Lamlash primary pupils get to grips with app development

Lamlash Primary School serves the coastal village of Lamlash on the Isle of Arran, Scotland. Twenty-four pupils out of the sixty-five at the school have been taking part in the national Apps for Good programme during 2014-15. As the school year comes to a close teachers, students and parents reflect on their Apps for Good experience in this case study.

Apps for Good is an open-source technology education movement, building the next generation of problem solvers and digital makers: students who can create, launch and market products that change the world. Students work in teams to find real issues they care about and learn the technology skills to build a mobile, web or social app to solve them.

Teachers guide their pupils through comprehensive resources, connecting them to experts beyond school to get specialist insights. Each theme for apps entering this year’s national competition is sponsored by a major IT business:

Theme                                                                          Sponsor

  • Sustainable communities                         Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
  • Saving, spending and giving                    Barclaycard
  • Connected communities                          TalkTalk
  • Learning                                                  Samsung
  • Productivity                                              SAP
  • Information                                              Thomson Reuters

With help from the category sponsors, the winning team will be able to develop and launch their product on the market.

Thanks to a project managed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and funded by the Digital Scotland Business Excellence Partnership, the pupils in Lamlash Primary School use the most up-to-date mobile technology to design and make their apps. By encouraging young talent, HIE hopes young people will continue to study and work in the region and add to the skills pipeline needed to support the growing technology sector in the Highlands and Islands.

Lamlash Primary students work on their app ideas

Lamlash Primary students work on their app ideas

Apps for Good course

P6 and P7 pupils worked in teams of two or three, using interest areas and problems they have experienced to plan their apps. Through a programme of online resources, they learned about both the business and the technical aspects of app design, coding and development.

The pupils developed a number of apps:

Fit Kids will encourage children to exercise and keep fit, in a way that is enjoyable, and lose weight at the same time.

Sweet Master will have recipes, food content of sweets and a catalogue of sweets.

You Can Draw will help / show people how to draw mammals, fish, reptiles, birds, amphibians, insects, plants, famous sites, objects, people, symbolic events and cartoons.

Wonderful Wildlife will help people find out about any animal they have seen.

Flagtastic is about flags of the world – learn which flag is which and design your own flag.

Art Craft will teach children drawing skills, with lots of different options of what to draw.

Translator is a translating app in Polish and French for all ages including a quiz to translate actual phrases.

Fit Pros will help people get fitter.

Animal Mania, is about animals

Lamlash Primary School's Apps for Good projects

Involving IT experts

In November, the children practiced mini elevator pitches and enjoyed a great session presenting their app to an IT expert who questioned them about their products and processes. The pupils comments included:

“It was amazing meeting someone from the tech industry.”

“I think the session was really good and he had some good ideas that we will actually use.”

Whole school approach

A class assembly was held at the end of January where the children had ‘speed-dating’ stations, no these weren’t to flirt. Each group was given just five minutes to present mini elevator pitches to parents, other classes in school and an S2 computing class. They were able to show their computer work and take questions on their apps. The reporting group in the school did an article about the assembly for the local paper.

National competition

Teachers and pupils thought these pitches were an excellent way of planning their entries to the national competition and to HIE’s regional Dragon’s Den competition on June 19th, hosted by the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Several groups from Lamlash also entered the national Apps for Good competition.

Challenges

Lamlash had to overcome a number of technical challenges to ensure the pupils could use all the resources provided. Internet connectivity was sometimes patchy and the Appshed development environment proved tricky for these P6/7 pupils.

Supporting the curriculum

Lessons learned through planning, designing and developing apps are having an impact across the curriculum. Teachers feel the Apps for Good project is:

  • positively influencing pupil engagement and motivation in IT
  • providing cross-curricular opportunities and benefits

There have been benefits for teachers too:

  • Apps for Good has improved staff technical skills/knowledge and had a positive impact on staff CPD
  • Staff have benefited from the input of technical experts such as Apps developers

What the pupils say about Apps for Good: 

“It will help us in later life and is enjoyable.”

“Using Balsamiq has made us realise that designing an app is much more technical.”

“We are looking forward to coding and seeing what the app might be like in the end.”

According to Alison Henderson, teacher in charge of Apps for Good at Lamlash Primary: “The project has been brilliant and the children have gained a lot. The pupils are really motivated by the project and I have emphasised that what they are doing is following the design process. This can be applied to any sphere and isn’t just restricted to computer programming. The fact they are getting to speak to people from industry is fantastic. There is a lot they are gaining that can’t be fully defined but are transferable skills which will set them in good stead for high school.”

Interested in helping your students develop digital and soft skills? You already join Apps for Good to teach our free course in 2015/16, just visit our website for more info and to sign up.