Having reliable sound equipment and a microphone that is easy to use is essential for dance teachers who need to project through a large space. However, sometimes all those wires, input/output holes and dials make using a microphone unmanageable. Have no fear, though! Dance teacher and businesswoman Christy Lane shared her eight microphone tips for teachers, coaches and presenters.

1. Bring your own microphone—you’ll be more familiar with it.

2. Know how your mic plugs into the sound system.

3. Go hands free! Use a headset microphone.

4. Keep a thumb’s width distance between your lips and the mic to avoid muffle.

5. Don’t stand too close to the speaker; lower the volume to avoid feedback.

6. No volume? Check the receiver box for LINE or MIC button.

7. When not in use, mute your mic to save battery life.

8. Go for a battery-operated sound system. They come with a handheld mic.

Christy Lane is an educator, presenter and TV show producer who created the Dare to Dance school assembly program, through which she has educated more than 2 million students nationwide. For more info, visit: christylane.com.

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Have you ever stopped to consider how many times a day you look at your phone? According to a recent report, smartphone users check their phones approximately 150 times a day, often while using another screen, like a TV or computer. That’s a lot of screen time! Dr. David Spiegel, director of the Stanford Center on Stress and Health, says constant exposure to light from screens causes people to shift away from natural sleep cycles, which could lead to fatigue and mental fogginess. Making an effort to limit your screen time each week––during the weekend, for example—will keep you sharp.


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Q: I’ve got both an iPhone and an iPad, and occasionally I find useful content for my dance classes that I’d like to share with my students on both devices. Is there a way to project content from all of my devices easily—and preferably wirelessly?

A: A great way to get more functionality out of any projector is a computer app called Reflector. You use this app to project an iPad or iPhone onto your computer, which can in turn hook up to your projector. There’s no extra hardware or plugging and unplugging of devices required. You’re now free to move about the room with your device in your hand as you project its screen image for your class.

Reflector relies on your iPad or iPhone’s (4S or later models) ability to connect through AirPlay. This means that as long as your computer and device are on the same WiFi connection, you can connect them. This also means that if your students are using Apple devices, too, they can project their screens onto your computer as well. Not to worry: You can set a password to limit who has access to presenting information on your computer.

You can even show multiple iPads at the same time, allowing you to compare two or more students’ work right in front of the class. Reflector works on both Mac and PC, and it starts at $12.99.

Another option for wireless projection is Apple TV. It allows you to stream from your computer or AirPlay from your iPhone or iPad, and it also lets you play your iTunes through it. Apple TV is significantly more expensive and does not allow you to project more than one device at a time, but it does support quite a bit of content, like Netflix and Hulu Plus. 

Barry Blumenfeld teaches at the Friends School in New York City. He is an adjunct professor at New York University and on faculty at the Dance Education Laboratory of the 92nd Street Y.

Photo courtesy of Barry Blumenfeld



Password management software

Your studio’s online accounts, like banking, Facebook and e-mail, each demand their own secure password. But the tricky mix of numbers, signs and upper and lowercase letters can be difficult to remember, and keeping them on a Post-it or in a Word document on your computer isn’t safe. Highly encrypted to protect your information, RoboForm is free software that saves up to 10 usernames and passwords. Open the program with one master password, and a bookmark bar appears on your browser to fill in site logins with one click. It also has a high-security password generator and saves your mailing address, phone number and e-mail address for quickly filling out registration and shipping forms. There are more advanced versions of the software available ($9.95–$29.95) that hold an unlimited number of passwords and sync with multiple computers, smartphones and tablets.



Portable POS System

Its small credit-card reader looks innocent, but Square is a POS powerhouse—and it got a few updates recently. At its most basic, the free app/account for iPhone, iPad and Android provides users with a Square Reader that plugs into mobile devices to accept credit and debit card payments; businesses pay a 2.75 percent per swipe fee or monthly $275 flat rate. The system saves inventory information on the app and provides sales data summaries. Completely portable, it can move from the front desk to the dancewear store, recital booths and fundraisers. It’s also especially handy for freelance teachers who rent their own space.

New is Business in a Box, a boxed kit for the iPad that includes two Square Readers, iPad holder and cash drawer for $249, or $499 with a receipt printer. (Transaction fees still apply.) Also recently launched is an online store option that allows customers to access goods or services through web ordering and payment.

Q: Now that I’ve become more comfortable with my iPad, I’m ready to update my lesson plans and organize them in a more efficient way. What are your favorite apps for lesson plan digitization?

A:There are several apps out there, primarily focused on joining your lesson plans to a calendar for easier organizing. The two that I think do the best job are Planboard and Planbook Touch.

Planboard, at its core, is mainly text organized within a calendar—but it also allows you to embed video and pictures. If you teach in public schools, there is a place to add standards or benchmarks. The app has a library of standards, but there’s not much in it yet. You can add them yourself, though; then, for each lesson, just click on the specific parts of the standard you’re fulfilling with that lesson. There’s an option to print your lesson plan, convert it to a PDF, e-mail it or send it as a link.

Planbook Touch, which costs $9.99, is an app for iPads, Macs and PCs that is highly customizable and can be synced to your computer and tablet. You can create units for your lesson plans, add standards and tailor your plan format and schedule. It’s easy to move lesson plans from one device to another via Dropbox, and they can be synced with your calendar program. This requires some setup, but once you get the infrastructure up, it’s easy to do. The only drawback? You can’t attach video with this app.

And there are plenty of other options out there. When exploring other lesson-planning apps, narrow your search by asking yourself: How easy does the app make it to enter your lesson plan? Also, does the app allow you to group lesson plans into folders or by grade levels? This feature seems hard to come by, and finding an app that allows you to link videos to your lesson plans is rare.

Barry Blumenfeld teaches at the Friends School in New York City. He is an adjunct professor at New York University and on faculty of the Dance Education Laboratory of the 92nd Street Y.

Photo courtesy of Barry Blumenfeld

Q: I’m thinking of creating a class blog. Do you have any suggestions for reliable and secure blogging sites? What are your recommendations for how to best use a class blog?

A: A secure class blog is a tremendous tool for fostering discussion and creating community. It allows you to literally expand your class outside of the confines of the room you meet in. You could easily create a blog using any of the numerous blogging sites directly, but if you want to improve security and have some tools that are appropriate for teaching environments, I’d go with Kidblogs. If your school is like mine and uses Google Apps, then you can use your Google Apps account, saving everyone involved the hassle of creating a new login and password. Another great feature is the price: It’s free!

Kidblogs is powered by WordPress, so if you’ve ever used that software, the control interface will be familiar. You can create your class blog and then give your students their own blog, which is linked back to the class blog.

Reflection is the key to learning, so if you like to assign journal entries, this is a great way for each student to complete the assignment and share it instantly.

Students can also post videos of their dance work and then open up those videos to comments. Since the teacher can moderate these online discussions, you can make sure the feedback is appropriate and have a virtual composition class entirely online. All content is private by default, and only the teacher and students can see it. You can choose to make some parts public, though, and even give parents guest access. As a teacher, I’d recommend you set up some parameters for yourself. Since you can access and respond at any time, you could easily allow your work to take over your private life.

Barry Blumenfeld teaches at the Friends School in New York City. He is an adjunct professor at New York University and on faculty of the Dance Education Laboratory of the 92nd Street Y.

Photo courtesy of Barry Blumenfeld

Social-media dashboard

Not just another social-media task, HootSuite is a tool that can streamline your online marketing efforts by helping you organize posts and better manage your time. After you register, the site creates a personal dashboard that gives you access to your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ accounts all at once. Instead of having several tabs open in your browser, you can view multiple social-media platforms on one screen and cross-post to several with one click. You can even schedule posts in advance, which is helpful when you’re planning to leave the studio or you want to save time by scheduling a week of activity in one sitting. Other convenient built-in features include the ability to shorten links, add geographic locations and save drafts. And with its analytics feature, HootSuite tracks your social-media buzz—how many people click on links and “Like” posts.

The site’s biggest downside is contact management. Though you can tag Twitter followers (for instance, “Look for our studio in this month’s issue of @dance_teacher!”), you can’t do so on Facebook. Regardless, HootSuite is an invaluable tool. The standard version is free, with enough features for the average studio owner, but those who want further customization may opt for the Pro version (starting at $8.99 a month). It’s also available as an app for iPad, iPhone and Android.

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