Using the iPad in music education ministry

Today we have a guest post from Sarah Mayer who writes on her own blog “Composing Music Education.” Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us, Sarah!


I think that I use my iPad in unique ways, because really, I work in a unique ministerial capacity.  I really am a utility man, so to speak.  In my position at our high school, I teach Pre-Algebra for freshmen, assist the high school band director in rehearsal when time allows, teach 60+ private instrumental lessons at our federated elementary schools, and conduct 2 concert bands.  It’s a lot to keep track of, to say the least.  This is the first school year that I have used an iPad, and I don’t know how I would do my job without it!  Here’s a small list of ways that I make use of this amazing piece of technology.

1. iBooks – I have imported my Math textbook, chapter by chapter, into iBooks.  My teacher’s edition is collecting dust on my shelf.  I have it with me everywhere I go and can do planning anytime I have time.  I have also come along good teaching resources for music and have imported those PDF’s into iBooks.

2. Dropbox – I use this app for all of my files now and share files with my teaching partner in the Music Department.  It has been a wonderful addition to always have my files available anywhere I am.  The sharing feature allows us two grade school band teachers to collaborate on documents from different sides of the federation and work more efficiently.  No more editing through email!

3. Noteshelf – Keeping track of my lesson students – assignments, needed materials, parent questions, etc. – has always been a huge challenge.  Noteshelf is a great app to use for journals, to-do lists, and so forth.  Each of my students has a notebook in this app where I keep a running record of every student’s lesson every week.  Having this kind of organization alone has been so helpful.

4. Evernote – Saving the best for last, Evernote is the app I have on every device and couldn’t live without now.  My project in progress this year is compiling digital portfolios for my lesson students.  Summative assessment is a very powerful tool, and it is a trend in education that I think is here to stay.  With the growth of technology in the classroom, digital portfolios are becoming more common every year.  I use Evernote in a similar fashion as Noteshelf.  Every student has a notebook in the app.  During lessons, students archive compositions they’ve done, recordings of their favorite songs from lessons, and I include PDF’s of their progress reports.  It truly is a work in progress, and the logistics of archiving are still being worked out.  The great part of doing digital portfolios is seeing the kids start to take ownership of what goes in and the self-assessment that goes into it.  Kudos to my students for playing along with me!

5. PLN (Professional Learning Network) – Social media really has made the world shrink and made collaboration easy.  PLNs can include friends on Facebook, contacts on Twitter, and blogs on an RSS feed.  I discovered the idea of creating a PLN from a friend in grad school last summer, and it has become the single most effective way to keep up with new ideas and technology in education.  There’s no one app that I use for it, but I use my iPad to keep up with the various sites I use for my PLN.

These examples are only the major ways I use my iPad in ministry.  It has changed how I work, and I can’t wait to see how education evolves with the improvement and availability of the iPad.  God bless!

Using Apple’s iBooks Author in your ministry

Last week I wrote about getting your personal documents onto a Kindle or your iPad’s Kindle app. At the time, I assumed that all e-books were more or less equal. That is, since it’s all just text, it doesn’t much matter what device you read it on. And then Apple’s announcement last week changed everything. Suddenly an e-book is not just a long string of text with the occasional static picture thrown in. With the iBooks 2 app, electronic books can become truly interactive and multimedia experiences. And even more incredibly, the (free!) iBooks Author tool allows absolutely anyone to publish them. Video, audio, interactive links and more can be easily added to text, creating an immersive reading experience.

Clearly the news last week had far-reaching implications for the world of education. Even K-12 institutions will be able to upload their content to iTunes U which was previously limited to colleges and universities. Hardcover textbooks that used to cost students hundreds of dollars at times will now be produced electronically for a fraction of the price. Backpacks that previously were loaded down with a ton of books now only need to carry an iPad (although suddenly the 16 GB version seems a tad limiting).

But I read the reports on the iBooks Author app with dreams of what I could do with such a tool in my ministry. Remember, you can disseminate your iBook creations through iTunes, but you can also simply create documents to be downloaded from your website or handed out on a CD. Here are some ideas that came to mind while brainstorming.

  • A catechism instruction book with your PowerPoint slides built in and links to
  • A book of your personal sermons, complete with audio and/or video of the day you preached them.
  • An intro to your church for prospects, with an interactive map, welcome video from the pastor, tour of the chancel, etc.
  • Bible study “textbook” for your Sunday morning classes, with links to supplemental materials on the internet.
  • Or record a Bible study series and, when it’s done, create an iBook version with text and video for those who could not attend.
  • A worship manual for the altar guild or worship committee, with how-to videos on setting up for communion, etc.
  • An interactive Bible History book for use in Sunday Schools, parochial schools, and homes.
  • An outreach tool with the “way of salvation” clearly laid out through a combination of text and videos.
  • A virtual trip to one or more of our church’s world missions with video of  local worship services and interviews with the missionaries.
  • A book of devotions prepared by the pastor. Could you include audio of the church choir singing? (I don’t know about the copyright laws on that one.)

My plan is to adapt my Interactive Passion History site for the iBook layout, if I can get my hands on some good art to accompany it.

Of course, as inspiring as this authoring tool is, it’s clearly limited by the fact that it only works on iOS devices. That’s unfortunate. Apple’s decision is obviously meant to drive their hardware sales rather than purely out of a desire to improve education.

But perhaps enough of your target audience already owns an iPad or iPhone or iPod Touch to make it worthwhile. They seem to be everywhere these days. If you decide to try the iBooks Author, let me know how you intend to use it in your ministry.

iPads in the classroom

Many pastors spend a good share of their time in the classroom. Here are a couple of articles showing innovative uses for the iPad 2 for education purposes.

5 Awesome Things You Can Do with an IPad and an LCD Projector
AirPlay: The Hidden Gem for Education in iOS 5

Some of my favorite iPad apps for the classroom:

  • Attendance ($4.99): Keep track of students’ attendance and participation.
  • Keynote ($9.99): Prepare and display Keynote (or PowerPoint) presentations.
  • MindNode ($9.99): Mind-mapping app which could be displayed live with AirPlay.
  • Flashcards Deluxe ($3.99): Download packages or make your own flashcards for memorization.

You might also want to visit the App Store to see a variety of education apps. What iOS apps have you used in the classroom or for religious education in general?