iPod Roundup

As we cross the midpoint of the summer, my thoughts turn to projects for the next school year. One of our initiatives will include more extensive work with iPods in the classroom. I have been checking net based resources over the last month and thought I would share some of the links in today’s post.


iPod Touch: School wide Implementation Classroom 2.0

on Ning: iPods in the Classroom

on Ning iPod Teachers

Why iPods? K-12 project

Classroom project (with commentary) iPod Touch Project

iPod Touch Classroom Mobile Learning

iPod survey Google spreadsheet back end

Interactive multimedia iPods and whiteboards

The Wired Educator: iPod in every classroom

The Wired Educator: iPod Touch in the classroom

David Warlick: a blog post

Ed Tech Bytes: Managing a Class Set

Enjoy the reading!

~ Mark


On the Beat: Mill Race Festival

I spent a fair bit of time this weekend at the Mill Race Festival. The festival features traditional folk music performances, dance groups, children’s performers and arts & craft vendors. For me, this is one of those treasured events that is a stone’s throw from your home that you don’t get around to attending often enough. I am glad I made it this year. Hats off to the organizing committee for producing such an excellent and enjoyable 3 day festival. I was really impressed with the selection of performers and number of venues available people to take in. Well done – take a centre stage bow! 

I wanted to highlight two performances that really impressed me.

The Outside Track

This festival was my first opportunity to hear The Outside Track. They are 5 member multinational ensemble with members from Scotland, Ireland and Canada. The Outside Track plays leading edge modern traditional music. The ensemble was formed when they were all students at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance. 


Norah Rendell (vocals, flute)
Ailie Robertson (harp)
Fiona Black (accordion, fiddle)
Mairi Rankin (fiddle)
Gillian O’Dalaigh (guitar, flute whistles)

The Outside Track has a unique fresh sound. I was really captivated by the energetic performance, the variety of selections and superb musical excellence! I was fortunate to hear their exciting performance a second time at the festival. The Outside Track is a fantastic ensemble with an exciting future ahead. Take advantage of the opportunity to hear them whenever they are in your area. The next concert is in Goderich ON at the Celtic Festival.

Additional information about group, tours, CDs etc. is available at their website.


David Sinclair & Fernando Barros

David Sinclair is a Flamenco guitarist born in Toronto. He now resides in Granada, Spain. David has dedicated more than 10 of his 30 years of guitar playing to Flamenco music. I have had the distinct pleasure of hearing David performance at private house concerts. It is truly an amazing experience to hear a performer in such a quaint setting. 

This year, David appeared with Fernando Barros, a self taught Flamenco singer. Fernando is comfortable with all Flamenco styles and interprets them with depth and authenticity. Right from the first note performed, it was clear we were in for a real musical treat. David and Fernando really bring the music from the Flamenco culture alive – you literally felt like you were in Spain.  It is obvious the two enjoy performing together when you hear and see their interaction of voice and guitar as they weave their way through the complex musical structures.  I was intrigued with the range of colour expressed in their performances: subtle nuances in the music to intense Spanish dance rhythms.  I look forward to the next opportunity to hear them perform.

Additional information is available at David’s website.

~ Mark

The Future of the Print Industry

By happenstance, I came across an interesting collection of articles and ideas about the future of publishing.

The first article I read, in my paper based but soon to be electronic Alumni Gazette, was titled Does the Print Industry Have a Future? Noting the emergence of e-readers such as the Kindle, author Jenni Dunning raises the issue of newspapers and other paper-based printing companies struggling in the economy, struggling to latch onto a secure vision of the future and in fact, struggling to know how best to survive. Other factors include moves to various electronic forums and our collective efforts to be ‘green’. In my mind, the key point she made was to stop focusing on the newspaper of the past and look at how journalism can be delivered in the most effective way. Read Does the Print Industry Have a Future?

Later in the day, I found a Twitter post that caught my eye called Textbook Deathwatch. The article looks at the use and cost of textbooks in the K-12 education arena. Noting the challenges of slow change in large systems, resistance to change, high cost, competing costs in school boards, shipping costs of print materials and the rapid rate at which books become outdated, the author puts key questions right on the table?

1. Are textbooks the best use of instructional funds?
2. Are their more effective ways to utilize available funding?
3. What would a system look like that was much more ‘e-based’?
4. If ‘e-based’ is the solution (in whole or in part), then how do we change more aggressively?

Read Textbook Deathwatch

Looking at this from the end user point of view (consumer, learner or worker), there are many possible solutions to moving to e-based content. We have been talking about this in my Board too, in particular about the use of iPods in this regard. Admittedly, this prompted me gather some updates on the current status of the various e-readers. The links below will provide fairly current information.

Wired’s eBook Reader Roundup
A Kindle and Sony comparison
Sony now offers 1,000,000 eBooks from Google books

Getting back to the original point, the future of publishing, I don’t have any doubts about the future of publishing. I think it is a case of what it likes like. We will always need excellent journalism, reporting, resources, instructional materials and ways to effectively prepare, deliver, read and use them.

To my way of thinking, if the e-readers are going to go anywhere, at least in the education systems, we have to avoid hardware, software and electronic rights management issues that really only serve to build islands of incompatibility. In turn, this would limit the possibilities for students and potentially make the move to e-readers (and e-content) more expensive than it needs to be. If this happens, then we would end up with the e-reader system that continues to challenge the funding questions identified earlier.

Ultimately, this falls into the same jungle of issues as content filtering and students & teachers using personal equipment on Board owned networks (network access control) etc. Lets hope that sanity and smart thinking lead us to useful and cost effective solutions within the education realm that allow for e-based reader solutions, more electronic content delivered in a way the is easily utilized by Board or personally owned devices all in support of better learning and teaching.

As I am writing, I recalled seeing an interesting podcast outlining a very innovative approach to publishing. I was able to locate the presentation by Richard Baraniuk from Rice University. In this presentation, he introduces Connexions, an open-access publishing system. This presentation is well worth the watch and provides an excellent example of the future of publishing. View Richard Baraniuk’s presentation (18 min.)

~ Mark

Social Networking in Education: Friend or Foe

Last night I read Joe Corbett’s post on ISTE Connects: Is Facebook the Enemy of Education? While looking for Facebook applications for education, he came across research indicating that Facebook could negatively impact studying. The general indication from the research was that Facebook is a distractor – Facebook users typically spend less time studying which in turn negatively impacts grades. Now, hold this thought!

Like Joe, this got me thinking and I decided to review some of my recent readings on the topic. The links below encompass a good selection of views on the subject.



Social Network Access: available or blocked/content filtered
Classroom learning vs. socializing
Supported by teachers, not supported by administration
Social Networks are just tooks – can we use them in educationally effective ways?
Keep the issues separate
Social Networking is part of web 2.0 literacy and digital citizenship


Reference Articles/Blog Posts

Classroom 2.0: The Value of Social Networking

Sue Water’s Blog: Educational Networking and Staying Out of My Face

Cool Cat Teacher’s Blog: It Is About Educational Networking NOT Social Networking

Fran Smith, Edutopia: How to Use Social Networking Technology for Learning

Harold Rheingold: Attention Literacy

Mark Carbone: recent blog post re school content filtering and social network access


OK, you have been holding that thought …. I believe you will find Joe’s article interesting, and it includes a reader survey. His post and survey are at: Is Facebook the Enemy of Education by Joe Corbett, ISTE. Have you voted yet?

~ Mark

The WX5 as a MIDI input device

To date, my time with the WX5 MIDI wind controller has focused on the performance aspect. Last night I had a opportunity to explore some new territory. 

I have always enjoyed producing arrangements of music for use by students or my woodwind quintet.  One of the time consuming tasks that a music arranger or composer needs to deal with is data entry into notation software. There are a variety of methods to accomplish the data input: mouse, step time recording (one note at a time via a MIDI instrument), real time MIDI input, scanning (& following copyright requirements!), pitch recognition or use a public domain MIDI file. 

The mouse and step time entry methods are the most time consuming, but also the most accurate. This is of course cumbersome when working on a large score. The real time MIDI input method is much faster if you can achieve a level of accuracy that keeps the data clean up minimized. I have done lots of music entry with a MIDI keyboard, but certainly as an experienced clarinetist, being able to enter data through the WX5 would be even more efficient. 

I set out to do a little experimentation with the WX5 and Finale, a music notation package licensed for use in Ontario publicly funded school boards. The setup is fairly standard based on past experience with MIDI keyboard devices. (Note: references to this in the WX5 manual are sketchy).

Basic Setup

MIDI connection: Plug the WX5 into the MIDI in port on the MIDI device connected to your computer. In my case, I used a Roland USB module.

Software Setup: Use the MIDI set up function in the notation software (Finale in this case) to identify the ‘MIDI in’ device

Score setup: Prepare the music layout to receive the data. For this example, I used a single treble clef but you could just as easily work with a full music score. 

Set the recording parameters: 1. Set the tempo (beats per minute) 2. Set the number of ‘count in’ bars. 3. Set the quantizing. Quantizing is the music version of rounding off. Generally you set this to match the smallest note value in your piece. In my example, I set quantizing to an eighth note.

That’s it – you are ready to play data directly into the music software in real time. As an aside, I was pleasantly surprised to find the the WX5 sends dual data streams, so you can hear the sound form the VL70m module while sending the MIDI data to the software. Notational input depends on accuracy, so choosing a suitable tempo to maximize your results is important and easily done with a little experimenting. 

By way of example, I used the WX5 in  input the melody below into the Finale notation software. 

midi input sample

Now I am off and running with new scoring tools for arranging and composing!

~ Mark

Strategic Planning for 21st Century Learning

A typical Sunday morning for me includes catching up on blog reading, and this one was no different. While the reading is always interesting, what intrigues me is the way in which things link together and stimulate new thinking about things. Topics today made me think back to comments I made in a presentation to our trustees as part of my technology strategy update. 

There are many things you could do with technology in education. The real question is: what are the right things? Choices and decisions have to land on some key areas including: impact on student learning, investing in the future and a key one in my mind – sustainability and supportability in terms of both human and financial resources. This last point can not be overlooked, as I believe it is the fundamental reason many initiatives/projects fail. A final area looks at focus vs fragmentation. It is not possible to do everything, do it well, support it and sustain it. Strategic planning is about doing the right things for the long haul. 

Here are a few highlights from recent reading.

Angela Maiers – Mission to Transform
David Warlick – Teaching and Technology
Doug Peterson – A Plan Needed (netbooks, cloud computing)
Howard Rheingold – Attention Literacy
Will Richardson – If Every Student Had a Computer

The content covered in these articles embraces many of the significant issues in K-12 education today: technology available to every student, netbooks, cloud computing, student learning, literacy in the 21st century and teacher training (changing instructional practices). From my perspective as a K-12 CIO, these articles are all right on the money. I will throw IT infrastructure planning into the mix.

How do we best move ahead? Based on the validity of each of these key areas, none can be ignored – each one needs to be addressed. I believe the key to success and system level strength, is to work at these areas with an eye to alignment. Achieving major successes in some of these areas while others are excluded will not yield the best overall results. I believe the answer lies in alignment – the ability to drive each of these areas forward in a planned way at the same time. We are having these discussions in our Board. I am impressed with the dialogue, thinking and collaborative approach to date. It is early in the process, but I believe we are solidly headed in the right direction. We will keep dialoguing, learning and collaborating about best to move forward. I will continue to share thinking, dialogue and questions.

In the meantime, more thinking and learning to do.

~ Mark

Technology Supports Creativity

As I worked with the WX5 midi wind instrument this week, I was reflecting on the powerful change and impact that has occurred in the Arts with the use of technology. This impact includes professionals, amateurs and students.

I will date myself here, but I clearly remember those early pieces of music software – Deluxe Music Construction Set for the Commodore computers, Calkwalk for DOS in the early PC days, the Atari notator software …. Those programs were innovative and ahead of their time in many respects, but certainly light years away from where we are at now with online music stores, web based publishing, music videos,  satellite radio, mp3 players, powerful software available to home studios and education settings and of course, many professional level packages too. 

Use of traditional music skills is fully embraced with the new technologies, but one of the powerful changes that this technology has provided is bringing music creation to ‘the masses’ in a new way. Music is much easier to create and manipulate, whether you can read music or not. Graphical representations of music are sufficient to manipulate music on the fly. Loop based technologies used as the building blocks of your own creation allow you to work with no barriers in your way. Once familiar with a particular software package, you are off and running with your creative adventure. You can hear instantly what your creation sounds like, and start to manipulate it to your liking. In addition to music creation, these new powerful tools lend themselves nicely to teaching some of the formal aspects of music including form, structure, texture and balance to name a few. 

Earlier this year, I became aware of the work of Zoe Keating which I shared with my Facebook friends at the time. Upon further reflection though, I thought is was appropriate to mention Zoe’s work here, as she really uses technology to facilitate her creative processes and resulting performances and recordings. Zoe is a cellist, classically training, who creates music through a live recording and multi tracking session. The new age music created is stunning in many ways. I was really struck by the role technology plays in the creative and live performance process. Powerful to say the least. 

The links below will connect you to Zoe and her amazing creative process.
Avant-garde Cellist Zoe Keating (commentary and music)
Performance of Tetrishead
Performance of Escape Artist
Zoe Keating’s Website

Enjoy the creativity!

~ Mark

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