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20 Ways I Really Use My iPhone To Teach Band Class

IMG_0956On the day that the iPhone 3G was released, I rushed out to the local AT&T Store to pick up my very own. I was excited, so I rushed home and wrote 10 Awesome iPhone Apps (Band Director Style) and listed all of the cool things that I was going to download and use in class. Well, a year has passed and things have changed somewhat. So I thought I’d go back and look at the list. I was somewhat surprised to see how it has changed and how some of those apps never panned out to be what I thought they would be.

Even so, I am thrilled at the purchase of my iPhone and continue to find it extremely useful in my classroom; but in some unexpected ways. Some of the built in functions are amazing. Some of the free apps are great. I’m going to do a quick walkthrough of 20 of the most interesting things that I have found that I actually do throughout the work day with my iPhone.

  1. accu-iconAccuWeather (Free) – Great for planning marching rehearsals and parades
    AccuWeather has both a standard app (free) as well as a Web app. I like the Web app because it runs in Safari and so it doesn’t take any extra memory to run. I have tried the app (free), but find that, while the weather map is nicer looking than the Web app, it crashes sometimes. That’s kind of a bummer. I also like the moving Radar.
  2. Calendarcal-icon (Standard) – Scheduling
    The Calendar syncs with my Google Calendar. I run my personal calendar, the high school, and the two middle school band calendars through Google. It’s great for integrating into the websites for each school, and I can share the information with other band directors so they can make changes as well. I like to be able to have that information available when I’m planning things, so having them on my iPhone is great! I personally have the syncing set up through NuevaSync because it allows me to sync up to 11 calendars for free and it works flawlessly. I set it up this way before Google Calendar syncing was standard on the iPhone and haven’t found a need to change settings.
  3. cam-iconCamera (Standard) – Memories
    While the iPhone 3G’s camera is not the best around, it is functional. It’s handy to have a camera with me wherever I go just in case. I definitely find myself using it far more than I thought I would before I got my iPhone.
  4. clock-iconClock (Standard) – Alarms
    bell schedule is pretty odd. We have 50 minute classes and most of the passing periods are 4 minutes long. Some are 3, others are 5. We make it a point to not have a clock in the band hall, because we’ve found that students get distracted looking at the clock throughout rehearsal. I set an alarm on my iPhone that actually sounds about a minute and a half before the bell to dismiss class. I’ve created some cool mariachi and drumcorps ringtones (I made a Hannah Montana one last year for my woodwind class) so each class sort of gets to choose which one they like.In keeping with my classroom management style, when the alarm goes off, it is a signal for me that I should let them go. It is not a signal for them to get up and put their instruments away. I retain control. <grin>
  5. guitar-iconGuitar Toolkit ($9.99) – Metronome Tap Function
    While the Guitar Toolkit has a handful of functions, I really don’t find them all that necessary most of the time. I do use the chord chart some when a guitar player asks me how to play a chord, but since I don’t teach the mariachi class, it’s not a real common use during class. I have found myself using the tap function on the metronome quite a bit. It’s great for determining what tempo the band is really playing. As far as using the metronome regularly, I’ve found that it is far from accurate and consistent. As a result, I don’t use it for regular use as a metronome. There is also a Lite Version, which appears to do the same things without the tuner (which I don’t use) for $5.99.
  6. inst-iconInstruments (Free) – Fingering Charts
    I am a horn player by training. I have played trumpet now almost as much as horn. I took a semester of clarinet lessons in college, and played in a band one semester. Beyond that, my woodwind training is minimal. As a result, I don’t know some of the extended fingerings for woodwind instruments. The Instruments app allows me to find a fingering for a note and show my section. Granted, I could use one of numerous fingering charts available, but it’s more difficult to show the students, and I find that they really do like the way these fingering charts look. Plus they like that I’m using technology. Sometimes I’ll have a flute player come ask me a fingering just to see the fingering chart!
  7. ipod-iconiPod (Standard) – MP3 Player
    I love the ability to play music for my students. Since I got the other director I work with to go out and buy an iPhone, we are seriously looking at getting a Bose SoundDock II ($299.95) to use in class. We had an inservice in August where the presenter had a Bose SoundDock Portable ($399.95) and we were impressed by both the clarity of sound as well as the simplicity of use he had with it.
  8. istrob-iconiStroboSoft ($9.99) – Outstanding Tuner
    I have tried a few different tuners, and this is by far the best. Petersen has been making tuners for decades and is very good at it. One of the highlights of this one from a teaching perspective is the Noise Filter. I used it over the summer before mariachi gigs. Violins and armonia were playing and tuning, crowds were talking, other trumpet players were warming up. It was hard to tune with a normal tuner. I launched this app, turned on the Noise Filter, and it picked up my tuning like nothing. I tuned our entire section this way. It works in the middle of marching rehearsals and band class.The students like the big display and can read it even from the back of the room. I guess they don’t have astygmatism like me. Lucky children!
  9. italk-iconiTalk Recorder (Free) – Recording
    While the iPhone OS 3.0 added a Voice Recorder, it isn’t the greatest. I’ve had some incredible success with iTalk Lite as far as recording mariachi gigs, band performances, entire rehearsals. Last spring, I recorded a two-hour clinic with no difficulties. If you have WiFi available, you can download a free program to transfer the recordings to your computer as AIFF files and then either convert them MP3 or import them directly into iTunes.
  10. maps-iconMaps (Standard) – Trips
    It’s nice to have GPS functionality with you when you go on a trip. If for some reason the bus driver misses a turn (No! That never happens!) in a strange city, it’s great to be able to get them back on track. I used this en route to a mariachi competition in Laredo last spring. Laredo is not somewhere you want to make a wrong turn!
  11. met-iconVisual Metronome ($1.99) – Metronome
    Simple, clear display, and as accurate as I’ve found on the iPhone. It provides a number of subdivisions of the beat as well as the ability to save numerous tempo/time signature/subdivision programs.
  12. mini-iconMiniPiano (Free) – Playing
    Just in case you find yourself working with students and need to demonstrate the music without making them listen to you sing!  Again, they like the technology and I like the portability.
  13. notei-iconNotes (Standard) – Lesson Plans/Taking Notes
    There are times when absolute brilliance strikes me. I’m sure it happens to us all. I like to write down those amazing ideas that I have, and carrying a notepad around with me can be cumbersome and bulky. Small notepads tend to not work as well for me as I have difficulty writing on the small surface. My iPhone’s Notes feature is really useful in these settings.
  14. sywtt-iconSYWTT (Free) – Shameless Plug
    Have you checked out the cool layout I have for this website? Go to the So You Want To Teach? home page and add it to your home screen. Complete with sweet icon!
  15. trans-iconMobile Translator ($0.99) – Translation
    I live 3 miles from Mexico. A number of parents don’t speak English. Sometimes I’ll hear a word and want to know what it means. Prior to seeking out someone who knows or trying to write the word down and remember to look it up later, I like having TransMate on my iPhone so I can quickly type it in. I also have enabled the Spanish keyboard, so it can autocorrect by adding accents where necessary.
  16. yt-iconYouTube (Standard) – Demonstration
    Understandably, my school district blocks YouTube from the network. While I don’t want to sit and watch the latest viral video sensation during my conference period, I do like being able to show my percussionists some great drumming techniues or letting my brass players listen to the Blue Devils warming up. Having YouTube on my iPhone is a great solution.
  17. phone-iconPhone (Standard) – Google Voice Integration
    I recently got a Google Voice invitation and set it up. I tried using it to add SYWTT Voicemail for this blog, but that hasn’t really gone over so well. Maybe that idea is ahead of its time still. What I have found it useful for is getting a local number that rings both my office phone and my cell phone. Parents (or students) can call (or text) the number and if I’m available, they get me. Otherwise the call goes to voicemail. I often turn my phone to Airplane Mode so that I don’t get calls during rehearsals. In those cases, it rings my office phone.
  18. mail-iconMail (Standard) – Lesson Plans
    Since I’ve been running a lot of the marching rehearsals, I have made it a weekly habit to email my rehearsal plans to my boss each week so he can let me know any suggestions he might have. These emails are copied to my Gmail account and available on my phone. This saves paper and allows me to have everything at my fingertips during rehearsals. I also will begin soon emailing lesson plans to myself for my middle school band classes each week/day. Agian, saving paper.
  19. twit-iconTwitteriffic (Free) – Twitter
    Okay, not the most class-specific thing, but I do check Twitter and Facebook some during my conference period.
  20. msg-iconMessages (Standard) – Text Messages
    Again, this isn’t really teaching-related, but I have gotten and sent texts related to classes during the school day. If we had a solid private lesson program established in my district, I would definitely communicate with the teachers via text.

Do you own an iPhone? What apps do you find most useful in whatever classes you teach?

Joel Wagner
Joel Wagner (<strong><a href="">@sywtt</a></strong>) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. <strong><a href="">So You Want To Teach?</a></strong> is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

4 thoughts on “20 Ways I Really Use My iPhone To Teach Band Class

  1. Instead of the Bose speakers, you should get the Logitech Pure-Fi Anywhere 2. It’s small and portable, much cheaper, and the sound is so much better than you’d expect. I use it at home and love it.

  2. i taught at an elementary school for two years. the first year i had a standard stereo with 6 disc changer (i taught 6 classes each day). the second year, the district bought us iPods with Bose sound docks. i LOVED it! It was fabulous to have all the music i needed at my fingertips. and with the remote, i could start the music from wherever i was – allowing class to get started even if i was hung up in the hallway. wonderful idea to have some kind of docking station!

  3. Understandably, my school district blocks YouTube from the network. While I don’t want to sit and watch the latest viral video sensation during my conference period, I do like being able to show my percussionists some great drumming techniues or letting my brass players listen to the Blue Devils warming up. Having YouTube on my iPhone is a great solution.

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