When connecting with the Apple Community through Twitter I have always pushed myself to learn new things by taking part in the various creative challenges. Seeing how the Twitter challenges spread all around the world, especially the nomination challenges really proved the power of social media and how the Apple community are always willing to further develop themselves.

At the beginning of this academic year I was chatting to ADE Mat Pullen (@Mat6453) and we spoke about the Twitter challenges that we were both involved in. As I tweet a lot about the use of GarageBand in the classroom, Mat suggested that I started my own music based challenge. This was something I hadn’t really considered due to not being an ADE (at the time) and I felt I needed to be more established before creating a challenge.

When I became an ADE in April, I thought I would get the ball rolling by creating my own music based challenge. During the spring term I had been using GarageBand a lot with my classes, especially using Live Loops which enabled my students to create really high quality music compositions quickly and easily.

I realised that a Live Loops challenge is a perfect way for educators to have an introduction to creating music with GarageBand. There are a wide variety of genres to choose from, all containing Live Loops to create a piece of music that even Calvin Harris would be proud of!

I had to think of a way that would allow the music to be easily shared and for Twitter users to be able to hear the music instantly, without having to click a link or be redirected elsewhere. I made the decision to use the screen record function to create a video of the Live Loops Challenge. This worked out perfectly as the idea of the challenge is to compose ‘on the fly’ in an improvised way and this way the Twitter viewers would be able to see the loops being selected as it happened.

I started the challenge by recording my own Live Loops performance. Once the video was created I shared it on Twitter. I needed a hashtag so went with the obvious #LiveLoopsChallenge. I nominated five of my Twitter followers to take on the challenge and once they had completed it, they had to challenge five of their followers.

It was amazing to see the response to the challenge and be able to listen to so many great creations. It gave educators who wouldn’t usually use GarageBand in the classroom the opportunity to learn how to use Live Loops and it also encouraged them to pass this on to their students. A lot of educators think that GarageBand is only for use in music lessons but it is the perfect way to create great sounding background music for any project.

It was also great to see the hashtag come to life and people from around the world taking part. Thanks to everyone who took part and if you fancy creating your own music check out #LiveLoopsChallenge on Twitter by clicking here 

I have now started using the Live Loops Challenge with my classes at St Cyres School. It works very well as a starter activity due to being able to create instantly and have a finished product within minutes. The students love the challenge and are always fully engaged in the task. The idea of the challenge has now transformed to the classroom and the starter activity helps students develop ideas for their coursework compositions.





Apple’s Music In Our Schools Month

This month is Apple’s Music In Our Schools Month and as a music teacher who uses iPad in practically every music lesson, I think it’s very important to recognise the benefits of teaching music with Apple Technology. I am very lucky to teach in an Apple Distinguished School where every student has their own iPad with GarageBand and I also have a Mac suite in my classroom, running both GarageBand and Logic Pro X.

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Taken from Apple Education’s Twitter feed

Since the beginning of this academic year, I have used Apple’s Everyone Can Create Music guide for all of Key Stage 3 lessons. The guide has had a very positive impact on the students’ attainment levels and their engagement in the tasks. The guide enables you to follow it from the beginning to end with set tasks and activities, or you can dip in and out when it suits your lesson.

Using Live Loops is a great way to introduce your students to creating music. Composing music with Live Loops creates high-quality results as all of the loops sync perfectly together in time and pitch.

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Taken from Apple Education’s Twitter Feed

When I first started composing music, due to the lack of technology available, everything had to be written on paper. This would then be practised live and then recorded in one take to my old tape recorder. When I left school played in bands, we would hire professional recording studios to record our songs. The songs were also recorded to tape and then a master copy burned to CD. All of this can now be done on iPad. The students have access to a much higher quality sounding digital output and they can record anywhere!

The Everyone Can Create Music guide enables the students to learn the necessary skills to compose high-quality music. They can start by arranging using Live Loops all the way to remixing a hit record by Justin Timberlake.

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Taken from Apple Education’s Twitter feed

As well as developing music skills, using GarageBand to perform and create also develops many other skills. Composing and performing music develops leadership skills, eye-hand coordination, decision making and confidence skills. When the students compose using GarageBand they can share their finished song with the teacher or their peers in the classroom using AirPlay. They can also export their compositions to MP3 to be shared with family and friends. Also, using the built-in virtual instruments to perform develops the students’ confidence skills.

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Taken from ADE Simon Pile’s Twitter Feed

A lot of educators think that GarageBand is exclusive to the music classroom but it can be used in any subject area. GarageBand can be used to create background music to video projects or presentations, it can even be used to explore fractions using the Beat Sequencer. The screenshot above is how ADE Simon Pile (@mrpielee) used GarageBand in maths for Music In Our Schools Month.

Another powerful use of GarageBand is the audio recorder. Students from any subject can capture audio (voice, instruments of sounds) using the iPad microphone. The audio can be edited and manipulated using the many different sound effects. A very engaging classroom activity!

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Taken from Apple Education’s Twitter feed

I have recently written a book on using GarageBand in the classroom which explores the different ways to create music for learning. Click here to download it: –


Creating a Digital Vlogging Diary

Over the past year, I have introduced vlogging into the classroom. Vlogging or video blogging has enabled my students to be much more creative when reflecting on their progress and assessing their work. Every student has their own iPad, so by using the built-in camera and camera app, vlogging is a very quick and easy process which enables everyone to create, whatever their ability may be.


A student creating a digital vlogging diary using Pages app.

In Septemeber, St Cyres School refreshed all iPad devices, which now enables the students to use iOS 12 and access newer apps. In Pages, you are able to insert media into the document such as photographs, audio and video. Long gone are the days of Pages solely being a word processor and therefore being able to add video to the document gave me the idea to create a student vlogging diary. The updated version of Pages enables documents to be exported as an ePub file, creating a finished product in the form of a digital book or diary. This is a very powerful way to evidence students’ progress throughout a project or unit of work.

Instead of just vlogging in the classroom at the end of a unit, I have recently been dedicating around ten minutes to vlogging at the end of each lesson. The students film themselves reflecting on what the lesson was about, what they achieved, what they did well and what they need to do to improve. Based on this they also discuss their next steps are and what they feel their current attainment level is.

Once the video has been recorded, the students then insert it into their digital diary within Pages. They usually dedicate a page for each lesson and sometimes the students may insert more than one video from a particular lesson, depending on what activities they have filmed.


Students can also record audio directly into Pages to accompany their vlogs

The main reason for creating a digital diary is to enable the students to reflect on their work and so that they can identify how they have improved and also what is required to improve further. The students find this task very engaging and challenging and it also develops lots of skills, such as oracy, communication, confidence, improving own learning, organisational skills and technical skills.

The aim is to create a digital diary filmed over each half term. This enables the teachers, parents or even visiting inspectors to see the learning from each lesson within the half term, without ever having been there. Due to the diary being digital and stored on the students’ iPad devices or shared with the teacher through the cloud, this enables access wherever and whenever required.



Students adding in vlogs from over a period of time


As we are now coming to the end of our first half term this academic year, the students have nearly finished their first digital vlogging diaries. Once all of the videos have been inserted in chronological order, students will be encouraged to create an attractive looking diary by changing the fonts and adding pictures and colour. The diaries will then be exported as an ePub file and shared with me for feedback.