Some Techinmusiced Blog News

Hello, everyone!

I hope your summer (those of you in the Northern hemisphere) is going well, and in the upper Midwest, we still have a few more weeks of vacation. Nothing is more disturbing than reading, “As summer draws to a close” articles when there is still summer left to be lived! That said, we have relatives in Georgia whose children go back to school next week (they also get out of school quite a few weeks before we do), so some of you will be back to the whiteboard in no time at all.

Yesterday, two things happened with Apple. First, its valuation reaching one trillion dollars, at least for a period of time. Second, they announced that they would be ending the app referral program. Some websites derive all of their income from app recommendations; for others, like techinmusiced.com, there was never any major flow of income from app referrals, but when someone would click a referral link, some money would flow back this direction (7% of the purchase price). It is an odd juxtaposition for a company to hit one trillion in valuation, and then decide to announce the termination of a referral program on the same day.

If you have ever bought an app through a referral code, THANK YOU. Admittedly, this will make blogging quicker, as well as editing my eBook. Amazon still has a referral program, so if I see interesting things, I will definitely use Amazon referral codes–and I always try to announce when I use referral codes.

Regarding finances and techinmusiced.com, as well as the Music Education Technology Podcast, ukestuff.info, and YouTube.com/ukuleletenor, all of my resources have been provided free, with the exception of the eBooks available in the iBook Store and in the Google Play store. Those books are due for an update, which I am working on. However, when I am finished, I will be publishing the book and using it as a reward for Patreon, to anyone that pledges the minimum of $1 a month. At that time, I will be pulling all of my eBooks out of the iBook Store and the Google Play store. Should anyone need multiple copies of the book (e.g. a college class), please contact me and we can work something out. Incidentally, the latest version of Pages finally creates ePub files, so I’ll be taking all three of my existing ePubs (made in iBooks Author) and merging the content into one updated book. And on a positive note, I won’t have to worry about making any referral links (Every cloud has a silver lining).

The idea behind Patreon is persistent support over time, particularly when other modes of support and sponsorship are so “flaky.” At the same time, I don’t want my Patreon to be a place where people have to pay to receive resources–so there is a balance of some kind to be reached, and right now I’m pretty comfortable where I am at.

I recently published my first “reward” via Patreon, the first installment of my video ukulele method. I will be adding more materials over time, and if you are interested in supporting me, please click on the link at the bottom of this post. I have been working on branding a little bit, and when it comes to technology in music education, I’m finding that my mission seems to be the desire to educate music educators about what is available. As we talk about on the MET Podcast, many technology solutions are being treated as “old news,” yet very few people tried or even knew about what those solutions could do. Even the Chromebook, the most recent “fad” in education, seems to be losing steam in terms of educational technology (in fact, the entire field seems to be on a downswing). That said, technology can make your life so much better as a teacher, and it can be used to help your students learn. I’ll keep doing my best to bring that technology forward.

In other news, it has been a pretty quiet summer for me. My oldest son graduated from high school, and our other two boys have been busy with summer activities. My youngest son learned how to ride a bike in a day, as well as how to swim (without sinking). My wife and I were able to take a trip to Memphis, which is an awesome city when it comes to music–and we were also able to sit in on the Memphis Ukulele Flash Mob weekly meeting at Central BBQ. If you play ukulele, and are in Memphis on a Tuesday night, I can’t recommend it enough. I’ve been making a ton of ukulele resources, and am currently building my first cigar box ukulele. Last week, Paul Shimmons (the co-host of the MET Podcast) traveled through Minnesota and we were able to visit in person for a while at the Mall of America. We did not record anything as we did when I was in Grand Rapids two years ago, but we did spend a healthy amount of time at the Apple Store (my 10 year old was there taking an Apple Camp class on movie making with the Clips app).

On a personal technology note, I have been struggling with the idea of buying a new MacBook or not. The MacBook Air and MacBook are both outdated and in need of a refresh; the MacBook Pros without touch bars are known to have keyboard issues, and a new Touchbar MacBook Pro (recently updated) with the configuration I think is smartest for longevity comes in at just over $3000 (including tax). My 2008 MacBook works (in fact, I’m working on a video/post that will show it…check for it that post tonight or tomorrow). I just find myself reluctant to put $3000 into that machine, or $1000 less for something that may be outdated in 4 years. I’d sure like to get another ten years out of a MacBook…

I also broke my iPad Pro screen a second time. I don’t know how it happened this time (one of my boys may actually be at fault–it was “whole” when I went to bed one evening and broken when I used it the next day). I have Apple Care (HIGHLY ENCOURAGED) and decided to buy an Otter Box to protect my iPad. I’ll replace the screen the second time next June, right before the Apple Care expires (they replace the screen or device twice, no questions asked, for $45 each time. This beats a bill of $1000 for a new one).

And the other exciting news is that my school opens a new building this fall. I’ll be sure to write about the technology in the school later this year, as things have changed since the initial planning…and there will be surprises in the fall. The boundaries have changed to accommodate the larger and newer school, so we will have a slightly different clientele. As I teach middle school, we also have another change as we have required music in grades 6-8, and a decision was made last year to let music be a true elective in eighth grade. These changes should have a very positive impact on the school climate, and in all of the “elective” classes.

To everyone as the school year approaches: I wish you the very best. Take care of yourselves. I have some lifestyle changes that I need to make (I’m sure you do, too!), and certainly each day will bring troubles of its own. However, before the joys and challenges of the next school year begin–I hope this is the best year yet, for both you and me!


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Technology That Impacted My Life in 2017-2018: AirDrop

If you have followed the blog, or know my story, I grew up as an Anti-Apple technology user. The Video iPod was my conversion point, and if you don’t know the story, I can re-tell that story at another time. My past viewpoints gives me the ability to call out Anti-Apple mindsets when I see them, because I know what they look like and what the arguments are.

Several years ago, perhaps five years ago, our district went all-Apple for teachers, and shortly thereafter adopted iPads 1:1 in a few of our schools. I had been all-Apple (personally) for a number of years, so the switch wasn’t a shock for me–but many teachers struggled moving from Windows to the Mac OS. We refreshed our Macs two years ago, and our iPad schools are still iPad schools (also on their 2nd generation). Other schools in our district have a combination of Chromebooks and iPads for their students (not 1:1), so we have moved off of the all-Apple mentality that existed for a few years, but we certainly remain Apple-friendly.

When it comes to computing as a whole, one of the most frustrating things to deal with is transferring files from one person to another, or from one device to another. If you have a current MacBook, and current iOS devices, you can use AirDrop to transfer files that won’t transfer easily any other way. We also use AirDrop to send photos between my wife and I after we have been on a trip.

Our district has disabled AirDrop for students (as students were AirDropping test questions and work to one another), but I have personally found AirDrop incredibly useful, particularly when I want to transfer a large file such as a video or Keynote presentation.

My Ukulele Video Keynote is upwards of 2.5GB due to embedded videos; and I find it impossible to share that file unless I use AirDrop. I’ll make a point to talk about using video in presentations in another post. This past year, I created Keynote presentations on my iPad Pro, and then used my school-provided MacBook to actually present those presentations at school (so I could use my personal iPad for my own purposes in class).

When you use AirDrop, you need to make sure that Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are turned on, and that you have AirDrop set to see “Contacts Only” or “Everyone” if you want to receive a file (these are in the Control Center on iOS). You don’t need to be connected to Wi-Fi or have anything connected via Bluetooth. Having those two services enabled allows the devices to speak to each other, so you can send an item from an iPad to an iPhone or from a Mac to an iPad, or any combination. You can also send files to multiple people that are within 30 feet or so of where you are standing. AirDrop is an incredibly useful tool, and it has made my life better.

If you don’t live in an Apple setting, AirDrop isn’t going to help you very much. There are some options for file transfers between devices, but AirDrop is embedded directly into the operating system of Apple Devices.

If you haven’t used AirDrop, I encourage you to get used to doing so…when people are physically near you, it is a better solution than using other sharing methods (Google Drive, e-mail, etc.).


Showbie Acquires Socrative

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!



Technology That Influenced My Life in 2017-2018: Bluetooth Receivers

I use a lot of recorded audio in my work, which can include anything from playing a Keynote with embedded video files on my MacBook, to playing audio from forScore on my iPad. Switching between audio connections can be a pain–and every moment that your eyes and body are doing something other than teaching is a moment for your students to be off-task as well. There are some classroom transitions that cannot be avoided–but with foresight, many tech transitions can be avoided.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I began using a microphone last year in my teaching. I already had a small mixing board connected to the sound system, so it became very easy to attach Bluetooth receivers (yes, plural) to that sound system.

In the past, I had tried to use AirPlay through Apple TV or even the Apple Airport Express. This worked, but there was always lag in the audio (push play and wait) and there were times that things did not work. In particular, we wanted a way to be able to control our middle school level musical from forScore, with every audio track embedded in the score, but I did not want to deal with wires, and AirPlay had too much of a lag.

Amazon to the rescue…quite literally.

Amazon sells a $20 Bluetooth receiver that can be connected to your receiver or mixing board (you need to buy the appropriate cables…1/8″ stereo to ?? Dual 1/4 mono? RCA? 1/8″ stereo?).

Once your iOS device or Mac (I cannot speak to Android, Chromebook, or Windows in this matter) is in range and the device is on, it automatically connects, and you can instantly play audio over the Bluetooth connection.

This isn’t new technology, but it sure works well.

I ended up buying a second Bluetooth receiver (I went with a different brand so they would look different in my Bluetooth menu on my device) for my MacBook. I could have bought two of the same unit and just experimented until I found out which receiver was which. I do not believe that you can rename units so they look different in your Bluetooth menu.

As a result, I could play audio seamlessly from either device, without wires.

A student COULD go up to your receiver and put it in “pair” mode to play their own music during your class, but they would have to do so physically (there is a button to press). Chances are that isn’t going to happen.

If you play audio files to a sound system in your room from one or more devices, a solid solution is to invest in a $20 Bluetooth receiver. Highly recommend!

Amazon referral link for the Amazon Basic Bluetooth 4.0 Receiver



Technology That Influenced My Life in 2017-2018: Wireless Microphone System

I’m a teacher: I use my voice a lot. I’m a singer: I use my voice a lot. I teach middle school students who are not afraid to talk: I use my voice a lot to speak over them.

For a long time, when I get sick, my body has learned to attack my voice to get me to slow down. In fact, I got sick a week ago when we were camping and thankfully, I kept my voice until I was done with a workshop for the Wisconsin Center for Music Education on Wednesday. By Wednesday night, I was full sick and my voice was fully gone–and it still isn’t back.

I have written about this before, but this was such a game changer for me that I bring this advice to all of my fellow music educators: USE A MICROPHONE SYSTEM. Yes, you can speak/shout/sing over your band/choir/orchestra/General Music class. I did the same thing. But I was wrong. My elders had told me to do this 15 years ago. I was foolish and stubborn. Don’t follow my example.

With all sincerity, the microphone system made it so much easier to get through each day, and changed my perspective to a slightly more positive outlook each day (even in the midst of deep, deep challenges).

I bought a ridiculously cheap microphone system from Amazon, a Pyle 2 channel lavalier system for $35. I plugged that into the PA system that I was already using for my room–and this made a HUGE difference. I should have used a microphone for my workshop on Wednesday–and I never want to teach without a microphone again.

I also used the microphone system at my concert–our last in a gym–as I brought the PA system into the gym for the concert anyway.

I was a little worried that the Pyle system would pick up other broadcast items (such as the communication system used by our principals and support staff–or baby monitors in the community), but I had no problems, and had I been broadcasting on other frequencies in the school, people would have let me know.

Do expect to use 2 AA batteries a week (I teach 5 classes a day on a 7 period day).

Our new school will feature voice reinforcement in every room, so I may not need the system–but it is packed up and going to the new school when it opens (supposedly later this month).

Interested in a cheap mic system for your room? Check out the Pyle Dual Channel Wireless Microphone System

Here is a referral link to Amazon for the product: Inexpensive Pyle Lavalier Mic System Referral Link


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