Smashing apps

Portrait photo of Laura Chaffey
Laura Chaffey is a Stage 3 teacher at The Junction Public School, in Newcastle, NSW

App smashing our way to multimodal texts

At The Junction Public School, our students love to use iPads as a tool to support their learning. When the first iPads were purchased and introduced 18 months ago, it was a learning experience for both staff and students on how they could be seamlessly integrated into our teaching and learning programs. However, we soon found that the students were already familiar with the technology and intuitively explored apps without needing to be given direct step-by-step instructions. In a short period of time, our students realised that one app usually did not allow them to produce a product with all the features they desired and they began experimenting with a variety of apps to create their final product. This process has been coined App smashing by Greg Kulowiec. He defines app smashing as:

… the process of using multiple apps in conjunction with one another to complete a final task or project.

Kulowiec, G. 2013

Why smash apps?

App smashing allows students to engage in more complex cognitive structures as they seek to analyse and evaluate apps and their ability to assist them in creating a product that satisfies the task criteria. As students become familiar with a wider variety of apps, they will draw on their knowledge of previous projects to determine if a particular app will satisfy their needs for each new project. When asked about the benefits of using mobile technologies in the classroom, Violet from 5/6C responded:

The apps on iPads are awesome, and it is incredible for mankind to think of something as interactive as this. Using iPads bring[s] me closer to modern technology. I love how we can use them to do class work, because we can experience different types of learning.

Links to curriculum

The English K-10 syllabus the Australian Curriculum recognises the importance of exposing our students to a wide variety of digital and multimodal texts, and allowing them to create their own digital and multimodal texts. The table below illustrates where these opportunities exist within the new curriculum.

Table 1 Highlighted English K-10 syllabus outcomes provide opportunities for using digital and multimodal texts.
Table 1 Highlighted English K-10 syllabus outcomes provide opportunities for using digital and multimodal texts.

Not surprisingly, Objective A, communicate through speaking, listening, reading, writing,viewing and representing, provides many valuable opportunities for teachers to expose their students to digital and multimodal texts. However, Objectives C and D provide students with limitless opportunities to express themselves creatively, imaginatively, interpretively and critically while communicating via different modes.

Technology, in the form of iPads, is one avenue that allows our school to provide students with engaging, creative multimodal projects. These challenge them to carefully consider their audience and purpose when creating a product and integrating a variety of skills while carrying out the task.

App smashing projects

Project 1: Comic strip

Task: Text innovation - Create a four panel narrative comic strip based around the Superfinger superhero character from The 13-storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths. The four panels must demonstrate a distinct introduction, problem, solution and resolution.

Apps smashed: Camera, Safari, Hello Oil Painter, Superimpose, Strip Designer.

Outcomes:

  • EN2-2A plans, composes and reviews a range of texts that are more demanding in terms of topic, audience and language
  • EN2-10C thinks imaginatively, creatively and interpretively about information, ideas and texts when responding to and composing texts.
  • EN2-11D responds to and composes a range of texts that express viewpoints of the world similar to and different from their own.

Project overview

This was one of our first major app smashing projects. The task was introduced to students and, as a class, we brainstormed how we might create our Superfinger comics. Initial suggestions included drawing our superhero and then photographing it, or drawing it in a drawing app and saving it to the photo roll. As students had previously used the app Superimpose to create hybrid animals, they were familiar with overlaying their drawing onto a background and removing unnecessary sections, so there was only a brief discussion on this part.

In pairs, the students begin their comics. While observing their creations, I noticed one group had taken a photo of their finger and imported it into the drawing app. I immediately had them use AirPlay to share their superhero character with the class, via our TV. The rest of the class thought it was very creative and, as a result, they all made their characters using this method. The final comics were fantastic and the students were especially thrilled to see Andy Griffiths’ and Terry Denton’s comments on our class blog.

Steps:

  1. Students took a photo of their finger using the camera on the iPad.
  2. Students opened the Hello Oil Painter app and imported their finger image. Using the drawing tools, the students add capes, faces, undies and anything else a superhero might need. Some students also chose to create a villain to use in their comic strip. Completed superhero drawings were then saved to the photo roll.
  3. Students brainstormed and storyboarded their comic strip, carefully considering the setting and plot.
  4. Students located appropriate background images to provide a setting for their comic strip. Some chose to use Safari to search for images, while others took photos of the school environment to use. All images were once again saved to the photo roll of the iPad.
  5. Students opened the Superimpose app and selected their setting image as the background. Then, they imported their superhero as the foreground image. Using the mask and transform menus they removed any unwanted parts of the foreground image and positioned and resized their superhero appropriately. Once completed, the final image was once again saved to the photo roll.
  6. Finally, students opened the Strip Designer app and imported their images into a four or five panel comic strip layout. They added narration, speech bubbles and stickers to tell their story. The final comic strips were exported as a jpg to the photo roll and then emailed to the teacher for sharing on the class blog.
Stage 2 student work samplesStage 2 student work samples

Project 2: Persuasive speech using Tellagami

Task: Ever wanted to go to Mars? Well now you can! The Mars One program is looking for the best candidates for the first human mission to Mars in 2023. Create a one minute oral presentation to convince recruiters that you are the best person for the program.

Apps smashed: Safari,Google Earth,Tellagami,iMovie.

Outcomes:

  • EN3-1A communicates effectively for a variety of audiences and purposes using increasingly challenging topics, ideas, issues and language forms and features
  • EN3-7C thinks imaginatively, creatively, interpretively and critically about information and ideas and identifies connections between texts when responding to and composing texts.

Project overview

Tellagami is an app that enables students to create an avatar and record their own voice to accompany it. This app is great for students to create their own news broadcast, weather reports, information reports, or book reviews or summaries, as it allows students to customise the background to suit their topic. The following project was completed by one group during literacy rotation time. They were targeted as needing more practice elaborating arguments.

Steps:

  1. Students read an article about the Mars One program and then wrote a list of pros and cons about being a recruit and living on Mars for the rest of their life.
  2. In pairs, students discussed and made a list of the interpersonal and intrapersonal skills that would be necessary to live on Mars for the rest of their life.
  3. Students independently selected between three and five of the skills or personal attributes on their list and then provided evidence on how they could personally demonstrate each of the skills and/or personal attributes. They used a fishbone diagram to organise their information.
  4. Students then located an image to use a background to their presentation. Some chose to use Safariand Googleimages, while others took a photo of an area of the school and some students also experimented with screen capturing an image from Google Earth and saving it to the photo roll.
  5. Once a background image had Tellagamiapp and created their avatar and imported their background. They then recorded their presentation using the voice recorder in the app. The maximum time allowed is thirty seconds, so students had to create two separate videos in Tellagami.
  6. To complete the product students used iMovie to join their two clips together. The final video was exported to the camera roll and then uploaded to YouTube for sharing on the class blog.

NOTE: Viewing of student projects in the classroom, is initially achieved using AirServer /, a program which, when installed on your PC, allows you to airplay your iPad screen to the computer for displaying on the SMART Board. Student and teacher feedback is given using this mode of sharing. Completed projects are uploaded onto YouTube to allow students to share their creations with their friends and family at home via our class blog.

Student work samples


Project 3: News broadcast (The ultimate app smashing project)

Task: Create a weekly news broadcast to highlight important upcoming events and celebrate the successes of The Junction Public School. The news broadcast will be shown each week at the Primary assembly and uploaded onto the school website.

Apps smashed: Intro designer for iMovie, iMovie, Green screen movie FX studio, Video in video, iMotion HD.

Outcomes:

  • EN3-1A communicates effectively for a variety of audiences and purposes using increasingly challenging topics, ideas, issues and language forms and features.
  • EN3-2A composes, edits and presents well-structured and coherent texts
  • EN3-5B discusses how language is used to achieve a widening range of purposes for a widening range of audiences and contexts
  • EN3-7C thinks imaginatively, creatively, interpretively and critically about information and ideas and identifies connections between texts when responding to and composing texts.
  • EN3-8D identifies and considers how different viewpoints of their world, including aspects of culture, are represented in texts
  • EN3-9E recognises, reflects on and assesses their strengths as a learner.

Project overview

5/6C students thoroughly enjoyed learning how to create a weekly news broadcast after initially being inspired by the efforts of S2/3M students at Cardiff North Public School The airing of the broadcast at assembly each week is always met by cheers and thunderous applause. Students in other classes have also expressed interest in filming segments and the project continues to grow. When asked about how she feels about being involved in our news broadcast each week, Hannah replied:

Creating The Junction News is an amazingly fun activity to do. I enjoy collaborating with my classmates to put together the news every week. It’s a fun way to express what we do in our school. Together, we learn how to write good scripts, use iMovie and most importantly how to cooperate and listen to each other’s ideas.

Steps:

  1. Students read the weekly newsletter and, as a group, list the events that need to be reported on as well as any additional personal interest stories they may wish to run. These are recorded onto the SMART Board by the designated news director.
  2. Once brainstorming is complete, the group assist the news director in storyboarding the news broadcast on the SMART Board. The news director then assigns roles to other members including writers, reporters and editors.
  3. The writers then begin writing their individual pieces, while the reporters visit other classes around the school to conduct interviews.
  4. Once all news pieces have been submitted, the news producer puts them altogether into a script ready for the anchors to read.
  5. Each of the anchors (News, Sport and Technology) record their reports. Sometimes, these are read in front of a green screen so that a video or image can be played behind the reporters using the Green screen movie FX studio app.
  6. Intros and outros are also created by the technical team using Intro designer for iMovie or iMovie. Students have also used the stop motion app iMotion HD to create intros to segments.
  7. Once all filming is complete, the editors take all of the footage and put it together in iMovie. If a small overlay video is to be used for a segment, they use the Video in video app. During this process clips are cropped, sounds are added, voice levels increased and transitions added between segments.
  8. The final step involves exporting the app to the camera roll and then uploading it to YouTubeso it can be embedded into the school’s webpage.

See the student Weather reports for the final products.

Conclusion

The process of app smashingis now fairly commonplace in our classroom. As students set out to create a comic, puppet play, movie or artwork, they plan how they will go about it and brainstorm apps that will help them achieve their final product. The focus has moved away from me, as the teacher instructing them on what apps to use, to them making the decisions themselves after considering the pros and cons of what each app has to offer. I am always excited to see what they will come up with next! To keep up to date with our latest app smashingproject, be sure to drop by our class blog, 5/6C @ The Junction.

Visit Laura’s ICT with Miss Cwebsite for more ideas on integrating technology in the classroom.

Keywords: primary; multimodal texts; collaboration

How to cite this article: Chaffey, L. 2013, ‘Smashing apps’, Scan 32(4)

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