Teaching can be incredibly difficult, especially in your first year. Keeping track of student names, grades, lesson, discipline, seating charts…not to mention at some point, you’ll need to teach. You learn early that anything that can be used as a time saving device is well worth the effort. I have found technology to be my go-to tool, specifically the tablet computer.
When in class, I use an Apple iPad. The device comes with some software pre-installed, which in itself is great in a band classroom. Numbers, the spreadsheet program on the iPad, is excellent for class rosters, as well as keeping track of contact lists with student and parent names, phone numbers, and email addresses. Also, Numbers has the option to create pull-down menus within cells; creating a roster with pull-down menus containing attendance options makes taking roll very easy. It is also simple to add or delete students as needed through the year. Numbers is again useful in record keeping. You can run a sheet like a checkbook to keep track of school fund spending, or use the check-box feature to track who has turned in forms, registration monies, etc. Finally, Numbers can function as your grade-book. It can easily be set up to add assignments and complete final grade calculations for you as you enter assignment grades.
While the built-in software is helpful for daily activities involved with record-keeping, there are many other apps to download that help with daily music rehearsal. There are multiple apps available (some free, some for a small fee) which allow audio recording. These are great for a run-through recording as you approach a concert to avoid “podium ears” and evaluate your group (or even better, let them evaluate themselves). Through Skype/FaceTime, you can also contact colleagues and let them listen to your group for feedback. Some composers will do the same, so that you can get tips and pointers about their pieces you’re performing (we recently did this with Dr. Jesse Ayers from Malone University).
Bulky equipment can also be replaced with inexpensive apps. I use Tonal Energy Tuner, and Frozen Ape Metronome. Not only are these apps very accurate and versatile, but because they’re on the iPad they are VERY portable. This is especially helpful during traveling performances, such as concert festivals and marching band contests.
The iPad has multiple PDF viewers, some of which allow you to read and edit PDF files. GoodReader is great for receiving, editing, and resending documents in PDF format. Also, score samples from websites can be used through the viewers when choosing literature for performance. For high school teachers, an iPad can replace the bulky folder that contains attendance records, drill books, and show scores.
These ideas are just the beginning. Using these, in conjunction with other devices like document readers, classroom projectors, and high quality audio recording devices, opens limitless potential to what you can do with your students.
About the Author
Brock Cobb is the Director of Bands at Rossview High School in Clarksville, TN. Mr. Cobb is currently in his 12th year of teaching, and oversees all aspects of the Rossview band program, including AP Music Theory, the Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Band, Percussion Ensemble, Big Band, Winter Guard, and the Band of Pride Marching Band. Prior to Rossview High School, Mr. Cobb also taught at Northwest High School in Clarksville, and North Drive Middle School in Hopkinsville, KY.Mr. Cobb holds a B.S. and M.A in Music Education, both from Austin Peay State University, where he studied advanced conducting with Dr. Gregory Wolynec. He is a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, the Tennessee Music Educator’s Association, the Middle Tennessee School Band and Orchestra Association, and the National Association for Music Education. He and his wife live in Clarksville, TN with their two children.