A few months back, I wrote about my first impressions of the iPad in music education and education in general. I am a proud iPad owner now, and love the feel of the device. As I wrote back then, I think that as a consumer product, the iPad is one of the most amazing devices ever created. However, I don’t feel that they are quite ready for prime time. As an educator, I think that there are some improvements that need to be made in order for it to replace the current model of desktop and laptop computers in the classroom. The following is my vision of the radical change that iPads and other PC tablets will hopefully bring to both our pedagogical approach, and the possibilities for exciting learning opportunities in our classrooms. While certainly a bit pie-in-the-sky, it hopefully illustrates the many different ways that iPads might be used in a music classroom.
Two years in the future….
A middle school general/instrumental music teacher steps out of car ready for a long day of lessons, rehearsals, and classes. Over her shoulder is a small bag containing an iPad, her keys, her lunch, sunglasses, and a baton. She does not have to drag in a milk-crate on wheels filled with materials, papers, tuners, student work that she has graded the night before, a handheld recorder, and a plethora of other teacher tools. Her only tools are a baton and an iPad. She smiles as she enters the building, looking forward to another day with her students. Although she has been teaching 22 years, she still looks forward to coming to school and the many exciting projects that she is working on with her students.
As the opening bell rings, the students start entering the building. They too have small bags slung over their shoulders. No massive book bags filled with textbooks. Just their lunches, some typical kids things, and an iPad. When the first period bell rings, the music teacher pulls out her iPad, and asks all of the students in her room to pull out their iPads as well. Her 6th grade general music class will start as soon as some housekeeping tasks are complete. A piece of attendance software on the music teachers iPad automatically detects which students are in the room, which are in the building and on their way, and which are simply not in school that day. The task of taking attendance is a simple as clicking submit. The record is sent to the school’s attendance software. After the students are logged into their machines, the daily announcements are automatically downloaded via an RSS feed, along with other useful articles from various school-focused blogs and news outlets on the web. There is no longer a need for homeroom. The students are expected to stay on top of the various things happening at school. Within two minutes, her general music class begins.
Today, she is teaching her students about Scott Joplin. She opens up a Keynote presentation that she prepared the night before. She points her iPad toward her class and pushes her presentation to the students. Their iPads download her presentation and within 30 seconds, using iPad Remote Desktop, she goes through the presentation on her iPad, with all the students iPads synced up so that they can only see what she is presenting. On the fourth slide of her presentation, she has embedded an MP3 of the Maple Leaf Rag. The students hear the music through their own iPads which is synced to the teachers machine to avoid any type of latency. After listening to the piece, the students are asked to open up Pages, and add an entry about Maple Leaf Rag to their listening blogs. The teacher has an RSS feed for each student, and using Google Reader, can easily access and assess the students work anywhere, at any time. After ten minutes, the teacher continues her presentation. A few slides later, she brings the students to the Smithsonian Jazz site, and an article about Scott Joplin. They are encouraged to look around the site, and find a few interesting facts about his life. The presentation continues, and the students are guided through some more music and even some videos about Joplin’s life. At the end of the presentation, the teacher announces that the students will be composing their own rags, based on the harmonization of the Maple Leaf Rag. She asks the students to open their notation software, and she pushes a file that she has prepared to the students to download. The class is almost over, so she explains the assignment: using their notation programs, the students are to create an 8 measure melody in the right hand, using the left hand part from Maple Leaf Rag. The assignment will be due the following week. Between this class and then, the students will post their compositions on the class wiki for comments and feedback. They will use their school-issued nanoKEYs to enter notation at home. The bell rings, and the students pick up their iPads and move to their next class.
Second period is another section of 6th grade general music. This class is a little behind the previous one, but the use of technology facilitates differentiated instruction, and she is not worried about them not being in the same place. She would rather her students have meaningful and substantive learning experiences than follow some artificial timeline for when certain material should be covered. Using student blogs, the class wiki, and iPads, the teacher can create individualized group learning environments that focus on the needs of her students. Those students who are ahead can participate in virtual activities online that keep them interested and learning. Those who are lagging behind can get extra help from their teacher using the tools that Web 2.0 provides.
After her third period prep (where she works on scheduling her electronic music ensemble rehearsals in preparation for their performance at the state MEA conference in February), she welcomes her band students to their rehearsal. The students walk in with their iPads and their instruments. After setting up their instruments, they sit down in their places, and attach their iPads to the stands that have been specially designed to attach securely to their iPads. The teachers asks them to open their warm up exercises on their iPads. Before the warm up exercises, she tunes each section chair with a tuner app from the iTunes App Store. The rest of the band tunes as well. After they warm up, the teacher introduces a new piece by opening up the score on her iPad and pushing it to the students. Each student only receives their respective part. The teacher talks through the piece with the students, and using the highlight feature of her iPad, highlights certain melodic and rhythmic motives for the students. After playing through the opening section a few times, she notices that they are having difficulty counting the dotted eighth-sixteenth rhythm that is prevalent throughout. To help them learn it, she takes control of their iPads (again using iPad Remote Desktop) and brings them to www.musictheory.net where she has them complete the relevant exercise on that rhythm. Because the iPads now have Flash compatibility, they can finally utilize interactive Flash-based websites like MusicTheory.net. The students complete the trainer exercise and their scores are automatically sent to the teachers iPad using an RSS feed. Once she is satisfied that they understand the rhythm has them rehearse it a few times using the metronome app from the iTunes App Store. The teacher also assigns the piece as homework using SmartMusic. The rehearsal continues with a few pieces that they have already worked on, and the teacher records the rehearsal on to her iPad for archival purposes.
After a period of lunch duty, the electronic music ensemble arrives at the music room excited about their upcoming performance. Using a few of the music apps available on the iTunes App Store, the students have composed several pieces of music and are working collaboratively on incorporating video into the performance. She loves this period the most because the students themselves are in charge of the music making experience. Some of them are advanced enough to have written their own apps using the iPhone SDK (which they are registered for). The sale of these apps, along with several popular recordings that they have sale on the iTunes Music Store (using TuneCore.com to upload their albums), help to support the music program. The students also have their own loop selling business, but they do this on their own. Instead of paper routes, they are working musicians selling loops to help them pay for college. The ensemble takes out some of the hardware devices that the teacher purchased, and use applications such as Max/MSP and Ableton LIVE, along with some controllers to work on their latest piece. As there is no available repertoire for a group like this (yet), they are responsible for composing all of their music. Sadly, the bell rings, and the fun has to stop. The students pack up their iPads, put the controllers away, and head out the door for their next class.
The end of the school day is approaching, but first she has two sections of 8th grade general music. She loves teaching these classes because they are currently working on creating a film about the Renaissance. Using iMovie, GarageBand, notation software, USB microphones and keyboards, as well as the built-in video cameras on their iPads, the students have been charged with creating a Ken Burns-styled documentary about various aspects of music, history and culture of Europe during the Renaissance. This project has been under way for the past month, and students are working in collaborative groups both during class and outside of the school day, using wikis and Google Docs to create the script and storyboard, as well as grabbing various images and sound files from teacher-approved websites. Once the projects are complete, the finished products will be posted on the music programs’ dedicated, private YouTube Channel. Students will be invited to write critiques of each others’ work once posted. The built-in wifi on the iPads means that the students can be anywhere when they complete assignments. They can also send the entire school their finished projects using the RSS feed from their YouTube channel, so when the students open their iPads one morning, they will have a link to these projects automatically appear in the news reader.
The maintenance of these machines was a pretty big fear for the school district’s IT department, but when they did a cost analysis of annual old fashioned textbook purchases and adoptions, they found that the $699/wifi enabled iPad price tag was actually less expensive. With digitized textbooks loaded on to their machines on the first day of school each year, students are assured of the most up to date texts available. Once the school district adopted the iPads as their primary method of information dissemination and assessment, they hired certified technicians to keep everything up and running. Students in Kindergarten are given iPads which are specially designed to absorb some of the wear and tear they might expect to receive, and the students keep them until the end of 2nd Grade. In 3rd grade, they are given a new iPad and keep those through the end of 5th grade. Middle school means another iPad, and one final iPad for high school. In total, 4 iPads in 12 years. The students are allowed to personalize their machines in any way they wish, and at the end of their use, they are donated to students in third world countries – many of whom they have been collaborating with using the OLPC XO machines.
But the music teacher doesn’t really care about any of this. She only knows that she gets a new iPad every 3 years. At the end of the day, she updates her class wikis and blogs with assignments and discussion questions before heading home. She puts her iPad into her bag and heads home. Once there, she sticks her iPad into her docking station and monitors what her students are doing in the various online environments she has created for them. It never ceases to amaze her how much her students communicate with each other about her assignments at home. She occasionally interacts with some of the student discussions that are going on in the evening. She also checks for the SmartMusic assignments that come in fairly frequently – she is encouraged that they are picking up on the dotted eighth-sixteenth rhythms. Maybe tomorrow’s rehearsal will be even better. As she goes to sleep, she looks forward to the many exciting things her students will do.
What do you think? Wishful thinking? Possible? Good for education? Bad? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.