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App Development with my Girls Who Code Club

As an educator with over 13 years of experience, I am conscious of the fact that we need to prepare students for jobs that do not even exist yet; which means we need to modify our teaching practices to include collaborative technological integration. In my search for a tool that provides authentic hands-on experiences, I reached out to our district STEM supervisors, Sally Creel and Tania Pachuta and they referred me to the mobile application development program, MAD-learn.

I started using MAD-learn with my Girls Who Code (GWC) club in the fall of 2020 as a tool to help my students reach our main goal for this year which was to create our first mobile app. We brainstormed ideas and decided that we wanted an app that showcases who we are as a club, our goals, what STEM means to us, and to inspire and recruit new members. MAD-learn has helped me bring coding to students of all abilities through targeted differentiation. In our club, we have students who are in AP Computer Science down to students who have never seen a line of code in their life. One of the mission statements of GWC is inspiring sisterhood and community. This means that girls of ALL learning levels need to feel a place of belonging. MAD-learn has pre-made templates as well as an open source code builder to help learners at all levels and at the various stages of computer science mastery.

 

 

With the help of this program, my intermediate learners who are not quite ready to build code from scratch are able explore editing premade code sets to create interactive features on their apps. The collaboration between the students has been so fun to watch.  While in a digital learning environment, the students can share screens while we all look over each other’s code. Where one girl missed something, another one can identify the error and prompt the team member with assistance.

This app development tool has many features, my favorite of which is the HCJ builder (which stands for HTML, CSS, and JavaScript). The HCJ builder is so unique because it gives students an opportunity for students to code at a more advanced level. While MAD-learn helps us learn to code it also is designed in a way to implement technology/software with an end-user in mind.  Technology for the sake of technology is great but we need to build from a place of purpose. Who is our audience? Why are we doing this? What is the project goal?  Such questions are often left behind in the rote computer science curriculum but are vital in any field with a STEM background.

 

 

Having become more acquainted with using this program, I see more possibilities for expansion into other areas. I am excited about the prospect of introducing the program to the entire STEM academy at my school so they can use it as an app for their digital portfolio and a creative way of using technology for other school projects such making an app for a social studies project instead of a poster.

I would absolutely recommend MAD-learn to other teachers who are looking for meaningful and authentic ways to engage their students; mainly because it allows for teacher and student collaboration across all levels of computer science learning. Teachers can monitor progress and help students transition from beginner, to intermediate, to advanced levels. Students can see live updates of their apps on the MAD-store mobile app and get the satisfaction of downloading and using an app that they made on their own phones.

 

 

~Dr. Hannah Oldham

STEM Scholar Academy Coordinator and Mathematics teacher

Sprayberry High School, Cobb County Schools, GA