NotateMe Lessons 3 & 4 and Additional Thoughts

I have wrapped up our NotateMe Now lessons with two more lessons.  This lesson series was used in our classes (6-8th grade) as a way to take these very basic concepts in music theory, and to have students use them using the app NotateMe Now, while also learning how to draw music notation.  NotateMe Now is the free, single staff version of NotateMe, an app that converts handwritten music notation to digital notation (with other features coming in the future).

Lesson 1 introduced the app, as well as quarter notes, half notes, and whole notes.  I blogged about it here.

Lesson 2 covered quarter rests, half rests, and whole rests.  I blogged about it here.

Lesson 3 covered ties, slurs, and dotted half notes (and dotted whole notes).  The video and PDF appear at the end of this post.

Lesson 4 covered eighth notes, eighth rests, and dotted quarter notes.  The video and PDF appear at the end of this post.

The quiz was to complete a task just like the “homework” assignments.  This appears below as an image.

Here are a few things I have learned:

  1. If kids are in choir because they have to be (they don’t play an instrument and have to take music), they aren’t going to apply themselves at a higher level if you go away from singing for a lesson series.
  2. Most kids made very little attempt at completing the exercises, but our school has a formative grading category that only accounts for 20% of their grade, so many students simply choose not to do any formative work.
  3. The kids who tried doing the work generally did very well, and a few pushed against the boundaries I had created for them.
  4. The lesson sequence assumes students know the names of the notes.  We had discussed these and had a quiz on these at the beginning of the year, and I review the note names every time we do a sight reading exercise.
  5. None of these concepts should be new for students; every concept, with the exception of actually DRAWING music, is something these students should have had in elementary school.
  6. I would have liked to have more time to go over student work in class; but with an every-other-day 43 minute choir class, we couldn’t lose that time.
  7. I will continue with this series next year (I plan on a GarageBand series at the end of the year after our last concert), building on the concepts with the students who have already learned these items–and going over these lessons with the new students.

At any rate, it is fun to try new things (and I’m not going to stop trying new things) with my students and to leverage some of this technology that is in their hands.

NotateMe Now Lesson #3 Assignment and Checklist (PDF)

NotateMe Now Lesson #4 Assignment and Checklist (PDF)


notatemenow quiz

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.

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.


Update on Attendance 2 and Using QR Codes for Attendance

I have now been using Attendance 2 to take attendance for the past two weeks (or at least on the days I have been at school). Since I posted my previous post, the developer of Attendance 2 enabled the front camera to use for scanning (previously only the back camera was used).

I purchased a GigEasy iPad Holder at the TMEA conference, so I place my school-granted iPad into that holder (on a mic stand), and place it near the door so that students scan their QR codes as they enter the room.

You can open multiple QR codes with Preview for Mac, printing them sixteen to a page. I had some full-page labels (available at any office store, perhaps even Target and Wal-Mart), so I printed the QR codes on those labels, cut them out with a guillotine paper cutter, and handed them to students. They either put the stickers (which have their name and folder number) on the inside of their folders, or they took a picture of the sticker with their phone, and simply scan their phone when they come in the door.

It works VERY well…particularly if I remember to set out the iPad.

Paul Shimmons (at iPad and Technology in Music Education) has been using Attendance 2 with QR codes for attendance, too. Attendance 2 places the QR codes in your Dropbox folder. He downloaded the QR codes from Dropbox and put them in a Pages document, making each .75 inches tall. Then he handed his out to students.

It only takes a moment to scroll down your list of names after students have finished scanning their QR codes to see who is absent (or forgot to scan in). A few non-choir students have stopped by while students are scanning in before the bell, and it universally gets high acclaim from those students. I've spoiled my students, however…what I hear is, “What else do you expect from Dr. Russell?”

Just a couple of other notes: you can also set Attendance 2 to scan bar codes (e.g. all of our students have an ID with a bar code), but the process of getting all of those codes seemed too complicated. Additionally, I think students will forget their student IDs (only used in the media center) more often than they will forget their folders with the QR code. Additionally, the QR code inside of the folder has greatly reduced the number of students who typically “forget” their folder until after warm-ups/sight reading. The screen flashes when a scan is recognized (usually very fast), but I have requested that the developer add the option of a “beep” as well.

I set the student identifier to be the following:

Name of Choir, Name of Folder


WC 02 (i.e. Women's Choir Folder 2) or MC 18 (i.e. Men's Choir Folder 18)

Every now and then you come across an idea or a product that just makes your life easier as a teacher. This is certainly one of them, which I will continue to use. Attendance 2 is $4.99. It's not a “pretty” app…but it really works. Also recommended: a GigEasy stand.


iOS with a Single App for Education (Big nod to Tony Vincent)

Tony Vincent posted these instructions for forcing the use of a single app in the educational (or home) environments with iOS 6, which was released today.  Read his article here.

This is a wonderful addition, particularly for using iPads in music education.

Imagine this: you have four iPads that you can use with your students, which you wish to load with a PDF Music Reader, as well as to link audio files within that app, so that your students can do sectionals.  How do you make sure that your students stay on task and in the app you want them to stay in?  Guided Access.

This would also be ideal so that you could use the iPad in testing.



Over the past week, I have seen a lot of posts written about “Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)” or “Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT)” as an answer to the integration of technology in education. These BYOD or BYOT endeavors are fighting against 1:1 initiatives in school, and almost always are anti-iPad. I saw one tweet which stated, “1:1 initiatives are so 2007.”

As a music teacher and as a technology person, I’m against BYOD as an integration strategy. I’m not against students using their own devices in the classroom, but again, I’m against BYOD as a strategy. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. BYOD assumes that students know how to use their devices. The ability to surf the web, play games, and text message does not mean that you know how to use your device. Although students are growing up in a “technological age” (think about what people 100 years from now will think of that statement), most of them are not as technically savvy as you think they are.
  2. BYOD puts the burden on technical support on the teacher, who most often will not have a background in technology. In fact, most of our current educational institutions are doing a terrible job of integrating technology into the training of teachers. When students don’t know how to use their devices, they are going to ask their teachers how to use them. Teachers will not know how to support or use those devices, and schools will never provide teachers with the range of devices or training that they would need to be able to use those devices.
  3. Put another way, BYOD is a strategy devised by “techies” that is hard to implement in the real world. As New York Times columnist David Pogue once wrote, We geeks tend to forget that the huge majority of the world’s population are NOT geeks.”
  4. Battery life. What happens when that BYOD device dies? What happens when the student forgets their charger (they will)? BYOD guarantees that you cannot have a backup power source for the student because you can’t possibly stock every adapter in every classroom, unless you require the student to have a second adapter permanently housed at school.
  5. Technology integration is more than surfing the web and writing a paper. BYOD assumes that this is education.
  6. What is the future of textbooks? I’ve seen a lot of angry posts about textbooks being an outdated form of education. The best teachers that I know use textbooks as a reference and teach around a textbook. A textbook gives them source material to work with; and also gives students who don’t learn well in the classroom setting a chance to still learn the material on their own. Digital textbooks take away many of the challenges of printed textbooks, including the ability to update information, correct mistakes, and storage/distribution (are you aware of how many hours are spent in schools handing out and collecting textbooks). Meanwhile, interactive textbooks offer the opportunity to have live quizzes in books, provide videos to help students learn, and to avoid the weight and challenge of transporting books in school or from school to home. Back to BYOD…can a cell phone adequately display a textbook? Do interactive textbooks work on all devices?
  7. Education is more than math, science, English, and history. Right now, the only platform that works for the display and annotation of music is the iPad (You could make a case that a Windows Tablet could; but battery life is still an issue on most of those tablets). Can you use BYOD in Foreign Language? Family and Consumer Science (Home Ec)? Physical Education? Business? Technical Education? Visual Art? Theater? Music? Whatever device/strategy you select must be useable in as many fields as possible.

BYOD is a belief that “There is more than one way to skin a cat.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve never eaten cat (to my knowledge), and I have no intent of eating cat if I can help it.

I do think there are issues with schools providing hardware for students. I do think that it is more fair to the taxpayer if devices are provided by the family. So, in a sense, I do believe in BYOD, but a BYOD that specifies what the device is. Schools have been doing this for years, such as in math classes (e.g. “You must buy a TI-84 Graphing Caluclator), and I know of a number of colleges which have a minimum specification for any computer brought on campus (e.g. they either give the student a notebook as part of their tuition cost, or they specific a baseline Mac that can be ordered through the campus store).

Yes, I’m an iPad evangelist (not officially, of course). I’m a person who has used (and continues) to use Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, and Linux products (although, admittedly, the Linux is the weakest part of my experience). I know the pros and cons of most technology integration strategies, from the aspect of the student, the teacher, the administrator, and the IT support person. Each strategy has its own benefits and its own flaws. In my opinion, the iPad offers the most useful platform at all grade levels, and is the only platform that has a chance of impacting music classes (which tend to be performance-based) at the middle school and high school levels–as well as bringing those classes to new directions with apps that make it easier to go in those other directions (e.g. composition).

Again, I’m not against students bringing their own technology and using it when appropriate for instructional purposes. But I think it is wrong to develop an entire integration strategy around BYOD. As a final example, I have a number of students who now bring Amazon Kindle Fires to my class, in addition to the twenty or so students that bring an iPad (our school is NOT a 1:1 school, and we have an acceptable use policy that allows students to bring their own devices and use them as long as the teacher allows it). The screen of the Kindle Fire is significantly smaller than the iPad, and there is no app on the Kindle Fire which allows for the annotation of musical scores. There is no app on Android that allows for the annotation of musical scores. The iPad is the only platform that allows this–and annotation is a KEY factor of music education in performance classes. Although I let students use those devices in class for their music, without the ability to annotate music, they are actually at a disadvantage to their peers using iPads (even the iPad 1) or actual sheet music. When BYOD actually puts students at a disadvantage, either to other devices or even the lack of use of technology, there is a problem!

Do consider BYOD…but do so with a standard “D” that students have to bring to school.