This is my first post under a new category I am calling “Teachnology.” I have just finished reading The iPad Piano Studio, a book by Leila Viss stuffed with useful tips for piano teachers interested in easy-to-use technology. Whether you own an iPad or not, if you’ve every wondered how this handy tablet device could benefit your studio, this book is for you.
If you are imagining a dry manual for geeks, think again. Her focus is not so much on specialized aspects of technology (though how-to basics are covered) as it is on how the iPad can be used as a practical tool to enhance teaching. More than a review of apps (though her favorites are included), Leila shows us how to update outmoded music teaching tools (think flash cards, note readers, workbooks…) with the hand-held technology to which today’s wired students are accustomed.
The book is user-friendly in a number of ways: First, the book is readable. Viss writes in a casual style honed in her popular blog posts that feels as if she is talking directly to you. Second, the book’s layout includes loads of clever graphics, call-out quotes, and clear paragraph headers to help you find your way around. Third, the book is read-ably short without skimping on information, in part, because it correlates with the author’s websites so that new app reviews and changing information stays up to date. Lastly, thanks to the wizardry of managing editor Tom Folenta, one of the coolest things about this “hybrid book” is the integrated QR codes that link to video demonstrations when scanned by a smart phone or tablet. It’s pretty amazing to be quietly reading one moment and an instant later see the author at home expounding on a point.
The iPad Piano Studio begins with an overview of why technology is part of what makes today’s kids tick. Next, Viss draws on her expertise as an experienced studio piano teacher to explain the time management and financial aspects of integrating iPad based “off-the-bench lab” activities into the lesson. Understanding that some readers may not have ever even touched an iPad prior to reading this book, she then covers the basics including a glossary of tech terms for the uninitiated, helpful tips on finding the right apps, and tips on using accessories. Of particular interest for me were her thoughts on apps that support a teaching philosophy that balances creativity with music interpretation.
While the author’s enthusiasm for the iPad is contagious, she is also upfront about the pitfalls and challenges of using technology to teach. This kind of sincerity makes the whole book feel more genuine and less like a sales talk (Apple was not involved in this project in any form but they will surely see increased sales from piano teachers who read it). In the same spirit of transparency, I will admit that Leila Viss is my friend and colleague (we direct 88 Creative Keys Camp together) and that my name appears in this book more than once along with a host of other colleagues from whom she wisely asked for input (it takes a village). Does this point to a bias in my review? Not a chance. When I say that The iPad Piano Studio is a practical and helpful resource written in a candid, user-friendly style that will inspire piano teachers to take advantage of today’s technology, it’s because it is.
Until next time, enjoy your creative music-making journey,