After the Session…

Thank you to everyone who attended my session at the ACDA National Conference in Salt Lake City!

A special thank-you to those that stayed afterwards to introduce themselves, ask questions, or simply chat. Helping people and getting to meet people is the number one benefit of this non-job! There were a couple of comments that will lead to additional blog posts in the future.

You can find the presentation here:

Choral Music in the 21st Century presentation

And you can find the “handout” here:

Choral Music in the 21st Century handouts

Just a couple of final notes.

  1. I was trying to stay in the shallow end of the pool, which may feel “deep” to you. In that case, find one thing to work with.
  2. Pretty much everything in life follows the “eating the elephant” analogy. Do one thing at a time. If that is scanning music, start with the music you are using. I cannot possibly emphasize how important it is to take baby steps as you start off.
  3. I didn't get a chance to show off some of my favorite iPad toys. I purposely tried to lessen the content of this presentation, and still ran out of time. Feel free to check out the FAQs that I listed on the last few pages of the presentation (above) that I had avaialble just in case people in the audience didn't have any questions.
  4. Finally, don't hestiate to contact me! Many people are afraid to ask questions, fearing that they are bothering you. In truth, the questions help me (and similar technology presenters) to know that we are actually helping people and not just blogging into thin air.

Thanks again for coming–and please contact me if you have questions!

Made it to Salt Lake City

Believe it or not, I was one of two people without a seat on the plane from Minneapolis to Salt Lake Cith this morning. Someone didn’t show up, so I was able to make it here to Salt Lake City–I am currently on the light rail headed to the city center. 

Cities that have light rail from the airport to the city center are awesome–that is the only negative aspect of San Antonio (you have a take a cab or van to the city center).

At any rate…if you are in town for the convention, I will be presenting at 4pm…and my materials are available in the previous post or in the “past presentations” of the blog. 

National ACDA Convention – Salt Lake City

Tomorrow I am scheduled to present at 4pm on the topic of “Choral Music in the 21st Century: Integrating Technology into Choral Music” at the 2015 National ACDA Convention in Salt Lake City.  At the moment, I say, “scheduled” because I do not know if I will make it.

One of my professional goals is to support other teachers.  Most of my work is unpaid–this includes the blog and presenting.  Not only do you have to pay your own way to and from conventions–many conventions also require you to pay to attend the convention as well.  While my work does generate some income (less than $700 last year from book sales and app referrals, as well as under $3000 for individual district training/consulting sessions–and don’t forget to subtract income taxes for all of that income at filing time), my costs of traveling for this “non-job” usually absorb all that I earn and more.  I am not complaining about it–I am simply stating how it is.  Potentially, you could get connected with a sponsor who would pay your traveling costs–but I do not have any such arrangement.

The one saving grace is that i have a father-in-law who works for an airline, and I am able to fly standby (not free, but greatly reduced), which makes it possible for me to consider presenting in other states (I drove to Ohio, which I would not do again–I would fly next time).

This all works well…unless the plane fills up and you can’t get on.  The plane I was scheduled to take tomorrow morning filled up tonight–so I am not sure if I will make it on that plane or a later plane.  I get to hang out at an airport tomorrow morning and find out.  As a in-law that doesn’t work at the airline, my place on the priority list is last on the standby list (and I am grateful simply to be on the list!).

With the conventions I have attended this school year (IA, MN TIES, IL, OH, TX, and now ACDA in UT), I could not plan on attending ACDA for longer than my presentation, so the plan was to fly in and try to get out late Wednesday night or Thursday morning.  Originally, I thought getting back would be the issue…now it appears getting there will be the challenge.

As a result, I am going to do something I usually don’t do: I am going to post the presentation and the handouts (I made the handout this evening) in advance of my presentation, in the event that I am unable to get to UT and people still want the core information and materials.  The focus of this presentation is PRACTICAL applications of technology that fall in the areas of “substitution” and “modification” in the SAMR technology integration model.  As a rule, choral music has been less open to technology integration than other fields in music education (the highest from of technology in many choir rooms is a CD player), so therefore it is really important to stress the very practical ways technology can be used in a choral program.  You want people who attend your session to leave with a tool or set of tools they can actually apply in their rehearsal rooms.

I don’t take the honor of presenting at conferences lightly–I love doing it–so I am hoping everything will work out.

Choral Music in the 21st Century handouts (PDF)

Choral Music in the 21st Century presentation (PDF)

2 In 1

I am seeing a lot of Twitter posts about 2-in-1 programs this morning. The 2-in-1 is a detachable keyboard or 360° fold-over keyboard Windows-based computer. You can see Intel's advertisement about this here. I am not sure where the sudden 2-in-1 push is coming from, but I do have some thoughts about this line of thinking.

First, I am still not convinced that keyboards ultimately make that much difference. I know adults prefer physical keyboards, but some studies have shown that students are faster while typing on a tablet keyboard than a physical keyboard. We have had less than 20 checkouts of iOS keyboards in our 1:1 over two years (and we bought hundreds of keyboards). When you add the additional features of speech-to-text and predictive text, the perceived advantages of a physical keyboard should be reconsidered.

Second, most 2-in-1 devices are running Windows 8.1. There are a few cases of Android 2-in-1 devices, but I will not address those at this time. I have one of these Windows 8.1 devices, the Asus T-100. Most 2-in-1 devices pair a lower speed processor and overall lesser hardware to make an affordable device. These machines can run Windows 8.1, but it isn't a smooth experience. There are excellent 2-in-1 devices, like the Surface Pro 3, but they cost as much as a MacBook (more when you add the keyboard in the case of the Surface Pro 3). Let's be honest…your school always looks at budget. It will often buy the cheapest device, whether Chromebook, low cost 2-in-1, or cheapest iPad.

Third, sticking with the Windows issue, schools have to install all kinds of monitoring and anti-virus utilities, which ultimately impact the performance of any device. Think of 2-in-1 devices as the replacement of the netbook (this is a very solid comparison). Additional utilities that take up system resources result in slower performance, more time, and frustrated users.

Finally, the app experience on Windows 8.1 is lacking. Many quality apps from iOS and Android (if they are on Android) are missing on Windows 8.1, and have often found that the same app costs more on the Windows App Store than on the iOS or Android App Stores. I am fully aware that Windows 8.1 runs all “traditional” software. So, for example, you can run Finale, Sibelius, Notion, or MuseScore. But these programs were never intended to be run in tablet mode. When you use a tablet, you need programs that are optimized for tablet use. Native tablet apps are essential in a tablet environment. Additionally, computer programs are often hundreds of dollars more on traditional computers than on tablets. There are some open source solutions, but when you have to buy a program for an entire inventory of computers, it is going to be far more expensive than a large purchase of multiple iPad or Android apps.

On a related note, I am not sure there is any educational app distribution model for Windows 8.1 as there is for iOS and some Android devices.

Ultimately, I feel this 2-in-1 push must be a result of a financial campaign to move Windows devices back into education. No one can use educational-level 2-in-1 computers with background utilities causing performance issues–or visit the Windows App Store and examine the availability of apps–and leave thinking that 2-in-1 computers are a viable 1-to-1 solution in schools.

I did, however, want to end on a positive note. I do like “tile world” on Windows 8.1, Microsoft's answer to mobile operating interfaces. Tile World works well, and is a refreshing attempt to solve the issue of mobile operating systems, rather than just copying Apple or Android. But for you–likely as a music educator–Tiel World isn't going to offer the range of apps that you need for your classroom or personal musical involvement.

 

 

 

MIDI via Bluetooth

Of all the features of iOS 8, the feature that holds the most promise for music and music education is MIDI over Bluetooth. There have been some apps that have allowed devices to communicate with MIDI over Bluetooth in the past, but with iOS, MIDI oveer Bluetooth is in the core code of iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite.

 

If you have a Bluetooth MIDI device, it will communicate with your iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, or Mac. You won’t need wires. And typically, all you have to do is turn on a toggle switch inside an app to enable the connection.

 

I remember a time when connecting a keyboard via MIDI was a troublesome thing. In particular, when I started working in 1997, my school had a keyboard that was very particular how it would connect via MIDI to a computer for use with an application like Finale. It was essential to make sure that the keyboard was both sending and receiving on the right channel, and that Finale was sending and receiving on the correct channels. It was a mess. Since then, the use of General MIDI seemed to solve a lot of problems.

 

I also remember loving Moo Cow Music’s Pianist Pro app, as it could be rigged to act as a MIDI keyboard for Finale (or any other notation app), but doing so required a lot of setup on both the app and on the Mac.

 

I also remember–rather recently–how Finale 2012 would not read MIDI from my new Casio PX350, which has HD MIDI. I had to install some kind of secondary application on my Mac to try to get Finale to speak to the keyboard…and never fully figured it out. Notion connected to the keyboard…HD MIDI or not…without any problem.

 

Most music educators aren’t looking for MIDI instruments to control advanced performances of multiple digital instruments. This is also true of most users of notation applications (Finale, Sibelius, Notion, MuseScore, etc.). We simply want a way to get input from an external device into a notation app or a performance app (e.g. using an iPad for a sythesized sound instead of the voices offered on a keyboard, but still playing on a keyboard). Bluetooth MIDI is perfect for both applications.

 

There is low latency with the new Apple Bluetooth MIDI standard (in some cases, less than with wires) [latency is the time between the initiation of an event and the actual occurence of the event], and it is simply easy to use. Better yet, Bluetooth MIDI uses Bluetooth LE (low energy), so even devices on batteries can last for long periods of time

 

No other operating system offers this feature, but I would be surprised if Microsoft didn’t get on board; and certainly Chromebook and Android could benefit from being more music-friendly. The caveat is that you need an iPad 3 or newer, but in truth, all iPads before the iPad Air are on a ticking clock. The 64-bit processing of the Air (and beyond) will eventually cause developers to only write updates on newer devices.

 

At the moment, the only app that I know of that utilizes Bluetooth MIDI is GarageBand, but apps can add the ability to utilize Bluetooth MIDI by enabling code in iOS 8 and Yosemite. We are going to see a lot of apps with this feature, and we are going to see a lot of external devices that offer Bluetooth MIDI in the days to come. In the event that your favorite app doesn’t run Bluetooth MIDI, in the meantime, hardware developers are offering apps that run in the background as a bridge between the external device and your favorite Core MIDI app.

 

Watch for additional offerings in the near future from Zivix (JamStik and Puc) and other hardware manufacturers. If your favorite hardware company doesn’t offer Bluetooth MIDI, it is time to ask, “Why not?”

 

The video below shows how Bluetooth MIDI functions between my 4th Generation iPad and the Miselu C. 24. As I mention in the video, I have never specifically paired my C.24s with my iPad in any way…they simply “show up.”

 

 

At any rate, I am thrilled about Bluetooth MIDI, and it is another feature that will make music making (and music notation) on the iPad an even better experience. This fall, my fellow blogger, colleague, and friend Paul Shimmons was urging MakeMusic to make Finale for the iPad. I agree. At this point, all the “computer” programs should be finding their way to the iPad, as Bluetooth MIDI makes your iPad into a legitimate device for composition. This also goes for apps such as Piano Maestro. Any app that an utilize an external MIDI device should be updated to allow for input over Bluetooth MIDI.

 

 

 

 

 

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