Monday, February 25, 2013

My Current Tech Setup for Teaching

A few months ago, I wrote in Clavier Companion about the real reason you should be using technology in the studio. Here's what I do and why I do it.

At the heart of the way I structure a lesson (with the exception of my advanced piano and vocal coaching students) is creating a body of information that can be sent out to the student and their parents at the end of the lesson that describes items such as:
  1. What went on at the lesson
  2. What the expectations are for the next lesson
  3. How the current lesson fits into a larger objective
  4. Resources on the web if applicable
  5. Attachments (photos, audio, video) that are emailed out with the lesson notes
I type my lesson notes on Evernote using a Galaxy Note 10.1 connected to a wireless bluetooth keyboard. I can't stand typing on tablet keyboards, which is why I use a bluetooth one. The beauty of Evernote is that I can create a notebook dedicated to lesson notes for my students. Each student has their own progress report note that is updated every week. The most current week's notes are at the top, followed by previous weeks' ones below. At the conclusion of the lesson, I'll email the note (w/attachments) to the student and/or their parents, so when they get home, they'll already have the contents of the lesson in their inbox as well as the expectations for their upcoming practice sessions. 

There are very good login-based lesson note systems available through Music Teacher's Helper* and iScore that are very useful pedagogically. The problem I noticed with parents and students is that since they're so busy, very few of them ever have the time to login to the system to view their lesson notes. 
It's much easier to simply type notes out and push them out to students and parents at the conclusion of the lesson via email. 

The beauty of the cloud-based system used by Evernote is that I can view the progress reports not just from one device but synched across many of them. Lesson planning is much easier, as before each lesson I can simply view the last few weeks' lessons and plan for the current week. If you've not a fan of Evernote, other competing systems work just as well, including Springpad, Catch Notes, and Simplenote. Yes, they're all free. 

Using a tablet is also great because I can fit typing out stuff into the larger workflow of the lesson with minimal distraction. After all, it's about the student's needs and goals above all else. The gear is simply there to fill a need with my teaching process. 

*I'm still a huge fan of Music Teacher's Helper, and I use it for nearly every step of the studio management process except for sending lesson notes!


  1. Hmm... I like the idea of Evernote - do you have an account for each student and email a link? I have also found that it doesn't seem to play well with my iPhone 5...has this been an issue for you?

    I am currently using Google Docs and create a separate document for each student to access but have not found an easy way to edit on my iPad. Thanks for the new ideas!

    1. With my system, the students don't need to have their own Evernote account. I simply email the notes to the student and/or parents at the end of the lesson. The link to find is "Email a copy", which is on both iOS and Android versions.