A few highlights for me thus far. There are already many thorough reviews (like this one) of the GarageBand iPad app so I'm not going to spend time picking it apart feature by feature. Instead, I will highlight three aspects that I have found to be the most exciting during my initial explorations.
The smart drums feature uses a classic 2x2 matrix to help design beats. The X-axis is a continuum of simplicity/complexity while the Y-axis is a continuum of dynamics (quiet/loud). There's some great algebraic learning potential here when listening the results from placing the different instruments in different quadrants of the matrix and seeing how the coordinate position affects the overall beat.
I love the different layout and performance options contained in the Smart Guitar feature. You can change the fret board display to only show notes that are contained within the scale of the song. Some people might think that it cheapens the experience of making music by making it difficult to play a bad note, but I see great potential for teaching understanding of how and why certain notes in a scale fit together (harmony) and why others don't (dissonance).
Track Editing Workspace
While the track editing workspace closely resembles that of its desktop counterpart, the touch interface of the iPad device leverages something that I think has great potential in object-oriented theory. By moving, trimming, and re-ordering the tracks and their content, I believe users are engaging in a type of physical programming. Using both existing and new objects towards a greater purpose or solving a larger problem is at the core of a lot of computer programming theory. The GarageBand environment may allow a user to experience ideas from that theory in a new way.
The touch instruments are my favorite part of the GarageBand app for iPad. I love being able to play a drum beat and quantize it and then have it ready to be used as the backbone for a quick demo recording. The "smart guitar" is also great for producing great guitar sounds and melodies without needing the dexterity to generate the same product on an actual guitar. I also hope they expand the number of loops (or create some DLC)
Assessment, empowerment, and rethinking current definitions and approaches in education were the themes that resonated most with me. Will Richardson closed the day by talking about how instead of trying to make what we already do "better" (with or without technology) we instead need to try to do things differently. Many people also spoke about shifting ownership of learning from teachers to students while also redefining the role of teachers in the classroom. Someone pointed out (Alan November?) that teachers are more important now than ever before.
Alan November, Gary Stager, Heidi Hayes Jacob, Dennis Littky, Luyen Chou, and Will Richardson (mentioned above) spoke excellently about the themes outlined above. Check out the TEDxNYED website for information about the speakers and for the live-stream videos. Edited versions coming soon, or so I hear.
Steve Bergen's talk was both engaging and bizarre (@bkolani said it's like the movie Memento) and the dual talk of John Ellrodt and Maria Fico was very unique. One of the most powerful moments of the day was when two students video-conferenced in to share their work.
I also enjoyed following the Twitter back-channel and seeing what people were saying. My happiest discovery was EDTECH HULK. I have no idea if this person was in the audience or just following the back-channel, but the commentary provided by the Hulk was both humorous and insightful.
The day ran very smoothly and the venue was spectacular. Kudos to the organizers for a job well done.
When I think of TED talks, I think of progressive ideas and innovations being presented by passionate people. While everyone who spoke was indeed passionate about their work, there were several times when felt that I was at an ordinary ed-tech conference where presenters were talking about the work that they have done without stretching my imagination to think beyond what I might already know or be aware of.
Not So Much
Purely from a logistical standpoint, I don't like eating lunch at 1:30. I also wonder if blocks of 3 speakers at 15-18 minutes each rather than 4 or 5 speakers would break up the heavy lecture feel. I also like slightly longer breaks to be able to catch up with fellow educators and have a moment to discuss what we had heard in the previous session. I did like 4 session blocks instead of 5 (as there were last year).
I'm sure that many people were feeling exhausted and restless by the final session, which did have five presenters. Though the speakers were all very good, I think it was a little unfair for them because many people had left the conference after the third session and many who remained were beginning to fade.
Personally, I don't think it's necessary to stream in TED talk videos as part of the conference, though I understand the organizers' need to complete the different strands of the program. It might also be part of the TEDx rules.
I recently met with a dance instructor to look for iPad apps that might serve as useful tools in her instruction. We found some interesting apps based on projects she was doing. The two coolest ones we found were Mannequin Dancers and FREE Sound Effects!
Mannequin Dancers (free - iPad only)
This simple app lets you change the positions of the mannequins' heads, arms, and legs in different keyframes, and the program fills in the motion in between. You can add extra keyframes for more positions, play background music, and even import a background image (as I did in the screenshot above). It takes a little time to get used to how to position the two mannequins, but once figured out I think the program has a lot of potential for demonstrating and designing a series of poses and movements.
FREE Sound Effects! (free - iPad and iPhone)
This app has several negative reviews and I'm sure there are many better alternatives, but we found that the interface was easy to navigate and one of the best features was the ability to quickly make up to 3 custom sound effects. The dance instructor has a unit where her students design movements based on sound effects so it seemed like this tool was appropriate for her needs.
Header photo by Robert S. Donovan