Empowered mobile learning: iDHSB

James Anderson and Ben Bate were 14 and 15 when they created their first app. Rather than starting with hours of learning to code and then go looking for a problem to solve, it was the problem that prompted them to learn. At the Frog conference this week their teacher Steve Margetts shared the story that has led them to setting up their own business.

The young entrepreneurs knew that increasing numbers of students at their school, Devonport High School for Boys in Plymouth, were getting smart phones, yet these phones were not able to work with the widely used school virtual learning environment. With no experience of mobile development, they taught themselves to build iOS apps using Apple’s Xcode, and created a solution which opened up the school system to mobile users. So confident were they in their solution that they set up a business and now sell custom versions of the software to other schools. So savvy are they that they set up a 25% discount scheme for every school representative watching the presentation at which I heard their story…

Merlin John covered their story in detail some months ago, and it is a great example of students seeing a problem and learning some serious skills ‘just in time’ to solve it. For them there was no completing out of context learning exercises ‘just in case’ they needed the skills; application and learning were hand in hand.

What struck me about their story was the level of empowerment on show. Virtual Learning Environments are often depicted as systems locked down by institutions, but in order to make their app work the young developers had to be given access to the ‘back end’ of the system; the nuts and bolts which their tinkering had every possibility of breaking for the whole school.

Many students would think they couldn’t possibly be given this level of trust by their schools, but they felt empowered to ask. Not only that, but their teacher Steve felt empowered to say ‘yes’. The result is they were empowered by a real context to learn software development, and no doubt a whole lot more besides…

iDHSB 1.3 Short Commercial from James Anderson on Vimeo.

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