Category Archives: Apple Hardware

Apple Education Event, March 27, 2018

Earlier this morning, Apple held an education event, where it offered some new solutions for education.  I’ll be visiting with Robby Burns in the near future on his podcast about the education event, but I wanted to cover some highlights and offer some initial reactions.  I work in a 1:1 iPad environment and have done so for five years.  I have “hands on” experience with teaching and iPads.

First, Google Chome has been kicking the hind end of the competition—including Apple—as it comes to education.  School districts are simply too tempted by low cost devices that have a keyboard and offer free services/apps/storage.  If you are a music educator, you are fully aware that you need more tools than the Google Suite, and that those services (rightfully) charge a key.  There is also a very good chance that your school district isn’t budgeting any extra money for you to have those services.   We’re also actively ignoring Google’s willingness to sell data to provide those low cost services. As reported widely today, Chrome represents 60% of the education business in the United States right now, and Apple only 11%.  Just yesterday, Google announced a Chrome-based Tablet, set to compete with the iPad for $329.  It will be interesting to see if these devices become “accepted” in Chromebook schools—proving that the choice of Chrome devices over Apple devices isn’t really form factor, it is an anti-Apple bias, which still exists.

Second, what was really announced today?  As I wasn’t there (I would have loved to have been there, and as I’m on Spring Break, I could have made that happen), here’s the list as I know it:

  • A new 9.7” iPad that is faster and works with the Apple Pencil for the previous price point of $329 for end users and $299 for schools.
  • Apple Pencils will sell for $89 to education
  • There are new cases, including a good looking Logitech armored keyboard case for $99
  • iWork has been reworked to allow for annotations.  This is cool in Pages—but will be positively AWESOME in Keynote.  I’ve used PowerPoint and I have used Google Sheets, but I find Keynote to be the best tool for what I do.  I have always said that Keynote is a program that acts as if PowerPoint and SMART Notebook had a baby.  At this point, I would rather work on a mirrored iPad in KeyNote than on SMART Notebook on a SMART Board.  My school recently decided against getting SMART Boards in every room in our new school—a decision that will pay for itself with this announcement.  SMART activities are great, but many have been messed up on the Mac platform for years with Flash anyway.
  • Apple Classroom will now work on MacBooks, too (a major request)
  • It appears that iBooks Author is somehow integrated to Pages on iPad, allowing you to finally create iBooks content on the iPad (This has kept me from updating my own iBooks, to be honest).
  • There is a new homework hub that will integrate with education apps, allowing teachers to assign work and track completion.
  • And school assigned accounts now get 200GB of free storage per account.  That is a nice change.

Third, it is unclear how some existing services will decide to work with Apple.  Can Schoology tap into the new homework hub?  I think Apple has made a poor decision in not acquiring JAMF, which is what most schools use for Mass Device Management (MDM).  MDM should also be free for schools, provided by Apple.  You want the market?  Eliminate the extra costs to run Apple products in schools. I also did not see Apple address the problem of in-app purchases for school apps (there is currently no way for a school to pay these costs).  Apple also didn’t solve the situation where students can stop management simply by going to Airplane Mode or restarting their device (Yes, kids do this—all the time).

Finally, I wish we could be honest and admit that part of the problem is that Google refuses to provide their own suite on iOS with the same functionality it offers on its own platform.  I am very aware of this as I work with Google Slides.  I have to work on a computer in Chrome or on a Chromebook to have full functionality, whereas even working in Chrome on an iPad isn’t enough.  There is a “nod” to provide basic functionality—but if you really want to work, you need to move to another device.  That is a purposeful choice by Google, and if Apple did such a thing, they would be mocked for it by the press (you can run most Apple iWork apps through iCloud.com, by the way).

All in all, the biggest changes in my life due to today’s announcement will be the ability to write and draw in Keynote and the ability to create an iBook on the iPad.  I don’t see schools buying Apple Pencils for students, but I can see some students opting to buy them (what happens when they are stolen or broken, I do not know).  It sounds as if Logitech is making an Apple Pencil device for education—I need to read more about it.  Perhaps this opens the door for 3rd party Apple Pencil devices?  That wouldn’t be so bad.

We are also going to have to update my own children’s 4th Generation iPad Minis, as those devices are getting dated (and are in rough shape).  As a parent, I can see myself buying a 9.7” iPad in the place of those iPad Minis, with a keyboard case from Logitech and a Logitech “pencil.”  I could also see buying the new iPad for my parents (my mom has the previous generation 9.7” iPad).  I just wish Apple would start those devices at 128GB these days.

I don’t know if this is enough for Apple to “win,” and I’m not sure Apple wants to “win.”  I think these changes make it possible for Apple to keep competing, and today’s announcements certainly do that.

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A few days with the new 12.9″ iPad Pro


As I mentioned in a previous post, when Apple announced the new iPad Pro (there is a 10″ version) they also announced the same updates to the 12.9″ model.

I have been putting off the purchase of a new iPad for some time–and it was time to upgrade.  This was facilitated with 0% financing from Apple for 18 months.  

That iPad arrived on Tuesday, and I have been using the iPad Pro in my daily life for the past three days.  I have been reading a lot about the iPad Pro models on all of the technology news outlets.  The general consensus is that the iPad Pro is wonderful, but it costs a lot.  This sounds like typical Apple to me.  That said, my 2008 MacBook (which I am still using) was pretty expensive ($1500 if memory serves), but it is still working for me nearly 9 years later.  

I have been integrating the iPad Pro into my life, and for the most part, what I have to say is this: it is a big iPad that does what iPads do.  I am able to do some more split screen activities as the size better allows for it, and it is wonderful for reading music.  I have now attended two ukulele functions with my iPad Pro, my PageFlip Dragonfly, and my AirTurn GoStand/Manos Mount.  Music reading on a digital device doesn’t get any better (although I would recommend Michelle Mastin’s thoughts on using Samsung Chromebook Plus as a music reader...she prefers the Chromebook–which can run Android Apps–to a Windows Surface!).

My iPad is used as a tool to run my class (everything is organized in Keynote), as well as a music reader.  The primary reason that I wanted the 12.9″ iPad was to read music, so it is doing exactly what I want it to do.  Did I need the latest version of the 12.9″ iPad to read music?  No!  I could buy a used model for that task.  But when buying an iPad or iPhone, I do believe in buying the latest version so as to give it the longest possible shelf life.  

The pencil is a fantastic tool…I love it.  I hope they make the iPhone a pencil-friendly device this fall.  I don’t have an Apple keyboard…I just have the keyboard from a very inexpensive New Trent iPad case (previous model) that I use, and that works for what I need.  My iPad/Tablet stand is from IKEA and cost $3.  I will say that I have spent some time with drawing music into the iPad, and I am amazed at how well Notion’s handwriting works for a $7 in-app purchase.  I don’t see handwriting as a great way to enter a lot of music into an iPad, but if you need to write something quickly and have an iPad Pro–and are not overly familiar with technology–handwriting is an amazing solution.

The limitations of the 12.9″ are its size and weight…which aren’t really limitations.  They are the reality of the device.  The limitations of the iPad Pro are found in the operating system and the available apps.  Don’t get me wrong…and iPad can do more things than a computer used to be able to do.  Apple is addressing the operating system with new iPad features this fall; and chances are that apps will continue to develop as the operating system changes.

For example, I have been doing a lot of work on my MacBook creating ukulele play along videos.  I use these videos in my classes, and they are fun to make.  I also know that some ukulele groups use these videos.  Here is my latest effort: 

I simply can’t do all of the steps to make these videos on an iPad.  Currently, I cannot save a YouTube video from iOS (Even the Workflow App is broken in that regard), I cannot open that video as an audio file and make changes to it, and I cannot use the timeline to make a “Picture-In-Picture” bouncing ball icon to follow chords.  In regards to the initial creation in Keynote, I cannot attach an audio recording to the entire document, record timings, and export as a video file.

In the long run, I CAN do some of this on the iPad, but I cannot do all of it.  I might be able to do some hacked things, such as opening a video in Explain Everything and using the “pointer” to show chords…this last part might be easier, but one of the fun things to do is to make the “bouncing ball” into something that relates to the song.  One of my favorite such icons was using a VW Beetle for the Beatles’ “All My Loving.”

All that said, my new iPad Pro has a much faster processor and a much more advanced graphics processor than my old 2008 MacBook.  It could handle everything that my MacBook could do…but the apps have to allow for it.  Hopefully that will come!

As for the speed on the iPad…the iPad Pro runs everything that I ran before at the same perceptible speed…so I wouldn’t upgrade for that reason.  I would say that if you have an iPad older than the original iPad Air, it is probably time to upgrade.  There are three new iPads…the $329 9.7″ iPad, the new 10″ iPad Pro, and the updated 12.9″ iPad.  You really can’t go wrong with any of them.


WWDC

I was busy with school items today and did not catch the news from WWDC.  I still need to watch the keynote (perhaps tomorrow), but Apple released a SIRI based speaker, and also introduced the newest versions of the iPad Pro (10″ and 12″ models).  As I have said for a long time–I was waiting for the new version of the 12″ iPad Pro, and it has been ordered, and should arrive next week.

I am looking forward to the new iPad for a number of reasons: Apple Pencil, increased speed, much better speakers–but most importantly, size.  I am using reading glasses now on a daily basis (something my eye doctors said would eventually happen) and I am really looking forward to interacting with a 12.9″ screen.  I am sure my next iPhone will also be the “Plus” size.

I don’t buy every iteration of every Apple device.  My MacBook (which I am working on right now) is a 2008 Aluminum MacBook (later rebranded as the 13″ Unibody MacBook Pro) that has had 3 hard drive upgrades and holds as much RAM as I could put in it (6GB).  My iPhone is an iPhone 6S that will be two years old in September, and my iPad is an iPad Air 2, which is now over two years old.  Even my Apple watch is going on two years!

Depending on what my carrier does, I will likely upgrade to an iPhone 8 in the fall (or a 7S Plus…whatever it is called), and I will try to continue to use my MacBook as long as I can (9 years in October!).  My Apple watch has been a critical element (along with my iPhone) in helping me with my health (more about that next week) and whether or not I upgrade that device depends on what the new devices will do, and what my older device can no longer do.  This is true for most of my devices…when my MacBook can no longer run Finale, iMovie, or Notion, I will upgrade immediately.  I already cannot upgrade the operating system.  So I do have a lot of Apple stuff, but much of it has been purchased over time, and it is a hobby as much as a professional interest.

I’ll be sure to write about the new iPad Pro when it arrives.


What can you do with an Apple Watch? (Sung to the tune of “What can you do with an drunken sailor”)

applewatch

There have been a number of posts recently about what you can do with an Apple Watch.  I have had mine a little over a week now.  My primary goal was to get it to get moving again–and I have been doing that.  The lowest I have had the watch–when I charge it at night–was 13%, and that was on July 4th when I was up far longer than normal.

Here is a list of things I have been doing with the watch…

  1. Tracking exercise (steps, exercise, and standing)
  2. Notification and response to text messages
  3. Reading e-mails (From Spark Mail)
  4. Testing the various music apps (from my previous post about the Apple Watch)
  5. Siri
  6. Paying by Apple Pay (NFC).  It flips the salespeople out.  One McDonald’s worker nearly hyperventilated–and I’m not kidding
  7. Set an alarm (the “ding” alarm almost didn’t wake me up–I incorporated the “ding” into my dream for a while)
  8. Set a countdown timer
  9. Check the weather
  10. Receiving notifications about an Apple Maps route (it taps you before the expected turns)
  11. Controlled my Apple TV
  12. Controlled audio playback
  13. Controlled podcast playback (with Overcast)
  14. Customized watch faces (and have used about 4 so far)
  15. “Pinged” my phone (just to see if it works–I usually know where my phone is)
  16. Tracked my heart rate
  17. Used the camera app as a remote to take a picture of my wife and I (With the Glif smart phone mount and a mini tripod)
  18. Used the watch as a Tip Calculator (Calcbot)
  19. Received a weather alert (Tornado Watch tonight, in fact)
  20. Controlled a Keynote presentation (just to show I could)
  21. Tracked exercise (different than the 3 bands): bicycling and elliptical
  22. Checked baseball scores (At Bat)
  23. Looked at photos (yes, they are SMALL)
  24. Tracked my son’s chores with ChoreMonster
  25. Made Dick Tracy type phone calls (this works surprisingly well)

The Apple Watch works well if you want a fitness device that does far more than a FitBit, as long as you are not interested in your sleep patterns (FitBit and Misfit track sleep).  The Apple Watch really shines when it comes to motivating you to move (it really does–if you are the kind of person who buys an Apple Watch, you will also be the kind of person who wants to see all 3 bands completed), and with notifications.  The Apple Maps integration is the feature that was most surprising to me.  I thought I wouldn’t care, in reality, it is a nice addition.

The Apple watch also shines in any situation where a quick interface works well–Apple TV, controlling audio playback, controlling a Keynote, and so on.  Even the Chipotle app is perfect because it takes a saved order (assuming you like the same thing) and allows you to order it with a single press.  Any time a Staples “Easy” button would work–the Apple Watch works well.  And truly–Apple Pay on the watch is perfect.  Press the lower button twice, pull up the card, and turn your wrist to the NFC reader–and that’s it.  No phone, no card.

Where the Apple Watch doesn’t do well is in situations requiring a lot of text, such as e-mail and RSS readers (and yes, there are a lot of apps with Apple Watch functionality that fit these categories).  The digital crown (a nice feature–the Watch would look plain without it) does a nice job with scrolling (Sometimes I wish I had such a crown on my iPhone!), but the screen still isn’t ideal for text-heavy applications.   I would also like to be able to make the icons larger (I’m scrolling anyway), as sometimes I don’t press the right app button.

I did buy one accessory for my watch other than Apple Care–the watch really didn’t charge well on its side, so I bought a Belkin Apple Watch stand.

Is the Apple Watch worth it?  That is up to you.  I am hoping it is a catalyst for me to get back into shape, and if it does that, it would be worth its weight in gold (so far, so good).  Sure, I could have bought another fitness tracker, but the ones that are out there never appealed to me–and I’m unlikely to buy a Google Wear watch as I don’t own an Android SmartPhone.  I’m a week in, and my wife is already hinting at wanting one–and she used to be happy with her Misfit (it eventually fell out of its little holder and got lost) or her three month old FitBit.  She’s already ready to move to an Apple Watch, so that tells you something (remember–my wife is NOT a tech geek by any means).

[Note: My wife’s FitBit tells the time and notifies her of phone calls in addition to tracking steps and sleep.  I do not believe that her model tracks her heartbeat]


Presentations from the 2015 Ohio MEA/Central TI:ME Conference

This past weekend I had the pleasure to present three sessions at the 2015 Ohio Music Educators Association and Central TI:ME conference.  The conference has a unique focus on technology in music education, as the state conference turns several rooms over to the Ohio TI:ME organization, which then schedules technology sessions for those rooms.

My first presentation was on scanning music…the first time I have presented this as a session.  Ins and Outs of Scanning Presentation (PDF) Ins and Outs of Scanning (Handwritten PDF Notes)

My second session was on iPads in Secondary Music Education.  iPads and Secondary Music Education 2015 Presentation (PDF) iPads in Secondary Music Education 2015 (PDF Notes)

And my final session was on Chromebooks in Music Education.  Chromebooks and Music Education 2015 Presentation (PDF) Chromebooks and Music Education 2015 (PDF Notes)

**In the Chromebook session, someone asked if the Adobe Creative Suite could be used to edit video on Chromebooks; I replied that some parts of the Adobe suite worked, and others didn’t.  From my research this morning, it appears that (as of 2/2015), only PhotoShop is working as a web app on Chromebooks via the Adobe Creative Suite.

Thank you again to the Ohio TI:ME committee for approving my sessions, and to everyone that attended those sessions this past weekend!