MET:IPads In The 21st Century Music Room

From UBC Wiki

This Wiki page will explore authentic learning processes situated within iPad environments and the 21st century skills iPads foster in music classrooms.


Tablet based technology is a relatively new concept in the digital world. Since its conception, Apple has consistently dominated the tablet market. The Apple iPad continues to be at the forefront of innovative tablet technology by providing the user with new and intuitive ways to interact in a digital environment. In recent years, education has embraced the iPad and tablet based technology. Many in the education field believe that tablets provide students with an intuitive interface that enables quick access to content and creative ways to present learning. In the music room, iPads have the ability to nurture and develop fundamental aspects of music learning and exploration with an innate ability to foster creativity in all students regardless of learning style and ability. If music educators believe in providing students with authentic music experiences that foster engagement and nurture creativity then every music room situated within our global community should use iPads as part of any diverse music program.

Rationale: Why iPads?


Good design captivates the user and engages participants with intuitive environments that seem to make the tangible disappear. Jony Ive is a major contributor to Apple’s success as he is responsible for the design of apple products that define culture and engage the user in deep and profound ways. A large part of the iPads success and dominating popularity is due to the design philosophy that Apple believes in.

Jony Ive: A Design Philosophy

"We have always thought of design as being so much more than just the way something looks. It's the whole thing. The way something actually works on so many different levels. Ultimately of course, design defines so much of our experience. I think there is a profound and enduring beauty in simplicity, in clarity, in efficiency. True simplicity is derived from so much more than just the absence of clutter and ornamentation. Its about bringing order to complexity."

The iPad is designed to be intuitive and engaging. Everyone from young children to grandpas and grandmas are comfortable navigating and deciphering iPads. The iPad's minimalistic design and intuitive interface enable all users to interact with the device on many different levels. From an educational design perspective, the iPad offers an environment that supports individual learning styles, instant/just in time access, knowledge building, self reflection/assessment, creative processes and the delivery and creation of content.


Educators constantly struggle with the task of engaging students in school based learning environments. Todays learners are very different than those just one generation ago. Students today are surrounded by all things digital and more often than not, the only time they are not emerged in the technology, that is such an important part of their lives, is at school. Marc Prensky’s book Digital Game-Based Learning acknowledges that learners today are digitally native and technology, in any form, engages kids on multiple levels and in meaningful ways.

Marc Prensky: Motivation & Today’s Learner

“One of the growing problems facing all formal learning . . . is keeping students motivated. Motivation is important because learning requires putting out effort. However, the things that were effective in motivating learners of the past do not motivate the learners of today. Fortunately we now have a generation that when growing up deeply experienced, for the first time in history, a radically new form of play - computer and video games. The engagement power of electronic games for this generation may be, if used correctly, the biggest learning motivator we have ever seen.”

The concept of “engaging play” is situated within both the hardware and software environments of iPads. As the user swipes and navigates through apps on the iPad there is a level of play taking place that the user may not even realize. Once we situate our focus within a particular app, the multi touch interaction required to engage with apps deepens our interaction with the iPad even more.


Tim Cook: Collaboration

'“I’ve never met anyone, at least in my life . . . that could do something so incredible by themselves. The reason Apple is special is that we focus on hardware, software and services and the magic happens where those three come together and so it’s unlikely that somebody that’s focused on one of those in and of itself can come up with magic. . . you want people collaborating in such a way that you can produce these things that can’t be produced otherwise and you want people to believe in that.”

The definition of collaboration can vary greatly depending on who you talk to. However, as Tim Cook (Apple CEO) references in the above quote, we are better together. When meaningful collaborative processes are in place to connect with others in engaging environments, the possibilities are endless! The iPad provides a wide variety of affordances for through digital iOS environments. However, it is important to recognize that collaboration is an ever evolving process and the spaces that we collaborate in are shifting to a more connected and global environment. In the past, collaborative groups would meet face to face in defined spaces to develop ideas and communicate information. In Where Good Ideas Come From (2011), Steven Johnson refers to coffee houses and salons as spaces where intellectuals gather to share and nurture ideas. Although similar spaces still exist, our society is vigorously taking advantage of our ability to “digitally connect” anywhere, with virtually anyone at any time. Digital Collaboration is best defined as a process that involves using technologies to nurture valuable connections among people and organizations (Kumar, 2007). Engagement, just in time access, and "global connectivity" are all key motivators that drive people to engage in digital collaboration and these themes are situated within apps and hardware processes on iPads.


Creativity is a concept that is ambiguous and hard to define. However, educators need to carefully focus on what creativity means and how it is situated in the design of learning environments. Jahnke (2012) insists that creativity is content specific and it is constructed in social settings by a group, not an individual. The malleability of creativity and its processes make the iPad a natural tool to foster creativity in any setting and with all users. There are over 250,00 apps specifically designed for the iPads and within the vast amount of apps available there are numerous ways to nurture, document, and expand knowledge within the iPad environment. Since its inception, Apple’s founder Steve Jobs has insisted on being different, disruptive, and creative. Walter Isaacson’s Book Steve Jobs unveils that Jobs had an innovative view that situated creativity at the intersection of science and humanities and it is this unique view, still embedded deep within Apple's DNA, that drives the creative thinking that develops and realizes all Apple products.

Walter Isaacson on Steve Jobs

"He knew that the best way to create value in the twenty-first century was to connect creativity with technology, so he built a company where leaps of the imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering. He and his colleagues at Apple were able to think differently: They developed not merely modest product advances based on focus groups, but whole new devices and services that consumers did not yet know they needed."

6 Must Have Apps For Nurturing Knowledge and Creativity in Music

There are over 250,000 apps specifically designed for iPads and a considerable amount of that number are music apps. So why would I decide to explore and recommend only 6? Simple. In a world where we have an overabundance of choice, so much in-fact that the minute we purchase anything we second guess our decision, less is more! The 6 apps discussed below teach, explore, and help users connect with the fundamental ingredients necessary in any worthwhile musical feast. The 6 apps mentioned below engage the user in constructing knowledge of rhythm and melody while inspiring creativity situated in engaging and collaborative environments.

Dr. Seuss' Band

File:Dr. Seuss Band.png
Icon for Dr.Seuss Band

Dr. Seuss Band is a fun and engaging game based app that allows the user to play melodies along to song tracks. The interface is similar to Guitar Hero where the user is prompted to tap the correct note as bars of colour prompt the correct choice.

Defining Affordances

  • Fun and colourful way to learn the concepts of melodic design
  • Focuses on one octave
  • Themed around a book character that young users know and love
  • Users can create their own melodies
  • Transfers skills to real melodic instruments
  • Levelled game based play and instant feedback encourage and engage the user


Icon for NoteWorks

NoteWorks is a game based app designed to teach the user to read standard notation. Notes are placed on a music staff and moved across the staff. If the user does not tap on the correct note name from a list below the staff, the notes will eventually be incinerated in a furnace.

Defining Affordances

  • Effective “drill” type approach to note reading
  • Note reading covers all standard clefs as well as tenor and alto clefs
  • Note answers can be standard note names (A B C etc), piano keyboard or solfege
  • Game based levelled play and instant feedback encourage and engage the user

Rhythm Sight Reading Trainer

Rhythm Sight Reading Trainer is a robust sight reading app that develops the users sense of rhythm while fostering rhythmic independence and rhythm reading skills. The levelled play and test based approach lets the user develop and learn at his own pace and instant feedback ensures that the user is aware of his progress.

Defining Affordances

  • A wide variety of common and odd time signatures
  • Practice and test modes let the user learn at his own pace
  • Game based levelled play and instant feedback encourage and engage the user
  • A very robust array of exercises, time signatures, and syncopations
  • Realistic metronome can be set at any speed
  • Results can be collated, emailed, and graphed (assessment)


Icon for Loopseque

Loopseque is a rhythm and sound creator that allows the user to improvise and compose beats within a colourful circular interface that represents time and motion. Four concentric circles play different sounds simultaneously or independent of each other. This interactive music ecosystem contains a sampler and effects processor that enables the user to create music compositions in realtime. There is also a kids version that has sounds and icons situated within the cyclic music creating structure that engages preschool and early elementary users.

Defining Affordances

  • Wide variety of creation circles, sounds, and samples
  • Real time creativity via improvisation
  • Game based levelled play and instant feedback encourage and engage the user
  • Compositions can be shared via cloud servers
  • A robust tutorial section
  • A real world app used by professional musicians and DJs
  • Collaborative creativity - users can create together music together via wifi and bluetooth sharing


Icon for DM1

DM1 is a real world vintage drum machine based on drum machines used by rap and hip hop artists in the 80’s. There are 5 sections situated within the app environment. A step sequencer, drum pads, mixer, FX trackpads, and a song composer enable the user to explore their own creativity through a simple and intuitive interface. Creations can be mixed, shared, and synced across all Mac platforms.

Defining Affordances

  • Robust real world app used by amateur and professional electronic musician
  • Beat and rhythm structure is easily viewed and can be used as a rhythm teaching tool
  • Intuitive interface is engaging and makes song creation easy
  • Export and sharing abilities to many major cloud servers
  • Full Midi syncing and usability
  • The robust and intuitive interface affords deep content creation allowing users to realize their full creative potential


Icon for GarageBand

GarageBand situates a multi-featured recording studio complete with loops, guitar amplifiers, strings, mic preamps, keyboards, and drum and percussion sound that are realistic and of professional quality in a portable iOS device. Tracks can be created via virtual or “smart” instruments affording anyone, amateur or professional alike, to create music with an ease and intuitiveness seldom seen in a portable digital environment. Songs can be composed individually or collaboratively across devices turning iPads into a instrument where users can “jam” in realtime.

Defining Affordances

  • Robust real world app used by amateur and professional electronic musicians
  • Amazing guitar amp and stomp box sounds
  • Musician tutorials for melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic instruments
  • Virtual instruments and drum sequencer allows all users to create music
  • Visual interface can be used to teach music concepts including time, song structure, rhythm, and melody
  • Collaborative “jam sessions” across devices via bluetooth
  • Songs can be shared across all Mac platforms, via email, and many major cloud servers
  • Affords an unrestricted and intuitiveness to song creation that engages users and inspires individual and collaborative creativity.


Apple. (2014, Jan 23). Apple - iOS 7 - Introduction. Retrieved from

Fuqua School Of Business. (2013, May 30). Apple CEO Tim Cook on collaboration. Retrieved from

Isaccson, W. (2011). Steve Jobs. New York, NY: Simon Schuster

Jahnke, I (2012). Preparing didactical designs for learning to be creative using iPads In. MLCW2102. Retrived from

Kumar, A. (2007). Digital collaboration. Retrieved Documents/Research%20and%20Insights/avanadedigitalcollaboration136383.pdf

Prensky, M. Computer games and learning: Digital game-based learning Retrieved

Riverhead Books. (2010, September 17). Where good ideas come from by Steven Johnson. Retrieved from

Related Links

Apple iPad

Apple for Education

Loopseque Website

Fingerlab (DM1) Website

Musicians With Apps Website

Educational Technology - Great Music Education Apps

Donahoo, D. (2011, January 15). The iPad as a tool for children’s creativity. Wired. Retrieved from

Gaywood, R. (2012, July 9). One-bit internet:The iPad is/isn’t a content creation device. TUAW. Retrieved from

Betteridge, I. (2013, January 5). Why the iPad is great for content creation. techradar. Retrieved from

Etherington, D. (2014, January 12). Apple gets serious about the iPads creative power in new add. Tech Crunch. Retrieved from