And Technology Shifted…

The term “paradigm shift” isn’t a buzzword any more, but we’ve experienced a technology shift in our high school, and I wanted to write about it.

Our high school opened in the fall of 2009, meaning that we ordered most of the items for the building throughout 2007 and 2008. In our music department, we were able to purchase a decent amount of technology, which included:

  • 4 Roland FP7 Pianos
  • 5 8GB 2nd Generation iPod Touches
  • 5 Brookstone BoomBuckets
  • 5 HP mini netbooks with SmartMusic
  • 1 Yamaha Clavinova CP309 Digital Grand Piano
  • 17 seat MIDI Lab with a desktop, LCD monitor, M-Audio USB 49-Key Keyboard, and M-Audio Mic with Finale 2010
  • 1 Standard Freehand Music Reader
  • 1 Podium Freehand Music Reader
  • 2 Epson Photo 300 scanners
  • Standard tech equipment in each music room (choir, band, and orchestra): SMART Board, LCD Projector, Notebook Computer, DVD/VHS Player, and room audio system–and Finale 2010 and SmartMusic
  • 1 Zoom H4n audio recorder
  • 1 Carvin portable amplification system with 12 mics, speakers, mixer, and amplifier
  • 2 Digital Picture Frames

Technology shifted. The iPad came out and basically eliminated the Freehand Music Reader (Music Pad Pro), so I was able to sell the item (to district policies) and purchase a second Zoom H4n. (Our Band Director still has the conductor system that basically sits unused)

Technology shifted. The iPad came out and would be a far better alternative to our iPod Touches.

Technology shifted. The iPad came out and basically replaces the need for Finale, M-Audio Keyboards, and the MIDI Lab.

Technology shifted. The iPad 2 deletes, in many ways, the need for a SMART Board.

Technology shifted. The iPad records audio. Even within some other apps.

Technology shifted. The Jawbone Bluetooth speaker is a far better option for iOS devices than the BoomBuckets–no wires.

Technology shifted. The Yamaha Avant Grand is a far better digital piano with the literal action of Yamaha grand rather than the Clavinova CP309 we purchased.

On a positive note, the Roland FP7s have been very useful, particularly on the DigiDolly systems they roll on. We’d buy more of them, and the Yamaha Clavinova CP309 has been great–it’s just that the Avant Grand is better. We still use the scanners (daily), but an oversized scanner would have been better for the band director and those large scores. The digital picture frames are great (large frames). This is far better than mounting picture frames of groups in the room as I used to do. Every school music department needs at least one portable PA system for Jazz groups and other gigs…the Carvin system is well-priced and reliable. And although iPads can record audio, we still love our Zoom H4n recorders. We’d recommend them to anyone. (Note: We have two acoustic pianos–a Yamaha CFIIIS that once lived at the Metropolitan Opera, and a standard Yamaha Upright piano)

Like many high schools, the courses we offer are dependent on registration. We did not run Music Theory, AP Music Theory, and Music History in 2009-2010, nor will we in 2011-2012. We did run one section of music theory in 2010-2011. The MIDI lab of 17 seats is not used very much by other classes. The next time the lab will be regularly used for a class is 2012-2013 (With only 17 seats, it is far too small for every other class in the school to use). By that time, our version of Finale will be three years out of date, and all licenses will need to be renewed–with no funds to do so. Meanwhile, the HP netbooks, once a great $500 alternative to the $1200 Windows laptops purchased by our district (they get a middle of the road model with a 5 year service-based warranty), are slow and problematic on our wireless network. With all the other IT software on each computer, it takes 7 minutes for a computer to be fully logged into the system and operational. The HP netbooks require 45 minutes (no kidding).

So, we’ve decided to cannibalize the MIDI lab and turn it into large practice room. Interestingly, the MIDI lab was originally slated for 10 systems (even though we’re not allowed to offer the course with only 10 students), but we were able to optimize the space with 17 stations. 3 systems will go to the main rehearsal rooms to avoid docking issues (We use Bluetooth connections with our SMART Boards, and all I can say is that switching computers is problematic at best–requiring a full shutdown (5 minutes) and reboot (7 minutes), well into your next class). 7 systems will go to practice rooms. And 6 computers will be recycled and put into the system for our school or other district schools, and all five netbooks will be retasked as well.

It’s sad to think about the investment in this technology which was so quickly outdated by our infrastructure and the iPad. When I taught music theory this past year, I tried to use Finale for our projects, but I found that I was spending more time teaching Finale than students were using the program to complete assignments. I love Finale, but clearly, it’s not intuitive. And I know that Sibelius is more user-friendly, but it would still require training. Were I to teach music theory next year, or in 2012-2013, the technology would be Symphony Pro on the iPad, which incorporates a keyboard. And there would be no need for Finale, Audacity, or Microphones.

We could have bought (two years later) 20 iPads and replaced nearly all the other technology…and furniture…for the MIDI Lab for much less than what we spent. But there’s no crystal ball. It’s possible that some better technology will come out–but imagine the possibility of bringing a MIDI Lab, a recorder, a mixer, a tuner, and a sheet music reader with you (or a student) for under $600 (including case/software). There is no need for a MIDI Lab any more. How amazing is that?

As always, SmartMusic for the iPad is a need–and we’d like to see it as soon as possible. This is the only reason we’re keeping the desktop systems around at this point. For us, it is very important to make the most out of the cannibalized MIDI lab.

How amazing is it that the technological bar has moved so far in such a short time, mainly because of one device? Who could have predicted that? And who could top that? It’s hard enough for other companies to copy the iPad.

And the other amazing piece is that the iPad has the potential to make a similar splash in nearly every field of education, and of course, life.

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