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Do you have keen students 'waiting' to write a killer (or at least decent) app?

Discussion in 'Computing and ICT' started by mature_maths_trainee, Mar 18, 2012.

  1. mature_maths_trainee

    mature_maths_trainee New commenter

    I know that there's not much proper programming actually taught nowadays, but there's surely got to be some small clusters of keen, young 'programmers' (of various sorts) in the UK?

    Has anyone thought to try to match up 'supply with demand' by getting (say) teachers (*from all different subjects*) to suggest ICT apps that they'd like to see implemented to help them in their work, and student programmers keen to write something that's actually useful? [And avoid having to think up decent ideas for apps themselves (which is often what skilled programmers find the hardest thing to do)].
    By writing apps (which might in some cases only be a little bit of clever pointpoint, or excel - but might extend to Java, JavaScript etc. etc. or anything else the implementer prefers) for the 'education' community itself, the student would get a considerable degree of credibility / recognition. i.e. it would look really good on their CV to say that they'd created an app that was requested by (say) a Music teacher in (say) Wigan and that after developing it, it had now been downloaded by 78 other teachers in the UK (or, in 'killer app' terms, perhaps 1500 teachers in the UK! :)) ). Or some such.
    Teachers would get to:
    i) publically express their ideas (which others might then also find to be attractive solutions to their problems)
    ii) possibly, just possibly, get it implemented.
    Obviously it'd be entirely voluntary on the part of the students - they would simply look at the teachers suggestions, and implement it if they felt like it (if it matched their project goals, or personal interests, or....).

    If the idea was successful, you could then perhaps open it up so that charitable organisations might make suggestions for apps too. Or whatever.


    Needless to say, I have several ideas for apps or bits of programming that I'd love to have to help me in my Maths teaching but which I nowhere near have the time (or in some cases immediate expertise) to write for myself. I've also searched the web pretty thoroughly and think they are unlikley to exist.
    Just one...
    As an aid to students learning their 'times tables', provide a GUI in the form of an interactive '100 square grid'. A question is given (say 5 x 7) and the student answers not by typing '35', but by pressing the number '35' on the 100 square grid. (i.e. it can only handle up to 10 x 10). The potential learning benefit of this GUI is that it provides a *spatial* association with times tables. (when represented on a 100 grid, each multiplication table obvioulsy forms a characteristic spatial pattern). I believe this could help some students learn their tables. Obviously the app would somehow need to 'output' the students answers, and then the whole class of students' answers collected together. I could specify it much more tightly if necessary, but that's an example of the type of 'ICT project proposal' I'm proposing.

    Any potential in either of these ideas? (the big one about matching 'keen young programmers' (i.e. novice open source programmers, if you like) to 'teacher / school-based requirements; or the little 'times table' app I've suggested.
    I genuinely think that some students would feel a great sense of achievment (that may well motivate them to bigger things in the future) if they were able to create (even little) apps that they saw (preferably in their own schools, obviously) that were actually *used* for 'real things' (beyond fun).

    MMT
     
  2. mature_maths_trainee

    mature_maths_trainee New commenter

    I know that there's not much proper programming actually taught nowadays, but there's surely got to be some small clusters of keen, young 'programmers' (of various sorts) in the UK?

    Has anyone thought to try to match up 'supply with demand' by getting (say) teachers (*from all different subjects*) to suggest ICT apps that they'd like to see implemented to help them in their work, and student programmers keen to write something that's actually useful? [And avoid having to think up decent ideas for apps themselves (which is often what skilled programmers find the hardest thing to do)].
    By writing apps (which might in some cases only be a little bit of clever pointpoint, or excel - but might extend to Java, JavaScript etc. etc. or anything else the implementer prefers) for the 'education' community itself, the student would get a considerable degree of credibility / recognition. i.e. it would look really good on their CV to say that they'd created an app that was requested by (say) a Music teacher in (say) Wigan and that after developing it, it had now been downloaded by 78 other teachers in the UK (or, in 'killer app' terms, perhaps 1500 teachers in the UK! :)) ). Or some such.
    Teachers would get to:
    i) publically express their ideas (which others might then also find to be attractive solutions to their problems)
    ii) possibly, just possibly, get it implemented.
    Obviously it'd be entirely voluntary on the part of the students - they would simply look at the teachers suggestions, and implement it if they felt like it (if it matched their project goals, or personal interests, or....).

    If the idea was successful, you could then perhaps open it up so that charitable organisations might make suggestions for apps too. Or whatever.


    Needless to say, I have several ideas for apps or bits of programming that I'd love to have to help me in my Maths teaching but which I nowhere near have the time (or in some cases immediate expertise) to write for myself. I've also searched the web pretty thoroughly and think they are unlikley to exist.
    Just one...
    As an aid to students learning their 'times tables', provide a GUI in the form of an interactive '100 square grid'. A question is given (say 5 x 7) and the student answers not by typing '35', but by pressing the number '35' on the 100 square grid. (i.e. it can only handle up to 10 x 10). The potential learning benefit of this GUI is that it provides a *spatial* association with times tables. (when represented on a 100 grid, each multiplication table obvioulsy forms a characteristic spatial pattern). I believe this could help some students learn their tables. Obviously the app would somehow need to 'output' the students answers, and then the whole class of students' answers collected together. I could specify it much more tightly if necessary, but that's an example of the type of 'ICT project proposal' I'm proposing.

    Any potential in either of these ideas? (the big one about matching 'keen young programmers' (i.e. novice open source programmers, if you like) to 'teacher / school-based requirements; or the little 'times table' app I've suggested.
    I genuinely think that some students would feel a great sense of achievment (that may well motivate them to bigger things in the future) if they were able to create (even little) apps that they saw (preferably in their own schools, obviously) that were actually *used* for 'real things' (beyond fun).

    MMT
     
  3. At KS5, most of the courses I've taught require that the student has a real client who can sign off their deliverables/dossier/stuff. This could be an educational end-user. However, I wouldn't insist on it - some students have an aptitude for this type of task; others will have other strengths.

    It is easy enough to prototype the GUI for the task you suggest in Scratch.

    As for motivating and mentoring students into getting involved in open source software - this sounds like a good excuse to plug two things:

     
  4. ^^^ What he said ^^^


    My Y13s have been doing exactly that, but with a multimedia Flash product (ICT rather than Computing). My Y13 Computing student next year will be doing something similar but in a coding context. At KS4 we have to hit the exam board's tasks which are almost always board set and cannot be changed. At KS3 we just don't have the time to do anything substantial.
     
  5. mature_maths_trainee

    mature_maths_trainee New commenter

    Thanks for your thoughts and for putting me straight on a few things.
    The Scratch demo you've knocked up captures the idea perfectly. I'm so out of date on programming, it would've taken me ages to have found an appropriate development platform even [last programmed with C++ and Java 1.1 in around '95/'96!].

    I still feel there's a real gap in fullfilling people's real-world app requirements, and programmers wanting to program something useful. [market economics doesn't always work!].
    Cheers,
    MMT

     
  6. How about something like this: http://www.wissp.com/maths/maths_times_table.swf
    Knocked it up in half an hour using Flash. It's great for getting kids into programming because they can get straight into graphics programming which often takes a while in other languages. I've put up some lesson resources if you want to try it yourself.
    The other good thing is you can export for iphone, android and loads of other devices.
     

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