I love Showbie. As a 1:1 iPad school, Showbie allows me to manage the “paper” aspects of my classroom. I love that I can share music in a folder (e.g. “6th Grade Spring Concert Music) to a class, give students access to that music, and then hide or delete that folder after the concert (collect the music with a couple of clicks). While in Showbie, students can turn pages left to right (something that a surprising number of PDF applications do not allow), and students can write in their music. Simply put, Showbie is worth the annual fee simply for music management for 350 students.
Our school adopted the enterprise version of Schoology last year, so when there are tasks where I can use Schoology, such as submitting audio or video for assessment, I use Schoology where I used to use Showbie for those tasks.
Our choir program has paid for a subscription to Showbie the past years; as we will no longer be fundraising for our program, we may have to adjust how I use Schoology, adopting the free version and creating grade level “classes” instead of classes by hour/section as I have in the past. Showbie has both free and paid tiers.
There are other benefits of Showbie–it can be a great way to share almost any kind of file between iPads, particularly if your district has restricted other means of sharing (e.g. AirDrop). The company has added many features to their web-based program, and it is now approaching the functionality of the iPad version.
I was an ambassador for Showbie in the past years–and I remain a user and supporter–but I couldn’t find the time needed to support Showbie fully as an ambassador.
So, if you haven’t noticed, I think Showbie is brilliant.
A couple of days ago, Showbie announced that they will be partnering with Socrative, which is a multi-platform assessment program. I’m not sure if Socrative will continue as its own service or if it will be absorbed into Showbie, bur I do know that the one area were Showbie lacked as a program was assessment tools. Showbie has a rather effective quick grading tool, but was far behind other Class Management Systems when it came to assessment. While I am sure there will be some bumps in the road along the way, the merging of Showbie and Socrative should lead to a much more useful tool, and a more competitive tool to other programs in the educational CMS space.
It will be exciting to see what the future holds for Showbie + Socrative!
If you have a JamStik, or teach on Chromebooks, you may want to look at the latest announcement from Zivix, the creator of the JamStik. They have created a web platform that runs the JamStik in Chrome. I haven’t tried this yet, but it is a really exciting possibility, particularly for schools that are 1:1 with Chromebook.
Today I presented on the subject of iPads in Music Education for the Wisconsin Center for Music Education. We covered a lot of territory today, and as usual, the later afternoon becomes a challenge with planned work/reflection time. I am very thankful for those that attended today's session (tomorrow is Chromebook day)…all of them elementary music educators. I have no problems presenting…but part of me wished that I could have flown out Amy Burns for the day…I heavily recommended her resources as well as Katie Wardrobe's resources!
I was thrown completely off my game when one of the workshop attendees mentioned that a bunch of my elementary music apps were no longer on the App Store.
As I have mentioned before, I plan to update all of my books when iOS 11 comes out. That is when I will painstakingly go through every link to make sure that apps are still available. I do have a list of apps on my website…and it was just shocking to realize that so many apps were just…gone. One of the iPad's strengths has been the abundance of quality apps, many at no cost or low cost. Granted, plenty of web apps have disappeared, too (do any web apps from the original iPhone still exist?).
Don't get me wrong…there are still plenty of wonderful resources for the iPad (and Chromebook), and some stellar resources, such as forScore. I still think that forScore (or unrealBook) can completely change the instruction in any music class.
Still–the unannounced disappearance of apps unsettled me. I think it might be related to the upcoming iOS 11 and companies deciding to abandon a product instead of updating it. #sad. I need to update my web list!
A few minutes after the workshop closed, I received notice that none of my TMEA sessions were accepted this year (One on iPad, one on S-Cubed, two on ukulele). That is disappointing, but I have been accepted at TMEA several times (including sessions that I had to decline last year as I presented a number of sessions at the Maryland Music Educators Association the same weekend), and I have previously been declined at TMEA, too. The only sad part is that I have scaled back my presentations as my school was no longer giving me days off to present (they have never been asked to pay for travel, housing, or registration fees), and I was not sure what our new principal would think–so I had only applied at TMEA this year. If you had hoped to see me somewhere in 2017-2018, you'll have to come visit me at my school in Minnesota.
And now…I just received an e-mail from Chromatik that they are closing their services on Monday. That adds to my "reeling." Chromatik started off as a service that would display (and sell) sheet music, as well as offer annotation and group distribution. Funding was made possible with angel investors. It was used on "American Idol," and I had high hopes for the service. They even offered a promo that if you had a certain number of students sign up, they would send you an iPad 2. I did that at my prior school, and that iPad is still in use. Later, Chromatik took a turn, offering sheet music linked with video for all kinds of tunes, with a subscription model. It became a web-based service, and I had continued to talk about it–although I didn't use it very often myself. I still wish it would have continued to exist and improve in its original form, as nobody still has the group distribution model worked out (although Newzik and forScore have some elements of those models). People at Chromatik, thank you for making a "go" of it, and I wish you all the best in your futures.
The other day I wrote a tweet and said this:
Here is the challenge as a music education technologist: there is little new to report on, yet the profession, as a whole, hasn’t adopted the old stuff.
I really feel this is true. The iPad is no longer the "hot commodity" in music education, yet it is about to undergo a major transition with iOS 11 making it easier, better, and faster. The apps are still world class, and some of them exceed or improve on the abilities available on other platforms, often at a better price point. I still believe that the iPad is the best platform for music educators (note: not the only platform), and I would love to see every music teacher (that wanted one) have an iPad (preferably the 12.9" iPad Pro) for their instruction, regardless of what their students have or or are given. Again…forScore (or unrealBook) alone justifies the device. Having apps like Notion, Sheet Music Scanner, Notate Me, Luma Fusion (and more) just sweetens the deal.
Tomorrow is Chromebook day. I'm not against Chromebooks, and I want to help teachers use whatever device they or their students have. The Chromebook has improved a lot, and is so much more useful in music classes. Most of this is thanks to paid services (education versions), such as Noteflight, flat.io, and SoundTrap (and many others carried by MusicFirst, which is also brilliant). Android is coming (in fact, it is already on many Chromebooks), although there are issues to work out in an educational model.
That said, Android isn't iOS when it comes to music education, and neither is Chromebook. The iPad still has a very important place–and not just because I like it. It just does more and it does it better. I just have to hope that we don't ignore it as a profession, as most music educators still haven't had a chance to see what it can really do!
I have a pretty good grasp on Chromebooks in music education…but are there any recent developments that you have seen that I might not know about? I am fully aware of the “big” programs, such as SmartMusic, Noteflight, flat.io, SoundTrap, the MusicFirst products, and all the “general” websites such as Quizziz, Kahoot, and so on.
I also know about the WIDI Bud and the Chromecast, as well as Chome mirroring to Reflector and Air Server.
That said, there might be something good out there that I don’t know, or new hardware that I might not know. If you know of anything, please send me an e-mail and let me know about it so I can share it with others.
Copies of the presentations will be up in the “Past Presentations” area by Thursday.
This review is for the Yamaha UD-BT01, available around $50 from many vendors. In a pre-summary, this is a device that needs to be plugged into a USB power adapter, but then allows a MIDI instrument that normally uses USB MIDI to connect to a computer to become a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) MIDI device that utilizes BLE MIDI to connect to a computer/tablet/phone which allows BLE MIDI (a feature found in newer iOS and Mac OS devices). In short, BLE MIDI is low latency and has no cords, which is a huge benefit when working with a computer or tablet.
This review requires me to travel back in time a few weeks, when I reviewed the CME XKey Air and the CME WIDI Bud. After posting a review, a reader e-mailed to let me know that the Quicco Sound mi.1, the Yamaha UD-BT01, and the Yamaha MD-BTO1 did not work with the CME WIDI Bud. I was able to verify that my 1st generation mi.1 did not work with the WIDI Bud, but I could not verify that the Yamaha devices did not work. As a result, I did what any blogger would do–I reached out to Yamaha and asked for a review unit. Yamaha graciously sent out a UD-BT01 for me to work with. It arrived yesterday and I have been working with it for a day.
The UD (can I just call it that for now?) is a USB dongle of its own that is not meant to plug into a computer. Instead, it is meant to receive a USB cable from a MIDI instrument, and then the UD is meant to plug into a USB power adapter (whatever you have on hand–my Apple iPhone USB brick worked just fine. So…the UD is made to receive a USB cable (we call this a “female” adapter) and to plug into an adapter (“male”).
Put another way, this adapter needs to be plugged into a power source to work. Therefore, if you need wireless capability without having to attach it to electricity…the UD will not be your device. If that is the case, see if the Zivix PUC+ might work for you (It is important to note is that the PUC+ can use either USB or traditional MIDI connections). Two examples of potable keyboards where a plugged-in solution may not be best are the Akai LPK 25 or the (original) CME XKey, both which normally communicate to a computer/tablet through a USB cable, drawing power through the USB cable.
Back to the UD, If you happen to have a power source near by (and you will for many keyboards), this adapter is a nice solution to convert an existing device to a BLE MIDI device.
I attached the UD to both my Casio PX 350 M and my Akai LPK 25. It worked flawlessly with iOS, as I expected that it would. The secret is to connect to the device in any BLE MIDI equipped app (e.g. GarageBand, Notion) and then use any other MIDI app. Once the device is connected in iOS, it can be used in any Core MIDI app. (Note: In GarageBand, go to settings (wrench), then Advanced, then Bluetooth MIDI Devices. If the UD is turned on, it will show up, and a single click will connect to it. If you see nothing at all, make sure Bluetooth is turned on in control center,)
My MacBook isn’t new enough to run BLE MIDI and my Chromebook does not have BLE MIDI. As a result, I connected the UD to both devices via the CME WIDI Bud. The WIDI Bud connects by itself to the first device it senses , so you need to make sure that you only have the device that you want to use (should you have multiple BLE MIDI instruments in your procession) turned on. In both situations, the WIDI Bud connected to the UD just fine, and I was able to work with Notion and GarageBand on my MacBook, and Noteflight, Flat, and SoundTrap on my Chromebook.
As for Windows, my Windows device is an Asus T-100 Transformer, and it simply doesn’t work well (It is slow and was cheap. You get what you pay for). I bought that device a few years ago to be able to help music teachers with Windows computers. The T-100 does not have BLE MIDI (and I am not even sure that BLE MIDI is yet incorporated into Windows 10), and the WIDI Bud just doesn’t seem to work well with my computer. Using CME’s WIDI Plus app, I can connect to various devices and the UD shows up on the bottom of the screen as a MIDI device nearby, but I cannot connect to it.
One of the joys of Bluetooth Wireless MIDI is that it takes a lot of the complexity out of MIDI connections. Connecting with an iOS device or a Mac, or even a Chromebook with a WIDI Bud, is fast and easy with no cables to worry about and no messing around with MIDI settings (sometimes you have to select the WIDI Bud as an Input/Output device on a web app, like Flat.io). MIDI was always a pain on my Windows computers (I was a convert to Mac in late 2008) and it looks like it still is today.
The UD works as expected and doesn’t get hot, so I would leave it plugged in most of the time without worrying about it. The adapter is small, and wouldn’t take well to being stepped on. Therefore, make sure the adapter is somewhere out of the way where it will be stepped on or crushed (e.g. We had a floor power source for my old Yamaha Clavinova Baby Grand, so that would not be a good place for the UD to live).
There is a hole on the UD, and I am not sure what it is for. I wouldn’t want to put it on a keychain, but I imagine a number of them could be stored by running a twisty-tie through that hole. $50 is a low price to pay to convert an existing MIDI instrument to a BLE MIDI instrument–so you may find this a good solution for you. You do not need to have a Yamaha piano to use this device. If you have an older Mac or iOS device, or a Chromebook and would like to turn it into a BLE MIDI capable device, consider the WIDI Bud from CME (See B & H, who carries it). As a reminder…an old iOS device will need the USB to 30 pin Camera Connection Kit to plug in the WIDI Bud.
In summary, the UD-BT01 is a great solution if you have a keyboard with USB MIDI that plus into the wall and you want to make it into a BLE MIDI device. If you are dealing with a portable keyboard, this really isn’t the device for you (you can make it work, but you need to be near a power socket), and as Yamaha reminds you on their packaging, the UD requires the use of a USB power adapter (i.e. the brick that likely charges your phone). There was a time that I would have said, “Yamaha should include the power charger,” but USB chargers can be found anywhere and you can likely find a spare one in your home, or it is easy enough to just go buy one.
I love to see all of these options for Bluetooth MIDI, which I feel is a significant improvement to the old way of dealing with MIDI instruments.
A very special thank you to Yahama for letting me test out the UD-BT01, which was introduced at Winter NAMM in early 2016.