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Tools of the Trade: App-Smashing

By Rita Sorrentino

app smashThe use of the word smashing while thinking of technology makes most of us uncomfortable. We certainly dread a physical or digital mishap on our computers and mobile devices. Whether we are referring to hardware or software issues, smashing is not a concept we’re likely to associate with technology and productivity. Keeping our computers and devices up to speed and virus free is definitely in everyone’s best interest.

Ironically, this App Smashing is by no means destructive, but rather a creative way of using multiple apps to create content or complete an enhanced project. Despite the popular adage, there is not always an APP for what you are trying to produce. App Smashing introduces new avenues for creation and publishing of content.  The ability to save in one app and open in another app unleashes potential and heightens creativity. 

Greg Kulowiec (@gregkuloweic) coined the term, App Smash; the process of using multiple apps in conjunction with one another to complete a final task or published project. When one app does not fit all the needs of the learner, the ability to app smash allows topics to be explored and presented in nuanced and comprehensive ways. App smashing fosters collaboration, and adds value to the technology being used. In other words, with app smashing the sum is greater than its parts. The limits of stand-alone apps are unleashed and content is then created and shared by combining the best that each app has to offer. According to Mark Anderson, “App Smashing gives us a great opportunity to provide our young people with an avenue to really squeeze the learning opportunities out of their mobile devices.”  

To get started, become comfortable with a variety of apps. It does take time, but in the words of Richard Byrne, “set a goal of learning to use one new app or site per month in your classroom and before the end of the year you’ll be ready to app smash. Saving to the camera roll (or taking screen shots) is the secret behind the magic. Whatever you have created in physical or digital environments, can now be transferred to and enhanced in another app.

Work Flow

Think of the camera on your device as the common denominator of App Smashing.

  • Create content with an app
  • Save to the camera roll
  • Open content in another app (import from camera roll)
  • Create or enhance something new
  • Repeat as needed
  • Publish

App Smashing Toolkit

It is helpful to keep a Toolkit handy to familiarize students with the categories and descriptions of the apps that can be used for smashing. With so many free apps, it is fairly easy to find apps to support the final project. Consider these categories of apps:  organization, creation of content, photo editing, audio recording, screen captures and sharing.  Here are a few apps with some ideas to help get your App Smashing started.

thinglinkThingLink: This app adds new dimensions to images as they come alive with added hotspots. On any photo or poster-like image, you can embed hotspots with video, audio, text and links. Students can create interactive postcards, narrate a science diagrams, and add hotspots to a photo of a newspaper or magazine article to include additional information, opinions, and resources.

tellegamiTellagami is an app that lets you quickly create and share an animated video. After customizing your character and choosing a background, you are able to record your voice or type a message for your avatar to say. You  then export it to the camera roll and can import it tino iMovie. Students can use this for book reviews, current events, and explanations of math problems or science concepts. Here is a teacher tutorial by Paul Hamilton for using Tellagami for storytelling.  ‪

piccollagePic Collage is a popular photo-editing app for creating collages from pictures, text and stickers. Students can create digital posters and postcards for demonstrating their learning about a topic, present research projects and brain (photo) storm for a writing piece.  After completed projects are saved to the camera roll, they can be selected for a ThingLink on which students can add text and videos to share information in a media rich format. With a link generated for sharing, the ThingLink can be posted on a class blog or webpage. Click here for a tutorial by tech teacher, Ann Feldmann. There is also a Pic Collage for Kids that offers a safer environment, free of social media distractions and unfiltered Internet connections.

Additional Resources:

App Smashing from Greg by Greg Kulowiec

What is App Smashing? by Mark Anderson

Why App Smash?  by Ed Wells

App Smashing for Beginners by Diane Benner

App Smashing pushes us to be imaginative, creative and courageous in using technology in the service of learning. The ability to combine apps adds power to mobile devices as students use them to produce enhanced digital artifacts of learning. App Smashing encourages us to put our tools of the trade to good, better and best use. What are your thoughts? Do you see ways to incorporate App Smashing into your teaching and learning practice?  Please share in the comments below.


Rita Sorrentino profileRita Sorrentino is a recently retired teacher from Overbrook Elementary School in Philadelphia. Rita is finding new pathways for working with teachers and students to use digital tools for reading writing, speaking and listening. She presented ‘Beyond Superheroes: Using Comics Across the Curriculum” at the PETE&C Conference in Hershey in February. Rita joined the Pennsylvania Writing Project in 2004 and the Philadelphia Writing Project in 1994.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. mbuckelew #

    Thank you for sharing your expertise — I really appreciate learning new tech talk and its definition and application to the classroom — e.g., app smashing — your post clarified, enticed, and also left me with questions. I hope you will do a workshop for the Writing Project sometime soon!


    February 14, 2016

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