Curious how Apps for Good works in the classroom? Hear from Educator David Sansom

We love when Apps for Good Educators share their experiences of teaching our course. Recently Apps for Good Educator David Sansom shared his experiences of teaching the course in this great blog. For anyone new to Apps for Good his blog is an excellent resource as David details not just his approach to teaching the course but valuable insights into how his students felt about various parts of the Apps for Good course. Read on below to find out more:  Here is a little insight into the Apps for Good course. I’ve tried to include my key learning experiences (as a teacher) to help any colleagues who may be running it for the first time in the new academic year. WHAT IS APPS FOR GOOD? For anyone looking for a course that covers programming, app design, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and marketing you should really look into it. The course has so many benefits:

  • Allows students to work together to create an app to solve an existing problem
  • Forces students to think about solutions to problems that they encounter
  • Forces students to work together from generation of ideas right through to implementation and marketing.

My own experience of the course has been positive.  The people at apps for good have even come up with the links to BGE of CfE (see this link).

The course allows students to work together
The course allows students to work together in teams

So what is actually in the course. The easiest way to show you this would be to show the presentation I give to the kids on day 1.  You will find it here Key points for me as a teacher

  • The course tries to squeeze a lot into a short period of time.  It is all completely relevant and includes many ideas that I would not normally have included in group working tasks e.g
    • Identify team roles and sign a co-founder agreement.  The students liked this task as they got to think about the reasons why you may have to “kick” people out of your team.  It also allows the students to think about what they are good at and what they want to develop during the course.
  • Now that the course has been running for a few years there are several examples of apps.  The students have to critiques these.  This is best done as homework as they students are able to download the apps from the app store and start thinking about what is important in an app.
  • The coding elements are split up into 3 sections – beginner, intermediate and advance.  We used a variety of different tools including scratch, blockly, Code academy, X-ray goggles and app inventor (among others).  I’d really like more students to get more out of the coding part of the course.
  • The idea generation part of the course was very difficult as it forced the students to think about problems they encounter and technological solutions to them.  It wasn’t just about making an app on one of your interests.  This part of the course took quite a long time but it is worth spending the time and encouraging discussion between the team members.  This discussion allows the team to come to a decision about the app idea they are going to take forward.  It was at this point in time that the bank of experts could come in handy.  The team at appsforgood.org have many experts who want to pass on their expertise and discuss ideas with the students.  I didn’t take up this offer but will next year.
  • Assuming that the groups are able to agree on an app they also need to ensure there is actually a market for it.  The point is made that there isn’t much point in creating an app that solves a problem for a very small number of people.  This is probably the one part of the course that the students didn’t really enjoy.
  • From here they move onto prototyping.  Apps for good have a key for balsamiq which all participating schools can use to install balsamiq. I didn’t use it, I used lumzy.com to create the clickable wireframes!  It was also at this stage, time permitting, when the students were to create their app.  I was running out of time so the students used appshed.com.  I would have loved them to code it properly.  What did happen was that some students started the marketing part of the course – creating a web site using HTML, creating video using popcorn maker and setting up Facebook/Instagram/Twitter profiles.
  • Time does start to get away from you towards the end.  We run a 20 week course!  While it is possible to complete it in this time, it would be better if we could run it for longer (obviously this is a school by school decision).  As a result of this, we had little time to do the marketing.
  • The key thing to remember, from my point of view, is that there are only about a dozen things that “Have to be done” in order to enter the award.  These are things that I need to ensure the students are spending the time on.
Coding elements are split up into 3 sections – beginner, intermediate and advance.
Coding elements are split up into 3 sections – beginner, intermediate and advance.

Key points for the students

  • You will learn lots of soft skills as well as hard tech skills
  • You have to believe, passionately that your app idea can help solve a genuine problem that exists for genuine people.  If you don’t you will realise that you are not engaged enough to get the most out of the course.
  • You will have to do some work at home.  Due to the network in most schools you will be unable to download apps in class, unable to make social media profiles etc.  But this work done at home is of vital importance to the development process.
  • You need to work well within your team.  Someone has to take the lead, set tasks and deadlines to make sure the process can be completed within the 20 week period
  • You will be exposed to many new tools.  In my class alone we used:
  • You need to be willing to think about these tools and be aware that you can use them in loads of different subjects across your learning

Overall There are a few areas where I need to adjust timings but next year I am sure it will run smoother with experience