Recent Thoughts…

I have a few thoughts I wanted to share, each which doesn’t justify a post of its own (at least, not yet)

  • I’ve read about a few schools going MacBook 1-to-1 versus iPad lately. Any technology initiative can be made to work, and MacBooks are wonderful machines. However, any notebook initiative automatically guarantees that the initiative will not impact all subject areas. Notebooks are probably ideal for “core” subjects, where as the iPad can be adapted for every subject. So if IT, administration, and school boards decide that notebooks are the way to go, I’m fine with that as long as they are also willing to say that their focus is mainly the integration of technology for “core” subjects (and I do not mean the 21st Century Core, which includes the arts).
  • Another thought about going MacBook, in particular, over iPad. Entry level MacBook Airs for education are $899. There might be a slight discount, but in truth, Apple doesn’t offer much of a discount to educational institutions, as some other vendors might. By the time that you add licensed software to each MacBook, your starting price per computer will probably be in the $1000 (or more, depending on the exact MacBook). I’ve been reading some studies, and it appears that the iPad 2 is just as fast (sometimes faster) than the new iPad. Don’t get me wrong, I’d like a new iPad…but in terms of performance, the new iPad was about graphics. The next jump in speed will come with the 4th Generation iPad in March of 2013 (if release dates stay consistent). You can purchase a refurbished iPad for $319, and outfit that iPad with a full compliment of apps (at full price, not at educational discounts) for $50 each. That means that you could outfit twice as many iPads for your school as you could with MacBooks. You could contact Zagg and purchase Zaggfolios for each of those iPads (I’m sure at a discount) and STILL be under the 2-for-1 dollar value. The bigger question is “What programs does a traditional notebook run than an iPad cannot, which would cause a school district to go with a 1-to-1 notebook initiative over an iPad initiative?” Yes, there are specialized classes with specific needs (Project Lead the Way Biomedical and Engineering, for example), but with the saved dollars on an iPad initiative, you could outfit those special classes with labs. There might be a question about the longevity of iPads, but older devices could certainly be passed down the educational chain or sold (to students, parents, or via auction) to continue to fund newer devices. I’m still convinced that the best model is to have parents/families provide iPads and for schools to provide required apps and iBooks.
  • In just a couple of days, I’ll be giving my mother her mother’s day present of a 16GB iPad 2. I’m also giving my dad an HP TouchPad for father’s day. The TouchPad was my stepson’s to use, but he never used it, even with Android on the device. He always opts for his iPod Touch, and would opt for an iPad over the iPod Touch (we’re not going there–yet). I’m looking forward to giving my mom an iPad, as my dad bought her a netbook that she can’t even figure out how to use (it was more of a gift for my dad, even though he bought it for my mom). Dad is getting the TouchPad because he’s a traditional PC tinkerer that will enjoy putting Android on the device. We bought my Dad an iPhone in the past, so he has a general idea of how to use iOS. But Apple isn’t his thing. The iPad will become my mom’s thing. The iPad will be lighter than her Bible! We even bought her an iPad 2 case from Monoprice so the device is protected. We also bought my mother-in-law a new iPad (she had an iPad 1), and now my father-in-law has an iPad to use, too.
  • In reverting my stepson’s TouchPad to stock HP WebOS, I updated my own TouchPad to the latest version of Android ICS via Rootzwiki. I continue to believe that iOS is winning. Android works, and you can’t deny it, but it isn’t as intuitive as the iPad, and although it has most of the same games as the iPad, the Android lacks decent options for “productivity” that the iPad has–both for music and for other areas of education. I still contend that the only reason you should buy an Android tablet over a refurbished $319 iPad 2 is if you hate Apple products, or you specifically want a seven inch screen (i.e. Kindle Fire). If you find yourself in either of those two camps, I don’t blame you for not choosing the iPad.
  • I have a student who brought in an anthology of musical theater selections for Heroes and Villains. In dealing with that book, I’m reminded what a joy it is to use the iPad as a sheet music reader without dealing with new books, page turns, or the weight of a large book! Once you start using the iPad for this purpose, you take it for granted!
  • The Kanex ATV Pro continues to work wonderfully, converting the Apple TV HDMI output to VGA. In my opinion, it is a highly recommended accessory if you need to project an Apple TV to a non-HDMI projector.
  • Last week I had the privilege to attend a planning meeting for music technology offerings for a summer session at the Perpich Center for the Arts. I very much enjoy getting together with colleagues that share the same passion for technology and music education that I do. It was also great to visit a bit with Roger Whaley, author of the Band Ed Tool Shed and middle school band director/technology person. I said this at the meeting, but I find that the music educators that are the most interested in technology are also the most collegial teachers I have ever met.
  • MakeMusic has created a survey on Facebook to gather feedback about what features should be considered for an iPad version of SmartMusic. Although I’m not a huge fan of using Facebook for the survey (ultimately, I’m distrustful of Facebook as a whole), if you are on Facebook, log in and make your opinions known!
  • Finally…for those of you who are elementary music educators or have smaller children, At Play Music released their first app, focusing on the recorder ($3.99). I first saw their product last summer, where they were designing computer based “cartoons” to teach students how to play music. Since that time, they have changed gears and moved their approach to the iPad–VERY smart. Sadly, the app is a little beyond my four year old, so I can’t report on how it works, but I will say that my four year old has been captivated by the app and we bought some recorders at Target ($2.99 in the toy area). I still need to spend more time with the app, but I will say that if you combine this app with the JoyTunes Recorder Master app (Free), you will walk away with a great instructional package for the recorder. Yes, get both apps. Last year, At Play Music was looking at making interactive cartoons for many instruments, so I think the recorder is just a start. It’s $3.99–if you teach recorder or have small children with recorders, buy the app today. I’ll be writing a review in the future, most likely after the next busy week of school (concert and graduation in the works).



My iPad & Technology presentation from the NCACDA Conference

I’ve arrived home and am finally able to upload my presentation from the NCACDA Conference.  I will also place a link to the file in the “recent presentations” tab.

NCACDA Beyond the Notes Presentation

A big thank you to the organizers of the convention, and to everyone that attended the session.


A Touchstone Charger for the TouchPad

I haven’t been using my HP TouchPad very much, as I am waiting (patiently) for Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) to be released for the device (the developers at CyanogenMod are working hard to port the new OS to the device).  As a result, the TouchPad sits idle, and eventually loses battery power.  The TouchPad I purchased for my stepson has also been left alone much of the time, as some key apps are missing for Web OS (such as Netflix).  I don’t want to install Android on his device until there’s a stable port. 
Say what you will about Apple iOS devices and the 30 pin cable; I find the specialized USB cable of the TouchPad, really a microUSB cable, to be much harder to deal with (I think this plug is the required European adapter).  Sometimes the sheer hassle of plugging in the TouchPad (yes, I know this is a “lazy” comment) keeps my stepson and I from charging our devices.
I decided, on a whim, to search out a Touchstone Charger for the TouchPad, which I found on Amazon for roughly 40% of the original asking price.  I ordered the charger today, and it couldn’t be easier to use.  Drop the TouchPad on the charger, and let it charge, whether on Android 2.3 or WebOS.  Now I can keep both of our family’s TouchPads ready to go without any hassle of charging cables.  I really like this.
Let me just say that inductive charging is the single aspect of the TouchPad (in my opinion, of course) that exceeds the hardware of the iPad.  I can honestly say, particularly with the “PC Free” aspect of iOS 5.0.1, that the iPad 2 would be a better device with an inductive charger.  Before iOS 5.0.1, there was no point in an inductive charger because a cable was still needed for syncing…this is no longer true.
If you have a TouchPad, go buy the Touchstone Charger.  Apple, if you’re listening, consider using this technology in the iPad 3.  This is something that HP “got right.” 

iPad Competitors – Yet More Thoughts

This evening, I had a chance to read through the day’s RSS feed, and Daring Fireball’s John Gruber posted a reaction to a recent article summarizing the tablet that is in “second place.”  Gruber makes a point that the iPad is completely removed from the comparison, and that the “top” selling tablet (other than the iPad) sold 1/50 the number of iPads that were sold in the same time period.
That second place tablet?  The HP TouchPad, which was discontinued and sold at the prices of $99 and $139 in an odd fire sale in August. 
On a related note, the CyanogenMod team released a 3rd Alpha version of the CM7 Android 2.3 installation that can be placed on an HP TouchPad.  I’ve been running the operating system for some time, and have suffered some issues such as the “Sleep of Death” (the TouchPad won’t wake up after “sleeping” and must be booted holding the power and “home” button) in Alpha 1, and odd wi-fi issues the last couple of weeks with Alpha 2.  Under Alpha 3, things seem faster, and I suffered some more wi-fi issues right after install–but so far wi-fi has been working after that.  
The more I use Android, I can make several broad statements (even though this is 2.3, many devices are still shipping with this version of the OS or even older versions of the OS.  This includes the Kindle Fire, which runs a modified version of Android 2.2.):

  1. I’ve been reading the Steve Jobs Biography and I’ve heard it said that Steve Jobs and Jony Ive considered many different form factors for the iPad.  They settled on the current 9.7 inch 4:3 version.  For general use, the 4:3 format seems ideal for everything BUT watching movies.  I like that the TouchPad is 4:3 and running Android.  All the other Android tablets are 16:9 or 16:10.
  2. Android works.  If the apps you need are available on the device, or all you need is a highly portable e-mail/internet/Netflix device, you can’t go wrong with it.
  3. But it doesn’t work as nicely as the iPad.  The iPad is simply more fluid and more logical than any Android device I’ve seen.  For the technicians that like to dabble, Android makes a lot of sense.  Sometimes I’m a dabbler, too.  But for the average user–for my mom, even–I wouldn’t buy the Android.
  4. Some authors are saying that they don’t see any Android-only apps that make you say, “I gotta have that!”  Put another way, apps that run on all the devices (e.g. Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja) generally work and act the same on all devices.  But you can come up with a list of a ton of useful apps (education or otherwise) that exist on iPad and not on Android.  I can see someone buying an iPad JUST for Pages, Keynote, or Garage Band.  What app does that for Android?
  5. In terms of music and music education…the apps just aren’t there on Android.  Show me one good music reader.  Show me one music app (other than, perhaps Google Music itself) that doesn’t have a better version (or answer) on iPad.  It’s not there.  This is significant, because the iPad has been out less than 2 years, but many of those apps were available within a month of the release of the iPad.  Android tablets started coming to market soon afterwards–but where are those apps?

I also wanted to write about the Kindle Fire.  I’m all for that device, just like I was for the B&N Nook Color.  I don’t have any qualms with a seven inch screen, or any of the limitations of those devices.  They are inexpensive tablets with the primary purpose of being an e-reader, followed by multimedia second.  If someone gave me either one, I would use it, just as I’m using my TouchPad.  But I wouldn’t use it like I use my iPad.

Here’s how I used my iPad Today:

  1. It charged next to my TV overnight (it sleeps there)
  2. I wirelessly synced it to my MacBook this morning before I went to work.
  3. During a staff meeting, I used forScore to display pages from Bruce Phelps’ Sight Reading Manual and then used the iPad’s built-in screen capture tool (power button & home button at the same time) to take pictures of specific exercises I wanted to do with my choirs.  Then I opened Keynote and deleted yesterday’s sight-reading exercises and replaced them with today’s sight-reading exercises.  Then I deleted yesterday’s warm-ups and replaced them with today’s warm-ups.
  4. I took attendance at the beginning of each class using our district’ web portal (Infinite Campus).
  5. I then used the Apple TV to mirror the iPad, generally using the Keynote presentation for warm-ups, sight-reading, and announcements.  Our administration is “big” into purpose-statements this year, so I’ve created general purpose statements for each part of the rehearsal that show as I get up to turn off the lights or turn them on again (the projector in our room isn’t bright enough to deal with leaving the lights on).
  6. While using forScore for my own music, I mirror the screen (although small and in portrait) while I work, zooming in when I make a mark–which also shows the students exactly what I’m marking.
  7. For our accompanied songs, I also use forScore as an accompanist (it plays an attached audio file) that either comes as a CD from a publisher or I create on Finale.
  8. During my prep period, I used the iPad to display music as I edited some songs in Finale (ultimately creating accompaniment tracks), and to access our music library.  I also pulled up a list of local voice and piano teachers on the web (it’s on our website) and printed via AirPrint to an HP printer our booster club purchased for us (It was $69 at Wal-Mart).  I also had to print out a roster of every member of one of our four curricular choirs, and also a new folder roster from Numbers.  These were all on the iPad.
  9. A Boys Hockey Parent brought a list of potential dates for singers of the National Anthem, which I then took a picture of with the iPad and placed into Noteshelf, and displayed that list for my top choir so they could see potential dates and begin to choose dates to sing.  I used my Adonit Jot Pro to make notes on the Noteshelf document.
  10. Tonight I’ve used my iPad with my son to watch the new “Monster at the End of this Book” app (only $0.99 for a limited time), to watch some Netflix, and to write this app.
  11. And with all that, I’ve still got 12% left on the battery at 10:27pm.

I ask you this: could the Amazon Kindle Fire do this?  How about the B&N Color Nook?  How about any Amazon tablet?  A Windows 7 Tablet?  A HP TouchPad?

You know the answer: No.

Could they?  In time, absolutely.  But the issue–particularly in education–isn’t what you can do eventually, it’s what you can do NOW.  We move VERY slowly with technology in our schools, and if you buy into a product with a promise of something that’s coming–there’s a chance it never will.  I’m more scared of buying a technology with potential empty promises than I am of technology that gets outdated.

As I mentioned in Iowa last weekend, there’s nothing wrong with these other tablets.  If you can find a tablet that meets your needs, get it.  Just make sure that what you buy isn’t limited to only your current needs, because your needs can change over time.

Thoughts on Three Tablet Operating Systems

Yesterday, I mentioned that I had installed an Alpha package (a term that means a pre-release version of software.  A beta release is a much more stable pre-release version that is being final tested for bugs) that allowed Android 2.3 Gingerbread to run on the HP TouchPad I purchased this summer.  So far, the Alpha package is running great, with only one issue: when the device goes to sleep after non-use, it completely shuts down the device, and it takes about 30 seconds to get it going again.  For now, I can live with that.

It has been wonderful to have the opportunity to have all three major tablet operating systems in my possession, because I can now speak from a position of experience with different OS devices rather than as just an iOS owner.  In the past, my comments about other OS systems have been based on limited interaction with various devices at places like Best Buy or the Microsoft Store.

Here are some “big” idea thoughts about the three major tablet operating systems:

If you are a musician and want to use your tablet for reading music, the iPad is your only viable choice.  I’ve looked in both the WebOS and Android app stores, and you won’t find a single app like forScore or UnrealBook.  Yes, there are PDF readers for WebOS and Android (e.g. Adobe Reader is available for both), and I imported a score I use daily on iOS into both other OSes.  The only PDF option for TouchPad is Adobe Reader, and it is slow and only scrolls up and down.  On Android, I’m using a 4:3 format HP TouchPad, when most Android tablets are in the 16:10 format.  16:10 means that Android devices are wider than the iPad, but shorter, making music significantly smaller on the screen.  Additionally, on the Alpha version of Android (2.3 Gingerbread), the score I imported was nearly illegible on the TouchPad’s screen.  This could be an issue with Adobe Reader, with Gingerbread, or the Alpha.

Additionally, if you want a number of music/music education related apps, iOS is your only choice.  Both WebOS and Android are lacking in apps for music and music education.  Google’s Android store is a bit frustrating, as it doesn’t separate tablet apps from non-tablet apps, and WebOS is slightly better.  In both cases, the number of tablet-friendly apps is limited.  Yes, there are music apps, such as pianos, metronomes, pitch pipes, and even my favorite iOS tuner (ClearTune) on Android.  But compared to the offerings and usefulness of iPad apps, there is no comparison.

I think the TouchPad failed because of WebOS.  When the TouchPad was introduced in July, the entire tech journalism industry declared that the TouchPad would be the first OS to compete with the iPad because of WebOS.   I now believe that WebOS was the reason the TouchPad was a failure.  At the time of the $99 fire sale, there was a rumor that staff at HP had iOS running on a TouchPad, and it worked better than WebOS on the TouchPad.  After installing Android–even an Alpha version–on a TouchPad, I believe that rumor.  I’ve found Android Gingerbread (2.3) to be faster than WebOS in nearly every comparable situation.  WebOS takes 4GB of space on the device.  Android takes 2GB.  Maybe HP just should have created an Android Tablet.

I think iOS is still the easiest tablet operating system to both use and understand.  I don’t say that just because I like Apple products, but because I have now worked with all three platforms.  I’d suggest the three-year-old test.  Can a three-year-old successfully use the operating system?  Although all three operating systems are touch-based, Android and WebOS require the use of screen buttons that are not required on an iOS device.  My three-year-old son has been able to operate any iOS device for more than a year and a half–without any training on the part of his mother or I.  At three-and-a-half years, WebOS and Android give him some difficulties.  You might think, “These operating systems aren’t intended for kids.”  This might be true–but I know plenty of adults–some of them teachers–who have the computer knowledge of a three-year-old.    They need a device that is easy to use and understand.  iOS wins that competition.

I know that both Android and WebOS are more customizable than iOS–and that some people prefer that ability–that’s great.  Run with that.  At the same time, you also need to learn how to customize that system, which may not be the best solution for all users.  Android seems to be a great OS, and WebOS showed promise, too.  I wish I could steal “live wallpapers” (Android) and “cards” (WebOS) for my iOS devices.  As iOS adds features, it runs the risk of becoming more difficult to use.  There’s a fine line between options and features and difficulty to use.

So if you’re going to buy a tablet for your personal use, what should you buy? If you want a tablet with a huge installation base, 4:3 format, and apps that are applicable for music education (especially sheet music readers), get an iPad.  If you want more customization, a growing app store, and 16:10 format–and don’t plan to use the tablet very much for music purposes–consider an Android tablet.  And if you can find a $99 HP TouchPad anywhere–buy it.  You’ll soon be able to put a stable version of Android on the tablet and use it with either the WebOS (less likely) or Android OS.