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App design challenge comes to life

Remember the conversation starter about app design?  Well, turns out Verizon agrees that asking students to design an app is a great way for them to be creative, express themselves and utilize their STEAM skills.

I loved hearing that a group of middle school girls in California had not only won, but had used the challenge to design a functional app which would support one of the special needs students in their class.  Their app was conceived to aid a visually-impaired classmate in day-to-day classroom tasks.

Way to go girls!



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Conversation Starters: How to spark creativity in young minds

January is International Creativity Month, so that will be the focus of this month’s conversation starters.

As I mentioned, teasing answers out of students for whom self-reflection is a new skill will require patience and practice.  To begin, let’s start with something safe and a little bit silly.

“What new law should the President write?”

By shifting the responsibility to someone outside themselves, children will feel safer expressing their thoughts because, well, they aren’t doing it – the president is!

Objective: Get the student to think about what feels unjust/unfair to them or what is an area in society that should be improved.

If you are facing an army of blank stares try these:

Some helpful prompts:

  • Has anything ever happened to you or a loved one that was so awful it should be illegal?
  • When’s the last time you became really angry?  If something were different, would you have been less angry?  Could there be a law written to stop that from happening?
  • Do you wish you had easier access to things?
  • Is there something everyone should be able to get or have?
  • Think about what makes you happy?  Should it be mandatory?

For littler ones, consider changing the prompt to: “What’s a new rule we should have in our classroom?” In their micro-world the teacher may be more powerful than the president!

Tip: To keep the ideas flowing, ask students to write down their answers.  Collect them.  Hand them back later in the week and have students defend their answer by writing 3 sentences about why they picked this law.

Let me know what they come up with!




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Conversation Starters: App Design

Students today are extremely tech savvy.  Let’s leverage their skills and comfort there and, let’s face it, their authority on the matter to have them discuss their ideas for new tech.

Because this month’s focus is creativity, let’s put the students in the inventor’s chair.  The key to teaching kids about happiness is helping them identify the what and the how.  That is: What makes them happy?? How will they get it?  This is a very subtle, safe way to begin their journey.

This week ask them:

“If you could design a new app, what would it do and what would it look like?”

Objective: Get students to reflect on what they wish they had access to and to begin building problem-solving skills about how to get it.

This is a great way to leverage multiple intelligences: writers, artists, and tech-wizards.  You may be surprised on who in the group provides the best answers!  Also, incorporating drawing and drafting gives littler kids access to answering this question.

For stuck students, try these prompts:

  • Which apps do you use the most?  What is similar about them?
  • Which apps do you use that need improving?  How would you improve them?
  • What is one thing you dislike doing that you wish your phone could do for you?
  • What will be the next big social media app?

For littler ones, this can be changed to ask:

“What is a toy you would design?  What would it do and what would it look like?”

Let me know what they come up with!


– AK

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