Technology can sometimes be challenging for students to understand and engage with. Teachers need to be able to foster an interest amongst their students, and this is why it’s important to make it as real and purposeful as possible. Nowadays, most students own a smartphone, meaning they are incredibly savvy and curious to try out the latest technology. Incorporating this innate interest into the classroom will encourage them to get involved.
Creating an app allows students to become entrepreneurial thinkers; they have to design a product from start to finish, which includes conducting market research, drafting business plans and pitching their app ideas. Through courses like Apps for Good, students can design a concept that solves a real societal problem, and develop it into an app.
This process allows students to develop digital skills such as coding and programming, but also goes beyond digital enabling them to develop key soft skills that will prepare students for life beyond the classroom.
Being able to work effectively within a team is an important lesson for students. It’s vital for them to identify strengths within the group and assign roles appropriately to maximise their talents. It won’t always be plain sailing but teamwork is something that all students will face in the working environment as they grow older and so it’s an important part of the learning process.
Five students from Denbigh High School in Luton designed and recently launched an app called weKonnekt on Google Play. The app connects young carers with local resources and support. The students didn’t all know each other when they started the project in class so they had to work hard in order to develop their team-working skills. There were challenges and disagreements, but team leader Hasan acquired strong leadership skills and they learned a lot by pulling together as a team to ensure the final outcome was a success.
Talking about what they enjoyed the most, the students said: “Working together as a team. At first, the regular after school sessions were a demanding commitment, but as time went on and we developed in our roles it was really satisfying to see what we were able to produce as a team rather than just working as individuals.”
The importance of collaboration really shines through here as working together has allowed the students to engage with the business process, which has resulted in two of the older students being offered work experience with Barclaycard and YouView.
Real world experience
Using a real-world issue is an effective way of making sure students understand the purpose of a task as well as preparing them for life after education.
As part of the course, students have the opportunity to work with industry experts or business professionals, who will provide them with insight into the real world. As part of this, they receive valuable feedback on the feasibility of their product, or how it could actually work in the hands of users.
Having access to professionals will motivate students, opening their eyes to opportunities that lie ahead.
Three students from Dr Challoner’s Grammar School, Buckinghamshire, produced an app called BOOKd, which helps teens discover and share new books by creating book clubs with friends.
Talking about the experience, they said: “It’s been really cool seeing the process that developers go through. It felt like we were a part of the development team, so it’s provided some great insight. The highlight of the whole course was talking to real tech figures about our ideas at June’s awards ceremony.
“Having a common goal to work towards in a small group was challenging, but reflected the work environment that we will experience in adulthood - it was great to have a taste of the real world.”
The ability to communicate and present coherently is one of the most important skills that should be encouraged amongst students. Practicing public speaking within the classroom is a daunting prospect for many students, but working on this will build their confidence and help them stand out amongst the crowd, whether that’s for a school play, event or even for future job interviews.
Acquiring these skills will put students ahead of the competition, and this is an important lesson to learn; they may come up with a great idea, but unless they’re able to market it effectively, they may not succeed. They need to be able to demonstrate confidence in their own idea in order to get support from others.
One app that stood out in this way was, ‘My World of Atoms’, an adventure game to help students master the periodic table created by Rebecca and Ben from the Boswells School in Essex.
Speaking about the team’s Apps for Good experience, Penny Carter, head of ICT and business at the school, said: “It’s incredible really, moving from concept to product. The networking I think was particularly valuable, as they’ve made so many contacts and dealt with adult conversations. Their confidence has grown immensely.”
Rebecca said: “Winning the awards was amazing as we weren’t expecting it. Pitching was scary but it went really well!”
Being able to communicate with people and present their ideas are extremely valuable skills that will benefit students enormously in the years to come no matter what career path they choose.
Confidence and ownership
Creating an app from scratch gives the students the opportunity to be creative and the freedom to come up with something by themselves. This ownership maintains their engagement, meaning they’re more likely to persist when faced with challenges.
They’re not just following a list of instructions on a screen, or completing a task with only one correct answer. Instead they are creating an idea, and finding a solution themselves. The whole process from start to finish is developed from their own efforts and talents and this is a real motivator for students.
‘One Click Politics’ is an app recently launch on the Google Play store by two students, John and Konrad from Wick High School, Scotland. For the boys, being able to work alongside professionals helped boost their confidence.
Their teacher, Chris Aitken said: “They were in charge of the content and they’ve really gained confidence in themselves, knowing that they have a really good idea, and that confidence exudes from them. They know what they’re doing is current and relevant. John told me that the course has changed his career plans and that he’d really like to go into marketing and it's reinforced Konrad’s desire to get into politics.”
Technology is constantly evolving and therefore, it’s important to engage students in projects involving app creation to ensure this talent base exists in the future.
The wider skills that are also learned throughout the process are something a traditional ICT course would never have been able to provide. These skills are transferable across various subjects and will really inspire students and provide them the ability to collaborate, present to an audience and solve real problems; all of which will help prepare them for future careers.
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