Still the One…

This evening, I have been working with my Android Nexus 7 (2013 version). I am waiting for the latest version of Google Android (Lollipop) to be released for the device. Generally, I use my Android device for one of three things:

  • Playing games (particulary Clash of Clans and Star Wars Commander)
  • Watching Netflix or Amazon Prime (you can install Prime via the Amazon Android Marketplace)
  • Checking music education apps on Android

For some time, I have said that if iOS and the iPad didn’t exist, I could be happy with Android. I still think this is true. But as a person who owns a device from all of the major OSes available on the market, I still strongly feel that the iPad is “still the one” for music education.


Don’t get me wrong–there are some really strong apps on Android, and some wonderful web-based resources that work on nearly any device. Neuratron, makers of NotateMe and PhotoScore, prefers Android over iOS–particularly the Samsung Galaxy Note. And I have recently discovered “Perfect Ear 2” on Android, which is an incredibly well put-together app that isn’t available on iOS. Online resourses, such as Noteflight, continue to improve.


But when it comes down to a platform that represents the very best for music education, the iPad still is the place to go. At this point in my life, as my far sightedness (literal) requires me to use reading glasses, I would prefer a larger device such as the 12.1″ Samsung tablets. But when it comes down to the list of available apps and available accessories, as well as built in features for music making–such as Core MIDI and MIDI over Bluetooth LE, the iPad is squarely in control. Yes, some apps are on multiple platforms. Some of those are GREAT apps (NotateMe, iReal Pro, ClearTune, StaffWars). But when you need a native music composition app (Notion, Symphony Pro) or a world-class PDF Music Reader (forScore, unrealBook), iOS is the only place to go for those apps. And if you are a musician using a mobile device to mix music–iOS is the only answer.


Read this closely…I feel the battle for the device in education has been lost. I think the Chromebook has won. The simple fact is that you can buy (at least) two Chromebooks for the price of a single iPad, and you can replace an entire Chromebook for the price of an iPad screen repair. Will some schools still choose the iPad? Absolutely, and they will be considered “elite” schools, just as Mac schools were considered special in the 90s (while Apple was making terrible products). But the reality is that the majority of schools will look at the “96% of what a computer can do at a fraction of the cost” and try to get the biggest bang for the buck. It doesn’t matter to most schools that the 4% that is lost are those things needed/used by music education and other elective classes. If you consider Chromebooks on the SAMR model, I don’t think Chromebooks transform education–they generally enhance education. Typing a paper or collaborating on Google Docs is not a transformative task. Schools that adopt Chromebooks should be willing to admit that they are okay with only reaching 50%-75% of the SAMR Model.


With this reality, I think our strategy has to change as music educators. We aren’t going to get developers to spend their time writing Chromebook apps for music education, as schools aren’t spending money on web apps or web services (if you are already penny-pinching in your choice of device, you aren’t going to save money to buy subcriptions to online services), and Chromebooks–as clamshell devices–aren’t going to fit well into our music classrooms.


I think the strategy needs to become this: “Since our district saved ___ million dollars by purchasing Chromebooks for students instead of iPads, our elective classes (music, art, etc.) need to request iPads for our use along with the apps and accessories that are available for our discipline out of some of the money that was saved.” You can ask for devices to be used as musical folders, pit orchestra devices, and as a portable MIDI lab for music theory and music technology courses. You can make a case that several carts of iPads with all needed apps is still less expensive than a dedicated MIDI lab. Don’t forget the usefulness of SmartMusic on the iPad, either. With this approach you can “play along” with a Chromebook initiative, yet have the benefits of iPads in your room. If your district has gone (or is going) “all in” with Chromebooks–I would suggest trying this approach. Music education has always been considered an outlier in education (especially by technology departments), and you might find that the decision makers are willing to consider exceptions for music (and other electives).


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