Friday, May 10, 2013

How Many Fart Apps Do We Need

The satirical publication TheOnion released a fart application on GitHub. One can add it to their web page and people who visit it will hear fart sounds when they scroll on it. Sophomoric? Obviously. But as an advertising gimmick it seems to be working as there is apparently a lot of Internet chatter about it already. No doubt some more main stream media will take it up as well. But is this really the sort of app we want students to emulate?

Fart apps, in my mind, is short hand for a whole category of apps that are simple to make, usually amusing (to some people), occasionally (somewhat) useful but basically not significant. We tend to create a lot of these sorts projects for students. We want them to create someone that demonstrates mastery (or at least some level of ability) with specific concepts. These days we’re also looking to have students create their projects to run on phones, tablets, and other hand held devices. A simple app that shows an RSS feed, random pictures from the Internet, or plays some sort of sound (i.e.. farts) fits into the process easily.

But ultimately how many such apps do we really need? Not many. The problem though is creating applications that are both legitimately useful and yet within the abilities of students. Can we do it with scaffolding? Or does that cause its own problems? (Beware the Scaffold That Becomes a Crutch) Can we do it with group projects? Or does that create a different complexity for beginning students.

I’m just tired of “fart apps.” I want students to create meaningful apps. A big part of my summer planning is going to be about what sorts of projects students do. I want students to know that they can and should create meaningful work.

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