Engendering creativity through app development

Torsten Stauch

Torsten is the CEO of AppShed. AppShed is the most versatile free tool available for students to create mobile apps. Students can easily create a wide range of apps and deploy them as web-apps in a matter of minutes. AppShed is used by thousands of students, teachers as well as hundreds of schools and colleges both in the UK and internationally. Torsten built his first computer game at age 12 and has gone on to start 3 companies and build a large variety of software products. He is a popular speaker in the Edtech sector with a strong focus on creativity and entrepreneurship.

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As the Government abandons its plans to replace GCSE’s with English Baccalaureate Certificates, it has unveiled proposals to strengthen the national curriculum in England. The consultation exercise includes plans for a new computing curriculum designed to equip students with the basic skills and drive higher expectations and standards. Under the new approach, schools will be encouraged to shape the curriculum to meet the aspirations and priorities of pupils. But it overlooks one thing: how do you cater for and engender creativity and flair?

Imagination is more important than knowledge

It was Albert Einstein who famously said that “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” For many students, seeing the germ of an idea flourish and grow empowers them with a renewed confidence and teaches them so much more about themselves. As such, it is incumbent upon teachers to try and develop lesson plans that capture the passion and drive that resides in everyone and help draw it out. Nowhere is this more apparent than in app development work. There is something unique about app development that sparks the imagination and fires a student’s creativity and ingenuity. For teachers and education professionals alike, tailored lessons based on app development may provide the seed that engenders a spirit of discovery and engagement that ultimately can be built upon across the entire computing curriculum.

App development - engendering creativity and flair

The consultation paper recognises the need for students to design and write programs, so app development is a natural candidate to meet this requirement. Apps are commonplace amongst the Smartphone and iPad generation. It therefore makes sense to tap into this common interest and use it to engage and encourage students. For tech-savvy students, app creation compels them to be creative, if only to stand out amongst their peers. The case for app development classes within the computing curriculum is a strong one, because not only does it feed the imagination and aspiration of students, it delivers practical skills and knowledge.

App development technology has come a long way to the point where anyone can create an app with ease. However, students still need to have a basic understanding of coding. The challenge is how to make what is a technical task something that doesn’t deter students or dampen their enthusiasm. A key consideration and benchmark must be that the technicality of coding should not interfere with the task of building an app and critically, students should be free to work at a pace dictated solely by their imagination, creativity and enthusiasm.

How do you engender creativity and flair? Well, a lot depends on how one defines creativity. I find Mary Lou Cook’s (an American author) definition the most apt: "Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” App development embraces all of these elements and by its very nature draws out the disinterested, the curious, the adventurous and the visionary. It provides a building block that teachers can use to expand a student’s interest in the wider computing curriculum.

Conclusion

You can’t legislate for creativity and ingenuity but you can create the conditions in which it thrives. App development plays to the strengths and interests of today’s younger generation and future generations to come by tapping into something they regard as an integral aspect of their lifestyle. Critically, app development classes have the potential to engage, to challenge, and to build confidence and self-reliance in a way that few other technology subjects can. The ability to think without limits; to conceptualise without constraints must be the cornerstone of any modern education system. It is this that warrants app development’s place in the new computing curriculum.

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