What’s The Value Of Appsmashing?


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.

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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AR you ready for AR?

I posted this tweet at the end of my Y7 lesson today and it has to be said I was a pretty proud teacher, we had finally conquered AR – augmented reality.  I first came across the concept at the #ililc3 conference in 2013 and have always wanted to try it with a class since then but have never been brave enough.  This year though we have been lucky enough to have been given 19 iPads for use in or languages department so there really was no excuse.

Putting together your “magic picture” as we called them, isn’t really that tricky but the results are incredible.  My Y7 class are pretty switched on but I needed to be sure that they were reasonably proficient in the use of the iPads before we took on AR.  I think one of the mistakes we make as teachers is that we think that our students can effectively use mobile technology without us teaching them how to, this in my experience is a big mistake. Our students do use mobile tech but often at it’s most superficial level and often only for playing games, listening to music or using Facebook, so my advice would be get you class up to speed with the basics of iPaddery before you try something like this.

My students have just been studying personal descriptions in Spanish and we normally end this section by making a wanted poster, this seemed like the perfect project to get them working with Augmented Reality.  I used the app Aurasma which once you get going, is pretty straight forward to use.


Firstly you need to set up an account, I set up a class account and all my students logged into it.

Secondly you need to create a  channel so that others can view the work of your students. Once that is all done it’s time to get creative 🙂

I began my lesson by giving my students a demonstration of how the Aurasma app worked   they were instantly transfixed, once I had their attention it was down to work.  We used the app Pic collage to help us create our “target image” (more of which later) which essentially was a wanted poster in Spanish.

pic collage app 2

I like pic collage – it hits my 2 app requirements; intuitive to use and it gives great results or as I have been heard to say I like my apps to be simple and sexy!  Once they had completed their work they emailed their posters to me and I made hard copies on our lovely colour printer 🙂  It took the students about 20 mins to get to the stage.  I asked them to keep their work clear and unfussy  as I am lead to believe this helps the Aurasma app recognise the image more easily.

This gave the students a poster something like this..

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Students then recorded a video of themselves describing what they looked like in Spanish.  Once they had these 2 pieces of information they could then start to use the  Aurasma app.

The first thing students need to do is log into the app using the login details that you have previously set up. They access this by tapping the little A at the bottom of the screen then the far right icon on the next screen which looks a bit like a sun over 2 mountains.

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Once logged in students need to tap the + sign at the bottom of the screen so that they can add their video to the class channel.

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On this screen they need to tap device and the + in the top right hand corner they should then choose photo album and then select their video.  This is called the overlay and they should name it with their name and then hit finish.  They will go back to the create/choose overlay screen and here they should now select their video from the ones that appear on the screen. They should get a screen like this… from here they should tap select.

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They now need to capture the image by holding the iPad over their wanted poster.  They must make sure that the slider at the bottom turns green and then tap the purple camera button.  Their video will now appear over their picture on the iPad screen.  They should resize the video so that it covers their face and then hit the purple arrow on the bottom right hand corner of the screen.

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They are nearly done all that remains now is to name their aura make it public or private, tap the button so that it says  yes in response to add to a channel and then select the channel.

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Hit finish and they are done.

In order for other students or staff to be able to scan the pictures they need to download the Aurasma app search for your channel – like or follow it and then they should be able to see the  creations.

What did the students get out of this activity?

Firstly they greatly improved their iPad skills but that was not the main aim of this lesson. This lesson hits all the buttons.  Students got creative when using the pic collage which I think is really important in this very prescriptive world of education that we live in.  They also developed their written skills as I made my class write down their descriptions of themselves before they recorded.  They developed their speaking skills when making their videos.  They had to work collaboratively as there are not enough iPads in my classroom for one each but they also needed each others help to take photos and make their films.  Their work had a purpose as they know that it is going to be displayed for all to see in school and with the use of one simple app everyone will be able to see and hear their work too.  This activity was really successful and I’m glad I persevered when trying to figure out the app.

If you want to see how the app works search scan the QR code below using a QR code scanner app like i-Nigma.

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Further Adventures With iPads


“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;

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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;

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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!

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.




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;


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;


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






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


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!


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?)


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…

The Power Of One; 1 iPad, 1 Classroom, 1 Teacher.


My first presentation at #ililc4 and I mean my very first EVER was a session attempting to address what to do if you only have 1 iPad in your classroom.  I was lucky enough to be given an iPad to trial in my classroom 2 years ago, in my session I looked to provide delegates with a list of apps that they could successfully use in a 1 iPad classroom.

Having only 1 iPad in the classroom allows you to make yourself the expert on the tool.  You will have to work at this, use your iPad regularly and when you hit a problem, search for a solution on Google or ask on Twitter or someone else in your school in this way you will learn about the functionality of the iPad and what to do when it doesn’t quite work.  Better that you learn when you only have one to deal with than when you have a class set.  Although we think our young people are tech savvy they aren’t as savvy as you may imagine and will need, just like you, to learn how to use an iPad effectively.


A VGA adapter – so that you use you iPad with your whiteboard

Apple TV – this enables you to show things from your iPad on you whiteboard wirelessly and it is a seriously cool bit of kit.

A clamp – borrow this form science and gently clamp your iPad over the work you want to show the class, go to the camera on you iPad and hey presto you have a visualiser!

Ideas for starter activities

Pass the parcel is a paid for app this allows you to turn you iPad into a children’s party game.  Simply create a list of questions in word or pages copy and paste your questions into the pass the parcel app and press play.  The students then pass the iPad around the class and when the music stops a question appears that the students must answer.

Make Dice is another paid for app which allows you to make word dice.  Simply type in the words you want to appear on each face. Shake the iPad and students had to say a sentence with that word or use a few dice and make them create sentences with the word shown.  There is a free version of this app called Make Dice Lite

Shake and Boom this turns your iPad into a bomb.  Simply arm the bomb pass it around the class and when it goes off ask a question – easy!  Again this is a paid for app.

Videoscribe and Haiku Deck are both apps which allow you to do presentations.  Videoscribe creates cartoon animation and Haiku Deck is a slide presentation app full of beautiful creative commons images.

Pairwork and discussion ideas

In pairs or small groups allow students to use the video camera function on the iPad to film themselves speaking then connect it to you whiteboard and show the rest of the class who then give feedback.

Croak.it app allows you to make simple short recordings, the results of which can be emailed to you.

Voice Record Pro allows you to make longer recordings which can then be shared via email, dropbox, Google Drive or Skydrive.

Wrapped app allows you to wrap up pictures.  Email the picture to yourself, display it on your board and then scratch you iPad like you are scratching a lottery card and the picture is slowly revealed.  Works well for guessing games  and discussions.

Guardian Eye Witness and Fotopedia beautiful and unusual photos are provided by both these apps.  Use them in conjunction with wrapped or put the photos into the app Over this then allows you to write questions or key vocabulary onto your photos which you can then save to you camera role and share via your whiteboard to prompt discussion.

Giving Feedback

Take a photo of exemplar work and put it into Skitch then use the pen and arrow tools to highlight the best bits and areas for improvement whilst projecting onto you whiteboard.

Flip your classroom using the Show Me app.  This is a recordable whiteboard  so you can record yourself teaching  and then share the link with your class via email or input it into a QR code creator  and share as a QR code.

Turn your iPad into a visualizer using a clap and the camera function.


Set up a class blog on a blogging platform like Kid blog allow a small fstudents to blog using group of students to blog using your iPad each week

Randomising and Timing

Decide now is a great selector app.  You basically fill in sections of a wheel and spin it.  I fill many of my wheels with topics, I spin the wheel and students have to talk for 1 minute on that topic

Ever had a row about who is going next – not any more.  Tap Roulette is a nifty little app.  Each student puts a finger on the screen you tap select and the app selects a finger – argument over!

Stop Go app is a timing app that looks like a set of traffic lights.  You can set each light to be on for a length of time.  For example 5 mins on green 1 min on amber.  The app bings each time the colour changes which serves to remind you and them how long they have left.  I often don’t project the picture and just hook my iPad up to the speakers for the sound.

Personal Organisation

I am trying to go paperless this year so I have been planning my lessons on my iPad.  The app that I have had most success with is Daybook at the moment I just use it to plan with but it does have a mark book function too.

Smart seat is a seating plan app but it also has a randomising feature on it too so you can easily select students in your class. This app is sleek and simple and I use it lots

Google Drive and Dropbox

Cloud storage apps which allow you to easily share documents with each other.  I love the collaborative features in Drive and use it a great deal with my older students.

Wunderlist is a lovely to do list app.  You can assign tasks to others who share your lists it’s beauty is in it’s simplicity.

Flipboard is app which helps you to collate stuff from the web or twitter into magazines that you can share with others.