Creating apps in the classroom

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Computing teacher Genevieve Smith-Nunes will be hosting a seminar at Bett 2013 looking at developing apps with your students using a versatile free web resource.

What is Appshed? Apart from being a fantastic, and free, mobile app development platform, it is an amazing learning and creative tool for the classroom.

I cannot praise enough the platform nor the support that I, and many other teachers, have received from the Appshed team. Especially when I have my crazy ideas – “can I just do this…” – generally something that requires a server farm or at least four developers a month to build. I am always met with a convivial “yes, it’s possible”.

A bit of history: AppShed began back in 2008 as a business need and they soon decided to build a content management system for apps instead of building each app from scratch.

Immediately development began on a native iPhone app framework using XML files to create dynamically generated apps. From that initial framework AppShed.com was born.

At the Bett Show this year, my A level students and I will be delivering the workshop App Development 101. My students are fantastic and this will enable them to experience something impossible in the class: real-world business interaction.

The students have helped to design the workshop and will be creating a template app for the event along with the resources to go with what I like to call a #nanohack.

What is a hack? As part of their course, the students have to develop systems for a particular “client”, this enables them to enjoy the fun and excitement that goes along with creating and delivering new technology-driven experiences for others.

I define a “hack day”as “a collaborative environment where designers, developers or anyone interested get together to create something based on a theme”. The theme is there to inspire, help and guide the creatives to the ultimate goal of building something “awesome”, as my students would put it.

During the Bett workshop you will learn about the platform both from within and outside a classroom setting. This is important as some of the cool stuff, for example the Twitter widgets, can be blocked on some schools’ systems. Though, as we are not in school – cool stuff here we come.

You will be able to customise the app with your content; galleries of images, maps, locations, links to videos and so on. Upload your own content directly into your profile so that you can use them for any app that you create. Link to flickr accounts, create interactive quizzes using Google docs. The list is endless. By the end of the session you will have a fully functional app on your SmartPhone. 

I have created an app for my GCSE computing class and their parents/guardians. The app has links to the exam board, online homework using socrative.com, uploaded files and other websites that are helpful for the course. Any modification that I make to the app is then pushed out to the user next time they launch it.

At the time of writing, AppShed are in the final stages of testing its new learning/development environment. This allows the “user” much more freedom and independence from the instructor.

AppShed will soon be launching an entirely new interface. AppShed “K2” has been redesigned to make app-building even simpler for the novice user, while at the same time increasing the flexibility for advanced users. 

On AppShed, the majority of web-apps can be built and hosted for free and the majority of courses/units in the “AppShed Academy” are also free. 

We all are thrilled to have the opportunity to let others experience the excitement of using and building your own beautifully designed app in under an hour. Come and join in the fun at Bett.

  • Genevieve Smith-Nunes is a computing teacher at Sussex Downs College.

Bett Learn Live Seminar
Bett 2013 takes place at London’s ExCel from January 30 to February 2. Genevieve Smith-Nunes will be running her seminar at Bett 2013 entitled Hackshop 101: Planning and building apps using a great free resource for teacher and students from 12:15pm on Friday, February 1 in Gallery Room 6. If you have any questions ahead of the session, tweet to @pegleggen. For more on AppShed, visit http://appshed.com
 
SecEd Bett 2013 Show Guide
You can download SecEd’s free 32-page secondary-specific guide to the Bett Show 2013 in both PDF (http://bit.ly/XqAV1S) and digital (http://bit.ly/SKSIMl) format.


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