How to Keep Track of App Assignments: Part One

Leila Viss
Leila Viss

Unfortunately, just accumulating cool music apps will NOT set your studio apart.

Utilizing apps to their full capacity and tracking how they enhance your students’ progress WILL.

Most would agree that this integration process is THE most tricky part of using today’s technology.
Each of your students is on an individual musical path, advancing at various speeds.
This requires customized assignments and with a studio of 20+ students, this can be a tedious task.

There are various solutions to this dilemma. Power tool apps that provide individual accounts,  feedback and progress like Piano Maestro are extremely helpful—hooray!

However, sometimes other apps must be employed and it’s helpful to keep a record of their use. Before I dive into how I keep track of assignments, it may be helpful to review WHEN I use apps and HOW I design app assignments for each student.

In general, there are three ways to incorporate apps into your savvy instruction:

1) Lesson Time—during the lesson at the piano with your student.

2) Music Tech Time (thanks to David Love for this title!)—time reserved for each student before or after the lesson for various assignments to reinforce ear training, sight reading, etc.

3) Home Practice—tasks assigned at the lesson for students to complete at home. (FYI: currently, I do not assign home practice on any apps except for Piano Maestro.)

Here are some suggestions on how to create assignments using apps:

1) Get to know your apps. Once you purchase them, play with them and discover how to customize each app (if possible) to suit the needs of various levels and your agenda.

2) As you make friends with each app, file similar ones into folders on your iPad screen with specific names for easy access. Learn more here.

3) Create studio themes to help you determine what concepts to reinforce. General themes like chords, scales, history, rhythm are effective as are more specific ones like playing by ear, composition, etc. All students take part in activities designed around a theme in some way. Ex: “Know Your Chords, Kid” (I like catchy titles!): younger students are assigned to hear, play, spell, and notate white key triads while more advanced students may do the same with 7th chords.

4) Fill in the gaps. During a lesson you may realize that a pianist is struggling with a concept like dotted quarter notes. Even if an assignment was planned prior to the lesson, postpone the task. Instead, dig into your app treasure chest and choose one that reinforces rhythm using dote quarter notes to boost confidence.

With an arsenal of recommended apps, it’s not too difficult to determine WHAT apps to use and strategies for WHEN to use them. The question then remains: HOW to keep track of app scores and assignments?

Perhaps the best way to illustrate this system is by giving you a sneak peek into my current summer studio theme and lesson notes. Your sneak peek and the full scoop coming soon!