Books Update

I have been busy working on my ukulele video resources this summer, and on the side I have been watching the technology news.

Amy Burns posted about her iBook which is entitled, “Help!  I am an elementary music teacher with a SMART Board!”  SMART recently updated its main program (SMART Notebook), changing some things and removing some older components.  Amy updated the exercises in her book so that activities can be used with the latest software.

This made me think about my own iBooks (and eBooks).  All of them are dated at this point, and I don’t intend on updating anything until after iOS 11 is released in the fall.  I don’t really suggest buying them right now, and when I do update them, I am going to reconsider pricing, etc.

I think a quick summary of my positions with music technology are worth stating in the meantime.

  1. I still think the iPad is the most flexible solution for music education–for teachers or students.  It will fit in any teaching situation, there are incredible apps for the platform, there are a number of quality accessories for the device, and the “new” 9.7″ iPad is in the same general price range as many Chromebooks.  The old argument about price being the determiner of Chromebook vs. iPad is over…it now becomes a question of philosophy and allegiance to a physical keyboard.
  2. Chromebooks are improving, and I really liked Michelle Mastin’s (ViolaJack) recent blog posts where she is using a “flipping” Chromebook in performance settings via Android.  The problem is that schools are not buying these more flexible (and less rugged) devices.
  3. Web-based programs keep getting better.  Noteflight, Flat.io, and Soundtrap are awesome solutions that now work together–and all of these services are offering better solutions for Google Apps schools (note…iPad schools can be Google Apps schools, too).  And of course, there is the New SmartMusic and all of the MusicFirst catalog including Sight Reading Factory.
  4. Two challenges remain for web-based apps.  First, they (rightly, fairly) cost money for annual subscriptions, and integrating them INTO secondary performance-based music education requires less time with performance, or integrating assignments OUT of the classroom.  Some of the web-based services, such as Noteflight, are including fund-raising opportunities to help schools raise money for resources.
  5. I don’t agree that web-based solutions are the only way to go.  If you are at an iPad school, for example, you may have a better experience with native apps such as Keynote, Notion, or GarageBand.  Yes, web-based solutions (should) work on every platform–but there are some things that are better on a specific platform.  I am sure that high school music technology teachers would insist on a Mac with Logic Pro or GarageBand.  However, if you are not at a device-specific school, it is pretty amazing how many quality solutions are available.  Don’t fail to look around and see the wreckage of web-based services that didn’t make it.  Or those that might not (SoundCloud).  [Note: We’re not sure what we will do with our podcast if SoundCloud folds]
  6. I still feel that the most natural way to use technology in music is as a replacement of and improvement on paper music.  One of the web-based digital music services recently questioned my continued support of PDF based technology such as forScore and unrealBook (iPad).  I can see where the future is going with Newzik and Gustaf, and if I didn’t have forScore and unrealBook, I would be able to use those solutions.  As it stands, the PDF music readers still offer a huge variety of tools that are not yet included in the MusicXML-based solutions.  Those features will continue to be added, and eventually all of us will move to those solutions.  I still love using Showbie in our 1:1 iPad scenario as a way to securely distribute music, allow students to interact with the music, do live assessments with music, and still not have too many tools in their hands (don’t give a middle school student a Swiss Army knife like forScore as a music reader.  They will be distracted by all the tools and find themselves plucking someone else’s hair our with the tweezers instead of simply cutting a rope with the knife).
  7. Ultimately, I feel like we are on the edge of a major distruption in technology in music education.  It is sort of like Moana standing at the edge of the water (sorry, I have young boys).  Things are about to change, but I can’t quite see where they are going.

This is going to be an expensive year for me in terms of technology.  I just replaced my iPad, my iPhone will be updated in the fall, and at some point this year, I will buy the new MacBook, as my current MacBook can no longer run the latest versions of the productivity software from Apple.  I encoded a video on my MacBook a couple of days ago–something I haven’t done since purchasing Luma Fusion (see my previous post).  All I’m going to say is this: my new iPad Pro can process a similar video in a fraction of the time it takes my 2008 MacBook to achieve…with more features.  I never thought I would see that occur.

One other note: Paul and I interviewed the CEO of UberChord a couple of weeks ago and have not found a common time to record the intro for that podcast.  We’re both on family vacations for the next weeks, so be aware that something IS coming.  (And that is NOT a reference to Game of Throne, Season 7, which premieres tonight).

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