Sunday, April 22, 2012

First Uses of Apple TV in Choir

I am very excited to have the new equipment installed and running in the Middle School choir room, the centerpiece of which is Apple TV.  Due to a few issues, I couldn't really try it out until mid-week.  But on Thursday, I just let the Apple TV run for the length of 2 classes while I taught.  The first class was 7th grade general music, and the second class was 7th grade choir.

My 7th grade general music students are recording music history podcasts.  It is a music history project we have been working on for a long time, modeled after the great Classics for Kids music history podcasts.  My students thoroughly enjoyed the Classics for Kids programs.  Instead of just listening to the Classics for Kids shows, I embedded the youtube videos of the musical performances featured in the shows in a separate website.   We only did the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic eras.  We will save Modern era for 8th grade.  

How did Apple TV help in this class?  Simply as a monitor.  I gave one group of students my iPad and had them record their podcast in Garageband in a practice room.  Since the Apple TV was projecting in the main room, I could see everything they were doing.  No worries about going on different apps or getting off task.  Not the greatest use of the Apple TV, but it is important in the life of a teacher.  After the group was finished recording, we were able to teach the other groups the differences between iPad version of Garageband and the laptop version using the Apple TV.  

But in our 2nd hour choir rehearsal, the real benefits of Apple TV came out.  
I remember when I first got a Smartboard in my music classroom five or six years ago.  I felt like the world walked into my classroom.  For a music teacher who had no student computers in the classroom or any access to the computer lab, the Smartboard completely changed my approach.  This is how I felt about using the Apple TV in choir this week.  The combination of the Apple TV, the iPad right in front of me, and the projector made for seamless learning.  I only used my laptop for submitting attendance.

All from the iPad right in front of me on the piano:
• Music playing through Apple TV while students are walking in
SmartSeat app open and on screen for attendance taker (don't have it yet?  read this)
Solfege Scale practice app - first time we used it as a class and kids did better than I expected
• In the rehearsal process itself, I opened Evernote, created a new notebook, and made a new note for that day's rehearsal.  We recorded small bits of rehearsal (either a short piece such as the Star Spangled Banner or about 30 seconds of a longer piece) in Evernote.  Then, students would offer feedback on what needed to be improved.  I would quickly type the feedback into Evernote with the audio clip.  Then we would practice those things and record again.  I repeated this process for several songs throughout class.  I did  this on Friday with my opposite day choir, and will continue this as we move into our Spring concert in May.  Although I am not an avid Evernote user, the fact that it can quickly and easily record and then add text to create a digital portfolio is what I was seeking.  (In the past, we've recorded with Garageband, but there was no way to annotate feedback and save it easily like a digital portfolio.)

Two things amazed me during class:
1.  We must not forget that students are innate musicians.  They know what needs to be worked on and improved.  It may not be in the order that we teachers might do it, but make them part of a constant feedback loop and they take ownership of the rehearsal process.  Phrasing, diction, and dynamics are usually are tops on their list because they know how to fix them easier.
2.  Sometimes students know what needs to be improved, but don't have the words for it and don't know how to fix it.  This is what music teachers live for - the nitty gritty of the rehearsal process.  One student, after listening to the beginning of a piece, said "We sound like children in that part".  What the student really meant was "We need to use a vowel shape and better breath support to create a more mature tone quality."  This was a teachable moment, leading to some work on vowels, another recording, and -voila -we have a more beautiful sound.  I wanted that fixed, but I didn't need to ask for it - they recognized it and asked for it to be improved, and with help from the teacher, they fixed it.  And if they don't do it next week, all I have to do is replay the recording in Evernote and ask for it again.

And two observations about audio:
1.  I need to get a decent recording microphone.  It doesn't do the students justice to use the built-in iPad microphone, and the students deserve a clearer picture of how they sound if we are going to continue this process.
2.  The Apple TV sends audio out through the HDMI and the optical audio (Toslink) ports simultaneously.  If your HDMI cable goes to a projector, you will want to turn off the volume on the projector so that you are only getting high-quality audio through your stereo system.

This was a day where technology:
• Changed my teaching
• Increased student achievement

I look forward to more use of Apple TV with apps such as ForScore (Used it in Fall, but directly wired to iPad, which never works well since the 30-pin connector always comes out.  I really like it and use it often with elementary students learning recorders) and SmartMusic.  If you are looking for excellent discussion about these two apps and more in choral music, check out Dr. Russell's blog TechinMusicEd.

1 comment:

  1. Chris,

    Thanks for writing about your Apple TV experience on your blog. I'm glad it worked well in your classes, and I look forward to helping my faculty learn about the virtues of the Apple TV in the classroom.

    I thought I'd pass on a couple of discoveries: first, the audio in Evernote is highly compressed; you'll never get a good recording through Evernote, unfortunately, no matter the mic.

    Second, my recommendation for an iPad mic: the Tascam IM2 is a great little mic - stereo condensor with adjustable levels. I have used it with recording apps like HT Recorder, and it works great. The sound is markedly improved from the built-in mic.

    If you're going to continue this train of thought with your iPad (which I love, by the way!), I'd strongly encourage you to find an alternative to Evernote, such as Notability, which allows for adding higher-quality recordings. Notability would let you continue making notes on your recordings in-app, but for best results you may want to explore HT Recorder, and alter your workflow a bit.

    Hope this is helpful. Thanks again for the good read.
    -- Matt (