success in the world.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,362 other followers