We spoke with Marc Bowen, Deputy Head Teacher and Apps for Good educator at Raglan VC Primary School in Monmouthshire, South East Wales, about his experience teaching Apps for Good. (Have a look at some of our other case studies here.)
Why did you want to become an Apps for Good partner?
I was first made aware of the Apps for Good project through an article in Teach Primary magazine. Having found out more about the work and goals of the charity I was immediately hooked! The structured and supportive programme of teaching modules really helped me, as a class teacher, to understand how I could incorporate the very relevant and topical content linked to app development into the existing curriculum. At our school, we are committed to ensuring that any and all ICT skills development is meaningful and relevant to the current and future needs of the children. In this sense, Apps for Good is highly relevant to the interest and needs of the young people in our school.
How have you managed to fit this into the school/college context and curriculum (include delivery method and student numbers)?
As a primary school, we have initially introduced class of 29 Year 6 pupils to Apps for Good. This was a decision based on the fact that our Year 6 children would definitely all have had experience of apps in their own free-time and they would also have the maturity required to understand and follow the process behind the development of these apps.
When choosing how to integrate Apps for Good into the curriculum, we started the programme at a timely educational point within Wales. The introduction of the Literacy and Numeracy Framework (LNF) requires all schools to ensure that they are developing cross curricular Literacy and Numeracy skills, through distinct year group strands, in addition to the orders set out in the existing English and Maths curriculum. The Apps for Good programme proved to be an excellent means of developing a cross curricular project which covered a number of different Literacy and Numeracy skills within the LNF. These included the development of oracy skills, through group discussion and formal presentations; writing skills, as the children made use of a number of different techniques to gather, organise and present their ideas; and Numeracy skills linked to developing scoring systems for their game-based apps or even calculating how much they might charge if they sold the app with consideration for the profit they might make!
Ultimately, I choose to integrate the Apps for Good programme into an extended unit of work in English focused on the children developing their own persuasive presentations. This allowed me to work through the suggested programme of skills and ideas development within Apps for Good, whilst also directly teaching the required English language and ICT skills.
What are the best things that Apps for Good has added to your school/college, teaching staff and students?
The most immediate, standout benefit of using Apps for Good was the impact it had on the motivation of all the learners. Every child in the class was engaged at each stage in the project and they were always keen to find out when we would be having are next session. This extended beyond the classroom to include children having discussions with their families about their ideas and conducting their own research into existing apps that were already in the marketplace. The motivation of the children was sustained through the varied menu of activities available within the programme. The really enjoyed giving short, concise ‘elevator pitches’ to present their ideas and they all really appreciated the opportunity to pitch their ideas to an industry expert via Skype.
What has been the biggest challenge in delivering the Apps for Good course?
Initially, I thought the main challenge would be my own skill set and my lack of technical knowledge when working with apps. However, it was a great relief to find that the way in which the course is structured, the initial training and the support materials all contributed to remove that barrier completely. It also helped me to have greater confidence in letting the children take the lead for certain elements. In practice, the biggest challenge was ultimately getting the Balsamiq software installed on our school network. This was not an issue with the software itself, as it is a very intuitive and friendly piece of equipment, however getting the appropriate level of password protected access from our technical service providers took some time.
How helpful have you found the opportunity for your students to interact with industry experts?
Being able to take feedback from an industry expert on their initial ideas certainly helped to add a real life context to the children’s app ideas. They really concentrated on developing a detailed elevator pitch and, as they were talking to someone from outside the school, it helped them to develop a more formal style of presentation. They came back to the project buzzing with ideas and even more motivated to develop their app designs further.
How is Apps for Good different from the way in which you were teaching ICT/Computing previously?
Apps for Good has certainly helped us to develop our ICT curriculum to be truly 21st Century, as it is now reflecting the true nature of ICT in everyday life and it relevant to the children’s own experiences. Apps for Good has also made us think very carefully about how our new school building will need to be developed to allow versatile 21st Century ICT learning across the curriculum.
What advice can you offer to any schools/colleges in your position who are thinking about applying to be a 2014/2015 Apps for Good partner?
Certainly from a primary school perspective, you don’t need to be an ICT expert to lead a class of children through the Apps for Good programme. The skills of being able to develop a sequence of learning activities and then support children with their learning are essential; Apps for Good then deals superbly with your own technical know-how and confidence. I would say, dive in, give it a go – the children will really appreciate it and you will be further enhancing their learning experiences. This is definitely a good opportunity for the children to see the adults in their classroom as lifelong learners, collaborating with the children to develop their understanding.
Quote from a Raglan VC Primary Schol student, Jonathan
“Apps for Good is epic! It was awesome to make our own apps and I really enjoyed talking to Sophia (Expert) using Skype. I can’t wait to do more work on our app!”
Check out these blog posts to see how more Primary Schools are delivering the Apps for Good course: