Ten (iOS) Tech Tools to Help a Secondary Music Educator Prepare for a Concert (#4: Showbie, or forScore for High School)


This is a continuing series of ten iOS tech tools to help a secondary music educator prepare for a concert.  Today I’d like to talk about what students see in our 1:1 iPad School.

Contrary to what Google’s marketing and Anti-Apple evangelists would like you to believe, there are still schools that are 1:1 iPad, and there are still schools moving to 1:1 iPad.  Yes, there are many schools that look at costs and decide to go with Chromebooks.  And as I have written about in the past, Chromebook has won (ultimately) and as a result, the application solutions for music education have improved due to necessity.  That said, Apple’s new 9.7” iPad that sells for under $300 is a direct response to the Chromebook.  I still believe that the iPad is a better solution for any classroom without a desk—both in terms of form and function.

One of the easiest ways to implement the iPad in music education is to use it for sheet music.  This is where people get very angry about the issue of copyright.  As I have said in the past, if you are converting school owned paper resources under copyright to digital resources and using them in a school, in the purest sense, you are breaking copyright.  My advice for you, if you choose to use digital music, is to make sure that you own a legal paper copy for every digital copy that you are using, and distribute the digital version via a method where you can easily “collect” the digital copy after a performance.  Do not simply buy one piece and share it with 150 students!


I have tried a few solutions over the years at the high school and middle school level when it comes to reading music on an iPad (or Android device).  We’re seven years into the iPad, and I have to report that the experience is still the best on the iPad.  If you are an Android user, I believe that MobileSheets is still your best solution.  And if you are a high school student or older, look at any of the apps that I mentioned in my previous post about forScore, unrealBook, or Newzik.

A few days ago, a reader e-mailed asking why I didn’t recommend piaScore.  piaScore is a freemium app (download for free, pay to unlock features) that has advanced over the years.  I had issues with piaScore at school as YouTube is embedded in the app (can you think of a reason why you wouldn’t want YouTube available to your students in rehearsal?) and by the time you unlock all of piaScore’s freemium features, you will have spent more than forScore or unrealBook or Newzik.  I also think the other programs are laid out in a more logical way, but that bit is a bit of opinion.

However, when it comes to middle school students, particularly those who are required to be in a music class, and therefore a huge percentage end up in choir (60%-70% of the total number of students in music), having a music reader with 8,000,000 buttons is NOT a good thing.  The Keep It Simple approach applies.

Therefore, I use Showbie as a music reader for my students.  Showbie is a “light” learning management system, and they have recently changed its pricing and features.  Simply put, there is a free version and a paid version (either individually or by district), and it is another tool that uses GAFE login protocols (can I hear an “Amen?”).

I used to use Showbie for many of its other features, but our school moved to the enterprise (paid) version of Schoology, so I am using Schoology for most of that prior work—but I continue to use and pay for Showbie for music distribution.  I can create a “folder” of our music that students can see and annotate, changing pages by swiping left and right (no hot spot feature).  Yes, some students just draw on the pages (they would be doing so on paper, too).  But with Apple Classroom, I can make sure they are in the correct app (I try not to look at individual screens—if they are in the right app they are close enough), and at the end of a concert season, I can delete the folder, removing access to that music.  Showbie just turned on the ability to reorder music in the folder—so you could theoretically change the order FOR your students every day (during rehearsals) or put the music into concert order (as the concert day approaches).  You can also add individual files to individual student folders (and this is how they can also turn things into you).

I could easily operate as Showbie as our only LMS…but Schoology is pretty cool, too.  I’d love to see Showbie and Schoology merge into a single solution.

The free version does limit the total number of assignments that you can have, and to be honest, I haven’t worked under the free version for four years.  Still, if you are a 1:1 school, Showbie may be an answer for digital music distribution.  Showbie also has a web based version which is improving (they also see the allure of the Chromebook), so theoretically you could put parts in Showbie and students could access those parts at home without dragging a music folder with them (they can access Showbie on any device).  You can pin a recording to a PDF file (you can upload many file formats to Showbie), but you still cannot upload an existing audio file (such as a recording exported from Notion) to Showbie.  I keep hoping…as then students could practice with the track at home.

With the free version and the web version, perhaps Showbie might be a solution for you in terms of providing music for students to use in class or to practice with at home!


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