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Technology in the Classroom: Using an AppSmash

Jordan Catapano

A builder uses many tools to finish his construction. A surgeon has loads of instruments to perform her surgeries. A conductor leads an orchestra of 100 musicians at once. Often when we want to create or accomplish something of value, we need to utilize a variety of tools to get the job done. We can apply this concept toward technology in the classroom with the tablet in our one-to-one classrooms. Instead of asking students to use just one technology in the classroom tool or app on their tablet, let’s encourage them to synthesize apps that work together. When students use multiple technology in the classroom apps to complete tasks and create projects, we call it an Appsmash.

“Appsmash” is the trendy term embodying the idea that apps can collide with one another to help create brilliant new products. The way an appsmash works is simple: work begins in one app, then is pushed to a second, a third, or more for further modification and enhancement.

Technology in the Classroom: Why Use An Appsmash?

Here are a few reasons why using an appsmash in your classroom could be worth it.

It challenges student creativity. Instead of relying on just one app, now students have to consider which apps they’d like to use in conjunction with one another and what features of those apps can collude to produce the most interesting results! Plus, along with the opportunity comes the fun challenge of figuring out how to synthesize features from various apps.

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It offers solutions where there were once problems. Sometimes if a certain app doesn’t have the features you want, that’s the end of the story. An appsmash challenges teachers and students to be solution seekers and ask, “How can I take what I have and enhance it even further with a different resource?”

It results in more interesting finished products. While a single app might offer some nice features, the list of features and possibilities increases exponentially the more variety of apps are used to create the product. This means that students have the chance to make something that they haven’t seen or imagined possible before.

Students can show what they know through a wider variety of methods. When we want students to demonstrate their learning, an appsmash offers a pathway for them to creatively reveal what they know. Putting together appsmashed products also helps students to demonstrate their creative thinking and their innovation in using technology for solving problems.

Best Apps To Use for an Appsmash

First, some terminology. To “Push” something means to be in one app and send the product you’re working on to a different app. To “Pull” something means to be in one app and import a product from a previously used app.

When pushing and pulling, it’s helpful to have an active list of apps that work well with one another and provide effective combinations of features between them. If you’re interested in appsmashing, here is a beginner’s list of apps you might find useful.

Camera Roll: This is your easy go-to app for video and photos.

iMovie: This app makes even your novice director create a quality film or trailer.

GarageBand: It’s amazing how neatly organized the variety of music tools in this app are. Creators can focus on one instrument and musical line, or produce complex, high-quality ensembles.

Explain Everything: This app lives up to its name by allowing users to literally explain anything with a white board/microphone recording that links seamlessly to so many other apps and tools.

Book Creator: An easy-to-use ebook creation tool that imports photos, videos, text, and more.

Green Screen: An interesting app designed for classroom use, allowing students to combine up to three image sources as a time and offering a range of importing and editing features.

Aurasma: The top augmented reality app that superimposes virtual creations onto the real world.

PuppetPals: This helps students create virtual puppet shows. Students speak and can move various characters and objects around the screen as they wish.

Remember to keep it simple for your students. Asking them to download and utilize all these apps can be intimidating and frustrating. It might be better to focus on just a few, at least at first, so they can get the idea of how to blend features from multiple apps together.

Sample Appsmashes

Now that you understand what an appsmash is and what opportunities it affords to students, let’s take a look at a few sample appsmash combinations that might be useful in your classroom.

PuppetPals + Aurasma = Create short animated videos and then use Aurasma to layer those videos into assigned images in the real world.

Pic Collage + ThingLink = Use Pic Collage to creatively combine pictures together, and then transfer your image to ThingLink to add interactive text and layers on top!

GarageBand + iMovie = Enhance films by first creating your own soundtrack in GarageBand and then importing it into iMovie!

Camera Roll + Notability = Take pictures normally, then add those pictures to your notes or modify them using Notability.

Blogger + Vimeo + SoundCloud = Once students have a Blogger account, they can download the app. Vimeo and SoundCloud can be used to create and upload images and sounds to the blog posts.

Explain Everything + Tellagami + Green Screen + iMovie = Explain Everything and Tellagami allow chrome-key backgrounds to be used for their videos. When sent to the Green Screen app, these videos can be layered on top of one another for useful and unique creations! iMovie provides even further video editing options.

The last two appsmash examples are explained in more detail by Greg Kulowiec, the teacher to whom the term “Appsmash” is originally attributed to. But one of the important aspects of appsmash is not to consider what apps you want to smash, but rather what end product you want to create. Encourage students to ask themselves, “What do I want to produce?” The apps they choose to smash will depend on their answer to that question.

Once students have completed their work, there’s one last important step: Sharing! Because pushing and pulling is so central to appsmashing, it only makes sense to push their product one step further and post their creation in a place accessible to peers, teachers, and parents. Students can post to class websites, personal blogs, Youtube or Vimeo, or even use Aurasma to activate their products. How will you encourage students to share?

If you want to learn more about appsmashing, check out the hashtag #appsmash on Twitter, where you can get a live look at how teachers are experimenting with this tech concept in their classroom

What do you think about appsmashing? Tell us what you think and add your own appsmash suggestions to our comments below!

Jordan Catapano is a high school English teacher in a Chicago suburb. In addition to being National Board Certificated and head of his school’s Instructional Development Committee, he also has worked with the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and has experience as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website www.jordancatapano.us.