Course sneak peak: Coming up with ideas

One of the most common queries we receive relates to what the course looks like and what it all entails for both students and teachers.

Our course is divided into five modules with each module containing a series of topics and accompanying resources. The course framework and resources have been created to allow flexibility for teachers to adapt to suit an individual school and meet the needs of students. We’ve recently written about the breakdown of the course here.

Below is an example of a student activity that can be found in the second module, which focuses on idea generation and screening. The best apps solve a problem, so Apps for Good challenges your students to identify a problem that matter them. This is a core principle of our course.

For many students, coming up with a problem their app aims to solve can often be one of the hardest parts of the Apps for Good course – but also the most rewarding. However as our Expert of the Year, Paul Dawson so eloquently puts it, all ideas are bad until someone makes them good.

Brainstorming photo (App launch)

Regardless of the type of problem, as long as it matters to the students, then it matters to us. In the past we have had solutions put forward from everything on how to manage cattle on a farm, tune musical instruments and offer support for young LGBT people. Our students may or may not be developing the next Facebook or Instagram, but what really matters is that the idea is driven by the students themselves, which in turn inspires and supports their learning.

Students start by brainstorming a pipeline of ideas, that are then refined down to a few they take through further scoping to come up with their final idea. Here’s an example of one of the student activities that can help guide students towards coming up with their pipeline of app ideas:

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Average Bad Day

Module 2 > Idea generation and screening > Coming up with ideas > Daily routines

In an average bad day, we probably only experience a few problems. For example, I woke up late today and got stuck in traffic, but since then, my day has been fine. I don’t (necessarily) need to invent a solution to make my day better.

However, if we took ALL the little and big problems we ever come across in our lives, and shrink them into a “not-so-average bad day”, we would have a long list of problems. Once you have listed all the problems you can think of, you can then start thinking about which you would want to live without and how to solve them!

Example: Here’s the start of my not-so-average bad day

I woke up late because I couldn’t get to sleep the night before – I pressed the snooze button 3 times so I was already running 30 minutes late! I ran into the bathroom to shower, but the hot water wasn’t working so I had to have a cold shower. The best shower head , under cold water is no treat! The rain flow is meant to give a comfortable warm shower, it was not invented with cold showers in mind! They are espeacially awful.

I tried to get dressed quickly but I couldn’t find anything that went with my only clean skirt. Then I rushed downstairs to grab some breakfast, but when I opened the fridge, I found that the milk had passed its expiry date. I knew I would be hungry at work but there was no time to do anything about it.  

 On my way to work, I walked past a dead fox that had been squashed by a car but I didn’t know what to do, so I just left it. On the other side of the street, I saw an old woman fall over because of the cracks in the pavement. I went over to help her; she thanked me but she didn’t speak any other English words so it was hard to understand what she was trying to say to me.

 I remembered that I was late for work so ran to catch my bus, but just missed it. When the next bus came, I realised that my travel card was out of money, so I had to walk around and look for a cash point.

Task 1

Write up a “not so average bad day” based on your daily routines. The day doesn’t have to flow perfectly – for example, it can have lots of different weather changes – but try and fill a full day with the kinds of problems that the members of your team have encountered in the past.

Extra task

You could also ask your friends/family/people in your local area about the problems they experience on a bad day. The more problems you think of now, the more ideas your team will have to play with when it comes to designing your app!

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A full curriculum map for the Apps for Good course can be found here.

This should give you a taster of what you can expect from the Apps for Good course. It’s worth remembering that Experts like Paul Dawson are on hand to help students through every step of the course, including helping students decide which ideas are worth pursuing.

We now have confirmed over 400 schools who will be teaching the Apps for Good course during the 2014/15 session! Our application process takes less than 15 minutes to complete and joining is free for all UK non-fee paying schools.