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!

Evernote for pastors

In my post on data collection apps that might appeal to pastors, I neglected to mention one of the best note-taking apps out there. Evernote existed as a desktop program when the iPad was still just a twinkle in Steve Job’s eye. It was created to compete with Microsoft’s under-appreciated OneNote on Windows, but eventually morphed into an even more powerful cross-platform note-taking software program. When I first bought a Mac in 2006, Evernote was a lifesaver in the way it seamlessly synced my notes between the family PC and the MacBook that I used for work. Individual notes are organized in notebooks and by tags and are fully searchable, making it quite easy to locate anything that you’ve previously stored.

But Evernote is a perfect example of an app that only met its full potential with the advent of smartphones and tablets. As handy as Evernote continues to be on my laptop, I began to use it much more frequently after I installed the free universal app on my iPhone and, later, my iPad (iTunes link). Mobility is the key to making Evernote an excellent “ubiquitous capture” tool as highlighted in David Allen’s GTD productivity routine. Any note or web clipping you add to one device is automatically synced with the others the next time you open them. No matter where I am, I can easily and quickly jot down a note that I can retrieve later. Add to the mix a built in camera on the iPhone or iPad 2 along with Evernote’s image recognition feature (Premium version only) and it’s like having a photographic memory.

Here are some uses for Evernote that might especially apply to pastors:

  • Store sermon illustrations, quotes, and ideas. Quickly write (or voice record!) ideas that come to mind during the week.
  • Make prayer lists. Add names as you make your visits and pull them up when you sit down for daily prayer.
  • Keep track of receipts. Snap a picture or scan the receipt when you get home.
  • Contact details. Add a photo to help you match names with faces.
  • Collect articles to be read later. Evernote has a handy clipping tool available for most browsers which allows you to – with one click – make a copy of a blog post or news article to be read at your leisure.
  • Make a to-do list. Checkboxes can be added to any note to make quick lists of tasks or anything else.

The free version offers unlimited storage “in the cloud,” but you can only upload up to 60 MB/month. This is more than enough if you only use Evernote to capture simple text notes. The Premium version, just $5/month, increases your monthly upload allowance to 1GB and permits any type of file to be added to notes — rather than just images and PDFs.

In my opinion, Evernote is one of the first apps that a pastor should install on his new iPad.