New Toys & Other Things

On Thursday, I celebrated by 39th birthday. Truthfully, our fall musical is in production (opens in about 2 hours) and we’ve been spending 14 hour days at school. Any music teacher fully understands these days. And because the musical runs two weeks, there won’t be much celebrating until well after my birthday.

As a result, I’ve purchased some new toys. First, I bought an iPod Nano (6th Generation – $129 but with a Target discount and a $15 Target Gift Card) to wear as a watch, with an iWatchz watch strap ($20, but I have a different model on back order with Amazon, a Hex Metal Band for $70). The watch is really quite comfortable, and I don’t mind turning the iPod on by pressing the “wake” button. It has truly been a conversation piece…and my students (in particular) have been in awe of it. I find this humorous because they weren’t “wowed” at all by wireless mirroring from the iPad to a projector. The new version of the Nano’s software features 18 different watch faces, including Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Kermit the Frog, Animal, and a variety of digital and analog styles. I’ve got some other watches–some expensive–but this is the most fun I’ve ever had owning and wearing a watch. People notice. They really do.

Second, my Pad and Quill Octavo case is no longer holding my iPad tightly, allowing the iPad to slip out when on the piano. Tonight I went out and purchased an Apple Smart Cover ($69) and and Incipio Smart Feather Case ($29). The Incipio protects the back of the iPad, Smart Cover on or off.

In other news, I’ve sold more apps and more people on the use of the iPad for music reading. Our pit orchestra director is using his new iPad to direct the entire show. forScore, in particular, is great for programming cuts (UnrealBook could be used for this, too). Our orchestra director (yet another teacher) is now scanning her scores and using her iPad as she has shoulder issues and is tired of dragging a heavy bag of music from school to school (she teaches orchestra at all three of our district’s high schools. I wrote a grant for 5 iPads, and that grant will be announced in December–so if we are awarded a grant, I will be writing all about the experience. My eventual goal is an iPad for every student in every class (a classroom set because we will not go 1-on-1), which means about 50 iPads…but you have to start somewhere.

In yet other news, Nyssa Brown, Music Education Coordinator at the Perpich Center of the Arts, has recently obtained an iPad and is working on ways to integrate the iPad into K-12 music education across the state, and Jeanette Jenson, a music teacher in ISD 518 recently presented a session about the use of the iPod in Music Education to music colleagues in her part of the state. I simply state that the revolution has begun.

As for now, I need to leave to watch the show.

HUGE Music Tech News: MakeMusic buys Recordare & MusicXML

Finale’s Blog reported that MakeMusic, the creators of SmartMusic and Finale, have purchased Recordare, the company which developed the MusicXML standard. Finale has offered MusicXML import and export for years, and Sibelius just issued version 7 which FINALLY (not “Finale” <>) offered MusicXML import for the first time in the summer of 2011. Previously, anyone wishing to export a MusicXML file from Sibelius had to buy a $199 Dolet from Recordare.

Michael Good, the founder of Recordare and creator of the MusicXML format, is joining the Finale team as director of Digital Sheet Music.

In addition, MakeMusic’s first step with MusicXML will be to make the Dolet free for all previous Sibelius users.

This is HUGE news. Many programs have adopted or are adopting the MusicXML standard, including my favorite iPad composition program Symphony Pro. Will they continue to use the format if it is controlled by a competitor (even if it remains open source)? And what other tricks does MakeMusic have up its sleeve?

The new CEO of Finale, Karen van Lith, announced that MakeMusic was going to go in new directions in the future…this is a a sign that MakeMusic IS going in new directions.

If I had a lot of money, I’d be putting money on MakeMusic right now.

I still believe that we’ll have just one large program called Finalibus in the future.

So…if they could just get Finale 2012 file to play on SmartMusic 2012, I’d be wildly enthused.

Link: http://blog.finalemusic.com/post/2011/11/03/Finale-Blog-Sharing-Music-Just-Got-Easier.aspx

The Other Hidden iOS 5 Gem: Wireless Syncing

The other day, I read several tweets from Fraser Speirs, who was setting up wi-fi syncing for the iPads that sync to classroom computers in his 1-to-1 iPad educational system.

I’ve since enabled wi-fi syncing on all the devices we own at home. This includes 2 iPads, 2 iPhones, and 1 iPod Touch (there is a second iPod Touch, but it is a 2nd Generation iPod Touch and cannot receive iOS 5).

Wi-fi syncing is easy to set up: you attach the device with the USB cable, go to the Summary menu of the device, scroll down, and enable wi-fi syncing. Sync the device, and then unplug.

What seems to happens is that the device will sync automatically every time it is on the same network as the “base computer.” You can also initiate a sync from the device itself or the base computer, and you can always plug the device in with a USB cable as well.

As with all Apple products, “it just works.” It makes my life easier, and I imagine that it would be the same in a school system. At the same time, I don’t know how iTunes would react to a situation where a hundred iOS devices were synced to the same computer. It would be worth trying!

As a side note, I disabled iCloud backups on our iOS 5 devices, as they were taking up too much memory in the “cloud” and I didn’t want to use all of that memory (and more) for backups.

Correction: No presentations at MMEA this year

I just wanted to mention that I will not be presenting any sessions at the Minnesota Music Educators Association this year. I had proposed two sessions, iPad 101 and iPad 201, and had submitted those in March. I received our state association journal, the Interval, and it had general information about this year’s conference (held in February) and I realized that I had not heard back from the MMEA. I sent them an e-mail and they confirmed that I would not be presenting.

I’m a little sad about it, especially since technology is one of the key focuses of the conference this year, and I’ve presented annually since 2005. I’ve been counting on presenting in February–treating it like a given–when in fact, I won’t be presenting at all. My apologizes for that.

However, you can still see me at IMEA in November, TIES in December, and NCACDA in February.

And of course, I’ll submit again to present at MMEA in 2013.

Mirroring with iOS 5 to a non-HDMI Projector

News flash (not really): with iOS 5, you can mirror from an iPad 2 (or iPhone 4S) to an Apple TV.  The Apple TV outputs video through a HDMI port.  If your school is like ours, our projectors do not have HDMI inputs.

So what do you need to set up wireless mirroring?

  • An iPad 2.  The iPad 1 cannot take advantage of wireless mirroring.
  • A video display of some kind: LCD projector, big screen TV.
  • A wireless network in your room or school.
  • An Apple TV
  • A HDMI cable
  • And if your projector does not have a HDMI input, a HDMI to VGA convertor.

If you’re going to buy a display for your room, I’d highly recommend the biggest TV you can put on a wall.  Right now, Sharp has an LED model that is 80 inches, selling for $5000.  There are a number of 70 inch TVs that are under $3000.  A SMART Board setup will cost over $6000.  A big screen TV is significantly larger than most standard interactive white boards, and has multiple inputs.  A LED TV will also last many times longer than a projector…one estimate I ran indicated a potential life of 40,000 hours.  At eight hours of use per day, at 200 days per year, that’s 25 years of operation.

I’d suggest buying the refurbished Apple TV for $85 from Apple.com.  The Apple TV will need to be updated to the latest firmware, which currently is 4.4.1.  My Apple TV didn’t update via the on-screen controls, so I had to connect a mini USB cable to the device and update it through iTunes.  Do yourself a favor and change the name of the Apple TV to reflect your room and class, and also set a password so that other users cannot simply take over your Apple TV (AirPlay allows the most recent AirPlay request to take over the Apple TV).

We purchased the View HD HDMI to VGA convertor from amazon.com ($95), but monoprice.com also carries a HDMI to VGA convertor from time to time ($35).  HDMI cables are a universally overpriced item, so I would order a bunch of cables from monoprice at one time, where you can buy a half dozen cables for the price of one HDMI cable from a store.

If you don’t have a wireless network in your school, double check with your IT staff before purchasing your own wireless router and plugging it into your system.  They may have specifications or existing networks in your building that would be affected by a “consumer” wireless router operating on the same frequency or channel.  If you are able to buy your own router, I’ve been very pleased with our Apple wireless router (AirPort Extreme Base Station – $179) which is very fast, has dual channels (you can create a secure network and a guest network), and allows up to 50 people to attach to the wireless router at one time.

How does the set up work?  Very well…it’s Apple’s magical formula of “it just works.”  To turn on wireless mirroring, you double-click the home button, swipe the app switcher panel to the right (causing it to go one page to the left), touch the AirPlay button, choose the Apple TV.  At this point, another option will appear, allowing you to turn mirroring on.  A good post about the process can be found here at TUAW.  Videos (Netflix and those stored on the iPad) appear in widescreen format natively, Keynote and other apps project at 4:3 or 3:4 depending on the app and the rotation factor.  This can result in small video output (particularly when the iPad is in portrait mode), but zooming controls on the TV itself can address this issue.<

Depending on your technology needs in your classroom, you can get into wireless mirroring for as little as an Apple TV ($85) and HDMI cable ($5) if you already have an iPad 2 and a LCD projector with HDMI input or a big screen TV with HDMI input.

At worst, you would need:

  • iPad 2 ($499-$699)
  • Apple TV $85
  • HDMI Cable $20 (15 foot cable!)
  • Big Screen TV: 70 inch ($3000) or 80 inch ($5000).  These prices will continue to decrease.
  • Mounting: $500
  • Wireless Router: $179
  • Total expense: $6483

We spend far more than this on each SMART Board in our district–and this worst case scenario includes the “computer” (and integral part of any interactive white board setup), too.

The best part?  You can use ANY app.  Do you like Penultimate?  Noteshelf?  forScore?  unrealBook?  You can mirror anything you have on your iPad.

Wednesday, October 19th, was my first day using this setup in my classroom, and surprisingly, my students didn’t react very much to the power of wireless projection.  They were more impressed (gasps and awe) by the “laser pointer” that appears when you “press and hold” during a Keynote presentation.  Go figure.