While I was at the IMEA Professional Development Conference, two teachers asked me about the Kuno tablet and how it could be used in music education.
I didn't know anything about the Kuno, and between having a number of other things going on in my life (our musical opens on Friday night), I haven't had a chance to look at the Kuno tablet. I've now had the opportunity to see what the Kuno is about, and I can give you some early opinions, which are not based on actually using a Kuno. I have written Kuno, asking if they would consider letting me try a demo unit (the first time I've made such a request)–and since I included this website, I would assume that they will read this article before making a decision on the matter. Regardless, here are my first thoughts…
- The Kuno is a 4×3 tablet. This makes more sense in a paper-centered world (which is the very definition of education as we know it in 2012).
- The Kuno runs Android 4.0. It's unclear if it will be upgradeable to 4.1 or other upcoming Android versions.
- I cannot tell if these devices can be “centrally controlled.” That has been a negative of other Android tablets, including the UnoBook.
- Likewise, I am not certain if you install apps through the Google Play Store, the Amazon Android Store, or another method (or all of the above).
- The Kuno has some nice features, including front and rear camera (lower resolution than the iPad), a MicroSD card slot, and HDMI out (see their website for the full list).
- I have a preference on the type of tablet I would buy, but I certainly would never begrudge someone else for choosing a different tablet. The limitations of the Kuno–in my opinion–ultimately are related to the limitations of Android.
- There is currently no way to mirror an Android tablet to a screen wirelessly, as with AirPlay on iOS. This is pretty important in the current model of technology integration.
- The apps available for Android in music education are really limited–many are “just” phone apps–unlike the rich offerings on iOS. Certainly, there are some crossovers (ClearTune, SmartMusic Inbox), but in general, your most basic “substitution” apps (PDF sheet music readers) just aren't in the same category.
- I need to make this exceptionally clear: these two main issues are NOT the fault of Kuno but of the Android OS itself. The 4×3 screen in and of itself makes the Kuno worth checking out.
- Battery life seems adequate. It isn't iPad 4 efficient, but seven hours of video should be enough to get you through the day, and Kuno sells a number of accessories including an “emergency charger” should a student forget to charge their device.
- My guess is that schools with anti-Apple IT directors will be more likely to go with an Android tablet than an iPad. I was anti-Apple at one point in my life, too, so I understand that. I'd give those IT directors a pat on the back for at least being open to changing platforms (moving from Windows or Linux to Android isn't a fluid process, either).
- My guess is for most subjects that require the ability to do research, write papers, and create presentations, the Kuno will be completely in its element. Where it will likely struggle is in the electives where specialized software is needed. Again, this isn't a Kuno problem, it is an Android issue.
At any rate, I'd love to play with a Kuno to see what it could do over my “hacked” HP TouchPad (I would expexct a device created to run Android to be better at running Android). I'd also be interested to see pricing on each unit. In March, the UnoBook (the closest competitor to the Kuno, although featuring an 8″ screen and not the 9.7″ screen of the Kuno) was $297. Obviously, the pricing of the Kuno has to make sense against a $399 iPad 2.
If your school district bought the Kuno, or another Android tablet, what are the answers for music education? Truthfully, I don't have a long list of answers. You could try either EZ PDF Reader or Mobile Sheets for sheet music. You can purchase ClearTune. You can use SmartMusic Inbox. There are various pianos and other music games. But I'm not sure what other answers exist. MuseScore just released a MuseScore reader for Android, too. Some of the Android tablets have a “locked” set of apps (such as the UnoBook), making the installation of these additional apps a challenge. And central management is really important, particularly from the onset of a 1:1 program (or even classroom sets).
I'll certainly report back if I hear from the folks at Kuno (I don't expect or demand an answer).