Quickfire: MAET (pre) #appjam

When we poll students on technologies they would like to learn in the MAET program, iPod/Pad app development is high on the list.  If you’ve ever ventured into the world of app development you know that you need some pretty serious coding skills to get started.  I didn’t want this to thwart the students from getting excited about the potential for app development – so – I created the following quickfire!

Quickfire title: MAET (pre) #appjam
Length: approximately 1 hour

We started out by talking about the two main sides to app development – form and function.  I showed a few quick screenshots of Xcode and ran a sample project dowloaded from appsamuck.com to give everyone an idea of what an app looks like on the back end.

We then talked for a second about the importance of form, or user interface.  I of course used Flipboard as the gold standard for beautiful UI.  We dug into the backstory of Flipboard by watching this short interview with the CEO and co-founder Mike McCue:

Then, we watched a minute of a lecture from the other co-founder, Evan Doll

(Note that Evan is one of the primary lecturers on the free online class series on app development from Stanford!)

We then took a look at the jobs currently available at Flipboard.  At a quick glance, it’s easy to see that it takes a whole SWARM to develop (and maintain) an app.

With these thoughts swirling through their heads, I gave them the definition of an #appjam. Now, it was time to brainstorm.  Students were given a sheet of paper (old school tech) with the word “form” on one side and “function” on the other.  They had 5 minutes to brainstorm the following:

Think about your teaching practice (even a wicked problem you have with your practice.)
Brainstorm the form and function for an app that you could use in your class

Once they had thoughts scribbled and sketched, they had to pull up the app store on their iPod touches and search for their competition. With over 450,000 apps in the app store, do apps already exist that fit their vision? Can apps be repurposed to reach their goals/dreams?

After they had time to brainstorm, the next stage of the challenge was revealed.  They were given the following scenario:

You are given a set of classroom iPod Touches.  Give us a specific example of how you would use the set in your teaching practice.

Students had 10 minutes to dump their ideas into a google spreadsheet with the title of the app, grade level and thoughts on how they would use the app. (Results here.)  Then a few brave volunteers offered to go infront of the “hiring committee” (me) and answer questions related to their use of the app they researched and how they would answer the above scenario in an interview.

Then, we brought the conversation back to app development.  The goal here was to help the MAET students realize that the next killer app can come from a few scratches on a piece of paper and that you don’t have to go it alone to reach the goal of developing an app.  There are some amazing coders out there looking for partners – for example – here is the young man I mentioned meeting at the MACUL conference this past March – Andrew Rauh.  (You can follow him on twitter @a_j_r.  Andrew (along with his team) created Monarch Express (check it out!) Connecting to the developer community on twitter is one way to help make the app dreams sketched out in class today a reality!

Here’s the Keynote I used along with the activites

Here are a few other resources to check out to help get the ball rolling on mobile app development (thanks @hickstro for the links!)