What’s The Value Of Appsmashing?

 6736135095_52a970b58d

Photo credit

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.

Advertisements

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.

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 15.28.18Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 15.28.31

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.

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 15.32.22

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.


Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 15.35.29

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 15.36.36

Further Adventures With iPads

4581962986_2cb5ea4ef4

“Why do we have to do this miss? What’s the point?” We have all heard it and this time it was coming from my lovely GCSE French class who already are unsure about the real purpose or value of controlled assessments.  So, how do we make our controlled assessments more valuable more worthwhile?  I had struggled with this concept since the advent of controlled assessments but it was not until I was at the #ililc4 conference this year and one of the delegates said ” we can effectively do what we like with controlled assessment” that the penny finally dropped.  This together with @ChrisFullerisms incredibly thought provoking presentation at the same conference made me go away and have a rethink and here’s what I came up with.

Topic: school

Controlled assessment: Speaking including a 1 minute presentation

School is one of the most relevant themes at GCSE I think in that, all the students have experienced it and all have an opinion on it which always helps.  However, normally when we teach this topic we ask our students to create a presentation on my ideal school which is fine but in my opinion really false.  I wanted my students to have something to get their teeth into something with real meaning so I devised a mini scheme of work on Haiti.  The premise being that we would discuss the devastating earthquake in Haiti and the consequences of and then students would be encouraged to use the information and vocabulary to write a presentation on an ideal school for Haiti.  Personally I thought that this would be easier to do as have no school at all, it would be easier to say what they would put in it and why.

We began with a pretty hard hitting video on the immediate aftermath of the earthquake in Port au Prince.  This really got my student’s attention and we were then ready to tackle a  dual language text, again I got this idea from Chris Fuller and if you have never tried using it before I can highly recommend it as it give students access to much tougher vocabulary and structures which they then eventually incorporate into their own work – it’s fab!

My students are now becoming reasonably proficient when using the iPads but I always want to push the boundaries and show them the capabilities of the technology that we have available to us, thus the next 3 lessons were taken up trying some more app smashing. During this time students were to create a mini newsreel using the tellagami, quipio, photo collage and capture apps.  Students created a very basic news studio backdrop using quipio and photo collage like this;

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 20.42.50

 

They then used this as their background image in the tellagami app onto which they also recorded their news article.  They worked in pairs in order to complete this part of the activity.  One of the pair was to create a tellagami as the anchor in the studio their partner was to be the journalist on the ground reporting on the devastation in Port Au Prince. As seen here;

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 20.51.07

 

The other student was encouraged to choose a photo from the internet showing the devastation in Haiti after the earthquake as their backdrop.

Once the students had recorded their work, using the vocabulary from the dual language text to help them and the app natural reader to help them with their pronunciation they then “stitched” the two videos together using the capture app.  The finished product was then shared with me.  The results were pretty amazing with students using some complex language and at the same time providing themselves with a great resource from which to base their presentation for their controlled assessment as can be seen in this example clip.

Haiti Newsreel

As I have always said an iPad is just a classroom tool and nowhere is this highlighted more than in this series of lessons.  The students really enjoyed the “reality” aspect of this mini topic.   It exposed them to some fairly complex grammar and vocabulary.  It gave them independence; the work that they produced was all their own, created with help from their dual language text and vocabulary gleaned from videos on the subject of Haiti that we had watched in class.  Most importantly, their controlled assessment presentations are great, they have to describe their ideal school for Haiti.  Most students have begun their presentation with the work they created in the newsreel activity, they have then gone on to explain what their Haitian school would look like using other materials that were presented to them in class like this UNICEF video and this PDF booklet.  If you have never tried something like this before with your class I would urge you to give it a go, you don’t have to stick to what is in the text book you know!

An App Smashette

2237267464_a72b47183d_b

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.

visual poet

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!

Title

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.  

pic collage app 2

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?)

PicCollage

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…