Arming students with digital skills

Creating apps allows students to dive head first into the world of technology and become entrepreneurial thinkers

With the majority of students owning a smartphone or tablet, it’s no surprise that they are eager to trial the latest apps and gadgets. However, this enthusiasm isn’t always reflected in computing lessons and it can often be challenging for teachers to engage students. The solution? Incorporate real world examples linking to technology. 

Creating apps allows students to dive head first into the world of technology and become entrepreneurial thinkers; they have to design a product from start to finish, which includes conducting market research, drafting business plans and pitching their ideas.

Developing core programming skills is important, but what’s even more valuable is the key soft skills that students will build. These traits are transferrable across all sectors and will provide students with valuable life-long skills for the classroom and beyond.

Business insight

As part of courses like Apps for Good, students have the opportunity to work alongside industry experts, who will give them valuable feedback on the feasibility of their product, or get them thinking about how their app could actually work in the hands of users. 

Having the opportunity to meet with business professionals motivated three students from Dr Challoner’s Grammar School in Buckinghamshire, who produced an app called BOOKd, helping teens discover and share new books by creating book clubs with friends. Talking about the experience, they said: “It’s been really cool seeing the process that developers go through. It felt like we were a part of the development team, so it’s provided some great insight. The highlight of the whole course was talking to real tech figures about our ideas at our awards ceremony in June.

“Having a common goal to work towards in a small group was challenging, but reflected the work environment that we will experience in adulthood – it was great to have a taste of the real world.”

Working together

Working within a team helps students identify strengths and assign roles to maximise talents. Naturally, there will be hiccups along the way but teamwork is something students will inevitably face as they grow older, making it an important part of the learning process.

Five students from Denbigh High School in Luton, designed and launched an app called weKonnekt on Google Play. The app connects young carers with local resources and support. The boys didn’t all know each other when they started the project so had to work hard to develop their team-work skills.

There were challenges, but when talking about what they enjoyed the most, the boys said: “Working together as a team. At first, the regular after school sessions were a demanding commitment, but as time went on and we developed in our roles it was really satisfying to see what we were able to produce as a team rather than just working as individuals.” 

Boosting confidence

Creating an app from scratch gives students the creativity and freedom to come up with something by themselves and tackle an issue that means something to them. This ownership maintains their engagement, meaning they’re more likely to persist when faced with challenges. The whole process from start to finish is developed from their own efforts and interests and this is a real motivator for students.  

‘One Click Politics’ is an app recently launched on the Google Play Store by two students, John and Konrad from Wick High School, Scotland. For the boys, having the independence to work on something they were genuinely passionate about completely boosted their confidence.  Their teacher, Chris Aitken said: “They were in charge of the content and they’ve really gained confidence in themselves, knowing that they have a really good idea. That confidence exudes from them; they know what they’re doing is current and relevant.”

The skills that are learned throughout creative computing projects are something a traditional ICT course would never have been able to provide. These skills are transferable across various subjects and will really inspire students and provide them with the ability to collaborate, present to an audience and solve real problems; all of which will help to prepare them for future careers