Guest Post from Simon Widdowson. Follow @Xannov
See all of Porchester’s Apps on Planet Blippit including from this year…
- British Trees – A branching tree database app to identify trees by leaf type
- Helpful Maths – A student-voice app containing student made videos to teach maths
At Porchester Junior we tried out Blippit in late 2012, and used it initially to create a new version of the school app (we had created an iOS version, and an Android version previously), but the Blippit approach had clear benefits;
- Creation – designing the app is, quite literally, child’s play. Simple Drag & Drop elements make adding pages a breeze.
- Editing – in our previous iOS / Android apps a change to one part of the app required a rebuild and (for iOS) a resubmission before those changes could go out to parents. With Blippit, we can change as frequently as we want, and those changes are instant, the moment we hit the ‘publish’ button the updated app is available for all to see.
- Ownership – the school owns the app, the school can edit the app, the school can take the app offline if needed. We are not at the mercy of any design company or app store.
- Universal appeal – Creating a single app with Blippit works on a range of mobile and tablet devices. It means with the least effort we can reach the maximum number of users.
Webpage for our new school app can be found here; School App information on School Website
Our ICT / Digital Learning coordinator has been testing Blippit to destruction, and seeing just what can be achieved with it. We’ve looked at including video (from Vimeo), audio (from AudioBoo), as well as embedding HTML5 image slideshows, and have now incorporated these aspects into our school app.
We’re also looking at how to link app to app – making a seamless transition between the two. This will be used on a large scale project with our upper school children – where we are looking at linking all of their created apps into a single ‘master app’. More on this after the Easter break…
Project One: Monarchs and their Royal Houses
One of our Upper School classes of Yr5/6 pupils are currently learning about databases in their ICT lessons, and are building a database of the Kings and Queens of Britain since 1066. Once they have completed this, if we have time, they will be asked to create their own app for the King(s) or Queen(s) they entered into the database. We will try and link them all together.
This project is now live. You can download the app to your phone/device here;
To enable this project to be completed quickly, I made a few changes to the idea of how it would work;
- I prepared several of the linking apps beforehand (the “front page”, as well as all the ‘Royal Houses” apps)
- I tried out a single Monarch app, and once I was happy with the look and feel of it, I created a 2 sided pamphlet for the children to work through with a simple guide to completing their app
- For some of the sections within their app they would be presenting the same information (the link to ‘credits’ for example), and so for this I provided them with an RTF file on the school network with the code in. They simply needed to copy and paste it into the right area of their app.
- Along with RTF of the code, I also placed all the images that would be needed in a specific folder. This meant that the pupils knew where to go to find the image for their app, and avoided the timeless void of searching the internet for an image they thought would look good!
By specifying a theme to use, the children’s apps blended seamlessly into the apps prepared beforehand, and when you use the finished app you actually do not realise that you are jumping between 52 separate apps. A useful tip for anyone wanting to create a large project with many members, all working at separate times, or in different locations.
The children worked really well on their task, and although I had a group of only 9 children working with me, they completed all 41 apps within a single morning at the school. They did feedback that the guide pamphlet was really helpful – especially the screengrabs within it. It allowed them to follow a set, logical pattern and once completed once, they got the hang of it and were soon racing through subsequent apps with ease. Several of the children commented how easy it was to complete an app as a result.
The only issues we encountered were with one child who struggled to switch between rich text and HTML view in some of the widgets when entering code, and a few times where our network timed out the connection to the Blippit server. Fortunately when this did happen, the child was able to recover most of the work they had done as it saved work automatically.
Project Two: CYO adventures
Following on from the idea of linking separate apps together, I’m working with a small group of children on the old fashioned ‘Choose your Own’ stories. Remember those books you read that had a choice at the end of each page… “you come to a fork in the road, turn to page XX if you choose the left path, or page XX if you choose the right path…”
We’re looking at children creating apps for each “page” of the story, submitting it, publishing it, and then using its unique reference code to revise their apps and link the choices you can make at the end to the next app.
- App 001 Walk along a path, choose to go left (App 002) or go right (App 003)
- App 002 Turn left and come to a bridge. Cross it (App 004) or go past it (App 005)
- App 003 Turn right and come face to face with a wolf. Run away (App 006) or stand still (App 007)
The only problem we can see is that all the ‘pages’ (the apps) would be viewable in Planet Blippit, and so we’ve made a request to be able to “hide” apps from discovery by others.
More information as we start to piece this idea together…
Oh, and as before with the Monarchs project above, I’ll prepare a piece of text to place in the footer of each app that the children can just copy and paste, and suggest the same theme is used throughout to give the impression of a single app being viewed. In addition, we’ll have a default icon image that the children will be able to load into their app too.
Here’s a test idea for how it could work. You’ll notice that the front page has the potential to act as a library for many different CYOA tales that are created.
I’ve approved each app – and in doing so that has issued each one with a URL. The end of each URL has a unique ID, and they were noted and recorded for each chapter, allowing the student to return to each app and add the ‘Click here’ link that allows the story to work.
I selected three “guinea pigs” to work on their own CYOA tales to test out this idea. One of them went on holiday, and has been off school for the past fortnight. One of them keeps forgetting his planning sheet and hasn’t finished all his chapters! But my third guinea pig has been a star, and worked really hard on his story. He’s completed his plan, and end of chapter options, created an app for each one, added a credits page and a thumbnail image that points out that each app is part of something bigger, and published them all.
After a little bit of checking, correcting wrong ID’s, and looking for grammatical errors (capital letters always look good at the start of sentences!) each app was re-published and re-approved.
The final step was to create a link from the CYOA app index page so that all could read it. Why not give it a go – use the QR code above and then read ‘The Planet of Choice’. It’s a voyage into the weird and wonderful imagination of one of our pupils!
…and a final idea.
Why keep to creating a CYOA tale with text on each app when you can imagine a different approach?
- Using an app like Hokusai for the iPad a range of sounds could be recorded and mixed together to create a realistic ambient background for each chapter. The audio itself could be placed on top of the background sound, and then the whole file uploaded to a service like AudioBoo where each ‘chapter’ could then be embedded into an app quickly and easily.
- Using iMovie on an iPad, pupils could quickly and easily record short video clips (in different locations maybe) that could be uploaded to a site like Vimeo and then embedded into an app to create a visual CYOA story.
These are just a few ways that we have been trying out Blippit within the school, and there are plans in place to ensure that it is used in the new school year to enhance work carried out across a range of subjects. We hope that sharing our experiments has been useful to others.