Incredibox: Free for a limited time


This is something that I just saw in Katie Wardrobe’s Midnight Music newsletter…the iPad app Incredibox is free for a limited time…download it while it is free!

Digital natives?


I am not a fan of the term, “Digital Native.”  This implies that today’s students (including college students) are SO familiar with technology that they need no training.  After all, they grew up with the technology, so they know how to use it, right?

Well, they know how to do recreational things.  They know how to use social media and how to play games.  But when you ask students to use technology for academic purposes–they struggle.  They still need to be taught.

A couple of months ago, a very popular technology guru “put down” a teacher because they showed them every step to do something.  “Let them figure it out on their own,” was the sage advice.  I interceded for the teacher, saying that my own students seem to be incapable of following CLEAR directions (written or spoken), and do not have the initiative to figure it out on their own.  The guru then attacked me, saying, “I will believe in your students even if you don’t.”

So I put it to the test.  With the limited time we had with ukuleles, students only learned the C and F chords through late October (10 minutes, maximum, every-other-day).  I decided to test their ability to play these chords by having them make an instructional video to teach others how to play the chord.  To earn a specific grade, they had to complete specific tasks.  One of the tasks at the A Level was to use picture-in-picture or split screen to show a closeup of specific chords when they were teaching how to play those chords.

Every student has access to an iPad and iMovie.  How do you use split screen or picture-in-picture?  Ultimately, you move your cursor in the iMovie project to where you want to add the picture-in-picture or split screen.  Then you choose a second video (or the same video) to drop into place, and a “…” option allows you to choose how you want to embed that video.  After the video is in place, you can reposition a picture-in-picture box, and you can even resize the image to zoom in.

How did I learn this?  A 20 second search in YouTube for “picture in picture iMovie iOS.”

I didn’t give these instructions–these are digital natives, who can read the instructions, and can search using Google and YouTube, right?

I have nearly 400 students in choir.  Do you know how many were able to do picture-in-picture or split screen in iMovie on iOS?  NONE.  I had one student that spent $6 to buy another program that would allow her to do it (and she earned an A). Otherwise, students were quite content to earn a B, as it did not require extra work or effort.  400 digital natives–and not a single one could figure it out.  That educational guru sure was right!

As we continue with the ukulele in the coming months, I will show them how to do picture-in-picture and split screen in iMovie, because I want them to be able to make instructional videos not just for ukulele–but for other things they are passionate about.  And I also want them to know the work that others do to prepare those videos. But I have to SHOW them, because they will not figure it out on their own (or tap into the knowledge of others on their own initiative).

Interested in using the video assessment idea to use with your own classes?  (Ukulele, recorder, playing tests)? Here is a PDF of that assessment.

Note: The photo is of my now 8 year old son, who started using our iPhones in a significant fashion at just over one year (this would be about 2 months after that).  And yes, even my own children struggle to use devices appropriately, particularly in education.

Can we ask tough questions to the “industry”?

A few minutes ago, StaffPad posted this tweet:


The tweet, and video, can be seen by linking below:

I just wonder how long StaffPad can be viable as a product as it really is intended to be run on (optimized for) one exclusive category of Windows computers: the Surface tablets and the Surface Studio.  That doesn’t mean that you can’t run StaffPad on another Windows-based computer, but if you do, you can’t take advantage of the Surface tools (including the new Surface Dial).   It is hard to get an actual number of units sold, but one source stated that up to 8 million Surface systems would be sold this year.  How many of those 8 million buyers need a stylus-based notation program?

Compare that to 40 million iPads sold this year.

We just don’t know sales results for products on the market.  For example, how many copies of Finale 25 are sold each year?  Notion?  Notion for iOS?  Dorico? Sibelius?

And then how about the multi-platform competition, such as Noteflight and Flat?

And then the FREE elephant in the room, MuseScore 2 (with a new version coming sometime in the future)?

Notion for iOS has a very large potential install base: over 150 million iPads (those sold in the last three years)–not counting iPhones that can also run the app.  In addition, these devices are in schools and in the hands of music educators.

Notion, Finale, Sibelius, Dorico, and MuseScore can run on Mac OS or Windows OS, with  over 240 million units per year that can run those programs.

When you come back to the Surface series (Surface, Surface Pro, Surface Studio) which had an all-time high sales year totaling 8 million systems, and fewer sales in previous years (before the Surface 3, the “non-pro” Surface could not run Windows 8/10), how is there possibly a customer base to support the program?  Generally, schools are not buying these devices, either–much lower cost solutions are usually pursued (e.g. Chromebooks).

And let’s be honest: the majority of technology users don’t need a notation program, and if they do, they will look at solutions like Noteflight,, MuseScore, Finale Notepad, and Notion for iOS rather than more expensive solutions.

Don’t get me wrong–I have no problems with the Surface series, and if I had enough extra income, I would buy one to use, too (I need to save up for my iPad Pro, new MacBook, and several more ukuleles).  I have no issue with StaffPad, and if it was on Mac OS or iPad, I would buy it.  If I had a Surface, I would buy it. But I am a music educator who teaches with technology, and a music educator who teaches others how to use technology.  I do arranging in my spare time.  I use a wide range of products, as no single solution does everything the best.

It just doesn’t seem like there are enough notation users to support all of these programs–which is even MORE true when you consider a relatively small installation base.

I love having the options that are on the market–but realize that companies have to pay their bills, too.



If you are at MidWest…

This is the week of MidWest.  I have never been to MidWest, although my high school band (when I was a senior) recorded the audition tape that sent the NEXT year to perform at MidWest (I attended Oconomowoc High School–a long tradition of band excellence, and was the tuba section leader).

If you are a band or orchestra director, MidWest is the key professional conference you can attend.  As a result, a lot of technology companies and products are there to reach potential customers.

Technology Vendors you want to visit:

  • MakeMusic: Finale, SmartMusic, New SmartMusic
  • Hal Leonard (Noteflight)
  • Charms Office Assistant
  • Newzik
  • MusicFirst
  • Olivet Nazarene College (Not a company, but they are a 1:1 iPad College)
  • Quaver Music
  • Pyware
  • Presonus

I am sure there are others that I missed from the vendor list..but this is a good start.  In particular, this will be a rare Stateside appearance for and Newzik, both French companies.  So…to those of you headed to Illinois…stay warm!

Updates, updates, updates…(sing to the tune of “Rawhide”

Just a note about a couple of recent updates…both Finale and Notion have been updated in the past 48 hours.  If you have Finale 25 or Notion 6…you will want to download those updates and check out what is new!