Monday, February 27, 2012

APP Review: NOTION Notation and Composition APP

By Mark T. Burke

Notion for iPad is one of those APPS that just feels good. No, actually, it feels GREAT.  The graphics are excellent, the UI is intuitive, the work flow, well, works, and the output is fantastic. There you have it, my shortest APP review ever :-)

Maybe I'll add a bit more. Notion is a musical notation APP for the iPad.  It provides the tools to setup a score quickly.  Just choose instruments, or sets of instruments and you'll be composing in minutes.  Now, there is one thing I don't like.  I don't like having to buy things within APPs.  Now, I get WHY this has to happen, but I just don't like to.  And, using a school iPad, restrictions can keep additions from happening all together, so I wish adding voices was not handles this way.....(More on that when I talk about the download time).  Being a saxophonist, I was eager to setup a score for our sax quartet...not so fast...I had to buy the saxes.  The thing is though, you're buying the voices, not the ability to compose for saxophone. Notes are notes after all.  Keep that in mind as you setup your scores.  If you find yourself having to buy a voice, you can just choose another instrument and change the key to match the instrument's key.  That's what I did for saxes. I just added flutes and then changed the key.  I will have to experiment a bit more, but I at least wanted readers to know that NOT buying instruments was not a show stopper.

With the score set up, your title and composer's name in place, you can set all the standards like key and meter.  Then, you just start composing.  I've actually not used another tablet composing tool, so I found the touch environment very inspiring.  It felt more organic than using a mouse to add notes to the staff....for some reason. 

All the standard notation tools are available including text/lyrics.  Output is in the form of MusicXML, MIDI, PDF and native formats.  You can also save to Dropbox.

Overall, Notion is a very impressive APP.  It feels professional, yet would be right at home in a classroom of students.  The format fits nicely into the iPad environment.  The download is lengthy, notice it is a 1.12 GB APP....ouch!  This is why many of the instruments are ad-ons no doubt.  Once the initial APP is installed however, it operates flawlessly.  Now, I just wish I was actually a composer who could really make good use of this APP.

Here's the link on the APP store:

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Gallup Poll: ALMOST Half Say Better Teaching is Better...ALMOST half!

By Mark T. Burke

Almost half?  ALMOST half of the respondents said they thought a better teacher, who taught online trumped a less effective teacher teaching face to face.  ALMOST HALF of us said better teaching was better?  WHAT?  Better teaching IS better..period...right?  

After reviewing a great student Prezi presentation, made available on Twitter by Dr. Joe Pisano (, I decided to review the Highlights of the 2011 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll; What Americans said about the public schools.  

I hope you visit each link and especially take some time with the Prezi....students work hard, we should spend time with their work!  Then, read the summary.

One paragraph in particular really caught my attention: 
We asked Americans if they favor using a more effective
high school teacher who would offer instruction over the
Internet as opposed to a less effective teacher who was
physically in the classroom with students. Almost half of
Americans are open to the idea that higher quality instruction
trumped having a teacher present in the classroom.
Have we lost sight of what teaching and learning is about JUST so we can stick to tradition? Do we really support our kids being taught by less effective teachers...period, regardless of delivery?

The issue for me is not the format...the issue is the acceptance that we would answer this question any other way than to choose the most effective teachers.  Are we really saying that if we had a choice between our students working with a teacher who has won recognition and awards as a great teacher, we would choose NOT to have our students work with them if given the choice simply because of the delivery option?  

Monday, February 20, 2012

APP Review: Dr. Seuss Band for Elementary Music

By Mark T. Burke

I learned of Dr. Seuss Band from the Technology in Music Education Blog, by Dr. Christopher Russell. While I've struggled to figure out the main musical objective of the APP, I keep finding myself "playing" it.  I say playing because this APP is really a game. The beauty of the APP is that since no-one really reads directions, Dr. Seuss Band is intuitive to use and should suit the target audience's desire to just jump right in.

As you can see from the picture, the APP uses common instruments such as the Fish Bowl-a-Phone...available in the paid version.  The free version includes a similar looking instrument with a few customizations possible.  But, the point of the instrument is that is plays tunes that the player must react to in time.  Notice the colored notes across the bottom and the color "stripes" falling toward them?  Well, the goal is to react to the falling colors by pressing the notes at the right time and for the correct length of time.  When done correctly, the song being played sound like it should AND the user scores points.  The more accurate the selection, the more points.  Scoring points opens more difficult songs.

The free version includes several different songs and a Free Play mode.  Users can also change octaves on the colored keyboard and change the sounds a bit according to the different instrument options chosen.  Now, on to the musical confusion....for me.

I am just not sure what MUSICAL value this app has.  If anything, if can teach BEAT and RHYTHM ... to a degree.  Since the scoring is based on how well the user reacts to the falling color blobs, there is one issue that confused me. At times, I caught myself wanting to press the colored keys BEFORE the color fell on top of them...maybe that is the result of the games from my childhood..  I found the falling color blobs and the use of the colored keys a bit ... well, odd.  But, that may just be me.  The more I played the game, the more I got over it and just played.

For free, it is worth a download.  You'll have to get it in the hands of your students.  If they love it, there are pay options for releasing additional songs.

Check it out at the APP store:  

Thursday, February 16, 2012

EYE About to Launch! It's Red Carpet Time

By Mark T. Burke

Introduction:  In addition to my work at viaAcademies, I've been working on a long term project around youth entrepreneurial education.  While not an offering of viaAcademies, I wanted to share this update with everyone. Ensuring our communities remain strong means we need to foster creativity and innovation in all areas of life.  With that vision, I've given the past two years to this effort.  Musically, students can benefit from experiencing the entrepreneurial spirit, but we must be prepared to help them.  EYE can help.  Thank you for reading and sharing. -- Mark

EYE, a two year project is on the launch pad and nearing takeoff.  I am so fortunate to be working with an AMAZING team at  BLaST IU 17 including Jerry Christy, Lydia Comerford, Wade Spenser, Chris Johnson, Whitney Kline, Brian Driscoll and of course the entire Administration including Bill Martens, Gary Nuss, John Brenchley and Cori Cotner.

I can't thank  Dorie Henrie enough for her Instructional Design and Development work. She has kept me on task throughout the effort and continues to do so each day. She is a passionate educational developer, business owner and healthy eating guru.  She's kept me on track in more ways than one on this project.  I am pretty sure I may have GAINED weight without her on board.

There are many community members to thank including the our steering committee and especially our EYE Coaches, Don Brown, Katie Bell, David Stone, Jim Shillen and Kevin Langdon.  Their work with the students has paved the way for a new class of young entrepreneurs.

I also have to thank the pilot team, including Matt Fisher, teacher at South Williamsport and all of the 15 students who participated. Thank you to the administration at South for your support throughout the effort.

Over the past two years we've also had help from several others including those who helped with our commercial including Jacquie Engel from the CTL and our student actors, Ryan, Katie and Tess. I also have to thank Kirsten Labant, intern at that time from Lock Haven for all her work on our early outreach efforts.

EYE 3 Movie from BLaST IU17 on Vimeo.

So what is EYE?  EYE stands for the Entrepreneurial Youth Experience.  Youth based Entrepreneurial education is hard to find in small communities.  So, two years ago, we put our heads together and began work on an online offering.   But, we wanted the experience to be larger than just a static online course.  We added EYE Coaches who visited with students, we involved the community in the construction of the course including folks from colleges, universities and many companies throughout PA and elsewhere.  The content is also unique, no boring multiple choice questions.  Every assignment is a component of a larger project...sounds like life, right?  Don't let the phrase "online course" scare you away classroom teachers.  We piloted the program within a classrooms and WOW!  The program provided a complete educational plan that goes far beyond the entrepreneurial education standards in PA.  The online nature of the course allows teachers to FLIP the classroom (want to learn more about flipped classrooms, visit my blog  If we want to inspire kids to think outside the box, we must too.

The launch is firing up now.  We're forming a strategic partnership with Economics Pennsylvania (  EconPA works tirelessly throughout PA to bring economic education to every school district.  We're also putting the finishing touches on the course and will be doing so over the spring and summer.

If you're interested in learning more and want to prepare now to offer EYE for the summer (Hint...we're planning a summer camp for 2012) or 2012-13 school year, let me know.  We need creative, innovative, entrepreneurial youth and we need to them to stay in our communities.  Contact me if you would like to be involved in our efforts.  We're always looking for enthusiastic people to join our efforts.

Help spread the news...share with your friends.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

APP Review: Rover, FLASH Browser for iPad

Mark T. Burke

News FLASH....iPad FLASH Browser Review...ROVER.

I'll just say this...I think it is fantastic.  Rover, as demonstrated in my video below allows iPad users to access FLASH content.  As you'll see in the video, accessing content through an LMS is no problem for Rover.  Articulate developers...for sure check out Rover.

Now, on to the video.

Find Rover here.

As a follow up....One thing to keep in mind is the data being transferred.  The streaming nature of the service means data is being transferred constantly while accessing pages.  Keep this in mind when considering use in a classroom.  For home use, the data use may not be an issue for a single student. For a class though, the high rate can be an issue.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

APP Review: Headspace Mind Mapping 3D

By Mark T. Burke

I've been searching through Mind-Mapping APPs looking for one that really stands out.  Mind Mapping to me is very different than note taking.  Some APPs are claiming to deliver mind-mapping disguised as note taking.  I have a rather traditional view of mind-mapping in that I like mind-maps that are text based.  To me, mind mapping is about the gathering of thoughts during ideation sessions.  Ideations generally come in the form of language, top of mind thoughts, where ideas link to other ideas, supporting or contradicting other ideas.  While graphics and videos can be incorporated, they are too complex. The idea of ideation and mind mapping is to clarify the complex.  For that reason, I am not a fan of including too many graphical elements into a mind-map.

One thing that has always been a weakness of traditional mind map applications, like Visio and Inspiration (although I do love Inspiration), is a lack of dimension.  Two dimensional mind maps do limit the visual representation of ideas somewhat. Also, static maps create a rather confusing array of connected elements since they generally presented everything all at one time.  So, an app that adds a third dimension and allows for changing the view dynamically (nesting and un-nesting)....sweet!

Oh...I guess I should mention, Headspace is just that kind of app.  I LOVE the creation space.  It shows items nested, translucently nested to a parent, and in a 3D environment.  You can nest on demand and move around the creation space as if moving through SPACE.  Love it!

The Lite version is FREE but is limited to one space.  For $3.99 you can have unlimited spaces and the ability to export spaces.

I love the potential for this app in many learning situations including project planning, creating justifications, artistic idea strategy development, process documentation, behavior observation and more.  Headspace may best be used in an advanced class due to the nature of the complexity it can create (and mirror), but who am I?  Try it.

Headspace Mind Mapper

Monday, February 13, 2012

eSchool News on Flipped Classrooms: Great Video Interviews

By Mark T. Burke

I came across this great eSchool News article and video on Flipped Classrooms.

A first-hand look inside a flipped classroom
Global open house exposes the 'flipped learning' approach to the public

If you would like to learn more, check out my three part series on Flipped Classrooms.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Are you using Flipped Classroom techniques?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Swimming in the EdTech Shareflow Stream, End Games Needed

By Mark T. Burke

Staying connected means each day I receive tons of suggestions on new #edtech. Each morning before I really wake up, I spend about an hour swimming through the blue waters of the "shareflow."  Today was different though. While floating along, I hit something.  I was knocked off course and sent to shore.  I scrambled to my feet and turned back to the stream.  I started to shiver out of the water. The streamflow of edtech suggestions, app shout-outs, software recommendations, and gadget promos started moving faster and faster.  As I looked down the stream, I could clearly see it continued on and on and on. While the flow was high, the direction, the destination of the shareflow wasn't clear. In fact, the shareflow seemed to wind endlessly and aimlessly about seeking an unknown destination. If swimming in the shareflow were an Olympic sport, we would never have a gold metalist because the END isn't known. 

My point?  Educational technology and innovation should always be driven by educational outcomes and goals. Every piece of technology we integrate into our classrooms must be integrated with purpose.  What you can DO with a piece of technology is not a justification to integrate it into your classroom.  Real value only comes when we have an End Game in mind, a REAL benefit to students.  End Games in education center around improving specific skills and demonstrate how those skills will help students become valued society members.  Sounds lofty...and it is...and should be.  Trivial goals and integration plans are just that, trivial.  Choosing technology with no End Game is a waste of educational time, energy and money.

The shareflow is a beautiful thing.  It certainly isn't the problem....but it is the viral representation of the challenge we have as connected educators. It is tempting to jump in and swim in the warm waters endlessly, much better than standing on the shoreline shivering. But we must get out once in awhile and bring items from the shareflow into our classrooms, in fact, that is our job. To do so, we must know where we're heading before we actually jump out. When we do, we won't just stand around getting cold.  We'll jump out and head in a direction with confidence.  And hopefully, we've planned to have a dry towel along the way. :-)

The search for all valuable edtech should begin with a few important questions.

Where are my students lacking?  Where do they struggle? What should they be able to do that they can't?
Next, ask WHY and be honest with yourself.  As educators, we often don't like what we come up with when we ask WHY.  One of the most important skills an educator, innovator, entrepreneur, business owner, CEO, parent or anyone can develop is the ability to investigate and answer WHY.  Too often we think, "If I knew, I would know, so then I wouldn't have to ask WHY."  Wrong....not true. Once you've determined WHY students are lacking, why they struggle, why they can't do what they should be able to...then, and only then, plug in a solution.  Until that point, you are guessing, swimming around seeking a solution with no End Game in sight.

How do you state your reasons behind choosing any edtech solution?  How do you remove yourself from the shareflow of information and ideas and develop sustainable, valued plans for integration?  What is your End Game for edtech in your classroom?  




Thursday, February 9, 2012

APP Review: MadPad HD

By Mark T. Burke

W-A-I-T AAAAA M-I-N-U-T-E....this is simply AWESOME!  If you've not been following APPs, then start with MadPad HD.  Once you've tried this APP, you'll be ruined for life...seriously, it's that good.

Here are two demos:

This APP is seriously addictive.  Within the highlighted videos there is one by a user named Buckleit, playing the Telemann Canon.  It demonstrates a more structured, instrumental use of the APP which I believe serves as a great model for getting instrumental students to apply their skills to a new performance medium.  Making a "set" of themselves playing requires a ton of attention to detail including good articulation, note endings, consistent pitch, tone and dynamic control. After their finished, experimenting with the remix provides a creative activity, all around their own instrumental playing.  Planning the set also requires creativity, scripting, choices, quality control, editing and more.

Other classroom uses (other than compositional remixes):

1. ) Teaching special needs language skills...record vowel and consonants which can be combined into words during a remix.

2.)  Teaching foreign language sentence structure....record individual words that can be remixed into sentences.

3.)  Teaching intervals....record individual tones and have student construct music using a predetermined sequence of intervals.

I could go on but my list would be tiny compared to what the collective has already developed. 

The APP has built in share tools, uploads to YouTube and more...Check out the site for more information then download it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Making All Music World Music Project

By Mark T. Burke

Announcement:  viaEdTechnologies (parent company of viaAcademies), RantNetwork and BLaST IU 17 are teaming up on "Making All Music World Music", a project to unite music classrooms globally with the aid of the Communilator Language Translation APP for iPad.  The project is designed to unite students in several schools in Central Pennsylvania USA, to students in other, non-English speaking countries  The goal is to build activities that expose students to world music in a way that influences their own creativity and composition.  It is our belief that creativity breeds creativity and that creativity must be nourished beyond our day to day lives.  Students in rural areas have few opportunities to experience music of other cultures, let alone learn about that music from non-English speaking peers.  Lastly, we believe local student compositional styles can grow greatly through joint efforts with students from other cultures.  In the past, these activities were hard, if not impossible to manage due to language barriers.  The Communilator app will help us eliminate that barrier.

Project Team:  The initial team members:

Mark Burke, viaEdTechnologies CEO, Project Manager
Elisa Grandizio, RantNetwork CAO
Jerry Chrisy, BLaST IU 17, Coordinator for Professional Development
Lydia Comerford, BLaST IU 17, VLINC Coordinator
Chris Johnson, BLaST IU 17, Promotion and Marketing
Lee Saville-Andree, Loyalsock Area School District, Middle and High School General and Vocal Music
Emily Brumbach, South Williamsport Area School District, 5th and 6th Grade General Music
Mark Boyer, East Lycoming School District, Middle and High School Instrumental Music, General Music
Rose Iksic, Linguist 

Opportunities:  The project team is seeking members who teach music in non-English speaking countries.  However, teachers must be fluent in written and spoken English and have access to an iPad and the Communilator APP.  The project will involve students sharing stories about the music they listen to and of their culture, collaborating on compositions (using tools such as GarageBand or otherwise), and providing feedback on recorded examples of student work (thus, class must have some level of recording and listening capabilities).  Full details of the project are yet to be determined and will be developed by the project team. To request a position on the project team, interested teachers should email the Project Manager, Mark Burke.  Include the following information in English (unless otherwise noted). 

  • Full Name and Work/Institutional Email Address (if not available, use personal email)
  • Native Language of Students (Communilator APP includes translation for over 54 languages.  However, we will need to confirm translation capabilities.)  
  • The location of the school (Country and address)
  • A description of your teaching position and specific classes taught.
  • A statement on why you would like to participate in this project.
  • A confirmation that you have access to an iPad and listing of the technologies available to your music students. 
  • A final summary statement.

Funding:  This project is sponsored by viaEdTechnologies, RantNetwork and BLaST IU 17.  Participating teachers are not compensated for time, supplies or any costs associated with this project. The option to seek additional funding for the project may be explored and will be determined by the sponsors and project team.

Work in Progress:  To highlight our efforts, the following "infographic" has been drafted.  As the project continues, additions will be made to reflect our efforts.  If you have ideas to share or wish to help in any way, please contact me.  Together, we can create an amazing project.

Mark T. Burke
Project Manager,
Making All Music World Music Project 

Monday, February 6, 2012

No More Consumers Please, We Need Creators

By Mark T. Burke

I remember a time, not so long ago, when teaching students to be "Educated Consumers of Music" was all the rage.  The thought was that teaching students to appreciate HOW and WHY music was created, based on an understanding of music theory and history, they would become more, well, "appreciative" consumers.  No one really defined what "appreciative" meant, but, that didn't stop us, me included, from pushing forward and adopting this innovative teaching strategy.  In my own mind, I pictured the bulk of my 7th grade general music class eagerly lined up at the local record store to search through and buy album after album of Bach, because I had ingeniously converted them to real Consumers of Music.

After a few years of attempting this conversion and having NO idea if it was really working, or if it was worth the effort, I gave up.  Actually, the sign I should have been paying attention to was how much my students were sleeping during class. In fact, the effort to turn students into "Consumers" turned me into a horrible teacher, someone I didn't want to be, so....I left teaching, went back to school and began my quest to do better.

Now, several careers later....and several models later, clarity has come to me.  With so many aspects of life, I believe we're on a dangerous slope of "over consumerism."  Creating has lagged, and in my opinion continues to lag behind consuming to too great a percentage.  I recently listened to a NPR story on technology consumption vs creation.  As a nation, we all want to consume technology, but few want to create it.  We are happy to count on a very small percentage of our population (which in reality is starting to shift to another country's population) to create all of the tech we've infused into our lives.  Scare you?  It does me.  Social media also suffers from a lack of content creation.  Do a simple test.  Assess all of your Twitter followers, Facebook Likes or other for 1 week.  How many of the PEOPLE you follow create real, original content vs forwarding off links to other content creators?  Do you receive much original content directly from those you follow?  Again, the goal is not to do away with sharing, sharing is critical to our culture, but increasing CREATION should be part of our vision. Musically, we have the same issue.  The balance between consuming and creating music should be a focus for all music educational initiatives.  The vision should be to grow and grow more creators.  At some point if we feel we have too many, we'll decide then to stop :-)

Creators create interest in life, create explanations, give purpose and initiate challenge.  Life, Explanations, Purpose, Challenge.  Do you like those words?  I do. They obviously bring richer meaning than, same old, same old same old and "I don't get it," and  "That doesn't have meaning to me." Music creators don't limit themselves to music.  Creators are creators, often influencing several fields, and music creators are no different.  Are you a creator?  Do you create in only one aspect of life?  Most likely not.

Focusing our music education efforts on Music Creation helps society move from a society of consumerism to a society of creation. Creation creates solutions, solutions solve critical issues for us all and solving issues brings more satisfying living.  Don't spend time teaching kids to be consumers, get them creating no matter what music course you're teaching. 

Have you moved from teaching Consumerism to teaching Creativism?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

APP Review: Notability, FANTASTIC note taking APP...WOW!

By Mark T. Burke

I came across this great article from The Great Prairie Area Education Agency,  by Marge Nash, Assistive Technology Specialist.  Within the many apps Marge highlights, I found an amazing gem.  Notability is a note taking app.  On the surface, that sounds pretty bland...but...oh my...not so.  I found the app priced today at $0.99...what?  Only $0.99?

Here's why I love the app.  The record and seek feature is amazing.  Let's say you've asked students to provide feedback to fellow student's compositions.  Using Notability, student create a new note, name it and even take a picture of the other student to embed into the note.  Then, they can start the audio recording.  As the recording is made, students can use TEXT entry to document their thoughts and reactions to the music AS IT PLAYS.  They can also take hand written notes.  As the performance continues, they can continue taking notes, mixing text entry, drawings and handwriting (well, finger writing :-).  If they have more notes than can fit on a page, no problem.  Pages can be added, in a scrolling, infographic style.  When finished, students can seek specific locations in the audio recording by clicking on the typed text...that is awesome!  Having the ability to jump directly to the entered note and HEAR the music being played when the student made the note, incredible, simple and powerful.

I love how combining text with pictures and hand drawn graphics with typed text and audio creates a full package that can be emailed and shared with others.  Here are a few applications I quickly came up with for use in the classroom.

1.)  Peer reviews (as mentioned above).
2.)  Review/Reactions to any composition/performance.
3.)  Brain storming new composition structures using through graphic organizer creation.
4.)  Artistic element review .. ie.. via the camera and pic embed tools (could use for creation CD covers for class or individual projects).
5.)  Procedural watching and reacting to a process demonstrated in class, capturing steps and desired outcomes.

Stop by iTunes and grab the app.   From there, you can review the many other features.

Friday, February 3, 2012

APP Review: iPhone/Pad Sound Production For Saxophone, Walter Beasley

By Mark T. Burke

Walter Beasley, Sound Production for Saxophone.  I was really excited to download this app since I've been eager to investigate the use of APPs for applied instrumental instruction.  Overall, I have to say while the app provides some great instruction, it is essentially a portal to videos, videos that are actually downloaded (and quiet large -- almost 400 MB). In it's early stages, it misses a few opportunities to provide really powerful instruction, but I applaud the effort and look forward to seeing how the app develops over time. Thank you Walter for taking a risk and diving into a pond that few know what is swimming in it. 

The APP is huge, almost 400MB, so be prepared to tie up your iPad/Phone for a while.  The app has a main menu that forces landscape view and is small for the iPad.  The main interface provides a link to the instructional areas. Keep in mind, the instruction is aimed at jazz sax playing.  Walter covers a great set of topics, so most will find a key area of interest. 

The video quality, on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being weak and 5 being fantastic, is a 3+.  The videos are shot in a space without distractions, however, they feel a little confined.  Visual aids are limited and this is where I feel a real opportunity for growth exits.  Creating surround visuals would turn this app into a real powerhouse.  Written instructions, charts and procedural steps demonstrated on screen would be a great way to create a real iPad learning environment and a way to build a premium app (as compared to the iPhone version). 

Sound quality is good with only a few instances where the dynamics of the sax are a bit too much for the audio capture system. 

Walter also offers an app on Circular Breathing.  I will write about that asa I review it.

In summary, my comments may sound harsh, but I believe as we all progress in the direction of app based and online resources, we will be held to high standards.  A collaborative, non judgemental approach will help us build our presence in this industry.  Congrats Walter...