App Development FREE RESOURCE for educators

Student-centred + PBL + Tinkering

I am passionate about promoting the combined use of a student-centred, project-based learning (PBL) and tinkering approach to education. These are not specific to any subject or content; I have used these approaches while teaching Secondary students in Digital Technologies, Business, and History/Geography subjects (out-of-field teaching).

Creating an app is not just for a Digital Technologies subject. Apps can be created in any subject for an engaging way to teach digital skills and to allow students to creatively express their subject learning through app development. TIME is the issue (I know!). The best/easiest way to start integrating app development in your classroom is to give students an app that they can modify to suit their own purpose. The app you will use today, co-created by myself & my daughter (11), is an example of an app that your students could use as a ‘skeleton’ app where, with a bit of tinkering, they could change the content to suit their own needs.

What you need

  1. You MUST have GMAIL (Google account) – this is simply so you can login to the development website and also login to the Thunkable app on your device to test your app projects
  2. Develop your app project here: https://x.thunkable.com/login 
  3. Download the Thunkable app on your smartphone device (iPhone, iPad, Android phones, etc.)

Resources – for everyone! If you find these helpful, please let me know & pay it forward

HOW-TO DOCUMENT v2 (updated) includes an introduction on the benefits of PBL and tinkering, Thunkable basics, and creating a re-usable Quiz screen using a database table (Part A: Design & Part B: Programming).

How-To document NOTES:

  • the How-To document (link above) was designed so that anyone can work through this program development on their own. If you cannot complete this during the iEducate workshop, then you should be able to finish the development at home. Need help? Leave me a message below or email me or ask your Digital Tech teacher.
  • PART A (pages 5-7) are super helpful for basic screen design techniques, I highly recommend you take the time to learn the basics and/or get your students to do this first; from my experience, it is time-consuming to fix design issues so it’s best to learn these basics (rows/columns) right from the start.
  • PART A and B can be completed independent from each other and include the use of the following ‘skeleton’ app projects (links are also embedded in the How-To document)

PART A skeleton project app link

PART B skeleton project app link

FINAL SplendidSnakes app link

SplendidSnakes walk-through – an explanation of the app, variables, etc.

Student App Creation – Thunkable

APP CREATION: Thunkable is exciting and creative

  • Thunkable is cross-platform and allows easy & quick live-testing on phones & iPads
  • Students create their apps using drag-drop programming on the Thunkable website (can be done on iPad but not efficient)
  • Students test their apps using the Thunkable app downloaded on their phones or iPads
  • A Google (gmail) account is required to log-in to the Thunkable website and start creating apps – it is important to understand that this is what allows the Thunkable app on your phone to effortlessly receive & run the app you created on the website. The Google account is simply for accessing your Thunkable created apps on both the computer and your phone.
  • Students create their own apps from scratch or they can remix already existing apps. This is a powerful ability! You can find a public Thunkable app created by someone else and remix it with your own information and images; therefore, it is possible to create your own app without having to code at all.
  • It is easy for students to share their Thunkable app projects to their friends and you. Once you have a copy of the project, you simply click on “Live Test” and then open the Thunkable app on your phone to view your students app.
  • There are 7 tutorials, complete with video demonstrations, embedded in the Thunkable development environment (left-side of screen below)


Student website creation using Edublogs/WordPress

We can likely agree that many of our students enjoy social media, watching Youtube videos, using smartphones and ‘surfing’ the Internet. Why not leverage their interest in digital media to enhance their authentic learning experience within your subject?  Students can make their own websites and apps for school; it’s fun, free and easier than ever to accomplish.  You don’t need to be an expert computer programmer to create websites and apps!

pokemon-pokemon-go-phone-game-159395.jpeg

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The best way to get this started in your own classroom? 

Simply add website or app creation as an alternative option to traditional Word or PowerPoint assessment tasks. You may be surprised by the students that might want to try these options.  It is also interesting to see which students may resist this option; the top 2 reasons I have encountered are:

  1. they don’t like taking risks (some high performing students may resist a new option if they can’t see easy guaranteed success)
  2. teenage girls are commonly socialised to assume that ‘tech is for boys’ – this is changing slowly!

WEBSITE CREATION: Using Edublogs (or WordPress) requires no programming skills

  • This website is an example of a WordPress blog website – I blog occasionally and create sub-pages of presentations when I want to reflect on my teaching experiences, document examples of my work and to share my resources. I have been using this website for 7 years.
  • My old teaching website is an example of an Edublogs website used as a teaching tool with an underlying social connectedness teaching strategy
  • Check out this page for resources, research and student website examples based on this strategy: https://elketeaches.wordpress.com/qsite/

Math story using Scratch – Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Histories & Cultures

A Math unit focusing on addition and subtraction students would traditionally draw on paper math representations (stars, circles, etc.) or use physical items (Lego, coins, etc.) to practice number addition problems. These hands-on activities are still very relevant in young childrens’ learning.

The integration of the Digital Technologies curriculum allows us to also represent number learning through an authentic digitally pleasing way. Using Scratch in the early Primary years gives young children an introduction to becoming Makers and not just simple Users/Consumers of digital technologies. Scratch also gives students an introduction to computational thinking skills and an understanding of the creative skills that relate to digital creation.

In this Scratch activity the students will demonstrate their Math skill learning through a digital animated presentation. Additionally, this activity could include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures through the use of the Maths as storytelling (MAST) approach (Matthews, Cooper & Baturo, 2007).  Teachers first get students to create their own story drawings that include students’ creating their own symbols based on how symbols are used in Indigenous situations. The symbols that students create can be photographed and imported into Scratch.

(Matthews, Cooper & Baturo, 2007, p.3)

Note: This may work especially well with the guidance of a local Indigenous contact that can help build on the cultural understanding related to storytelling and Indigenous symbols. Also a good starting point for teachers to make local connections is through their city council representatives and related websites.

https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/238263764/

Design & Technologies + Digital Technologies (Years 7-10) Curriculum

If you’ve been following my blog or other social media via @elketeaches, you likely know that I am a Digital Technologies and Business Teacher. I have worked previously as an IT Analyst and also as a tertiary Instructor teaching IT, eCommerce, Systems Analysis & Design, Business Management, and Economics. However, I started at a new school in the public Education Queensland system in March this year and I taught my first Year 10 Design class and Year 7/8 Design & Digital class.  To be honest, I have found the Design and Technologies (Years 7-10) Curriculum to be relatively easy to move into since a lot of what I have been teaching for years includes many design elements.

DESIGN & TECH (YEAR 10) SOLAR UNIT

I designed and successfully taught a new Year 10 Solar unit using the new Design and Technologies Year 9-10 Australian Curriculum. I developed a Design & Tech solar unit that required students to learn about how we use solar power and I focused on design topics such as sustainability and user-centred design principles. I hooked students by showing them videos/images on tiny off-the-grid homes, floating solar farms and solar-powered agricultureI taught them basic circuitry by making LED & conductive tape greeting cards; we first used 3V coin cell batteries inside and then we hooked them up to 2 x 1.5V solar panels in the sun. The unit assessment required that students use an iterative design approach to research, plan, design, and evaluate their own solar-powered product. Students also developed prototypes using a rapid prototyping technique with minimal resources (paper, glue, cardboard, LEDs, mini motors, 3V solar panels, conductive tape, etc.).

Design & Tech (Year 10) Solar unit – paper circuit cards, 2×1.5V solar panels, and student rapid prototypes (solar caravan & floating solar farms)

DESIGN & TECH + DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES (YEAR 7/8) – GAME CONTROLLER DESIGN & GAME DEVELOPMENT

This unit was designed to combine both Design and Digital curriculum in only 1 term. This unit has been changed dramatically since I have started at this school because the original plan was simply too big for only a 1 term introduction to Design and Digital Technologies. The unit is based on project based design principles where students work in teams of 4 to develop a game and a controller. The game is developed in RPG Maker and students use their prior-knowledge of gaming, plus research, to develop a game storyboard based on game design elements. I would argue that the RPG Maker software is not a great tool to teach programming fundamentals however, it is relatively easy for students to learn to use and develop a satisfactory game. The team also researches and designs for game controllers focusing on making decisions between unique designs and the ergonomic needs of the gamer. Students have the option of using a VR to design their game controller but the ‘hype’ and excitement of using the VR is quickly surpassed by the far superior results of designing a controller using Tinkercad. Students then 3D print their controllers and they may need to chisel-out 3D printed supports and/or drill button holes bigger to fit the controller buttons. Many teams often re-design their controllers after their first 3D print when they realise that their designs lack enough room for buttons or their cut-out designs do not have pleasing results. I then teach teams individually about circuits, how to strip wire, connect wire to buttons and then test their controllers using a MakeyMakey. Last term I had one advanced team that also spent a couple of lessons in the last week of term using an iterative design approach to find the best dimensions/shape for a paper parachute for 3D printed ducks.

 

INVITING DR. GARY STAGER TO MY SCHOOL – THE INVENT TO LEARN MASTERCLASS

An absolute highlight of my teaching career last term was when Dr Gary Stager visited our school and ran a full-day Invent to Learn Masterclass. It was exciting to pick up Gary from his hotel in the morning and ask him questions about his opinion on Education today. It was lovely and very inspiring to meet many other teachers from our local area, as well as a couple of teachers from NSW and the NT. It was a fun day of learning, collaborating and making. As I experienced this day of fun, I realised how important it is to engage students in their learning. I love teaching and I believe I particularly enjoy teaching Digital Tech and Design because they are both naturally very hands-on types of subjects. I highly recommend attending a Gary Stager event; he’s inspiring and you will learn exciting ways to integrate Design & Tech and Digital Tech curriculum into your own teaching practice.

 

 

Data + Makey Makey + Scratch

The Australian Digital Technologies curriculum includes content descriptions that relate to learning about data, and collecting, manipulating, analysing and representing data.  Data is an important element within digital technologies.

I often ask students (and adults!) whether they had used or were linked to a database on any given day. Overwhelmingly many people have no idea and yet we use or are linked to a database almost everyday. Our students are marked as present/absent on a school database, a shop’s inventory database is updated when we purchase something, we use databases when we search the Internet and use apps, etc.

I have in the past mentored some teachers (junior & secondary) on ways to implement the DATA content of the digital technologies curriculum authentically in their classrooms.  The key to effective teacher mentoring is to FIRST find out the teacher’s prior tech knowledge and what units of work they are about to start in class. Then I make suggestions on how to integrate digital tech in a fun and engaging way but also making sure it is a realistic integration.  It is IMPORTANT that teachers don’t just “add on” digital technologies, like a quick tick on a checklist.  The content and skills within the unit need to be priority and the digital technology enhances the learning potential.

Favourite Food Data Logger – using Scratch & Makey Makey

This is a classroom activity that I have had Junior teachers use successfully that integrate curriculum areas of Digital Tech, Science, Math and Health & PE.

Data Logger set up with playdoh for testing. With students I would use an actual orange, apple, banana and capsicum instead of the playdoh. The student would then survey the class (and more) to collect data about people’s favourite food. The student could also make predictions about the data, analyse the data to make generalised statements about the content and people’s preferences. Students can then represent the data in different ways by drawing graphs (Math) or drawing/painting Art that reflects their findings.

A simple Data Logger made in Scratch by me: https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/232113623/

Some teachers may want to get students to develop their own version of this Data Logger, which would involve further elements of the Digital Technologies curriculum.

Very simple code for a data logger.

 

Game Development using UNITY

I started teaching game development with the Unity engine last year with Year 10 and Year 11 students.  Unity is a great tool that includes excellent resources, tutorials and informative user forums.  One of the best parts about starting out with Unity is the massive range of free asset import downloads available.

Before lessons began I developed some fundamental 3D World creation tutorials and created lesson plans that linked to online resources freely available on the Unity website.  I taught the basics of turning flat terrains into great looking 3D worlds, including water features, trees and animals.  I also taught an introduction to Object-oriented programming (OOP) with C#.

TIPS for teaching Game Dev with Unity:

  • Consider limiting students to only develop 2D or 3D.  This will help you focus your teaching energies to only one type of game development.
  • Only use one type of programming.  Unity allows you to develop games using C# or JavaScript. I would suggest that an introduction to OOP in Years 10 and 11 might be better suited to help prepare for senior ICT study.
  • Explicitly teach how to only import parts of an asset download. This will help reduce file size and game play lag.
  • If a game does not open easily due to different Unity versions, delete the Libraries folder and then open in Unity.  This will force the new version of Unity to create the Libraries folder and will likely result in no errors; however, it will take longer to open.
  • ALWAYS insist that students submit a video demo of their game play, video explanation of what/how they created their game and a compiled executable of their game.  This helps to grade their work appropriately on the occasions when you simply can’t open their projects.