TME: Lecture 11B – Step Sequencers, 1-to-1 and BYOD

DM1 – The Drum Machine

  • the simplest step sequencer on iPad
  • better to do, and then get the kids to explain, rather than just rattle off a list of things that the DM1 does
  • Step Sequencers were a thing in 1980’s onwards; starting with the Roland 808, then Roland 909 – the flashing lights were and are still a great feature because you can see what you are hearing simultaneously
  • If you build a pattern in the DM1, you can build multiple patterns and go to the Song tab to insert several patterns into the timeline to create your own song


The Issue of Mobile Devices

Mobile devices are fantastically portable and convenient, however what usually sucks about them is that the sound quality is quite poor, and can only be used by a single person at a time. This forces the issue of authenticity. The question posed is: how can students work well on mobile devices if the sound quality is poor and not authentic/representative of the music they are making, especially when needing to work together a a group?


To circumvent this issue, James introduced the Roland Session Mixer HS-5  aka the Star Wars Millenium Falcon. It does tons of neat things like allow several Ipads/devices to connect to the mixer, with several sets of headphones to allow multiple users to properly hear their music. There are inputs that also allow instrument/mic leads to be plugged in – so for example, if you need to practice as a band without lugging around amps, you can just all plug your instruments and earphones into the mixer and play away! There are individual mixer settings, and overall settings that can be adjusted – plus you can record and save settings on a USB. How gosh-darn neat – convenient and authentic at the same time!

The Issue of Being In Time

So – you’ve got a great drum sequence that you want to pair with your friend’s Garageband – but it won’t sync up. What do you do?

For that, there’s a neat little feature called ‘Link’ which enables all DAW/sequencer apps to be synced in time with each other, as long as they’re all on the same network. Super useful to know for group work!

1-to-1 aka one person to one device

James gave a brief overview of what the device market is like – obviously you’ve got the standard Iphone, Samsung and Pixel phones and the Apple/Windows tablets/laptops; but also we see the Fire 7 tablet (like an Android but extra features). The Fire 7 has a kids edition which contains a kid’s library, with settings for age-limits and usage time limits. Definitely a device I’d be keeping in mind for my future kids!

Also on the rise are the Chromebooks (my family friend’s kids who live down the street and attend Trinity/Meriden schools have been required to purchase Chromebooks). Speaking of Google – they offer an open source ‘Code Chromium’ Web-based OS that can run on any device and in fact upscale old devices that can’t running the latest Apple iOS, for example.

There are also the Raspberry Pi series; with the Kano model playing into our #MakerMovement as it is basically a DIY computer for students to build and code their own computer.

Last, but certainly not least – for those in countries with less resources and incomplete/non-existent IT infrastructure, there is the OLPC XO. OLPC stands for One-Laptop-Per-Child, who aimed to create $100 laptop for students in disadvantaged contexts. One of the features (apart from it’s low-cost production and child-friendly design) is the ad-hoc network created to share without any WiFi. Read more about OLPC and their work here.

Bring Your Own Device – BYOD

My prac school is a BYOD school – seeing as Willoughby Girls High is a public school, with a good but not amazing resources, it is easy to see why BYOD is so popular and mainstream in government schools. The increased ease and lowered cost is a main factor – I know Willoughby would certainly not have the funds to install 30 Mac computers and purchase 30 iPads for the school. As mentioned in previous lectures, most families already own such devices regardless of socioeconomic status (Adams, 2012) – this inclusive scheme has reaped almost entirely positive effects. If it’s the case that a student really cannot BYOD, there have been loan programs that have been actioned. Yay inclusivity!

However, it’s not all rainbows and sunshines for BYOD – the literature has reported positive effects but there has not been much done on testing. There is also an assumption that the money spent is worth it immediately, but that fails to account for the Hype cycle (see prev lecture 9B) – more research is needed.


Being a Windows user in an Apple-dominated technology course makes the difference between native (an app/program installed on a device) and browser (run on chrome/safari etc) apps quite apparent. Of course, when I cannot access the Apple app on my Windows computer, I often have to settle for a browser-based alternative i.e. Garageband vs Soundtrap.

The pros and cons:

  • Native: Fast, but not as accessible (e.g. working in a Windows school)
  • Browser: Accessible. with cloud storage, but not as fast

We were treated to a rundown of James’ current research in the effectiveness and use of devices in learning. I must say, the categorisation seems quite impressive! Then we tested out some browser-based programs.

  • io808
  • audiotool
  • Soundation
  • Bandlab

The feedback from around the class was varying – I had tested out Soundation myself and had found it a solid alternative to Garageband/SoundTrap. I actually prefer the design/layout as a more ‘DAW-like’ interface (whereas SoundTrap can be slow, and very colourful/childish looking). The samples/loops were much more interesting to use; I would probably use it with Year 9 and up. That being said, if Garageband was accessible, I would still prefer to use it instead.

This lecture was a good balance of talking and trying, the old and the new. It confirmed a lot of what I already knew/had observed on prac, but also exposed me to new stuff I hadn’t even heard of before. Plus, who doesn’t like to play around on some expensive toys. It’s good to be knowledgeable on what’s out there!



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