If you don’t use the technology…

I spent some time this afternoon researching Chromebooks in music education–and most of the search engines pull up my own articles about the Chromebook and how I feel it is lacking for music education.  That’s a little disconcerting, because I certainly don’t see myself as the world’s leading expert in integrating Chromebooks in music education.  I really want to be proven wrong!

One of the sites I tripped upon featured a Chromebook apologist (I’d typically call myself an iPad apologist) whose main complaint about iPads was that administrators were choosing the iPad based upon trends from other schools.  He also complained how principals attended conferences and pulled out iPads, and simply took notes typing into the iPad’s “Notes” application, one finger at a time.  Meanwhile, he sat at the same conferences, able to type sixty words per minute on his keyboard equipped Chromebook.  Legitimately, these were the basis of his anti-iPad stance.

I want to make this clear–you need to have a game plan if you are adopting iPads for your school; they won’t work wonders by themselves.  There may be schools that would make better use of Chromebooks, particularly if the focus of their integration will be typing papers, searching the web, and creating presentations.  If you are choosing the iPad for these purposes–you are choosing the wrong device.

What I am passionate about is people using the technology at hand in their teaching–and whenever possible with their students.  My preference for music education is the iPad because of what it can do (endless options).  But if you have Chromebooks, MacBooks, or even “just” an interactive white board in your classroom, you need to be able to use those devices.  In many cases, you may even be evaluated on your ability to integrate that technology in your room, even if the technology isn’t the best for music education.

Put another way, I have a number of former students that sold their iPad as they went to college.  Why?  Because they felt they needed a device that allowed them to type notes (for most of them, the solution was a MacBook or MacBook Air, so it wasn’t an anti-Apple thing).  I took a lot of notes in college (and through 2.5 graduate degrees), and there wasn’t a single class where typing would have been an advantage.  I think there is greater power in taking notes by hand, drawing illustrations as necessary–and even doodling to stay awake!  As a music major (most of my students are not), I also needed to draw music notation by hand.  I find that Notability is my increasing app of choice (as much as I love Noteshelf) because of its ability to open PDF files (including blank staff paper). [I’m hoping that Noteshelf will finally add this when they update their app for iOS 7].  Once you’ve created your notes, you can even upload them to Evernote where they become searchable.  That would have been incredibly powerful when I went to college (I was a junior twenty years ago).

Using the iPad for handwritten notes far outweighs typed notes, in my opinion (you can type if you need to).  And don’t forget about the ability to simply take a picture of a presentation slide or a whiteboard, and to insert that into your notes (most laptops do not have rear cameras).

So…what I want to say is that if you aren’t using the technology in the creative ways that the technology can be used–regardless of platform–you might as well just use paper and pencil.  My goal is to help you avoid that and to help you find practical ways to integrate that technology in your teaching, regardless of what technology you use or are forced to use.


4 responses to “If you don’t use the technology…

  • Ken Pendergrass

    Bravo! Well said! An iPad is not “magical” like the commercials contend. It’s a device that won’t make you a better teacher just by pressing the power button. But you will look cool at a meeting if that is your goal…
    I bought a Chromebook this Spring and I’ve had a love/hate relationship with it. Love the size and weight and the access to all things Google (I’m in deep with calender, drive, gmail, you name it). But, it doesn’t have anything like Garageband (don’t groan Apple haters…). That program alone is what I use most with students and myself for everything audio. It’s simple and it works and I can post student projects to my blog quickly. I’ve searched high and low for a program that will allow me to record on my Chromebook and be useful with students. Lots of other web based music ed stuff (notation programs, theory programs, simple sequencing programs) are easy to find and work great on the Chromebook and it’s inexpensive. Now, I just bought a MacBook Air to replace my stolen Macbook and I love, love, love it, but it’s four times the price of my Chromebook. And I’m getting an iPad from my principal specifically to use a conferring application for music assessment. I agree with your commentary- most schools are getting iPads without thinking things through. At our school the decision to get teachers iPads was based mainly on one application that can be used to assess students quickly with Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop. And for many of our teachers, this is the incentive they need to start using any technology for the first time beyond email; specifically an application for teachers designed around assessment that works quickly. Faster than pen and paper? Perhaps not at first, but I’m looking forward to using this application to assess my instrumental students quickly that creates a database I can manage throughout the year.

  • choirguy

    If you get a chance, please let us know what the assessment app is that you will be using with the iPad!

  • Shannon Doak

    I have to disagree with you. The iPad has some fantastic apps for creating vivid and well made presentations. We use them in all grades from K – Grade 4 and the kids have made some fantastic presentations. As for typing on the iPad, this is a problem only for those who touch type. For our students who have grown up with touch screen devices have no problem tapping out notes, neither do I. I can basically type just as fast on the iPad as I can on a regular keyboard. I didn’t always think this way but after using them extensively with students I can say that they can replace laptops at least in the Elementary school.

  • choirguy

    Hi Shannon,
    Thanks for your comment…I don’t think we disagree much at all; my argument is that if the ONLY reason you are using iPads is to replace the computer workstations in the media center (writing papers, doing research, and making presentations), then you should look at another device (I’d suggest the Chromebook). The iPad is capable of so much more and not limited to these functions.

    Yes, the iPad makes wonderful presentations–I love Keynote on the iPad and tend to use it before any other presentation software, and I have access to all of them (PowerPoint, SMART Notebook, Haiku Deck, etc.).

    But if your idea (I’m sure yours isn’t) of technology integration is papers and powerpoints and you have iPads, you’ve made the wrong decision.

    As for handwriting notes, I just find that handwritten notes keep me more involved in a class, and also allow me to doodle when necessary to stay awake. There are a number of technologists who believe that students MUST have a physical keyboard because of typing–particularly at the secondary level. I’m not one of them, but I didn’t grow up typing on glass. When I do a lot of typing on my iPad, I tend to turn to my Zaggfolio keyboard/case. Notability, my notetaking app of choice, allow for both typed and handwritten notes (the best of both worlds), which can be moved to Evernote and made searchable.

    So…I think we agree. My main points of this post were:

    1) Use the iPad to its full potential
    2) Challenge your idea of what technology integration means
    3) Consider the power of handwritten notes on the iPad versus typed notes

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