Mobile App class at DV promotes innovation - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Community Focus

Mobile App class at DV promotes innovation

Students learn in critical-thinking atmosphere

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Posted: Saturday, August 31, 2013 7:45 am

“Innovation.” That’s one word that can best describe what the Mobile Applications class is intuitively giving students at Desert Vista High School.

The class, which has been part of DV’s academic curriculum for the better part of three years, is designed to assist students on thinking outside the box when it comes to learning new skills.

There are three Mobile Application classes offered at DV, one being an advanced course and the other two being beginner courses where students blueprint their ideas to create the mobile app they want.

The class, which is referred to as iTech Island, is the only one in the district offering a 21st century ambience of critical thinking skills students perform during class, said teacher Ron Kennedy.

Most of the research Kennedy did during the classes creation was gathered from the University of Minnesota, with the idea of painting the classroom completely powder blue, being the best color for high school students while performing critical thinking skills.

Kennedy, a 38-year retired software engineer, was approached three years ago to design the class curriculum with the help of five students.

Throughout the three years of the class becoming part of the DV curriculum, the five students Kennedy started teaching has multiplied. He now teaches 60 students and three classes.

With the students intuitively blue printing their different mobile application ideas, each student is given a choice between different Apple laptop and tablet products, which the school funds.

“We teach them how to design the apps,” Kennedy said. “They can be as creative as they want, as long as it is morally and ethically OK.”

Kennedy said in the class he tries to get the students involved with project- and group-based activities by allowing the students to break into groups and work on their ideas.

Students seem keen on the notion of being allowed to work with their fellow classmates in groups and not having to listen to their instructor lecture throughout the class.

This way students are given the chance to learn firsthand on how to code, design applications and use critical thinking skills, while Kennedy gives them assistance along the way.

“They love the fact that they’re responsible for learning,” Kennedy said.

iTech Island

Instead of the normal grunt work such as listening to a lecture, taking multiple exams, and stressing over finals, this class gives students the chance to build an idea from the ground up, holding them responsible for the work they chose to do.

During one afternoon class, Kennedy gave an in-class assignment to his students consisting of them breaking off into groups where they discussed what types of mobile applications would be best to create.

The student’s role played as designers and clients, where the clients explained what they wanted out of their mobile app and the designers showed how they will meet their needs.

Chattered filled the classroom, as students wrote on white boards trying to brainstorm different ideas of what they wanted to create as a mobile app.

“There’s more stuff that we are learning, but this is kind of the introductory,” Kennedy said. “Every one of the students have actually thought up an app and an idea, presented it to the class and they’ve expanded on it. These exercises may or may not become real application; it’s just an exercise to expand their horizon.”

Niklaas Singh, a junior at DV, said he and his fellow classmates are currently working on a chemistry application, but seemed to not want to go into further detail on what it exactly consists of.

“We’ve been learning how to code and use third-party software. It’s been really interesting getting to learn how to code and such, rather than always wanting to know how to make it,” Singh said.

Being secretive about the projects students are working on isn’t a surprise to Kennedy, who says that many of the projects his students are working on can potentially be extremely lucrative when completed.

Singh’s classmate and friend, Austin McAvoy, shared the same sentiments about the class enjoying the fact they’re allowed to hit the floor running with any idea they might want to pursue.

They both have been working on their mobile app for about a year now.

“I like the fact that if I have an idea I can just not sit there and find someone to tell it to, I can actually go out there and do it myself,” McAvoy said. “It’s one of the best things about the class.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or dochoa@ahwatukee.com.

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