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.

Murderous Learning With iPads in Y7

Murder in Y7

You forget how much work you have to put in with your students in order to get them working well on the iPads.  In my classroom we use them pretty much every lesson.  In the first half term I just get the students used to workflow.  Accessing content from iTunes U or My Big Campus, uploading work to cloud storage etc.  However, after that I like to get my students involved in a bigger project using the iPads so that they can hone their tech skills and their language skills. 

Those of you who have read other posts on this blog will be aware that I am not a huge fan of the text book instead I prefer to create projects and themes to get my students stuck into their learning.  This half term Y7 have been learning all about describing people in French and I decided to exploit this learning by staging a fake murder in the classroom. The aim was that students would practice the 4 language skills of reading, listening, speaking and writing as well as having to decipher texts and pick out the salient/most important pieces of information whilst at the same time honing their skills in the use of tech.

To begin the project students were greeted with the news that the previous evening there had been a murder in our very own classroom, the police had asked for our help.  Students accessed content via iTunes U. In their “lesson” they found 4 witness statements. The students’ job was to find out how many suspects there were and what they looked like.  Obviously, each witness saw a slightly different thing so the students had to not only understand the texts but compare one to another in order to establish how many suspects there were, what they wore and what they looked like.  The students actually struggled with this and needed lots of support, which really surprised me. Many thought there were 4 suspects because they had 4 witness statements.  If you want to try this in your classroom I would suggest you so the same as this element of the task provided real stretch and challenge.

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Once students had established how many suspects they had and what they looked like they then had to use the Face it lite app (free) to create a “photo fit” picture of each of the suspects.  This was then saved to camera roll and then imported into the app Pic Collage (free)

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I like Pic Collage for younger students it’s pretty straight forward to use and gives a nice final result. I digress; in this app students had to create a wanted poster for the suspects in   French stating what they looked like and what they were wearing.  Many students tried to simply copy and paste information from the witness statements however, this didn’t work as the witness statements were written in the imperfect tense and the wanted poster had to be written in the present tense.  Once again this provided stretch and challenge and it resulted in many students having to rewrite their work – working on the maxim if it ‘aint perfect it ‘aint done!

Our next task was to create a newsreel – students needed support with this so I provided key phrases for them. I also gave them these phrases spelt phonetically in order to help them with pronunciation.  Students worked in pairs to video each other.  Once the videos were done they then imported them into the Newsbooth App (free) this gave their videos a professional news room look which the students liked.

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Our final task was to introduce some awe and wonder into the task by using Aurasma to bring the videos and the posters together into a magic talking picture @ipadwells has a great help sheet here which tells you exactly how to produce an Aura as they are known.  I  used it with my classes and it worked perfectly.

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What did my classes get out of this project?

They had to work together to decipher texts this is aided by my seating plan in my classroom where students sit in groups of 4

They got practice the vocabulary to describe people.

They had to read in the imperfect tense but write and speak in the present which provided challenge

They got to hone their tech skills

They had to stick at this project, it would be fair to say that not all students found it a walk in the park which is good.  They got annoyed that they had to redo work or that they actually had to figure something out for themselves which frankly was a revelation. 

They are very proud of their work and loved it when our new Headteacher came into our classroom to see the fruits of their labour.

This project took much longer than I expected 5 – 6 lessons, which is a lot of time. Was it worth it? Of course it was, it achieved the aims and much more besides.

Thinking outside the box – App smashing with Thing Link

6250513028_b874eef6f1 Before I begin I must state that this is by no means my idea, I have to thank @ipadwells for this and  you can see his explanation of various apps smashes here.  It was whilst watching this fabulous presentation that I began to think that I could apply some of the ideas to my own classroom.

We have had 19 iPads since September in the department and my Y8 class have become quite proficient at using them and I thought they would be up for an app smash challenge.  We have been studying vocabulary and phrases in Spanish about places around town and directions.  Although this is a year 8 class they have only had about 8 months of Spanish teaching in this time as we rota around with French lessons every half term.  We had got to a stage where we were saying what there was and wasn’t in a town as well as giving some basic descriptions.

In order to make this unit a little more Spanish in feel we have been studying the town of Granada.  Our first app smash got the students to give directions around Granada details of which can be seen here, so it was natural to use Granada as our “base” again.

To begin with students had to use the comics head lite app to create a comic stating what there was and wasn’t in Granada.  They chose pictures of the places they were describing from the internet and set them as the back ground on the comic, they then had a character staying what was in Granada e.g. En mi ciudad hay un palacio.  Once they had finished their comic they took a screen shot and saved it in their camera roll.

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The next step was to use the tellagami app to create short videos for each section of cartoon that they had previously made, they made the background on their tellagami to be the same as the background of the appropriate bit of cartoon that they were talking about. All of their tellagamis where saved into their camera roll.

The final step was to put it all together into the Thing link app.  They used their screenshot of their cartoon as the main picture in thing link.  The cool thing about this app is that it allows you to create “hotspots” on the picture which link to either text or video which makes it perfect for using in app smashing. My students imported their videos onto the relevant bit of their cartoon picture and then added some text to describe the places in Granada. The results were great and the students were very proud of their work.  The next thing for them to do is to present their work and do some peer marking using 2 stars and a wish.

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The students really enjoyed this task and were very focused an involved when creating it, they are really beginning to see the creative possibilities of the iPads now and I know for this class in particular when it comes to using mobile tech in the classroom the sky’s the limit. If you would like to see some of their interactive images please scan the QR codes below.


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Culture and Learning in MFL

I am not a fan of the text book as many of you know so when the time came to teach directions to my Y8 class in Spanish I turn to twitter for some inspiration.

 

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Twitter never fails to amaze me and within a few minutes ideas were pouring in – thank you #mfltwitterati 🙂

In the end I plumped for an iPad idea from @joedale.  I decided to use live street view app plus book creator to create a book of directions to places from our chosen Spanish city of Granada.

Students used the live street view app to have a virtual look around the city, I tried to contain them to the area surrounding the cathedral as this was going to be our starting point for giving directions. In this app when you touch on an area of the map a google street view image appears enabling students to have a virtual look around the city, which they loved.  I tried not to get to annoyed about this “off task” activity as I felt it was an essential element of the cultural aspect of the lesson.

Once students had chosen a location they took a screen shot or in some cases 2 if the street view image covered too much of the map ,in which case they cropped the photo and added back to the map in book creator.  Once the students had their photos they then imported them into book creator and marked their start position and the end point on their map using the pen tool in book creator. Like this;

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Students then wrote out the directions in Spanish from on place to the next.  They then recorded them as a mini paired speaking exercise and added them to the page in book creator like this;

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For me the in class activity hit all the buttons for me, speaking, writing, working collaboratively plus a cultural aspect too.  The students really enjoyed this activity especially the ability to be able to look around the city of Granada, I have to admit, we got side tracked at times as we used the sphere app to look inside the beautiful Alhambra.

The fun didn’t end there though.  As  you may have noticed the student’s work that I have shown still has mistakes in it, this was deliberate because after the lesson I combined all the books the students had made into one and then went on to create a google form containing questions about the information in the book.  Sometimes they were asked to correct mistakes, other times finish of sentences that were left incomplete by their fellow students.  Once we had got over some sharing issues this activity worked well, in fact I would say that this was the best bit of the whole thing as it made the students look carefully at what they had all written and said it was a great way to “feedback” to them.  I then marked the google form using Flubaroo which made the whole thing easy peasy and shared the results with the class via email.

The outcomes for this activity were brilliant

Speaking

Listening

Reading

Writing

Feedback

Correcting mistakes

and culture a plenty.  If you have the tools I urge you to give it a go and if you need a hand give me a shout. @lancslassrach

An App Smashette

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I have long wanted to try app smashing with my classes but we only got our class set of iPads in September and I wanted to ensure that the students could use the well before we attempted our first smash.

The perfect opportunity to try our first smash presented itself on Valentine’s Day.  I had decided that I wanted my students to write some simple French love poetry.  I also hoped to highlight the use of inversion of verb and subject to create a question in French.

The students began by creating a very simple poem using the visual poet app.

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This app allows you to create 3 stanzas each with a picture.  You can use the picture search facility within the app or use your own photos.  The students used a basic starter for their poems, l’amour est… they then added their own idea, noun or adjective in order to complete the phrase.  L’amour est un xbox was not uncommon amongst my Y9 boys!

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Once complete the students exported their poem into their camera roll and they then got to work on their smashette. I asked them to import the poem into the Pic collage app.  

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Here they added the final part of their poem by inverting their l’amour est phrases and creating a question.  Thus I ended up with L’amour est le skate and Est l’amour le skate? The final line of their poems was c’est quoi l’amour? (what is love?)

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Pic collage allowed them to be creative with fonts and stickers.   They completed their smashette in a 50 min lesson and the results are rather good.   It was a simple smash to start with but this is just the beginning…