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.

Transforming the Music Classroom with Apple Technology

Every student I teach at St Cyres School has their own iPad for learning and this has enabled me to completely transform my classroom into a digital environment.


iPad devices are now used in music lessons

In 2014, when St Cyres School moved into a brand new build and adopted a 1:1 Apple iPad scheme,  I digitised all of the paper resources to substitute the sheet music and assessment forms. The benefits of this enable easy access for both the teacher and student, whenever and from wherever they have an internet connection. Photocopying has drastically reduced and gone are the days of taking hundreds of exercise books home for marking. Written feedback can now be given instantly through the collaborative features, even when the students are currently working on it themselves!

When the Apple technology was first introduced, I spent time discovering how my teaching environment could change by referring to the SAMR model. This model has four levels of how the technology can be integrated into the classroom.

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Since working with the SAMR model, I always strive to redefine the way music lessons are delivered and having the iPad devices in every lesson has enabled this to happen.

Music is obviously a very practical subject and the iPad devices have enhanced the way we compose and perform. The app GarageBand enables the students to compose and perform using high-quality sounds that even respond like real instruments, such as being able to bend a string on the guitar. Due to the quality of the sounds, this not only creates better compositions and performances but it also engages and challenges the students, so they constantly want to improve their learning.

Key Stage 3 students use GarageBand to compose, enabling them to produce professional sounding music which can easily be shared with the teacher, their peers and even family members at home. Each music classroom also has a suite of Apple Mac minis running Logic Pro X and this enables Key Stage 4 students to create high-quality GCSE compositions. Since creating music with these apps we’ve seen a major increase in composition grades.

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Students creating high-quality compositions using Logic Pro X

Due to every iPad having a built-in camera, this has enabled me to redefine how we self-assess and evidence classwork. Before the technology, we assessed the students’ work by using a paper sheet. This worked well but it did result in short and basic answers from the students. To create an engaging and challenging assessment task, the students use the camera tool on the iPad to demonstrate what they have learned, discuss what went well and what needs to be improved. They also predict their attainment and effort level. This is then shared with the teacher.

You can download my book about ‘Classroom Vlogging’ here: –


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The iPad device’s camera is a very powerful tool for self-assessment

St Cyres School has just refreshed all of the students’ iPad devices. The students now have faster processors, bigger storage and a much higher quality built-in camera. The iPad devices are running IOS 12 which enable the students and teachers to use the latest apps for learning in the classroom.

Recently, Apple has released the Everyone Can Create curriculum which is in the form of a series of books containing resources for students to create with iPad devices.

Being a music teacher I am particularly looking forward to using the music curriculum with all of my Year 9 students after October half term, so watch this space for blogs about their progress.

Click here to download the Everyone Can Create Music Book: –




Olevi’s Outstanding Facilitator Programme

Last month I spent three days at Olevi’s Headquarters in Orpington, London as part of their Outstanding Facilitator Programme (OFP).

Olevi is the centre for leadership in teaching and learning that have two aims: –

  • to drive up standards in schools around the world
  • to create a successful teaching and learning culture that leaves a lasting legacy
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The delegates of the OFP tweeted by Olevi

Two years ago I completed Olevi’s Outstanding Teacher Programme (OTP) and although I always strive to be the best teacher I can possibly be, being recognised as an outstanding teacher and having the opportunity to complete the programme was such a fulfilling and positive experience. This programme gave me the confidence and freedom to ensure that I always go the extra mile in all of my lessons, challenging and engaging the pupils and therefore having a major impact on their learning.

The Outstanding Teacher Programme has been developed to ensure that teachers consistently deliver high quality lessons through the use of different teaching models and techniques.

The main model used is DR ICE which focuses on five areas that are the main ingredients in creating an outstanding lesson.

  • Deepening Thinking
  • Role Modelling
  • Impact
  • Challenge
  • Engagement
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Working with school leaders from around the UK at part of Olevi’s OFP

Now that I am an accredited facilitator of the OTP and ITP, this will allow my school to facilitate the OTP programme and to develop outstanding teaching and learning. We plan to deliver the programme to select members of staff during the next academic year.

As teachers we are so busy and very rarely have time to stop and discuss what we do in our classrooms. I feel that having the opportunity to reflect on our teaching and how our lessons impact the student’s learning is vital to ensure we are the best teachers we can be.

Becoming an accredited facilitator of the OTP and ITP