ATU431 – Skoog Music with Dr. Ben Schogler

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Your weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.

Show Notes:

Website: www.skoogmusic.com

Email: info@skoogmusic.com

Skoog’s Denver Office: https://accessible-tech.org

Skoog Tips and Tricks: https://vimeo.com/303539096

Where to Buy: https://skoogmusic.com/where-to-buy/

Skoog at Amazon: https://amzn.to/2P6HU2g

Skoog at Apple Store: https://apple.co/2P4lLRX

Apple Field Trips: https://www.apple.com/retail/fieldtrip/

More Videos and Info on the Skoog YouTube Channel:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxXKvAZc1uw3E8rN37MbU4Q

Dr. Schogler Ted Talk: http://bit.ly/2P6HKIc

INDATA Full Day Trainings: https://www.eastersealstech.com/fulldaytraining

Find your local AT act: https://www.eastersealstech.com/states

Timer Story: http://bit.ly/2P9eEI5

Lumino website: http://bit.ly/2P2wMDh
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If you have an AT question, leave us a voice mail at: 317-721-7124 or email tech@eastersealscrossroads.org
Check out our web site: http://www.eastersealstech.com
Follow us on Twitter: @INDATAproject
Like us on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/INDATA

 

————Transcript Starts Here————————————–

Dr. Ben Schogler:
Hi there. I’m Dr. Ben Schogler. I’m one of the founders and directors of Skoogmusic. We make technology that focuses on making creativity accessible, and this is your AT update.

Josh Anderson:
Hello and welcome to your assistive technology update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist individuals with disabilities and special needs. I’m your host, Josh Anderson with the INDATA Project at Easterseals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. Welcome to episode 431 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to be released on August 30th, 2019. On today’s show we’re super excited to have Dr. Ben Schogler on. He is the director and founder at Skoogmusic, and he’s here to talk about all things Skoog, and we’ve also got a really quick story about a new visual timer that might be coming out, so let’s go ahead and get on with the show.

Josh Anderson:
So one of the main goals of INDATA and the AT Project here in Indiana is to really get the word out about assistive technology. So one way we do that is, well, the podcast you’re listening to right now. Another way we do that is with full day trainings. We do four or five of those every single year, and we’re coming up on our very last one of 2019. So our last one will be on September 13th and it’s called Innovative AT, a look at adaptive gaming, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, IOT, robots, all these new things. Some consumer goods, some actually made for individuals with disabilities and just talking about all the different ways they’re being used, demonstrating some of these, letting people get their hands on them, try them out, and really just get an idea of how all these amazing things can really help out individuals with disabilities. We’re going to talk about some of the things during this training that we’ve talked about on the show, talk about some of the guests we’ve had and some of the great things that they’re working on.

Josh Anderson:
If you’d ever like to join us for one of these trainings, they’re always free. You can come here to Indianapolis if you happen to be in the area, or you can actually log in online to do that. If you ever want to find anything about our trainings, you can go to eastersealstech.com/fulldaytraining, and that will show you all the ones for the year. We’re currently working on our list of trainings for 2020, but hope to have those up here pretty soon, and we’re very excited about that. If you do happen to come to the September 13th, you’ll get to see myself presenting on some of those topics, as well as Brian Norton, who is the host of our sister podcast, AT FAQ. So again, just remember those trainings are always available for folks. If you do come in person, you get CEUs and free lunch. Seating is limited both online and in person, So make sure that you go and register for those as soon as possible. If you’re able to make it, we look forward to seeing you.

Josh Anderson:
So a fun and interesting story over the Daily Herald out of Chicago, just a little bit North of here. It says, “College of DuPage brothers create a visual timer to help students with disabilities between activities.” Story talks about two brothers out of the Naperville area, close to Chicago if you’re not from around here, who’ve developed a new timer that displays the passage of time through visual and vibration feedback. So just to describe it to everybody, it looks like a hockey puck and it’s got led lights built into it around the outer edge of that hockey puck. As time goes by, the lights go away as there’s less and less of them, as they begin to turn yellow, begin to turn red.

Josh Anderson:
So an individual would know how much time is left on that task. This would be great for individuals who maybe can’t read numbers yet, can’t read letters, can’t actually look at the hands of a clock and put that together. As long as they can understand the concept of more or less and understand the different colors and what they mean, they’d really be able to use this to be able to transition to different tasks. Looks like right now they’re trying to get it more into schools and that kind of stuff, and actually it looks like the device is right now just in the planning phase. Looks like they’re going to try to get Kickstarter and Indiegogo launched here before too long, but I’ll put a link over to the story and then also link over to their website, which is Lumino as the name of the device, but we’re going to put a link to both of those over in the show notes, but it should be a pretty cool device whenever it comes out.

Josh Anderson:
It can definitely help, especially for those individuals who maybe don’t have a smartphone to do these kinds of things or don’t need one, or maybe even shouldn’t have one or don’t understand the nuances and things of the clocks and the numbers and all that. Also, it does not make a very loud noise. You can make it flash. You can make it with a gentle vibration so that individuals with any kind of sensory disability or sensitivity to loud noises, this could work for them as well. So look for links to those over in our show notes.

Josh Anderson:
Are you looking for more podcasts to listen to? Do you have questions about assistive technology? Are you really busy and only have a minute to listen to podcast? Well, guess what? You’re in luck because we have a few other podcasts that you should really check out.

Josh Anderson:
The first one is Assistive Technology Frequently Asked questions or AT FAQ, hosted by Brian Norton and featuring myself, Belva Smith and a bunch of other guests. What we do is we sit around and take questions about assistive technology, either about accommodations, about different things that are out there or about different ways to use things. We get those questions from Twitter, online, on the phone and many other ways. We’re also trying to build a little bit of a community as sometimes, believe it or not, we don’t have all the answers. So we reach out to you to answer some of those questions and help us along. You can check that out anywhere that you get your podcast and wherever you find this podcast.

Josh Anderson:
We also have Accessibility Minute. So Accessibility Minute is hosted by Laura Metcalf, and if you’ve never heard her voice, it is smooth as silk. You should really listen to that podcast. She’s going to give you just a one minute blurb about some different kinds of assistive technology, to wet your whistle a little bit, and just let you some of the new things that are out there so that you can go out and find out a little bit more about them yourself. So again, check out our other shows, Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions and Accessibility Minute, available wherever you get your podcasts.

Josh Anderson:
So we talk a lot about different AT on this show that can assist individuals with disabilities and accomplishing many tasks. One thing that we really never talk about is music and music is such an important part of life. It can pick us up when we’re feeling down, make us dance and smile, or even bring tears to our eyes. Well, our guest today is Dr. Ben Schogler and he has created Skoogmusic to help open up the world of creating music to all individuals, regardless of barriers. Dr. Schogler, welcome to the show.

Dr. Ben Schogler:
Hi, there. Great to be here.

Josh Anderson:
Yeah, we can’t wait to hear all about this, but before we get into talking about Skoog, can you tell our listeners a little about yourself?

Dr. Ben Schogler:
Yeah, so I’m a developmental psychologist and a musician and longtime been involved in a lot of research and [inaudible 00:06:53] research in development communication, [inaudible 00:06:57] music therapy, and then more recently the development of technology to open up access to music and break down barriers where people face accessibility. I live in Edinburgh in Scotland, and that’s where we are based up here in the UK. Yeah, at the moment, we’re just looking to expand what we’re doing and introduce more people to our technology, and that’s what I’m here to tell you about.

Josh Anderson:
Perfect. Well, let’s go ahead and get into it. Go ahead and tell us the story of Skoog.

Dr. Ben Schogler:
So I mean, Skoog’s story start probably about 15 years ago, and so a lot of research going on about musicality and play, and as you were talking about, music has such a huge impact in all of our lives, but one of the areas which is really important is getting more kids involved in participating in music and creating music themselves. But that can be a real challenge for individuals who have accessibility needs or face different barriers. This all came about from a project to really break down the barriers that young people face in making music. It was based at Edinburgh University, but there was collaboration with schools and stuff and myself and my co founder, Dr. David Skulina. We were kind of placed in schools and in special units and working with teachers and young people and really looking at how do we redesign this music experience and that all led through to the original Skoog, which is Skoog One, which actually launched in 2010.

Dr. Ben Schogler:
The core Skoog concept is the same, and it’s a tactile music interface, a musical instrument that’s really hands on, easy to understand. We’ve been working in developing on that still in collaboration with teachers and young people across the world now for the last 10 years. Now we’ve got Skoog Two, which I’ll be keen to tell you more about that, but the whole ethos comes from trying to break down those barriers that people face in really getting started with music. It doesn’t matter whether you have accessibility needs or not. Music can be difficult to get into, but it’s such a natural thing, and how do we help children and young people get involved in music, express themselves and have fun? That’s what we’re all about.

Josh Anderson:
Excellent. You touched on it a little bit there. Tell us a little bit about the new tech features of the new Skoog.

Dr. Ben Schogler:
Yeah, so after the original Skoog launched in 2010, which was a USB device and it came with software and lots of support, we continued working with teachers, a lot in the U.S. as well, and evolving a lot of these features. One of the big things that came out from 2012 on was the real growth in wireless connectivity and Bluetooth and how much impact that made particularly in assistive technology [inaudible 00:09:27] free devices, some of those tethers. So that became a big focus for us and the new Skoog Two, which we launched recently … Well, actually, first came out in 2016 and we’ve been continuing to improve, but the Skoog now is a Bluetooth device and it’s iOS compatible. So that was one of the other big things is making sure that our technology works for the iPad, which is obviously, a great device for using in education.

Dr. Ben Schogler:
So it’s Bluetooth now and it connects into iOS and it also … the look and feel changed. The original Skoog was white with primary colored buttons. It was really originally focused on some of the younger groups that we’re working with, so a younger age group. But we found that the technology was had much wider reaches. So the new Skoog is a black device with … it does still have the bright colors on the rings and it’s still attractive to younger users, but also really is attractive to everyone. It’s soft all over. It’s made of this polyurethane foam with this rubberized coating. So it’s really durable, but at the same time, really inviting in terms of … so the whole feel of it is just really intuitive and great to play.

Dr. Ben Schogler:
On the technology side, as well as being wireless, one of the other thing that we have done is we’ve integrated it with Spotify and iTunes. So there’s no practice required. You just hook it up and you’re able to play with your favorite tunes immediately. That’s one of the key things it addresses, not just the physical barriers we face using instruments, but also the learning challenges as well in terms of knowing scales and all these kinds of things. It uses a special tuning, an auto tuning it does to set the key on the device so you don’t have to have any music theory now. You just hook it up to your iPad, open up some tunes on iTunes or in your Spotify account, and you’re immediately able to play, which is that real trying to connect people with the music that they want to make.

Dr. Ben Schogler:
It’s also fully compatible with GarageBand. It has other features as well we can talk about in a bit, and can connect to other iOS music apps. So you can play with music. It’s easy to create your own music using these builtin pentatonic settings. You can make drums, you can start creating your own tracks. We’ve seen students do everything from just multisensory experiences right through to playing in orchestras. So there’s really a lot you can do with it. It’s really great to see the ways it’s being used these days.

Josh Anderson:
Well, that was great. Like you said, not just for individuals with disabilities, but individuals like myself who love music have absolutely no musical talent. That can be helpful for folks like me as well.

Dr. Ben Schogler:
We all have talent. You’ve just not been connected with it yet. Everyone is musical. We’ve really got to try as parents and educators and all the people involved with trying to help people connect with a positive experience of creating and controlling sound. That’s one of the things that with Skoog is so easy is just being able to give people that confidence to start playing with it because it is such an intuitive and easy device to use. You just have to touch it and you’re able to make sounds and they’re musical and good and keyed in, and then you can build from there and take it any way you like.

Josh Anderson:
So what all can an individual do with Skoog?

Dr. Ben Schogler:
You can play songs that you know, you can use colors … So there’s no complicated score to learn because it has these colored coded sides. It has a red side, a blue side, a yellow side, a green side and an orange side. We use that to create scores of songs where you just follow the color, a bit like Guitar Hero, but it’s self paced so you don’t have that pressure to hit the right time. You can just play through. So you can play songs you know, you can jam along with the music you love. So with the automatic iTunes and Spotify hookup, it will automatically set up your Skoog to play with Beyonce or Beethoven or … I’m trying to think of another band beginning with B, but … [inaudible 00:13:16], they’re a jazz outfit. Or whatever it is, you can play with that.

Dr. Ben Schogler:
You can also create your own music. It will connect to GarageBand and other digital music production things. It brings that easy access into those programs. So you don’t need keyboard skills. You don’t need to be able to play guitar. You can start composing and creating your music. You can also … one of the really cool things is not only can anyone create, but you can use any sound to create. So there’s another free app that we have called Scratch that we launched last year, which is a sampler for Skoog. You can record any sound or any prerecorded sound and then use that to start creating loops and music and manipulating that. Any sound can actually be used to make music. That has been a real important element in some classroom use and engaging in exploratory kind of stuff, and really great for multisensory things as well. You can use it for multisensory stories or putting sound effects on it, or even … we actually also have an AAC access app, so you can use a very simple voice synthesizer with it as well, all kinds of things.

Dr. Ben Schogler:
Then more recently, actually, we’re working with Apple with part of the Swift Playgrounds development, and you can now use Skoog as part of the Swift Playgrounds coding environment. So we have our own playground where you can learn a little bit about music technology, a bit about [inaudible 00:14:39] and how that works in coding. You can also use Skoog in an accessible way to control the droids and drones like the Wonder Workshop Dash or [Skiro 00:00:14:49]. You can use Skoog to drive them about. Skoog is an accessible controller for those. So all kinds of playful things, lots of learning. If you’re having fun, you kind of learn, but also some of these new coding elements and the multisensory stuff with the [inaudible 00:15:03]. That’s really a really cool thing that we’re seeing happening.

Josh Anderson:
No, it really is. That’s a great thing because I know coding’s a big thing. So just having an accessible device to be able to do that. That’s great.

Dr. Ben Schogler:
One of the ways that the interactivity with the different droids and robots came about was actually some of the special ed teachers that we were working with were saying how they were doing some stuff with these robots in their classes, but some of their students who were less physically able couldn’t use the controller apps on the iPad to drive the robots. But some of these students were able to play Skoog and they said, “Oh, it’d be great if we could use Skoog to drive those robots.” We were like, “Yeah. Yeah, let’s do that.”

Dr. Ben Schogler:
So it came back from the teachers to in this coding environment where kids are learning about coding, but we were also able to use that to put together an accessibility angle on that, to bring that physical accessibility of Skoog to the control of these other interesting educational devices.

Josh Anderson:
I know you said you were based in Scotland, but you’ve recently expanded over here across the pond. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about that?

Dr. Ben Schogler:
Yeah. So we now have an office in Denver, in Colorado, and we have a team there and we’re really focused on trying to support our users and provide them with access to materials and support in the U.S. We’re going to be focused on developing more educational support in the U.S. So we have our team here now and where we’re here. We’re here to help and here to introduce people to all things Skoog and get some cool things happening. It’s great to have a presence here. It means that we can be there for people, be there in a support sense, but also to get that feedback and also to make sure that everything is easily communicable and people have a place to they can go to and call them up and find out information or get some ideas.

Josh Anderson:
Speaking about finding out more information, what are Apple field trips?

Dr. Ben Schogler:
Ah, so this was a great thing that we were part of. So Apple field trips are a program they offer in all of their stores where they have a field trip where they offer free visits. You can book in, so on the Apple website, you go to Apple retail and type in field trips, then the page will come up and you can take your students and teachers in for a whole hands on session with Apple tech and there are lots of different experiences you can sign up for. One of them is a multisensory workshop that includes Skoog and making music and with a particular focus on accessible music making and helping students with disabilities create their own music and get into GarageBand and do all of that. So that’s a great program to be part of and a really fantastic opportunity if you have an Apple store in your area. It can be students from five to 18, it’s usually 60, 90 minutes and they really are amazing, the stuff that they can do.

Dr. Ben Schogler:
We’ve heard some great stories from field trips been going on. Everything from getting kids … getting creative to actually … some people actually creating their own tracks and doing some rapping and producing a short piece at the end of it they can bring back and share with the rest of the school. So yeah, they’re a really great opportunity and they also offer coding and storytelling and some stuff with the droids and the robots as well, so worth getting in touch with your Apple store to find out more about those.

Josh Anderson:
Yeah. Those would be great. Now, what are you guys currently working on? What’s next for Skoog?

Dr. Ben Schogler:
So the couple of things, at the moment we’re focused on meeting new people in U.S., and making friends there, but also on developing more … we’re in the process of developing more educational content for supporting Skoog, both in the classroom and at home. So giving more support to parents and users and developing more programs of work for that. The other thing that we’re working on at the moment is Chrome connectivity, the Chromebooks, which is something that we’ve been interested in looking at. iOS obviously is a really great platform, but we do want to expand that. Part of accessibility is trying to make it as available as we can. So if people got different devices, maybe we can support them with use on that. So that’s one of the other big things we’re working on at the moment, is extending the connectivity.

Josh Anderson:
Excellent. If folks would want to purchase Skoog, how would they do that, and how much does it cost?

Dr. Ben Schogler:
So Skoog is just $199. You can purchase it from your Apple store or Apple online, and it’s now available on Amazon as well, which is great. It’s really available across the U.S. We have some selected resellers as well in education, but also with our new Denver office, if you are an educator, say, or someone purchasing from an institution, then we have the team there that you can get in touch with, info@skoogmusic.com. We can connect you up and they can sort through whatever paperwork needs to be done, or the W9, all those kinds of things. So that’s another great advantage of having the Denver team there is they can really help if people are interested in purchasing from institutions or individuals as well. Just whatever you need, we’re here to help.

Josh Anderson:
Do you guys have any upcoming events?

Dr. Ben Schogler:
Well, yes, there’s a few things, but I think the main one is Closing the Gap. It’s coming up and we’re going to be there with the Denver team and just really it’s such a great show. It’s great to meet so many educators and get a hands on feedback from that. So there’s that coming up. We’re also running now some regular webinars sessions we’ve been developing where we’re come spending time chatting in discussion with educators that are really active in the area, or parents, and exploring Skoog stories and different ways that we can use the technology and finding out from users as well what they’re doing. So look out for our webinars. They’re free. There’s a limited number of seats normally so you have to sign up quick, but we’ll maybe be announcing one of those. We can include some information in the landing page on some of the links that we can provide from this show.

Josh Anderson:
Yeah, definitely. We’ll make sure to put all that stuff into the show notes. Can you tell me a story about someone who’s used Skoog and how’s it affected them?

Dr. Ben Schogler:
Yeah, so there’s just so many stories, but I think one that has made me … I think it was a young lady called Stephanie who was at a special school and faced some physical challenges and learning difficulties. She loves music and was taking part in some general music in the classroom. One day she found Skoog and she thought this is something that she could play. So as part of a project at the school, she got regular lessons in Skoog as if it was a flute or she was doing tuba in band, and this was all towards working to an orchestral performance. So this was actually a few years back in the apartment Olympic kind of thing. So she had regular lessons and was part of this ensemble that was a group of mainstream musicians, students, and as part of building towards a large performance.

Dr. Ben Schogler:
So over the course of the year, Stephanie improved her skills in Skoog and she actually learned … she became a soloist in this orchestra and she was actually playing a clarinet sound. So she was playing the clarinet parts in this orchestra, and then they toured the production and she played in Edinburgh and Glasgow and in London. Since then, she’s gone on and left school and now she’s pursuing her career as a musician. She’s part of something called the Digital Ensemble here in Scotland. You can see links to that, working with a great charity called Drake Music who support people in accessing music in different ways. She uses iPad, she uses Skoog, she uses different types of technology, and they’ve now published two or three different recordings. They’re available to purchase and download on Amazon. She’s really looking at being … well, she’s a musician now, and that’s her journey, right? From starting and doing music in the class to leaving school and continuing and opening that door to creativity and focusing on her career as a musician. So that’s one story.

Josh Anderson:
Very nice, and while we’ve got a little bit of time-

Dr. Ben Schogler:
I can tell more.

Josh Anderson:
I was going to say, we’ve got a little bit of time. Go ahead and tell me another.

Dr. Ben Schogler:
Another interesting one, it was more of a multisensory example of how Skoog can be used in education in a slightly different way. It was with a group of young people actually, teenagers, and it was a regular music group. One of the young users, service users who was coming in was quite hard to engage. He was really focused on the sound of the door handle and the latches in the classroom. He wasn’t drawn to any of the musical instruments that the musicians were trying to get the group going with. One of the teachers there noticed that and so he thought, “Okay,” and whilst in between the sessions, he recorded the sound of the door latches that the young man had been really playing with. He’d been playing with them and making his own vibe with that.

Dr. Ben Schogler:
So he recorded the sounds onto the Skoog using the sampling app, and then when they came in the next time, he was able to show him that the Skoog was making that sound, and that was enough to engage him. Now, this student was nonverbal, but in charge of his own environment. And he thought, “Okay, great,” and he began engaging with the Skoog and that sound, so it doesn’t have to be a musical sound. Sometimes it’s just a simple mechanical sound or a sound that someone likes. So by putting that on the Skoog, they were able to get him involved in the group. Then he went on. After that next session they start introducing some different notes with those sounds, and then they eventually moved on to different musical sounds. Once he made that transition across that successful control of sound with something like Skoog, he became part of the group and was part of all of the music making that they were doing. So that’s another, slightly different example, but another way that it can be used in very different way.

Josh Anderson:
Yeah. I can see just so many different uses for this in the classroom and learning and not just music, like you said. All different kinds of ways. Dr. Schogler, if our listeners want to find out more, and you touched on this, what’s the best way for them to find out more about Skoog?

Dr. Ben Schogler:
Best way is skoogmusic.com. We’ll do a landing page for your listeners, which will be skoogmusic.com/crossroads. But if you go to our site, the best thing to do is to drop us an email, or we have live chow on the site as well. So skoogmusic.com/crossroads. We’ll have all kinds of relevant links up there, or email us at info@skoogmusic.com, and we can connect you directly with the U.S. office and the guys in Denver there who are on the ground and ready to help.

Josh Anderson:
We’ll put all that information in the show notes. We actually have a Skoog here at Easterseals Crossroads in our INDATA loan library that’s available for loan. So if you happen to be in the state of Indiana, you can always come in here to our office and try it out or check that out and see how it works. If you are not in the state of Indiana, then you will have a local AT [inaudible 00:25:56] that will have a loan library as well that may have Skoog available. If you want to find out where your local AT [ACT 00:26:01] project is, you can go to eastersealstech.com/states.

Josh Anderson:
Dr. Schogler, thank you so much for coming on the show today and telling us all about Skoogmusic and all the different ways that it can help.

Dr. Ben Schogler:
That’s great. Look, thanks for having me and I look forward to the next time.

Josh Anderson:
Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? If you do, call our listener line at (317) 721-7124. Shoot us a note on Twitter at INDATA Project, or check us out on Facebook. Are you looking for a transcript or show notes? Head on over to our website at www.eastersealstech.com.

Josh Anderson:
Assisted Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. For more shows like this, plus so much more, head over to accessibilitychannel.com. The views expressed by our guests are not necessarily that of this host or the INDATA project. This has been your assistive technology update. I’m Josh Anderson with the INDATA Project at Easterseals Crossroads in Indianapolis, Indiana. Thank you so much for listening and we’ll see you next time.