Category Archives: Apple Hardware

Apple Hardware

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


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!

Quiet iPad changes at Apple

Over the last few weeks, Apple has quietly made some changes to the iPads that are available.  They quietly removed the 16GB  iPad 2 (which was selling for $399) and have replaced it with the 16GB 4th Generation iPad (Retina screen) for $399.

This is really an amazing thing; people generally thought that Apple couldn’t sell the Retina iPad at the $399 price point; and others thought that Apple kept the iPad 2 because of education–not so much price but for creating a common device in schools (if you have iPad 2s, you might not want 4th Generation iPads mixed with them).

So, as of today, you can go buy a brand new 4th Generation iPad for $399 in a 16GB configuration.  This is the device that many schools buy for their students (as it is the cheapest).  Refurbished iPad Airs (lighter, faster) are available now on the Apple Store (see this link).  So you can currently buy a refurbished iPad Air, which is twice as fast as a 4th Generation iPad, with 16GB of RAM and a 64 Bit Processor for $419, or a new 4th Generation iPad with 16GB  for $399.

If the iPad is for you, spend the extra $20 for the refurbished model.  Just trust me on this one.  And realistically, get at least the 32GB version for yourself.

Still…for schools that were just spending $499 per 4th Generation iPad this past fall, adding additional (new) models for $399 might be a wonderful thing.


I was inspired last night by a new poster by Richard Wells at The picture appears below and says so much, so simply (I have asked for permission to share this poster on my blog and in my books on Thor iBookstore). As a very important side note, Richard has a ton of wonderful iPad resources on his website.

I find myself continually speaking out against notebooks and Chromebooks, because they just don't fit in music classrooms (applications, SAMR, and other topics just further the argument). Clamshell computers leave music “out in the cold” when it comes to technology. As a result, I began drawing this image in response, really in alignment, with Richard's poster. It took two hours to draw my stick figures in ArtStudio on the iPad (the background is a real stage–I didn't draw it). Enjoy!


Two Weeks into a 1:1 iPad Deployment

At my new school, we are in our second week of a 1:1 deployment of iPads. We are a smaller middle school (for a metro area school) with under 800 students. Our district also deployed iPads at three elementary schools and one high school.

My role in the iPad initiative is end-user support; I help students and teachers attempt to solve problems as they arise. I am not a decision-maker, nor am I a device manager.

The iPads themselves are formatted with Configurator, each being loaded with Casper device management. Our model is to let each device stand on its own (not a fully managed model) and to open the device and all its features to our students. We have a robust firewall, and we are taking broad steps to teach all aspects of digital citizenship in this digital world.

As a result, each iPad has to be set up individually, preferably with the student's parent and/or guardian at hand. We have learned that you have to set the age of the user as the parent's age (most middle school students do not reach Apple's former and still current age minimum of 13). If you mess up that step, you are blocked later in the process. We have learned to use our own Google Apps e-mail addresses for Apple IDs, as well as to handle passwords.

After devices are completely set up, we have to run Casper on each device. Casper allows us to distribute apps to students using iTunes redemption codes.

The decision-makers made the (wise) decision to only purchase and install Notability on these iPads, as iOS 7 will allow MDMs (multi-device managers) such as Casper to reclaim codes–meaning that schools will no longer “burn” money on apps purchased for students that move on. Apple's event also confirmed a rumor that Apple's iWork and iLife apps would be free–we're not sure if we will qualify as Apple's terminology at the event stated that these would be free for “new iOS users.” There are a lot of schools that just bought iWork and iLife apps–and there are others that held off. They might as well just make iWork and iLife free for everyone (I don't even mind that I paid $40 for those apps 3 years ago).

Our district guru set the iPads to each have a passcode. That has been a bit of a bane for us, as students have been forgetting their codes. If they let us know early enough, the district guru can use Casper to unlock the device–but if students try until the device is disabled, the entire process has to be gone through again. This means reformatting with Configurator, setting up the iPad, and running Casper.

We have been told that everything will be changing with iOS 7…from set-up to management. I'll be writing about that later, as well as adding material to my iBook.

In choir, the iPads are working fine. I have decided to use Chromatik for three main reasons. First, it is free. Second, it allows for easy score distribution (there have been complications). Third, it has the basic features we need in choir.

With the middle school format, I see about 225 students over a two-day period…about 1/3 of the school, with a very small 8th grade class (that small enrollment will change next year, I believe). At this point, I have seen each choir four times (seven classes scattered over two days). The first day was introductions, the second day was setting up Chromatik, and the third day was having them share a folder with me in their Google Drive account. The most recent day has been dealing with stragglers with Chromatik and Google Drive, and then finally getting down to some singing (we have warmed up each day and did some sight reading).

Chromatik works pretty well for us, but we have run into some complications. First, our Google Apps address is ridiculously long ( Students make mistakes typing this address ALL THE TIME. Because they created Chromatik accounts with this address, many errantly made accounts with the wrong address, and then had to create an account with the right address. Second, Join Codes work really well for distributing material Unfortunately, the program doesn't seem to refresh correctly (even if you pull to refresh) unless you log out and log in again. This is an issue if the student created an account with an incorrect Google Apps e-mail address or forget their password. Additionally, Join Codes require you to choose an instrument, and if you choose an instrument that isn't represented in the original file (e.g. “guitar” instead of “choir”), nothing appears (only instruments that have uploaded parts should appear in that dialogue box). Finally, the band director has discovered that although you can upload different parts, such as 1st Clarinet and 2nd Clarinet, both show up in Chromatik as “clarinet,” and in a playlist, you cannot choose one or the other–and weirdly only one of the parts will show up in Chromatik after choosing that part. So Chromatik needs to add a way to upload 1st Clarinet, 2nd Clarinet, and all “parts” instruments.

From a personal standpoint, I would like to see the addition of a red pen, the ability to pin an audio file to a part so that my students could access that audio file to practice, and the ability to turn a page with a touch on the left or right hand side of a page, rather than a swipe (Add the addition of parts for our band director).

But there is no other app that will do what Chromatik can do…which is to centrally manage the songs on a playlist that are shared with a student–and allow us to delete those apps later.

I have also learned a lot about Google Drive and sharing folders. It is incredibly easy to do this via the updated Google Drive app, but my students had an extremely hard time following instructions. I asked them to create a folder like this:

HourDay LastName First Name Choir

My folder would look like this: 1B Russell Chris Choir

This lets me organize the folders by hour, by name, and the “Choir” lets the students know what class the folder is for.

I can't tell you how many different kind of folders that were created: everything from “chior [sic]” to literally “HourDay LastName First Name Choir”

I kid you not.

Also, sharing was difficult because the Google Apps e-mail addresses do not auto-populate like they do on the web browser, so students had to type in my account name (presented to them on a screen). Apparently typing two “s's” or “l's” is really hard–and as I've mentioned already, typing is an agonizing thing. Some kids never even made it to the sharing point, thinking it was automatically shared.

So, I learned to pull up my Google Drive while these folders were shared with me (or attempted to be shared with me), and reading off names as they appeared. By doing so, there was immediate feedback and I could help those that needed help.

So, we basically “lost” two days–one to set up Chromatik, the other to set up “Google Apps.” They say you have to go slow to go fast.

The other thing I have learned is that I need to make students put their iPads under their chairs during attendance, announcements, warm-ups, and sight reading. Otherwise, students are on their iPads. I let them take out the iPads once we get to music and I attempt to monitor appropriate use (they should be on Chromatik) as we rehearse. Most of them are good about it–but they do like to color with their highlighter, pen, and white out that come as a part of Chromatik in class. I can lock students into Guided Access as necessary down the road, but as for now, I need to be at the piano helping them learn rather than walking around the room.

iOS 7 is supposed to let a teacher take control over an entire class of iPads…this would be beneficial, and we'll see what happens.

I should also mention that the iPads are encased in a Griffin Survivor case…green and black for 8th Grade, all black for 7th Grade, and red and black for 6th grade.

I'll write more as things develop, but so far, so good.