What’s The Value Of Appsmashing?

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Appsmashing has become a bit of a thing in recent times.  The phrase was coined by American educator Greg Kulowiec and it means using applications in conjunction with each other to produce a final product.

The iPad is a truly amazing tool and it can do some pretty incredible things.  The apps that you can purchase for the iPad can also be pretty amazing.  However, I am growing ever more concerned that appsmashing is becoming more about what the device can do rather than using the process or processes for an educational purpose.

Many of the arguments surrounding appsmashing hinge on the notion that it is somehow teaching creativity. While I agree with this premise to a certain extent much of the appsmashing that I read about in blogs is teachers setting students a task and asking them to use specific applications in a specific order – there’s very little creativity in that furthermore it is my belief that students need to have used an iPad regularly for a number of years in order for a teacher to be able to simply give them a topic and let them get on with it using their own choice of apps –  this is when appsmashing becomes truly creative.

There are a huge number of benefits to appsmashing but let not our judgement be coloured by the idea that we are somehow teaching creativity because of it.  Appsmashing does help to enhance thinking skills. It is a great way of getting students to collaborate and share with each other. It does provide a sense of achievement and it is undoubtedly huge amounts of fun and the finished articles can be a great source of pride for students and yet, for me this is simply not a good enough reason to include appsmashing in your edtech repertoire.

The key to a great appsmash is not the number of apps that you manage to smash together into a final product but the pedagogical thought behind the smash itself. Ask  yourself why are we completing this activity? What is the educational purpose of it? If your answers are simply the students will enjoy it or it will greatly enhance collaboration in my class I would ask you to have a rethink.   Many multi app appsmashes are very complex, way too complex in my humble opinion.  In schools we are time poor and an incredibly complicated appsmash can suck hours out of your teaching time. For me, the best appsmashes are those with learning at their heart and by learning I mean intrinsically linked to that which you are teaching and learning in class.

The best app smashes are inherently simple.  They will, in many cases, only use 2 or 3 apps; apps in which the students are well versed or ones that are very simple to use.  The appsmash itself will have the aim of enhancing the students’ learning.  They will be “show what you know” activities which enable all students to successfully demonstrate what it is that they have learnt which can then be meaningfully used by a teacher to assess the learning that has taken place in the classroom.

Appsmashing can be a great arrow to have in your edtech quiver but it must be well considered and have strong pedagogical foundations otherwise it is merely an exercise in what the device can do and not what the student has or indeed hasn’t learnt.

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4 thoughts on “What’s The Value Of Appsmashing?

  1. Hi Rachel.

    You make an excellent point, and Greg (I work with him at EdTechTeacher) would certainly agree with you! When he presents the concept of App Smashing it is within the bounds of encouraging students to make their thinking visible and demonstrate their understanding. As a result of this process, students often find “black holes” in particular apps and therefore demonstrate their App Fluency in their ability to understand the push-pull relationship between apps in order to create something new as a artifact of their learning.

    You’ll notice that for last year’s App Smash Awards for the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit (again, full-disclosure, I am an instructor with them) the categories directly tied to the learning objective rather than the technicalities – http://ettipad.org/appsmash/appsmash2014/

    We would love to have you share some of your ideas. Submissions are open for both our November 2015 iPad Summit in Boston as well as Volume 2 of our Teacher Activity Book – ettipad.org/awesome. We would like to think that what sets us apart from other events is that we are really focused on the pedagogy rather than the device. As noted in both the Huffington Post as well as THE Journal, “we are the iPad Summit NOT about iPads.”

    Thank you for the thoughtful post.
    Beth

    • Thank you so much for your kind comments. I wrote the post because I find some many teachers appear to be showing how clever the iPad is and not fundamentally focussed on the pedagogy which as I state in the post is a real concern for me. I would love to be able to share ideas at Ettipad but I think due to teaching commitments and travel I will have to follow from afar.
      Thank you once more for your kind comments
      Rachel

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