Archive for Tablets

What’s Wrong with this Picture?

According to this list, the #1 app for a smoother-running classroom is a timer. Not a communication tool for students to work together. Not a note-taking/organizational tool for students to save their work. Not a research tool to help them access whatever resources they need. Nope, if you want a smooth-running classroom with your iPads, invest in… a timer.

Testing AirParrot and Apple TV for BYOD

One of the biggest challenges in the design of our 1:1 program is building the infrastructure in the classrooms to support a 1:1 iPad program (Middle School) side-by-side with a BYOD laptop program (Upper School). We have to build our systems to work flexibly with all types of devices, while still honoring the mobile mentality of the iPad school. A great example of this is in projecting: How do we build a wireless projection system in a classroom to accommodate everything? I’m now testing a combination of Apple TV and AirParrot by Squirrels to achieve wireless projection in a classroom for laptops and tablets together. Read more

Middle School Students Speak

Our Middle School student government gathered some information from the students and brought it to the faculty for consideration. As this is the first year of both our 1:1 iPad program and using Schoology as an LMS, there’s been a steep learning curve for students and teachers alike. It’s interesting to me to see the student feedback and notice that some of their suggestions are along the lines of what I’d advise to teachers (and hopefully practice in the classroom as well).

Here’s the summation as delivered to the faculty without further commentary:

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Just Add Singers: iPad Recipes for Recording

(cross-posted at ChoralNet
So far in discussing iOS, we’ve talked about some of the microphone options, as well as some of the apps available. Many people using the iPad, though, get limited in the possibilities of iOS by working only within one app space. We talked about this a bit when we discussed apps in our last post, but the key to truly using the power of the iPad is assembling hardware and software into workflows which combine multiple apps. Some call this process “app smashing.” Again, where we’re used to working within one comprehensive application on Macs or PCs, iOS apps are designed to perform more limited tasks but make it easier to share data between apps. With that said, let’s look at 5 processes to combine resources and power between different apps. The key to all of these processes is the share button, which looks like  in iOS 6 and some older apps, and  in iOS 7. This is the universal “get me somewhere else!” button in iOS, and is pretty common to most apps.
With all of these examples, please remember that these are only samples of possible workflows– these apps are not “chosen to work together.” Any of these apps and myriad more can be used to combine forces.

I want to… Share Audio with my Choir Today (Right now, no setup involved)

Let’s use a basic but common sharing example: you record an example and want to share it with your ensemble. How would we approach this?
  1. Contacts (already installed): Pass around before rehearsal or during breaks and collect and ask each member to enter their name and e-mail.
  2. Camera (already installed): Record a video example.
  3. Camera: After rehearsal, press the share icon, and choose “Mail.” This will open up…
  4. Mail: enter the names of your ensemble members and hit Send.
This works really well for short examples, but mail has a size limit, which will bite us if we want to send larger examples. Let’s step up a level.

I want to… Record Larger Audio Examples and Share them with my Choir (A little more setup)

Larger audio examples require a storage solution. For more information on some of these options, see “Storage and Sharing” from earlier this year.
  1. Notes (already installed): Create a blank note and pass around the device for people to enter their e-mail addresses.
  2. Google Drive: Create an account, or use an existing account. Create a folder and share it with the e-mail addresses that you’ve collected. They’ll automatically receive a link in their e-mails, so you don’t have to worry about sending it to them.
  3. Camera (already installed): Record your video example.
  4. Google Drive: Upload the video from Google Drive. This is an example where the workflow that normally works doesn’t (pushing the share button from the originating app), but Google Drive can access the Camera Roll and all of your videos to upload. By uploading the file into the shared folder, it will now be accessible to anyone that you invited to the group.

I want to… Record Audio and Clean it up for Conference or Festival Submission

This is a general guideline– check with your specific submission criteria
Most submission committees want MP3’s, which are pretty standard. They’re lightweight and easy to upload, and nearly any device now is capable of playing them back.
  1. TwistedWave: Record your audio. Edit the beginning and end of the track to be able to cut out extraneous noise. Copy the audio.
  2. GarageBand: Create a blank audio track and paste the audio from TwistedWave into GarageBand. GarageBand will let you e-mail the file as an MP3. Depending on your submission protocol, you might be able to e-mail it directly, or you may have to use a web uploader to submit it. Unfortunately, web uploaders are very iffy on the iPad– this is the exception where I’ll suggest e-mailing it to:
  3. Your computer: Open the e-mail and download the MP3 file. You can then upload it to the web uploader from there.

I want to… Record a Music Video of My Group

You can import music from GarageBand into iMovie, so our process looks a lot like the last recipe, with only the last step changed.
  1. TwistedWave: Record the audio. Copy it to…
  2. GarageBand: Paste it into an audio track and save it. Import it into…
  3. iMovie: Record your video tracks and put them together. Export it via:
  4. Vimeo or YouTube. Be mindful that copyrighted music could be flagged for removal (although choral group recordings don’t usually get caught).

I want to… Make all of this Faster!

Remember the multi-touch gestures which make navigating between multiple apps easier and faster: four fingers on the screen, then swiped up will expose icons for the most recently used apps. Four fingers swiped left or right navigates directly between the most recent apps, and saves a lot of time when bouncing between two apps in particular.

What About You?

This is just a sample of how to use apps in combination for basic audio tasks– this doesn’t begin to consider options like integrating Keynote or Prezi to create presentations for School Boards, Department Meetings or potential Donors/Sponsors, nor integrating straight into social media apps like Facebook or Twitter. What are your favorite combinations? How do you find yourself “app smashing” with different apps in your toolbox?

Beyond GarageBand: iOS Recording

(cross-posted at ChoralNet)


  • Use GarageBand to assemble products
  • Bounce audio to effects processors and advanced editing using AudioCopy/AudioPaste
  • As with hardware, select an app meeting your level of need/expertise/time
Last week, we talked about some microphone options and ways to get audio into an iPad. There are a wide range of setups, from a simple single microphone to a full digital audio workstation, that let you record the audio that you want to work with and share. The next question is what apps to use to record, edit, and produce it. Like with the microphones, the best option will depend on how in-depth your project. You can use a very simple process to record a quick example for playback in rehearsal, but you may want to do more editing and production before you publish to the web. This is a very small sample of some of the tools that you have at your disposal however complex the process.

Recording High-Quality Audio on your iOS

(cross-posted at ChoralNet)



The iPad or iPhone are, out of the box, perfectly capable “home movie” devices, and can create decent video or audio recordings of your ensemble with the built-in camera app. Using a combination of some basic retail accessories and a couple of workarounds, though, you can make the iPad a fairly powerful portable recording and editing station. Over the next three weeks, we’ll explore some of the ways to expand the capabilites of an iPad for recording the kind of high-quality audio that you’d like to use with your ensemble. This week, we’ll start with the hardware.
Rules of Thumb (or No-Thumb)
If you have no money to invest in this project, but want to be a little more reliable in your recording, consider this quick tip: remember the first time you ever got a small film camera? How long did it take before you got your first pictures back with your thumb or a finger covering part of the lens? With digital cameras, it’s easy to see when your finger is in the way, but since we don’t listen to digital audio as we’re recording it, it can be hard to know when background noise is creeping into your recording. An additional challenge is that most people aren’t entirely sure where the microphone on your iPad is.
(There it is!)
Hard cases for the iPad tend not to move around much, but soft cases do, and they can cause handling noise to appear in your recording. To ensure that your recording is as background-noise-free as possible, consider removing it from a soft case, or finding a way to prop it up out of your hands (resting it on a table, for example).
Violating the $0 clause from above, there are now attachments which allow you to mount your iPad on a music stand or microphone boom, which would allow you to position the device ideally for recording. As with any sound system, though, if you have $1 to spend, $2 of it should go to…
The Microphone
When the iPad first came out, one of the loudest initial criticisms of it was that it didn’t have a USB port. Critics went so far as to way that without a way to expand the capabilities of the device via USB, the iPad was doomed from launch. Apple did make it possible to expand the device, though– they just wanted you to have to buy their hardware to do it. The music industry has caught up in a major way to the designs of Apple’s proprietary port, and there are dozens of iPad-specific microphones on the market now which use either the 30-pin or Lightning connectors (see below). Many of them are designed for podcasting and may not be sonically ideal for music, but there are also some which closely emulate our more traditional vocal mics.
One additional layer of complexity– iPads now have two types of ports on the market (as do iPhones): the 30-pin or the Lightning. 30-pin has been the staple of iOS devices since their invention. The iPad 2, still available to buy new, uses the 30-pin port. All of the newest generations of iPad use the Lightning port. When I refer to ports henceforth, I’ll assume that the two are interchangable, but if you are purchasing a microphone or accessory, make sure that you are purchasing the correct version for your device. I’ll point out any significant differences between 30-pin and Lightning when necessary.
(30-Pin on the left, Lightning on the right. h/t to
Your choices for microphones fall into two broad categories: USB mics which will work with iPads, and dedicated iPad mics. Dedicated mics like the Apogee (Lightning-only) or the Rode iXY (30-pin) are designed to work natively with the iPad or iPhone, and provide significantly higher-quality area recording sound than the built-in microphone.
USB mics work by taking advantage of a quirk in Apple’s design: they began manufacturing a device called the Camera Connection Kit which allowed users to plug in USB cameras through Apple’s adapter. These kits are available in the 30-pin or Lightning versions, and were immediately jumped upon by all manners of iOS aficionados as a way to connect every type of USB device on the planet, including USB mics. The catch is that this is, in its heart, a workaround relying on a piece of hardware is was neither built for nor marketed to handle the kind of data that live audio recording takes, sometimes there are errors. Your mileage may vary, but there are enough cautionary tales of crashed apps or laggy audio to be wary of this solution and steer towards one of the mics designed to work directly with the device.
Beyond the Microphone
Mention must be paid to the next level up in your iPad recording options, which is a full Digital Audio interface. Most of the consumer-grade audio manufacturers have entered this field with an interface designed to connect to either the Lightning or 30-pin ports which allows for audio and MIDI in/out, may have preamps on board, and likely has both XLR and 1/4″ ports available (including 1/4″ headphone jack). These range in price anywhere from $100-$1500+. For recording a choral ensemble, some of these features like MIDI may not be relevant, but having dual 1/4″ jacks to record a proper stereo field, being able to use your existing microphones, and having a preamp built-in dramatically expand the potential of the iPad for recording live audio.
Now What?
In the next two weeks, we’ll take a look at what to do once it’s in the iPad– apps and workflows which allow to you edit and publish the audio directly from the device so that you can record and share your audio with your ensemble or a wider audience.
Do you have experience working with any of these devices? What do you use to record with your iPad? Join the conversation in the comments below!

Storing and Sharing Rehearsal Audio

(cross-posted at ChoralNet)

Are you still handing out practice CD’s? Are you not handing out anything at all? The ease of sharing audio with our singers has blown up the idea of the practice tape, and offers myriad ways to customize a practice resource depending on what you want to accomplish. Chris Russell wrote a post this week called “Using Soundcloud Out of Necessity” at Technology in Music Education (a must-follow for teachers). His post comes from the desire to allow students to record their own singing to use as an assessment, and he talks about the limitations of an iPad in that regard. What if you just need a way to share files with your singers? Let’s look at some options available.
The Legal
First, the debate about sharing recorded practice materials is extensive both from a conducting/pedagogy perspective and a legal/copyright one. I am not a legal scholar, and I am skipping this debate lest it dominate the larger idea here: distributing audio (whatever practice resources you’d like) to your musicians. In an educational setting, fair use includes distributing material to students who are considered enrolled in a course or institution– the intent being that if you could share it with x people within a class setting, you can share it with that same population x through an online portal. In general, whether in education or not, it’s now accepted that you best have any copyrighted material behind a password/login option whereby you can ensure that the scope is limited to your population, rather than the whole world. Again, please consider whatever limitations and implications of sharing copyrighted material online.
Not copyrighted? Go nuts.
The Webpage
The first iteration of distributing practice files online was posting to a webpage. This is certainly an option, and there are easy ways to create blogs and websites for your organization. Unless you’re going to add some additional components, though, it’s hard to restrict webpages and blogs to only members of an organization unless you create accounts for each person directly. There are cleaner ways to address this.
Cloud Storage (Google Drive, Dropbox, SkyDrive Pro, etc.)
Creating a folder in Google Drive or any cloud storage option is easy, and folders can be directly shared with individuals. This is closer to our intent– to share our files with a defined group of individuals. These programs all have ways to access files on a mobile device, meaning that our singers can load the files directly on their phones or tablets. They all require individual accounts, though, which again introduces a layer of complexity to our equation. An advantage of Google Drive is that Google Accounts are so ubiquitous (and apply to so many products) that many people already have them. If your singers use GMail, Google Calendar, or any other Google products, the same account will apply to the Google Drive.
We’ve talked about SoundCloud in the past as a way to reflect upon and analyze a rehearsal, but Chris’ post describes it as a way to share audio with his group. SoundCloud offers a variety of options for communicating around music files, and is a great way to extend the rehearsal process. SoundCloud uses a content identification system (similar to YouTube) which scans files and attempts to identify if the audio matches anything requested for takedown by a copyright holder. If you are attempting to share an original recording of a pop song, for example, you may run afoul of the upload system. In addition, it’s yet to be seen how far-reaching these software ID systems will be as they develop. Arrangements of songs, for example, usually don’t get caught in the filters (especially if they’re general MIDI/keyboard sounds), but melodic analysis software may in the future be able to identify melody fragments more effectively, identifying arrangements as well as full songs.
What About You?
How do you share your files with your singers? Do you have advice about how to set this up with the members of your groups to share? Post below!

Deploying Apps? What does “NeedsRedemption” Mean?

Today I got stuck with some of our app deployment. For certain users, our deployment platform (Meraki) reported than an app “NeedsRedemption” (don’t we all?). On the user’s iPad, an install would bring up a message that says “The code has already been redeemed.” Can’t delete the app, can’t update or reinstall, and can’t push a clean copy. What to do?

While we use Meraki, some research turned up similar symptoms with Caspar and Tivoli. This seems to be an issue based in the VPP core applying to any deployment platform.

Following the forum notes above, I removed all of the VPP codes from the Apps panel within Meraki and reentered them from fresh copies of the spreadsheets downloaded from our VPP account. This seemed to free up many of the devices, as their statuses immediately changed to “Installing,” “Redeeming,” or “Prompting.” There were a few left marked as “NeedsRedemption.”

An observation and hypothesis:

Those still marked as “NeedsRedemption” for the app I just refreshed (Notability) are also marked as “NeedsRedemption” for three other apps on our list (Pages, Puffin Web Browser and Explain Everything). Those which proceeded to install following the refresh did not have any other apps listed as “NeedsRedemption.” Therefore, I’ll repeat the process to refresh the three other troublesome apps. Might this be a queueing issue that Meraki will not install until all NeedsRedemption errors are cleared?


Your experience?

What errors or solutions have you encountered around these issues? Any thoughts, suggestions, guidance or questions?

Apps for Teachers

Google Apps

My totally unofficial and off-hand observation is that a vast majority of discussion about iPads/Tablets for Teachers is really about iPads/Tablets for Students: apps that are for the students’ use. As a technologist and coach, I’m always wary of the time tradeoff of new technologies. If I continually throw additional resources/challenges/expectations to teachers, even those early adopters will quickly get overloaded and start tuning out what were intended to be helpful suggestions. In order to keep the window open for quality thinking, reflection and research to happen, an Ed Tech specialist should use technology to nurture the teacher as well as the student. With that in mind, here are some suggestions for teacher apps that can save time, promote reflection and inquiry, and preserve/recapture as much precious high-level time as possible. All apps are free unless otherwise noted, and are available on iOS and Android.

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