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21 minutes reading time (4120 words)

How do mobile devices and apps inspire and facilitate your teaching?

Ev​ery teacher who uses a mobile computing device has a favorite application. But rather than asking teachers about their favorite apps, I prefer to ask deeper questions: Do mobile computing devices have a transformative effect on your studio, your studio management, or the way in which your students learn? 

I received fascinating answers from eight teachers. One teacher has discovered that a mobile computing device can make itinerant teaching viable. Another has found that interaction with the iPad's touchscreen ensures that her students actually process new information. And one teacher has even discovered that she can migrate her homemade teaching resources from the physical world to the virtual world using accessible programming tools. 

The solutions that we cover in this issue are not limited to the iPhone and the iPad. If you have an Android phone or tablet, you, too, can join the mobile teaching sorority (and men are welcome as well!).

How my Android tablet helped clean out my car trunk                          by 

by ​Jennifer Eklund

I have always preferred to travel to my students' homes, but there are some distinct disadvantages to running a mobile business—namely the inability to have your favorite materials at your fingertips at all times. Formerly, my car trunk was full of typical studio items: music games, extra repertoire books, flash cards, small rhythm instruments, and much more. Fortunately, my Android tablet has brought sanity to my mobile studio, enabling me to carry a digital version of these items in my hand to every home.(For more about Android devices, see Tech Tips in this issue.)

I handle all of my scheduling and accounting with my Android tablet, even using the tablet to take mobile credit card payments with apps such as Square (https://squareup. com) and PayPal Here ( I never carry books with me anymore as I have digitized my essential music library, which is now accessible using a PDF viewer.

During lessons, the tablet provides easy access to the Internet, enabling my students to watch a YouTube video while creating their own arrangements by hand or by using a cloud-based notation application such as Noteflight ( Of course you can do these things with a laptop, but a laptop doesn't sit nicely on a music stand!

Here are a couple of the Android apps I use on a daily basis with younger students:

Note Destroyer (formerly Kids Musical Note Blaster) ( site/isoscelesdev/): 

This is a note-drilling app with high appeal for students of all ages. Students are quizzed on treble and bass staff reading in a timed test while asteroids labeled with alphabet letters float in an outer-space themed background. Once they identify the note, students tap the corresponding asteroid with the correct lettername and the rock explodes, accompanied by a memorable sound effect that seems to enchant even the fussiest of students. We keep a running scoreboard, promoting healthy competition among my students.

Rhythm Sheep ( 

In this game, students hear a short rhythmic snippet and are asked to copy the rhythm by tapping a button on the screen. As the rhythm is tapped, a sheep appears on the screen to represent the note. If the tapping is on the beat, the sheep will remain in the middle of the screen; if the rhythm is off-beat, the sheep will appear to the right- or left-hand side indicating that the tapping is either too late or too early. Once the example has been tapped, the sheep walk through a gate and a score is given. I find this app to be ideal for my visual learners who struggle with copying rhythms aurally.

If you would like to know about additional apps for piano lessons, visit the technology section of my blog which is devoted to music education on the Android platform (

Jennifer Eklund holds a master's degree in musicology and a bachelor's in music with an emphasis on pedagogy. An avid composer and arranger, she has authored the Piano Pronto method book series and a number of piano solo songbooks. She has enjoyed a successful teaching career in Southern California since 1994. You can view her publications and teaching philosophy at

Learning by teaching                                                                                    by Kaylene Peets

​What do you do with kids who look like they're listening when they really are not? One approach is to ask them to demonstrate their understanding. For this purpose, I turn to an iPad app called Show Me (https:// tive-whiteboard/id445066279?mt=8).

Show Me is an app that turns your iPad into a whiteboard and your finger into a virtual marker! With it, you can draw just about anything: a musical staff, chord progressions, rhythm patterns, and so forth. You can even import pictures (such as the image of a keyboard or staff ) and draw on top of them.

I especially like the fact that the app and the iPad together promote kinetic learning. A typical scene in my studio might unfold this way:

Me: "First-inversion chords have a third on the bottom and a fourth on the top."

Student: {nods} 

Me: "Show an example of a first-inversion chord." 

Student: {looks at me as if I just showed up} "Wwwhat??"

The phrase "show me" is a magical attention getter! The second time around, students really listen in order to complete the task, using the Show Me app.

Another attention-getting phrase is "teach it," which leads me to another feature of this app. I like to have students create video lessons for other students or to email their parents. Show Me includes a record feature that records both the student's drawing and the student's voice. To make things fun, I might say, "Use an English accent," or "Use a teacher's voice."

Multiple recordings are sometimes needed in order to get the lesson "just right," and that serves to reinforce the student's understanding. When we play back the video, we hear the student's voice as a drawing magically appears on the whiteboard.

It's fun to share a student-created lesson with the parents by email. The saved video can also be reviewed at other lessons. Teaching a concept is de nitely one of the best ways to learn a concept!

Kaylene Peets has been an independent music teacher for fifteen years, first in Montreal, Ottawa, and now in Chapel Hill, NC. She earned a B.A. at Brigham Young University and studied at the Royal Conservatory. She subscribes to the notion that a teacher who is always learning is a better, more energetic teacher.

​Yes, you can create your own mobile apps!                               

​by Adrienne Fero McKinney

Several years ago, I realized that many of my students were struggling with their at-home practice, despite everything we do at the lesson. So, I came up with a simple system of color-coded cards for students to take home to use in their daily practice. Each card suggests a specific practice technique, such as "Play hands apart in slow motion," "Tap and count aloud," or "Play three times in a row correctly." Students are encouraged to come up with their own practice ideas which we add to the set. We call these our "practice cards," and they are kept on a small metal ring in the student's piano binder and are coded to match annotations that we make in the music.

In January, I found a link to the MIT App Inventor on the Free for Teachers blog ( App Inventor is a web-based program that was designed for teachers and students to make apps for Android devices (http://beta.appinventor. The program has a component for designing the app's appearance and a second component, called the "blocks editor," for programming the app's functions—i.e. telling it what to do when the screen is tapped. App Inventor runs in your web browser on a Mac or PC and includes a built-in emulator so you can see your app work in real time as you design it.

Fascinated by the possibilities, I read the manual and built a few of the tutorial apps. It occurred to me that I could turn my practice cards into an app just by using some of the programming techniques I found in the tutorials. Even my youngest students play with phones and tablets that belong to mom, dad, or an older sibling. Why not give it a try?

I am not a programmer, but within a couple hours I had designed a fairly simple app that works like the practice card system. On the main screen, you can select a card color or tap the "?" for a random category. This opens a new screen with a "card" at the top. Tapping the card brings up the familiar practice techniques. To get a number of repetitions for your practice card, give the phone a little shake. Sometimes it will show a number between two and twelve, but, for fun, I've also included some instructions such as "play once for each letter in your first name."

For now, we are using the app only during lessons as a way to engage students in the "practice how-to" portion of the lesson. My goal is to give this app to students so they can use it at home as they do the real cards. One big drawback is the fact that many of my students use iPhones or iPads, but the App Inventor is only for Android devices.

The process of designing this app has been beneficial in that it has caused me to think of new ways to use the practice cards as well as other ideas for apps. App Inventor can access any of the device's functionality, so it may even be possible to have the app prompt the student to send me a text, letting me know what cards were practiced or asking for practice help. There are lots of possibilities!

I hope that reading about my experience using the App Inventor will inspire other teachers to create an app as well.

Adrienne Fero McKinney ( runs a private music studio in Lexington, KY, where she teaches piano and horn. She is active in MTNA and the National Guild of Piano Teachers, currently serving as the local NGPT Chairperson and recently elected as the Kentucky Music Teachers Association President-Elect. Music technology became her hobby after a brief foray into healthcare software consulting. She spends much of her free time researching and implementing new technology tools in her studio

Inspiring group classes with mobile music apps                                         

​by Jennifer Foxx

I like to use my iPad as a supplemental resource that enhances learning experiences. I have also found ways to use mobile computing devices in my group classes, which typically consist of five to eight students. Last summer I thought it would be fun for my older students to create something that I dubbed an "iBand."

I started by emailing all the parents and asking if everyone had an iOS or Android device. Students were then asked to download a couple of free rhythm and/or instrument apps and bring their device to group class. I decided to take a facilitator role: I explained the ensemble concept to the students but allowed them to figure out how to go about making music.

This summer during music camp, we used a few different apps in a round-robin fashion. For example, Music Flash Class ( features a Hot Potato game where students are shown a flashcard. The student has a time limit during which to answer correctly and then pass the iPad on to the next student. During the game there is a beeping sound that increases in pitch and tempo, reminding them that their time is limited before it buzzes and kicks a student out of the game.

I also use the goodEar apps, Intervals and Melodies ( us/artist/imobiltec/id480475973?ign- mpt=uo%3D4), in a similar round-robin fashion. The round-robin format lends itself perfectly to group classes.

Jennifer Foxx has more than fifteen years of experience in speaking, and enjoys giving presentations to fellow music teachers on topics such as technology, practicing, motivational programs, group lessons, and summer music camps. She is active in her local MTNA chapter in AZ, currently serving as Immediate Past President for the Phoenix Chapter. She enjoys sharing helpful teaching resources and tips on her piano teacher resource blog (

Wireless audio with AirPlay                                                                        

​by Megan Hughes

When I got an iPad, one of the things I wanted to do was use it to play YouTube videos and iTunes recordings quickly and easily for my students. Often I wanted better quality sound than I could get with internal speakers, but I didn't want to be stuck plugging and unplugging wires, finding adapters, tripping over cables, and setting up delicate machinery any time we wanted to hear something. What's the point of an iPad if it makes life harder?

So, I went online to research wireless speakers for my iPad. There are various solutions available, mostly complex and expensive. I wanted it to be simple, cheap, and to use the speakers I already had.

What I found was Apple's AirPort Express ( airport-express). This is a little $99 white box, smaller than a paperback book, that plugs into the wall and connects to your speakers. After a bit of set up, which the device led me through, I had a big sound magically emanating from my room speakers with no cables to trip over.

It is easy to switch from an iOS device's built-in speakers to the room speakers. With YouTube, for instance, there is an icon below the video that allows you to choose which way to go. For most other apps, you need to access the device's AirPlay button. Just double-tap the Home button to reveal a row of icons at the bottom of the screen. Then swipe that row of icons from left-to-right, once on an iPad and twice on an iPhone or iPod touch. This will reveal the round AirPlay button with an upward pointing arrow. This button will only be visible if you have an available AirPlay device, such as the AirPort Express or Apple TV (which is discussed in Ellen Johansen's piece below.)

The biggest problem with AirPort Express is that there is a two-second delay between the audio of your external speakers and the video that you see on your mobile device. This is to be expected when you use AirPlay technology. However, I just use my sound system to play things where the video isn't crucial or doesn't exist, such as old Rachmaninoff recordings on YouTube.

The best thing about using wireless speakers has been the looks of amazement on my adult male students' faces when my iPad makes big, beautiful sound come out of the room. Some of them are serious audiophiles but didn't know you could do this. They were terribly impressed. Not bad for a little old lady piano teacher!

(Editor's note: AirPlay receivers, like the AirPort Express, are starting to become quite common. Fortunately there are apps such as AirAudio [https://play. raudio] that enable Android devices to communicate with AirPlay receivers.)

Megan Hughes has been teaching children and adults (even octogenarians) for thirty years. Her personal mandate is to teach everyone who is interested in lessons, regardless of learning disabilities, dementia, or the distractions of harried lives. In her spare time, she keeps up her piano practice and tends to her garden.

Wireless video with AirPlay                                                                       

​ by Ellen Johansen 

My studio has gone through a renaissance, embracing Apple technology: a savvy iMac, an iPhone 4s, a second- generation Apple TV (, and a new HD Sony TV. The Apple TV—a small box about the size of an AirPort Express—is the wireless gateway that can connect my computer, iPhone, and future iPad to the TV and its speakers. It uses Apple's AirPlay technology.

After acquiring these devices, I needed to learn how to coordinate all this stuff so that I actually look like I know what I am doing. Every time I excitedly shared a new discovery concerning these tools, my children rolled their eyes and mentioned how they have been doing the same thing "forever." And of course my students often brush me aside as they seamlessly push any button on the screen until they hit the right one and magic occurs. Yes, I am afraid that this push-a- button learning style for children of the technology generation often extends to how they learn a new piece, but that's a subject for a different article.

Apple TV, with its AirPlay technology, was designed to connect your Apple device wirelessly to a larger screen and speakers. [Editor's note: Using AirParrot software (, you can also wirelessly connect a Mac or PC using Apple TV.] This was espe- cially exciting when I found the button to transfer the live streaming coverage of the Van Cliburn competition to the big screen in my waiting room. I made sure my students and their parents were introduced to the competition via my TV screen, and I plan to continue to nd similar Internet events to share.

My next step has been using this exciting technology in a pedagogically sound way. I like to make video recordings of my students with my iPhone and then let them watch their recorded performance on the big screen. We review sections and make suggestions for how to improve the performance. I then log these performances in a YouTube playlist and compare earlier performances to later ones.

The future? I am sure that as time goes on, I will figure out how to use that large screen to teach theory concepts, demonstrate a notation program such as Finale, and even broadcast student performances to grandma and grandpa using Skype. Alas, by the time I am ready to take the next step, I am sure a brand new toy will be on the market that will transcend these magical moments. For now, however, I am transfixed.

Ellen Johansen is a classically trained pianist and independent piano teacher living and teaching in East Hampton, NY. She is a trained Musikgarten teacher and has taught early childhood music classes in her community for twenty years. She presently manages her studio with Music Teachers Helper and an accounting program called MYOB. You can find her on the web at, and you can "like" her at her Facebook page: Ellen Johansen Music Studio.

The right mobile app can organize your studio                                         

​ by Sandra Bowen

I've been looking for a way to keep my studio organized since the late 1980s, when I started adding computer technology. I checked out every studio organization software program that came to market only to find them illogical to set up and too inflexible for my needs. Fortunately, a teacher in North Carolina was having the same problems and asked her software developer husband, Carlos Fontiveros, to help. Carlos followed her suggestions and created the first truly intuitive studio management solution: Moosic Studio (

I found this Holy Grail of studio management in the exhibit hall of the March 2013 MTNA conference. This app is where I now store all of my studio information. It is an incredibly thorough app with an exceptionally clean layout that doesn't even need a manual.

When I got Moosic Studio home, I realized that I had found a program that understood the life of a piano teacher. I entered my parent list with all the contact information. Then I entered my student list—and this is where it gets exciting! I had opportunities to enter each student's skill level, grade in school, assignments, recital performances, repertoire, books, and much more. After I entered my students' lessons, more options came up. I can record audio for a new piece right on the student's assignment sheet, and I can record video during a recital! Invoicing is coming in a later revision this summer.

Moosic Studio has not only made my studio much more organized, it has enhanced my teaching with options for entering notes, reminders, and recordings for my students. Best of all, I can take this information anywhere on my iPad.

Sandra Bowen has a private piano studio in the San Francisco Bay area. She is the author of Electrify Your Studio!, the first guide to integrating technology into traditional studios, and has written numerous articles for Clavier Companion and American Music Teacher.

Mobile devices now fully integrated into the modern studio  

​by Beth Henderson-Tadeson

It started with the acquisition of a hand-me-down first- generation iPad which was followed by my first smartphone. Now, with a new iPad 4, I can say that the revolution in my studio is in full swing! Don't get me wrong, I've always been a tech-lovin' gal, having had a website, a studio Facebook page, Excel spreadsheets for record keeping, and more. However, the use of mobile devices has brought compelling technology right to the piano bench—both mine and those of my students! Here is a sampling of the apps that I use:

Flashcardlet ( us/app/flashcards*/id403199818?mt=8) has enabled me to create a set of flashcards containing each individual technical require- ment of every piano grade (Conservatory Canada). Once created, I upload the cards to Dropbox, from which each student down- loads the exam flashcards for their grade onto their iOS device. I ask the students to review five to ten cards a day, and they give each flashcard a checkmark if they played the technical item well or a star if they need to keep it in the pile for review. At the next les- son, I start the review with the starred cards.

Of course my own analogue metronome sees use in almost every lesson, but, when I want my metronome to act more as a feedback tool than an authority figure, I use the (free) Steinway Metronome (https://itunes. id393021343?mt=8). It operates in two modes: Manual and Tap. In Tap mode with the volume turned off, I discreetly tap the beat of a student's performance and the student's tempo is displayed. If I detect an unintended shift in tempo, I start silently tapping the beat again and the new tempo is displayed. At the end of the piece, I can pinpoint the spots and let the student know how much deviation there was. Some students are able to glance at the metronome display while they are playing and react by immediately smoothing out the tempo.

I often use the iPad camera to create a video of the student's hand position. With the camera positioned right at the end of the keys, we record a profile of the hand position. After it's been recorded I'll ask, "How do you think your hand position was in this piece?" Invariably, the student will answer, "Good!" to which I'll respond, "OK, so let's look at the recording." One look at the recording enables students to realize that their hand position wasn't as good as it was in their mind. To make it even more obvious, I'll play along with them so they can compare their hand position in the foreground to mine in the background.

The most recent new use for my iPad has been making movie trailers of my students and my studio. I collected video clips of every student (with written parental permission) and then used iMovie to create two movie trailers that were premiered at my student recital. Though they were created more as a keepsake of the year, I've found that they've become an invaluable component of my digital marketing, enabling prospective families to see that "these aren't your grandmother's piano lessons!"

In addition to homeschooling her children and fostering young Guide Dog pups, Beth Henderson-Tadeson, MSc., runs a fifty- student studio in Grimsby, Ontario (www.bethtadesonmusic. ca). She allows technology to change how she teaches but not what she teaches. She continues to take piano lessons in different genres and practices regularly because she believes that she can't expect anything of her students that she's not prepared to do herself.

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