To develop a fully working iPad app with primary students
To implement SOLE and Project Based Learning techniques with a group of mixed age and ability ranges
To develop a team of Digital Leaders in school
Taking the primary computing curriculum to the next level by building an app.
Invicta Primary School are a leading Greenwich primary school and are rated Outstanding by Ofsted. They have a strong ethos of not only developing their students, but also their teachers with cutting edge teaching and learning projects.
We were approached by Marie Corbett, headteacher at Invicta Primary School about taking their primary computing curriculum to the cutting edge. Marie’s vision was for a group of students mixed in both age and ability, to work together and develop a fully working iPad app, that once finished would be uploaded and sold in Apple’s app store. And to do this in just 4 days.
We took the challenge.
The app development project started with 20 students the school had selected to form their Digital Leader team. All year groups and forms were represented, and the group included four year olds through to nine year olds. With such a diverse range of abilities and competencies within the group, we developed the project around cutting edge educational techniques. These included challenge based learning, project based learning and self organised learning environments.
1. Challenge Based Learning
The students' goal was to create a fully working app that showcased the school for prospective families. The deadline was four days, so we designed the process to mimic that of a real world app development company. Students were loosely assigned (all students took part in all aspects) to 1 of 3 teams:
- The Design Team, whose job it was to create content for the app
- The Coding Team, whose job it was to build the app
- The User Interface (UI) Team, whose job it was to test, debug and improve the app
Each team worked in partnership with the next, and the process developed into a cycle so that the students' work was continually developed from their own evaluation and ideas. The teachers, as well as ourselves took the role of facilitator and coach in the process, supporting students in their choices rather than recommending the best route.
2. Project Based Learning
The task was completely open ended. We gave the students no further instruction on their goal other than it needed to showcase the school for prospective families. Before we jumped into the project, the students gathered together and we researched similar ‘information apps’ that they could get ideas from. Through a group discussion the students decided that the app should have 5 main components, and that each of these would be organised as a page from the main menu. Blueprints and draft designs were created on paper to begin with, and once the students arrived at a consensus we began developing the app.
3. Self Organised Learning Environment (SOLE)
The only fixed element of the project was the app development software, and the students had access to a range of technology including laptops, MacBooks, iPads, DSLr cameras, microphones, Google Chromebooks and Adobe software. As the students separated into their individual teams, it was left up to them to self organise. A production line quickly developed. As the Design Team began creating resources they passed them along to the Coding Team. The Coding Team would then build the first page of the app and then pass it onto the UI Team. The UI Team would then begin to test and debug it the page, before returning it to the beginning of the process with their recommendations. Within a few hours of starting work, the students had organised themselves into a well oiled working app development company.
One of the recommendations to come back from the UI Team, was to have the headteacher present a short video introduction on the first page of the app, so a few members from the Design Team split off and went to track Mrs Corbett down. Quickly they took on the required roles, one student playing producer, the next camera operator and the third the sound assistant. With only 5 minutes practical experience from LearnMaker Director James Hannam on how to set up an interview scene, the 3 students with an average age of 7 sat Mrs Corbett down, wrote a script for her, mic’d her up with a dedicated microphone and set the scene up so that that the lighting was correct and everything was in focus and frame. Following the third take, the student playing producer felt the script needed some annotations, so he made them, set up the camera again and got the shot he needed. What was most exciting about this example was that this student often struggled to behave or contribute in class, yet here he was correcting the school’s headteacher on camera!
Following a whirlwind 4 days with the students and staff, the app was finished and ready for a world audience. The app is in the final process of being signed off by Apple before it’s published into the App Store. The results were fantastic. The concept was proven beyond doubt that students, regardless of age or ability, could pull together, self organise and work collectively to develop a product far beyond the sum of its parts. On the 5th day the students held an assembly in front of the rest of their school, and presented to their peers what they’d disappeared to do for the past 4 days. The students presented again the following month, when the school launched the app to the public at an open evening. All parents attended the evening, as well as local press and MPs for the Greenwich area, and the project was deemed a resounding success. It will now run every term at the school, only next time the school will have 20 highly trained student Digital Leaders to call upon and support.