My app is inspired by the eternal question of high school math students: When Will We Use This (WWWut)? This question can be frustrating to hear, since students often ask it as a signal of disapproval of certain content. This question is hard proof that students are not engaging with their work. Rather than try to answer this same question over and over again, I thought it would be worthwhile to create an opportunity for students to answer the question for themselves. My (hypothetical) app would be a photography based social networking site that students would use to capture moments in their lives that intersect with their learning. It would be informal and low pressure, like Instagram with more organization and structure. Teachers would create groups limited to their own students, and students could join any classes that are available to them. Within the app, teachers could list the different content areas that had been discussed in class, and students could then post and tag photos to certain classes and topics. For example, if I was studying American History, and on the weekend I went for a walk through Valley Forge park, I could take a photo of a cabin or a memorial, and tag it in my History class under the “American Revolution” section in WWWut. While on the same walk, I could tag a picture of a deer for my biology class, where we had been studying animal classifications and later post a photo that reminded me of our work on angles of elevation in my geometry class. The goal of the app would be to encourage students to make connections between the work they do in class and their life outside of school. Ideally, students will begin to see the connections to their lives and communities before they ask that infamous question again. I am a big believer that one of the best ways to learn a subject is to teach it yourself. As a teacher, I find myself thinking of connections to my subject areas all the time, and with this app, hopefully students can take on that same role in their own lives.
The app would have multiple goals and end results. Students would be able to track their own learning through pictures over a year (or multiple years), and would have an impressive collection of photographs to help them reflect on what they’d learned. Classes could make a photo collage or timeline that would be related to a specific subject, but would be completely unique from another class’ work. I especially like this idea, since it will give students some authorship and ownership over the work their class has done. Students could print out their photo collage and post it in the classroom and compare their work to other classes. This would serve as tangible proof of the contributions different students made to a classroom experience. They could also share their work with students at different schools in different parts of the country or even the world. As a teacher, I think the tool would be a great way to honor student interests in a more specific and tangible way. Photographs are a form of communication that some students may be more comfortable and confident with, as opposed to speaking and sharing in class, so the app presents an opportunity for differentiated assessment. The photos themselves could be used as a warm-up for discussing a topic or serve as the foundation for a mathematical or scientific exploration. Within a classroom, the app could be used as an extra credit assignment or as a friendly competition among students. More than anything, the goal of the app would be for students to think about their classwork in the context of their home and communities and then share those thoughts and experiences with other learners.