Archive for 1:1

Testing Crestron AirMedia Wireless Display Adapter for BYOD (Laptops)

Our BYOD environment supports laptops in the Upper School and iPads in the Middle School, so we’re searching for a wireless display solution which accommodates both. I tested AirParrot and Apple TV previously, and now I’m testing the Crestron AirMedia display adapter. Our goal is to have a classroom-based wireless display system where students and teachers alike can share on the projector or other display in order to work collaboratively.

About the AirMedia

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AirMedia Display Adapter

One thing that differentiates the AirMedia right off the bat from an Apple TV solution is that the AirMedia has both HDMI, VGA and 1/8″ Audio Out. This makes it much more likely to play nicely with existing classroom projector and sound systems. Where the Apple TV is built to interact with your TV or home theatre system (hence the HDMI out carrying both video and audio, requiring something like the Kanex ATV adapter to separate them), the AirMedia is clearly meant to serve existing business/educational A/V infrastructure.

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AirMedia displays IP address and a connect code for each session

When connected, the AirMedia projects an IP address and an access code. Anyone wishing to present must download the AirMedia client (for Mac or PC) or App (for Android or iOS), enter the credentials given, and log in. Once one device is bound to the AirMedia and actively presenting, no other devices can connect until the projection is released, preventing accidental (or non!) hijacking of the display. The code is randomly generated each time a session is started, meaning that your access code from Monday’s class can’t be used on Tuesday.

Like the Apple TV, the AirMedia runs a network service which must be accessible from any devices that you wish to use. In other words, if you have it connected to your wired network, you won’t be able to access it from Wi-Fi unless you have your network properly configured. For testing purposes, I had my computer and the AirMedia on our Ethernet network. I’ll test with the iPad at home and report in a separate post.

Performance

To do each test, I used the device with the AirMedia as the primary display for normal daily operation, then threw some YouTube videos and streaming from ESPN.com at it to test the video smoothness.

Windows - Tested on a Lenovo Helix running 8.1. 2 GHz, 8 GB RAM.

Performance was seamless using the Windows device– operation on the display was nearly real-time with no noticeable lag. If I had the wireless network operation set up, I’d be using this as my main display with the Helix in tablet mode.

Mac – Tested on a Mid 2010 MacBook Pro running Mavericks. 2.4 GHz, 4 GB RAM.

Performance was noticeably laggy on the MacBook. The display continually ran 1-2 seconds behind input on the MacBook, and occasionally the videos would get choppy. Curious to see how this was taxing the OS, I noticed the following in Activity Monitor:

  • Memory usage was pretty constant: around 30 MB of RAM being used at any given time. Given that the MacBook has half the RAM of the Windows machine, my first guess was that I was maxing the RAM out. Doesn’t look like it.
  • CPU load was between 15-30% during normal operation. Jumped up to the high 60s (63-68%) when showing video. Again, that’s for the AirMedia process itself, so the actual rendering of video in Chrome isn’t factored in there.

Obviously, with a consistent 1-2 second lag, using the AirMedia as a primary display isn’t an option. If your students are using this to project on the main projector, that may not be a concern. In my quest for transparent/invisible technology usage, though, I don’t like the fact that everyone’s eyeballs would be on the screen being shared (i.e. projection) except the person manipulating it, who would have to be looking at their own computer. I’m less excited about this than the Windows performance, certainly.

Finally, while the Windows client works out of the box, the Mac client needed a little configuration to work with Mavericks. The initial install would only work for a few seconds before disconnecting because of a performance feature in Mavericks called App Nap. Turning App Nap off fixed the connection problem (Get Info on the AirMedia application, and “Prevent App Nap”), but in a BYOD environment, every student with Mavericks would have to configure this individually. Also, since the point of App Nap is to conserve battery power, this will have an adverse effect on the CPU power usage, but only while the AirMedia application is open. Crestron says that an update is coming soon.

Bottom Line

AirMedia is spendy– near $1000 a unit. Compared with an Apple TV and AirParrot, I’m not seeing anything here that is worth the extra $800 (at least). In a managed environment, or a Windows-only environment, it may be an option, and the VGA output will work with more projectors out of the box. We’re unlikely to move forward with this device, though.

What’s Wrong with this Picture?

TeachThought.com
TeachThought.com

TeachThought.com

According to this TeachThought.com 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:

Read more

Just Add Singers: iPad Recipes for Recording

(cross-posted at ChoralNet
 (edtechteacher.org)
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)

TL;DR

  • 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 gottabemobile.com)
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.
SoundCloud
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!

Building 1:1 Student Survival Skills

Almost one full quarter into our 1:1 RYOD (Require Your Own Device) model, we’ve started to be able to identify the skills that are necessary for our students in a 1:1 environment. Some of them are device-specific: with iPads in the Middle School and laptops in the Upper School, there are some different skill sets necessary. Double that in the Upper School with students bringing either Macs and PCs. Some skills are tool- or software-based, especially those that relate specifically to Schoology, our LMS. Finally, some are specific to our school as they have to do with how our network is constructed, including Wi-Fi and printer access. Beyond these, though, there are some universal skills that speak to universal computer or digital-age skills.

This list of 1:1 Student Survival Skills is not meant to serve as or replace a technology curriculum. We’re working on a much larger curriculum map which speaks to the digital-age curriculum which is both explicit (e.g. Computer Science, Robotics, Engineering) and integrated across the curriculum. I think of this list as the set of skills that a student needs to use during the course of the day here to survive and thrive in their “student tasks” within a BYOD/1:1 environment.

What would you include? What have we missed? Join the conversation below.

Data and the Practicing Musician

(cross-posted at ChoralNet)

One of the great hallmarks of the mobile computing era is the role of data in everyday lives. The omnipresence of computing devices means that an enormous amount of data is being generated, in real-time, as well as being analyzed. This data doesn’t just have to be quantitative (or “number-y”)– social media and other communication tools generate qualitative data as well (or text-based– think observations, reflections, and notes). While we often think of data as being a scientific or mathematical concept, the truth is that all reflection is based on data– both quantitative and qualitative, used in ways that help us answer questions about ourselves and our performance.

MusicJournal is an iOS app which seeks to give us data about practice sessions. A musician enters the name of an exercise or piece of rep, as well as a BPM goal. The app will then allow the user to start a timer to track the length of the time spent on each piece (as well as in total). It also has a metronome built-in to measure progress towards the goal BPM (as well as encouraging practice with a metronome itself!). Using these, a student could generate an accurate practice log automatically by letting the app run while they practice. This quantitative data can help us set goals about practice time, execution of technical passages, and give a little bit of structure to choosing a balance of exercises, etudes and repertoire during a practice session. An unstructured “notes” section lets the user record qualitative data about the practice session, including reminders/suggestions for next time, links to online recordings as examples, or score markings or edits. Used as a reflective tool, this allows the musician to add journaling and critique to the raw data of time and tempo.
The app is designed for a single-user, but a backup feature allows someone to e-mail a copy of their record to another person (conductor, private teacher, etc). Furthermore, while it is meant for individual practice, it could just as easily work for logging and capturing an entire group rehearsal.
When we consider the massive amount of data that we as conductors process in a rehearsal– notes about our performance as well as those about both the individuals and whole ensemble– looking for ways to capture and log that information can result in powerful reflective opportunities. Apps like MusicJournal represent, in many ways, an early attempt at identifying some of the data that we as musicians think is important and relevant to the art and science of music. The opportunity is for us, then, to find creative and useful ways to take advantage of it.
What do you use for data in your rehearsals? How do you capture or analyze it? What is your view on the role of data in the rehearsal or process?