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From App Smashing to Sequencing Activities Based on App Affordances

There has been considerable attention on the use app smashing to combine or “smash” content from different apps to produce a video, image production, blog-post, e-portfolio, or e-book. A key proponent of app smashing is Greg Kulowiec; for one of his presentations and a video about app-smashing. App smashing often involves creating images from the Camera Role or video to then add or edit those images or video to then share with larger audiences.

Kulowiec cites the example of using ThinkLink to add images or video clips to an image or video that provide additional information or material about that image or video. For example, using an image of one of their school’s sports team pictures, students may icons that open up to provide information about contributions of individual team members. Or, using Explain Everything to create a video, export the video to camera roll, speed up the video using TiltShift Video, use iMovie to add voice over and then publish the video on YouTube or Vimeo.

App smashing can also be used for fostering students’ multimodal responses to texts. In his book, The Definitive App Smasher's Guide, Miguel Guhlin describes using Kenneth Koch’s poem, “Rose, Where Did You Get that Red?” to have students create poems where they are posing questions to a creature, for example, asking a rabbit why do they twitch their nose. Students use Haiku Deck or Camera Roll to create images and then load these images into Explain Everything or 30Hands.

As reported by Kelly Medoza summarizing a CUE conference session on app smashing, Jon Corippo cites the example of using app smashing for portraying a book review through a talking avatar using:

            - Google Docs to create storyboard script for drafting dialogue for the avatar.

            - Tellagami to record themselves as avatars describing their review.

            - iPad Camera to take of characters or scenes in the story.

            - Doceri to import camera images to add information about the review.

            - iMovie to edit the Tellagami and Doceri files into a video and add music.

            - YouTube to export and publish the video.

For a list of apps for app smashing from K-12 Technology and examples from different disciplines, from Richard Wells, and on Padlet and Jessica Jackson Meacham's Pinterest

            Planning app-smashing activities therefore involves selecting those apps that will generate content for further modification or editing of that content to then produce a final product.


Sequencing Activities for Transfer of Learning Across Uses of Apps

A somewhat different perspective on use and sequencing of multiple apps involving sequencing activities using app affordances to fostering transfer of learning across the activities. Medoza cites the example using Graphite’s Lesson Flows that provides a template for selecting apps based on sequencing activities so that each activity prepares students for subsequent activities. This requires teachers to plan according to “first-things-first” so that what students acquires or learns from one activity transfers or scaffolds the next activity, requiring teachers creating what VanDerHeide and Newell (2013, Written Communication) define as use of “instructional chains” across activities.  

            For example, in a study of 6th grade students examining the issue of climate change, students engaged in a series of activities involving uses of different apps (Castek, Beach, & Scott, in press). They began with use of Mindmeister mapping app to visually contrast the differences between “weather” and “climate” for sharing with peers. This then led to use of Diigo annotations to collaboratively respond to an essay about analyzing carbon dioxide emissions related to climate change based on the students understanding of climate change. The students then used VoiceThread to collaboratively add annotations to images portraying the effects of emissions on people and animals to document their critique of the effects of climate change. These activities then culminated in students using Google Docs to craft, provide peer feedback, and revise letters to Obama arguing for him to oppose building the Keystone Pipeline given potential effects of increased use of oil on climate change (for a presentation on these activities). 

            As illustrate below, each of these activities involved use of an “instructional chain” that helped students not only develop content that then transferred for use in the subsequent activity, but they also involved use of the app affordance of fostering collaboration in ways that were mediated by the use of apps.


Understanding the difference between weather and climate using the mapping app enhanced students’ understanding of climate change. They used this understanding to collaboratively share their Diigo annotation responses to how scientists measure carbon dioxide emissions to determine the increase in those emissions. This led to collaboratively creating VoiceThread annotations to images portraying the effects of emissions. Students then drew on what they learned about climate change from these previous activities to formulate their arguments to Obama using Google Docs on the need to block the Keystone Pipeline.


The use of apps in this sequencing mediated collaborative understanding of their knowledge of climate change. Having shared knowledge strengthened their shared Diigo and Voicethread annotations because they could respond to and challenge each other’s ideas. And, they drew on this shared knowledge to provide each other with feedback on Google Docs leading to revisions.

            Planning a logical sequence of activities based on use of apps to support “instructional chains” involves:

-       determining a “first-things-first” sequence—what are those activities that serve as prerequisites or initial hooks that prepare students for subsequent activities.

-       selecting apps that mediate collaborative sharing of knowledge that support students co-learning across activities.

-       using apps to scaffold learning processes that then transfer across activities, for example, how use of Diigo annotations transfer to use of VoiceThread annotations.

-       culminating a sequence with use of an app that combines knowledge from previous activities to demonstrate learning from those activities.


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