Who has time to browse around the internet when there is still so much to do around this time of the year?…. Well, Block Us Up! has done the heavy lifting for you! Listed below are a few apps that will certainly make your jobs easier, while also sprinkling in a dash of fun! (Cue Sprinkle Guy)
We’ve spent a few days with each app, checking them out in real “band life” scenarios, and have put together this quick review for all of our valued readers. Enjoy!
BAND (Free) is an app that does it all. With features such as the community board and group calendar, directors are able to keep all of their students in the loop on their practices and events. The app also allows members to give input and share photos with other members. This can be good or bad depending on how your students generally behave and how you run your program. I like to limit student to group communication and let all program messaging be delivered from me or band staff. Thankfully, there are ways to adjust these settings to suit your preference. It has push notifications so the notifications pop up on students’s mobile devices when the director sends out urgent messages and when important calendar dates are approaching. File-sharing is also an important component of this app. With this feature, you have the ability to share documents, forms, music, drill sheets, pictures, etc… This feature by itself makes this app highly beneficial #SaveTheTrees. Here are the top features it boasts: Group Chat, Group Messaging, Group Calls, Group Calendar, Schedule Maker, Team Management and Scheduling, Group File Sharing, and Photo Sharing. You may not use all of that, but having it all at your disposal is definitely a good thing.
REMIND (Free) guarantees the end of unanswered emails. It is very similar to BAND in capabilities but is more “Teacher focused” as opposed to the student driven aspects of Band (like community forums, group chat, etc…). Remind was designed to create a “safe” environment for teachers to communicate with students and parents. Utilizing Remind, directors can set up “Classes”. You can set up a seperate class for each of your ensembles; Marching Band, Wind Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble, Pep Band, etc. You can also create a Remind Class for the courses you teach ie. Music Theory, Scoring and Arranging, Music History, etc. You will be able to communicate with each class as the teacher or “Admin” of each class. You can also communicate with each student individually and privately and they can send you messages as well. However, unlike, BAND the students will not be able to communicate to the entire “class” only the admin or teacher can do that. It has the push notification feature so students can be notified immediately of an urgent announcement. Teachers can view a detail report on each announcement to see which students have read or received it. Students are also able to “Like” an announcement providing further evidence that the announcement was received. Many School systems utilize Remind to send out urgent messages to their faculty and staff like school delays and cancellations, school emergencies, etc.
DRILLBOOK NEXT ($4.99) Is a, surprisingly, reliable app that assists directors and students with drill plotting and following coordinate positions while in rehearsal. What’s awesome about this powerful lil app is its ability to import coordinate sheets from Pyware and Field Artist 3, which are the gold standard drill writing apps used by most band programs. It also has the ability to create custom drills right in the app! This comes in handy if you make “adjustments” (Remove 2-3 sheets and flip a picture..Lol) to drills like I do. The seamless operation of Drillbook Next is smooth and easy to operate. The interface is extremely user-friendly and has several advantages over the old-school way of going at it with the drill note book and poker chips. This app allows you to go through the drill count by count, frame by frame, picture by picture, or by the maneuvers. This comes in handy when you have a program of 200 students or more and you don’t have the time, or the ability, to take each student through their drill sheets. Operation of the app is easy so even the most technically challenged band director will be able to learn how to manipulate their drills on any device. And for those directors that are still hammering out drills on graph paper and refuse to assimilate to the “app culture”… Online support is available :-).
COACH’S EYE ($4.99) This app is awesome! Created for sports teams but perfect for marching band as well. It allows you to record and slow down video, highlight specific areas with visual markers (just like the football commentators use on television), and include audio and text commentary to help band members improve technique and performance. What else could you ask for?! If you’re like me and you watch every performance LOOKING for mistakes, this app helps you to convey to the students the errors you find. Imagine yourself going through a performance circling that trombone player with his horn to the ground, writing “THIS SUCKS!” on the closer because it was not executed to your standards, and then sending it out to each band member to digest in preparation for the next rehearsal. Genius! Another feature I like is the side-by-side video comparison feature. This allows instructors to show older video right beside the most recent video, allowing students to be able to see their progress from day to day or week to week. It is a powerful teaching tool and its right in the palm of your hand. Many directors use it for marching drumline rehearsals as well. Being able to slow down the video and point out errors in grip, stick height, etc. is invaluable when preparing for competition or when constantly striving for the highest levels of precision. Pick this one up for sure!