Introducing Music Ed Tech Talk, My New(ish) Podcast!

Today I am excited to announce that my podcast, Robby Burns + Friends, is getting a long overdue re-brand. I am renaming the show Music Ed Tech Talk. It will continue to follow the candid guest/host conversation style and will focus on music, education, technology, and other mutual interests.

Given my investment in the fields of music and education, and my intense interest in technology, most episodes of Robby Burns + Friends were already centered on these topics. I felt it was time to rebrand the show to better indicate to new listeners what they should expect when they press play.

That being said, I see this show, in combination with my blog, to be my digital megaphone, so don’t be surprised to hear me venture into the unknown. This is not a show about music technology education. It is a show about music, education, and technology. Three separate interests, sometimes discussed in isolation, sometimes in combination, and sometimes not at all. What I am saying is — don't be surprised to hear occasional digressions on Star Wars and pickling. 

I am hosting this show in the same place so you should expect to keep getting episodes in your feed if you were subscribed to Robby Burns + Friends. If not, please let me know. I am keeping the first three seasons of RB+F in the Apple Podcasts Directory under the new title because I feel that they are, spiritually speaking, the same show. I will be tightening up the format a little bit, and am planning to speak with new and exciting guests.

That about sums it up. Ushering in this new season of Music Ed Tech Talk is my very first guest ever, Jon Tippens. You can listen to the new episode and read the show notes here or click play right below.

Subscribe to Music Ed Tech Talk:

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TMEA Session Notes - “Digital Organization Tips for Music Teachers” and “Working with Digital Scores”

I am thrilled to be presenting at TMEA again this year. Both of my sessions, “Digital Organization Tips for Music Teachers” and “Working with Digital Scores” will be taking place on February 17th, at 8 am and 11 am, respectively.

Here are the session notes:

Digital Organization Tips for Music Teachers

Working with Digital Scores

Announcing My First Book ---> Digital Organization Tips for Music Teachers!

I am excited to announce that I am writing a book!

Actually, I already wrote it. Oxford University Press will publish the book, "Digital Organization Tips for Music Teachers," this Fall. It will be the first title in the series, "Essential Music Technology: The Prestissimo Series" with series editor, Richard McCready.

The book will focus on how technology can help rather than stifle productivity in the music teaching profession. It will address such topics as: minimizing paper, managing tasks, taking good notes, organizing iTunes playlists, understanding music streaming services, working in the cloud, and managing scores. The book will provide an overview of the apps and services I have found most useful in my teaching experience. It will include sample workflows for using these technologies in music teaching contexts.

Stay tuned to this site for more information. The blog has been quiet this year as I have spent more time writing the book. Upon release, I plan to write posts of a supplementary nature. I also plan to do a miniseries on my podcast that offers commentary on the book. I will be inviting many insightful guests on the show to discuss a different chapter each episode.

I also have a really fun video trailer in the works featuring some brilliant acting talent from my colleagues in the Howard County Public School System and some awesome editing work from the guys over at Four/Ten Media.

I hope you will pick up a copy when it is released.

iOS 9.3 Preview

Apple has released a preview of iOS 9.3. This update is in beta and will contain many new decent features. Nothing big, but stuff that Apple typically does not add to their operating systems mid-year. This a much welcome change and allows Apple to stay current in ways that they could not on an annual software release cycle. I am really happy to see Apple Music features in the car, thumbprint protected notes, and suggested apps that can feed the data in the Health app. Also interesting is the Night Shift feature which will warm the colors of your screen when it gets dark at night to make it easier on your eyes. This is just a month or so after the developers of f.lux (popular screen temperature app for the desktop) figured out how to release it for iOS through process of sideloading only for Apple to ask them to remove it soon afterwards.

Most surprising to me is the last section on the iPad in education. It looks like Apple is adding multiple user accounts to the iPad for classrooms and is adding a classroom management app. This is interesting especially because of CEO Tim Cook's recent comments to Buzzfeed when asked about the growing ubiquity of Chromebooks in the classroom.

Google’s Chromebooks have overtaken Apple products as the most popular devices in American classrooms, but Apple CEO Tim Cook says the company will not be following the search giant’s approach to the education market, which has been a stronghold for Apple since the early days of the Mac.

“Assessments don’t create learning,” Cook said in an interview with BuzzFeed News Wednesday, calling the cheap laptops that have proliferated through American classrooms mere “test machines.”

“We are interested in helping students learn and teachers teach, but tests, no,” Cook said. “We create products that are whole solutions for people — that allow kids to learn how to create and engage on a different level.”

Apple has been deeply connected to schools since it first rolled out mass market personal computers in the 1980s, and has long offered big discounts to students and teachers. But its education market share has been snatched away by the Google-branded Chromebooks, which are outselling not just Apple but everyone else in the tech business.

I am very excited about these new features, what it means for Apple to break the annual software release cycle, and how they might fight for their place in the classroom.

The killer Apple Watch apps for teachers might already exist

This post by Christopher Russel does a great job capturing my feelings about the importance of the Apple Watch in a busy classroom environment.

The surprise Apple Watch feature this week has been a combination of Siri and Alarms. Yes, alarms.

Our Middle School has no bells (other than start of the day and end of the day). We have different schedules all the time. So what I have done is this: at the end of one class, I raise my wrist, say, “Hey Siri, set an Alarm for 10:15” (or whatever the ending time of the next class is).

At 10:15, my watch dings, but more importantly, taps my wrist, and I know that I need to dismiss students.

I cannot overstate the importance of alarms. My school has bells this year and I STILL need alarms to remind me when to let kids pack up in time to be at their next classes. I am usually setting alarms throughout the entire day. In the frantic moments of teaching it absolutely does make a difference to save a few moments asking Siri on my wrist to do it rather than fiddling around with my phone.

The same goes for notifications. I am always on the move at school. And I am able to be attentive to so many things without ever stopping the task at hand. I get notifications from Slack (the messaging service our music department uses to collaborate), iMessage, and important staff emails. This might seem unnecessary, but I love being able to know if one of my colleagues is sending me a troublesome student or if there is going to be a fire drill at a particular time that afternoon without dropping what I am doing. I keep all of my Apple devices on silent or do not disturb mode so I only get notified by the gentle haptic feedback on my wrist. The only exception is when I am sitting in front of my Mac which I also leave in do not disturb mode at work but see the little red badge on various apps to know I need to attend to something. Watch notifications are non intrusive enough that I can easily ignore them. But they are still pretty non intrusive even if I choose to read them. I think the basic clock and notification features of the Apple Watch are so well implemented that they very well may be the "killer apps" everyone is always saying a new and innovative product needs to have. At least they are for me.

That being said, I am curious to see what other kinds of apps can be made when Apple releases watchOS 2 on September 16th. This update is shipping with a native SDK which will allow software developers to make their apps perform a lot faster (all third party apps are garbage slow right now) and take advantage of the hardware of the watch, particularly the digital crown, speakers, and haptic engine. I am desperately awaiting a metronome app for the watch that allows me to change the tempo with the crown and feel the tempo with haptic feedback rather than the speakers.