Saturday, June 21, 2014

App Smashing In The Elementary Classroom

This post first appeared on Edudemic in February 2014


If you are a teacher that uses an iPad, chances are that you are familiar with the following scenario.  You found this amazing app that can really help your struggling students. The potential of this app is great, as it appears that this particular app can tap your students’ creativity and allow them to thrive in ways that were unthinkable until now.  The problem is that this app can only accomplish a small number of things, which prevents the students from completing a multidimensional project.  So what do you do now?

Due to the unfortunate fact that there isn’t a “silver bullet app” yet- an app that can accomplish many, very different tasks- we have to rely on teachers’ and students’ creativity in order to accomplish multi-step tasks using the iPad.  Thankfully, app smashing, - the process of using many different apps in conjunction with one another to accomplish a task- as Greg Kulowiec of EdTechTeacher defines it, comes to fill the void and opens the door for endless opportunities for teachers and students to unleash their creativity and use the power of the iPad to create some extraordinary products.

How does it work?
The basic premise behind app smashing, sometimes referred to as “app synergy”, is to find a number of key apps that “play well” with other apps and can communicate information across platforms.  Some of the native iPad apps have this capacity.  Also, Explain Everything, arguably one the most comprehensive, Swiss-Army type apps ever created, is ideal for such tasks.  However, the app that is the most powerful and is used in almost every app smashing activity is Apple’s Camera App.  It allows the user to store pictures, video, and sound files, which can be accessed later by other apps, which is what makes app smashing possible. 

In a typical app smashing activity a student can use an app to create a product such as a word cloud, a picture collage, a map, or a slide show presentation.  Then the student can save his/her creation on the Camera App, even if the product in this stage is not a picture (just click the Home and the Sleep/Wake buttons simultaneously and your idevice will take a screen shot).  From there, the student can choose to open those pictures in other apps that build additional layers of creativity.  For instance apps such as Explain Everything, ThingLink, 30Hands, Haiku Deck, or Book Creator, can be used in that stage of the project for further annotation, feedback, analysis, or evaluation.  Finally, the student might choose to import one, or multiple projects, in iMovie and create a final product that truly redefines his/her learning experience.  The last step should also include publishing the final product in appropriate and accessible ways.

Here is an example of two app smashing activities.


Here is a list of app smashing activities you can use to get started



What is the target audience of app smashing?
Although my personal work has been directed towards the elementary school audience – for those with limited iPad experience in the classroom, as well as for those who are proficient users of the iPad – I found that students and teachers of all grade levels find the concept of app smashing exhilarating.  Our middle school students for instance, have used app smashing to create social studies reports, and some of our fifth graders have used app smashing to illustrate their high order thinking in multifaceted ways.  My fourth grade students have used app smashing to create augmented reality projects as well as their own science iBooks.  They loved every second of the process and were very proud of the, admittedly, high quality products.


Some Final Thoughts

App smashing projects have the ability to enable student collaboration to produce creative and innovative answers to problems.  In addition, due to the fact that app smashing encourages creativity and innovation, it appears that every app smashing activity is aligned to several Language Arts and Math Common Core Standards across grade levels.  It is truly amazing to watch students unleash their innate creativity by building extraordinary technology projects using the iPad.  Undoubtedly, app smashing creates unique opportunities for teachers and students to explore and discover the true power of the iPad.

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