Assessment with Audio in Music Education

I had the opportunity to present a session at the ACDA of Minnesota Summer Dialogue yesterday afternoon, and I'd like to thank everyone for the kind comments both before and after the session. As a side note: the company that makes the iPad stand and has a discount for a package including the AirTurn Bluetooth pedal is

Even though another session followed immediately after mine, a few people stopped by to visit with me. One of those people was my long-time friend and choral colleague, Joel Gotz, who will be teaching middle school music in the Minnetonka (Minnesota) school district this year (just as I am teaching middle school in my district). Joel has been working with technology on a near 1:1 basis at Minnetonka high school over the past few years (they are rolling out iPads year by year), and he even wrote his master's thesis at St. Mary's University on the subject.

Joel and I have been talking iPads for two years, and he had two areas where he has differed in practice from what I have written.

The first is that Minnetonka uses Schoology, which allows teachers and students to interact with documents between iPads. I'm fully aware of services like Schoology and Edmodo; but my district isn't going that direction (at least not yet–no guarantees), and so I focus on those “free” solutions for document sharing, such as Dropbox and Google Drive. The end result is the same: the teacher shares a document with students via the cloud, the student uses those resources, and if they need to return them to the teacher, they do so via the cloud. Just the other day, I created this “workflow” using Google Drive to share with another colleague, Brandt Schneider (Brandt is in Connecticut).

The second item of Joel's, and what this post is about, is audio assessment. What do you do if you don't have SmartMusic on your iPad? How can you give students audio feedback? Well, Chromatik (if it comes back in the App Store–it has been gone for some time) is geared toward letting a student send you audio. But what if you want students to complete a sight reading exercise? How can they get their pitch before starting their recording?

Joel had an answer: Remarks by Readdle, the same developers who make Documents and PDF Expert.

I created a sight reading assessment, just as a test, to see if it would work. I typed the instructions and grading criteria into Remarks. I used Notion to create a sight reading sample (from scratch; if it infringes on anyone's work, I apologize). I took a screen capture of the page and then used a graphic program (I used Art Studio, which I like a lot, but you could do this with Skitch which is free) to crop the image. I then inserted that image into Remarks.

Sight reading exercise created in Notion
Cropped sight reading exercise

Next came the recording, and this required a work-around. I simply hit “record” and played two notes on a piano app (Moo Cow's Pianist, incidentally) on my iPhone near my iPad's microphone (top center of the iPad).

As I correct a completed assessment (one that has been returned to me), I can circle incorrect notes, write comments, write down the score, and even record a verbal comment about the performance. What is missing from SmartMusic is the instant assessment that both the student and I can see; and this method will be more time consuming working with folders (instead of SmartMusic Inbox). Still it's a remarkably powerful idea (no pun intended), taken from Joel Gotz and put into practice.

Final document: pitch recording appears on center of document; student recording should appear under it.

Here is a link to the actual document I created; I do not believe you have to have Dropbox to open it. You will need Remarks to experience the embedded audio.

So, in summary, what you need:

A) Remarks ($4.99)

B) A source for sight-reading material (e.g. Notion if you make your own, the Bruce Phelps Sight Reading Method, Singing at First Sight, etc.).

C) A way to edit a screen shot (power button and home button at same time)…Skitch should work fine

D) A Google Drive or Dropbox account (if you don't have Dropbox, ask someone that does for a referral code, as they receive free storage space for referring you–such as my referral code [yes, I can always use more space])

P.S. Notability does offer voice recording, but that recording is based on typing as far as I can tell, so Notability does not seem to be a good option for this (at least not yet). Remarks places recordings in separate places on the page with a clear icon; I will contact the developers at Notability and ask if this can be accomplished with their app.


Some new Techinmusiced resources: Assessments and Warm-Ups

I’ve decided to put some additional resources on  The first resources are a number of assessments that I put together in collaboration with the Perpich Center for Arts Education and the State of Minnesota.  These assessments are based on the Minnesota Arts Standards, and are still in the “working” phase.  All of the assessments utilize technology in some way, some use specific iPad apps.  You are welcome to use and adapt any assessment presented on this blog.

The second resource I wanted to add was a collection of choral warm-ups that can be perused and saved for use on the iPad (or any other presentation device/software).  I’ve recreated all of these warm-ups (I’ve made most of them in the past) for a uniform look.  If you have warm-ups you would like me to add, simply send me them in Finale or MusicXML format.  I will be adding to this page throughout the summer, with a goal of having 200 warm-ups in at least 3 different formats (syllables, solfege, and blank) by the end of August.  I also plan on making a ZIP file of all of the images, so you can download all of them at once.  Keep checking back to see the progress I’m making.  At the moment, I’ve loaded 5 humming warm-ups, meaning 15 total images.  The images may make the page load too slowly–we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.