July 6, 2010

iPad – the sequel

So, I’m loving the iPad. I’ve discovered what a great note-taking tool it is. I attended four days of classes in New York and used the iPad and Evernote as my main notepad. I love that I can sync my notes across two computers and my iPhone!

The big thing that I’ve been getting my head around is the video output from the iPad. As a teacher, the iPad could be extremely useful presentation tool. I have been given a VGA adapter to play with to figure out how the damn thing works. For someone who has become quite used to the ease of Apple’s history of plug and play, this was more of a challenge.

The first issue is that Apple doesn’t make it easy to find out that you can’t simply plug the iPad into a projector and BAM! everything on your screen is now projected. That’s the way it works on my MacBook, why not on the iPad? If you download the manual through iBook, you will find a paragraph that explains that only certain applications can project or can be viewed via a monitor. I found more thorough information at iLounge in a review from June 18th.

The short story is this: Keynote, YouTube, and Photo fully support display through the VGA connector. The Video app also displays video assuming that it is not copy-protected. That is, my copy of “The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” plays beautifully on my iPad until I connect it to a projector. The projector is somehow an unauthorized device to play my purchased material through!!!!

Another issue is that if you want amplified audio for your presentations, you have to output your audio through the headphone jack. Depending on how you set up to make your presentation, you could have cables running everywhere!

The good news in all of this for me, is called Expedition. Designed as a 99 cent web browser with VGA functionality, it can open other types of files to be projected. I also use Documents to Go. When you click on the info button on any document in Documents to Go, you have the option of opening the document in other programs, including Expedition. You will loose some of your fancy transitions in your PowerPoint presentation, but you can scroll though the slides and user the built in laser pointer (also available in Keynote) to draw your audience’s eye to the important bits.

The good news is that, according to iLounge, the code to implement VGA output is pretty simple and easily added by developers. Hopefully, as the native iPad app list grows, more software will include this function. Perhaps Apple will include it in OS4 for the iPad!

July 4, 2010

Don’t You Love Summer?

Jazz at Lincoln Center Marquee

My head has gotten a little away from technology for the last week or so.  Well, that’s not entirely true, but technology has become more the tool than the toy.  I was lucky enough to be in New York for a few days taking a class on teaching Jazz improvisation.  Brilliant and inspirational.  Had the iPad with me.  That never ceases to be a topic of discussion as soon as it comes out of the bag.  Evernote and the iPad have become my newest best friends.  I took all my notes on Evernote through the iPad and everything was seamlessly synced to my iPhone and my MacBook Pro.  No matter where I am, I am reminded of who said what, when!  I saw a number of people using their iPhones as digital recorders.  Not something that I did given that I saw staff for the academy recording each class as well.  I’ll get those later!

Next week is heavy technology, so expect some posts.  I’ll be starting to podcast a music theory class that I teach, I’m looking at ways of integrating a number of pieces of software (webware?) with my school’s web site and I’ll have three days of meetings with other like-minded folk from my school to look at further ways of implementing technology in our classrooms!  I love the lazy days of summer!  😉

June 22, 2010

Social Networking in Class

You may not have heard, but social networking is all the rage! All the cool kids are doing it. Now, the “cool” teachers are too! Yes, teachers are using it for the same things that the kids are: staying in touch with friends, keeping up with all the gossip, etc. But these folks are using it in class too! How wacky is that?

Now, I have a rule in the school library: NO FACEBOOK!!!!!!! But I find myself bending that rule more and more often. It used to be that we didn’t allow YouTube either but there is some really good material out there on YouTube. I have YouTube to thank for getting me out of a bind last summer when I had to learn an obscure Bolivian conga drum pattern in short order.

Facebook is still a harder sell for me. Outside of the occasional teacher who will post team practice schedules or homework assignments on Facebook, I don’t see a lot of curricular use for Facebook. Please correct me if I’m wrong. I’d love to hear about someone putting Facebook to good use in the classroom. Really, I would.

Now, having said that, there are a number of other platforms out there that take the social networking model and put it to very good educational use. I have used Ning sites to get my jazz ensembles listening to jazz and talking about what they are hearing. Incidently, the most popular use for it is to embed YouTube videos of jazz performances. I’ve also had my ensembles all sign up for accounts on Last.fm with mixed results. Some have found it an amazingly useful tool for exploring new music, others, not so much.

I’m currently taking an online course in PBWorks and have found the collaborative aspect of the Wikis and discussion groups quite promising. Even when teachers simply use it as a way of broadcasting course information, PBWorks can be quite effective. I also have limited experience with Wikispaces and am using Google apps more.

Blogging also has a place in the classroom of the 21st century. I’m familiar with Blogger, MacOSX Server’s blog and wiki component and am writing this blog in WordPress.

I would be very interested in hearing from teachers who are using any of these tools. What are your preferences? Do you have any particularly unique uses for any of these tools? Any good stories about have they have worked (or not) for you?

My favourite feature of blogging is that it is a two-way discussion. Chime in with anything at all (within reason).

June 18, 2010

iPad

Ok.  I joined the masses flocking to the iPad yesterday.  I have spent much of my available time playing with it and dreaming up good curricular uses for the device.  With my library hat on, I immediately jumped to looking at ebooks, newspapers and other online resources.  I was pleased with how easy it was to jump on to my library catalogue through Safari, check out an ebook and read it online.  Now, I’ve done this on my iPhone, but my eyes fingers thank Mr. Jobs and crew for the iPad’s bigger screen and on screen keyboard.  I found a ton of online newspaper and magazine apps that vary in purpose.  Some are to encourage you to buy a subscription by providing minimal free content, some are simply to be used as an online reader for paid subscribers and others offer free access to many of the world’s newspapers.  My current favourite is NewspaperPad.  For $5 you can read hundreds of newspapers from around the word in English and in the country’s native languages.  What a great assignment for a French class to keep up to date with the Haitian relief effort by reading Haitian newspapers in French.  Great practice of the language and a local view of what is really happening on the ground!

I’m a fan of Kobo (the ebook reader for the Chapters/Indigo book store chain in Canada).  I read Yann Martel’s latest novel on Kobo on my iPhone.  It was actually a pleasant reading experience despite the small screen.  The iPad makes it even better.  I like Apple’s iBook except for the fact that, as a Canadian, I cannot actually purchase anything!  Only free content is available north of the 49th parallel!  Hurry!!!!!

As a music teacher, most of my time has been spent playing with the apps that I’ve dumped over from my iPhone.  My favourite app for music is Peterson’s iStroboSoft.  Peterson is a company that has been making Strobe Tuners for decades and I don’t walk into any rehearsal now without my iPhone and iStroboSoft.  It is extremely sensitive to pitch fluctuation and is clear to read.  The app is not iPad ready, but I can already see it becoming more useful on the iPad than on the iPhone.  Many apps that work on your iPhone also work on the iPad.  If they have not been adapted for the iPad, they usually boot in a smaller rectangle the same size as the iPhone.  With the tap of an icon at the bottom right corner of the screen, you can easily blow the image up to full iPad screen size.  I think that I will now be able to remain at the front of the room instead of stumbling through rows of student musicians to tune individuals.  They can now see the image clearly enough from across the room.  If I’m really desperate, I can plug my projector cable in and project the image on to a screen at the front of the room for a REALLY BIG TUNER!

General productivity apps like iWork and Documents to Go allow for work on text, spreadsheet and presentation projects on the comfort of the smaller screen.  You can easily project Powerpoint and Keynote presentations directly from the iPad.  My one complaint is that transferring files from iWork back to my Mac is not as intuitive as I would expect.

I will be distracted from the fun this weekend as I have report cards to write, but no doubt, at least some of these will be done on the iPad.

I would love to know what apps others have found for the iPad that have potential application to the classroom.  I’m particularly interested in music and library applications but anything and everything is welcome.  If I can’t use the information, I will certainly pass it on to colleagues who will.

June 16, 2010

Ebooks

I’m trying to get my head around the best delivery of eBooks in a school library.  Each distributor seems to have a different method of delivering their books.  Some, like Amazon.com, really want you to buy a Kindle or at least download their Kindle reader.  They charge for delivery of books that would be free in other venues.  There are other book sellers who do the same.  Their are other companies who are kinder, in that they allow for online reading of their books through a web browser, but also have options for reading through a proprietary or third party reader such as Adobe Digital Editions.

My experience is somewhat limited thus far.  I read Yann Martel’s Beatrice and Virgil on my iPhone running the Kobo reader.  Given that I was traveling at the time, it was nice to have a true pocket book.  I could read anywhere, any time.  The small screen was a little annoying given that I was constantly turning pages, but given the portability and the situation, it was worth it.

I am anticipating trying an iPad in the near future and hope to be able to explore the iBooks app and look forward to having the flexibility of reading through a browser on line on the same portable device.  I expect that there will be restrictions however given that there are limited number of apps for the iPhone/iPad OS (and, from what I’ve read, the iBook store is not yet open in Canada!!!!)

I would be very interested in hearing of others’ experiences with eBooks as readers or librarians.  I’d be particularly interested to hear from librarians that have put some sort of portable device into use in a library situation for the purpose of reading eBooks or online magazine subscriptions.

Anyone?

June 16, 2010

What the heck am I doing here?

Hi.  I’m not new to blogging but I am new to WordPress.  Part of the intent of this blog is to get to know WordPress but it is also, potentially to provide a journal for my journey further into the world of technology in education.  Let me back up.

I am a high school music educator of 18 years who has always been a bit of a computer geek.  I did my essays in high school on a Vic20 and a Commodore64.  I have always used gadgets in my teaching and was on the internet pre-web.  The school that I have been teaching at for the last 18 years is adopting a more agressive approach to the incorporation of technology in the classroom.  Individuals, including myself, have been using Social Networking, online colaborative software and a variety of other networked and hardware tools to enhance learning.  The school is now trying to be more organized in it’s approach and in it’s education of the teaching faculty in the use of these technologies.  I am part of the team that will help develop and implement this policy.

In addition, I have moved into running our school library in the past year.  The change teaching load and the changing role of the library in today’s schools has fascinated me and has also started to shift the way I’ve been thinking about technology in education.

If I am disciplined about this blog and I get some dialogue going, I intend to document my journey in the coming years as I explore the use of technology in education in general and in Music Education and the Library specifically.

If this is interesting to you, drop me a quick note in the comment box and tell me about yourself!