When teaching, one of the great practical ways to inspire discussion, debate and higher order thinking skills is by categorisation/card sort exercises, ideally where a student can decide to put things in a certain order, and change their mind by moving their idea about depending on the discussion. Back in the ‘good old days’ (pre-iPad), I would spend ages making a card sort exercise – writing it out in Word, printing it, maybe laminating it (or if I was feeling lazy not bothering), cutting out all the cards and placing them in envelopes with paper clips on so they didn’t get lost. I’d then repeat this for however many sets I needed for the class. I’d feel my life force drain away in front of my eyes as I repeated this tortuous process for each of my classes, with the realisation that I still had a ton of stuff to mark and plan, but knowing that it would generate a good lesson of discussion, argument and discovery.
Thankfully for those of us in the teaching profession, the iPad and associated apps are a shot in the arm for efficiency, allowing you to continue to use the ideas from the analogue teaching days, but in a more time efficient manner for the teacher, and also in a more accessible way for the students. One of the pieces of software which is making this happen is a new app called Stick Around.
Stick Around is at it’s heart a categorisation app, but has several tricks up it’s sleeve which marry perfectly into what we would expect to see in 21st century, technology based learning. Let’s take a basic example. I managed to create a rough and ready ‘Causes of World War II’ categorisation exercise. It took me about 2 minutes to make, and would have been even faster if I used Siri. For this exercise, I didn’t want to add any right or wrong answers as I want students to be able to put in order which event they think is most important from a provided list. For me as a teacher, this is good because it has just saved me about an hour’s work. From an education point of view though, I’m not doing anything different to a normal paper card sort. This is where Stick Around nails it. To each card, or ‘sticker’ as the app calls them, I can add a variety of multimedia. I could record my voice talking, I could add a text explanation or picture to the card, I could even link in a YouTube video or related website so the students can find out more about the particular point. It’s like a card sort on steroids.
As well as keeping it open ended, like the example above, Stick Around also allows you to create exercises which have right and wrong answers in. There are a number of templates you can choose from when creating an exercise, or you can dive in with a blank template. The app will also let you import pictures as backgrounds so you can create personalised labelling activities. The app does a good job of keeping things simple when creating hotspots for right or wrong answers. Simply put the sticker, or label, where you want it to go for a right answer, then draw a shape over it to tell the app that placing a sticker on or near that area is a correct answer. If the player of the quiz gets everything correct, they get an onscreen certificate which can be exported to the camera roll to show parents.
There are few negatives to this app. Currently if you get parts of the exercise wrong, the app won’t tell you which parts you got wrong, however, the developers have said that this is going to be addressed in the next update. The only thing I would really like to see is a free Stick Around viewer, or the ability to export to HTML5. At the moment, if I was to use this with my class on a one to one basis, we would have to buy each student a copy of the app for them to view the exercises. In a one to one iPad environment, this would be an extra cost which might be more palatable to schools if students could play the puzzles and sorting exercises for free, but supply each teacher with a full copy of the app to create them. I’d say that doing this would really push the app a long way into most schools because of the open ended nature from an education point of view, and the ease of use from a teaching efficiency point of view.
On a more technical level, the app developers, Morris Cooke, have also added the ability to import Explain Everything videos (another outstanding app) into Stick Around, and have also added export options to Google Drive, Dropbox or WebDAV. Importantly, the developers have enlisted the help of Tony Vincent, a well known Educational Technology player in the Twitterverse, to help design the app. This shows as Stick Around is very much like all of the very good educational apps out there, in that they have significant input from ‘real life’ educators, rather than just app developers.
If you’re involved in education in any way, Stick Around is a powerful app to have in your armoury.
Stick Around is available from the App Store here, it’s currently priced at $2.99.
Disclosure: I purchased this app with my hard earned cash.