Tony Hawk has a lot to answer for.
Warehouse level, Pro Skater 2. Several years ago, some friends and I spent many an hour trying to hit a million point trick combo on that level. Bear in mind this was before chains like this became mundane in the follow up games. I was the first to achieve this quasi-mystical target we had set ourselves by finding the perfect combination of tricks to chain together.
Before that it was Tekken and the yoga-like button sequences that we would commit to memory in order to pull of the most insane combos of punches, kicks and other pugilistic delights.
It all started with Streetfighter 2 though. Streetfighter was the first game I ever played that went beyond the simple one button input of commands and was full of frustratingly dexterous combos of directions that you'd have to press in order to get Ryu and pals to shoot a fireball or leap into the air for a flaming uppercut.Flash forwards to my adult life.
Combos are still a part of it but nowadays I combo apps.
Now let me just clear something up: many of you will have heard the term 'app-smashing' in reference to combining apps, as first used by tech legend Greg Kulowiec.Though I've always loved the assonance of this term, I had personally been refering to the concept as combos for some time before I first heard Greg's term and as such find it hard to adopt. I've also seen Phil Lodge present the concept using a clever blending of smoothies analogy. To me though, it'll always be combos, I guess it's just the gamer in me.
The funny thing is, it was actually a student who enlightened me to the idea in the most offbeat of ways. A few years ago, on the bus to a school trip, I was playing with my shiny new iPhone. This was my very first taste of apps so naturally I had downloaded every possible gimmick booth app known to man. I was happily amusing myself and the students around me by making them bald, fat, zombies etc when one boy changed my whole perspective on apps with the most casual of suggestions - "you know you could make me bald, save the picture then use that in the zombie one."
Mind = blown.
It was so obvious yet, like a lot of great things I find on the iPad, a child had already thought of it. Score one for the digital natives.
Anyway, the point of this article (and there is one in here somewhere) is that recently I've begun trying to look at the way we combine apps organically in lessons. Is there a chemistry to it? Can the process be reverse engineered?
We've spoken on the site before, as well as at various conferences, about ABSORPTION vs CREATION apps. This seemed a logical place to start.
Absorption apps make up the lion's share of content available in the education wing of the App Store. They allow us to access content in multimedia format and potentially engage with it through games and quizzes etc.
Creation apps are constructivist tools that as educators we tend to use more regularly in the classroom. Ebook makers, animations apps, film editors, mind mapping apps- they are fewer but more useful across the curriculum.
Within this group, we also find the presentation apps. Whilst I would naturally include keynote, Haiku Deck, Slideidea and other apps designed to deliver an actual slideshow in this subgroup, the likes of Book Creator and iMovie can also be included here. Just to be clear, I'm talking about those apps that you use to present a piece of work. They're the apps you end up in, the ones that we are using to replace a piece of paper or an exercise book. This also means that in the combo, they are last.
So let's try and build a formula...
A = absorption
C = creation
P = presentation
Building on my Streetfighter backstory, I began thinking of app combos in terms of 'hits'. The simplest '2 hit' combo is going to be C + P. The glue that binds these combinations is the ability to export created work to the camera roll where it can be accessed from the presentation app.
Here are some examples:
Morfo + Book Creator
Use Morfo to create a talking avatar realting to a chosen topic then export into Book Creator to frame it with text and images that support the subject matter. Historical figures brought back to life are a wonderful example and I've managed to animate the Sphinx to share some riddles.
Skitch + Sonic Pics
Use Skitch to annotate a set of images, for example the stages of a science investigation, then import into Sonic Pics to narrate the process. The sequencing within Sonic Pics reinforces the chronology of the chosen subject matter and the narration allows for the inclusion of metacognitive elements such as the highlighting of learning to learn skills.
Tellagami + iMovie
I'm literally using this combo at the moment in class. Students are working on Mountain reports, using Tellagami to create clips of their avatar then sewing the clips together in iMovie for the final report. You can achieve some great effects in Tellagami if you're precise with the placing and proportion of your character.
Popplet + Keynote
Create a multimedia concept map in Popplet then import it into Keynote to use it as a part of a broader presentation. Duplicating the initial slide then zooming in on certian parts of it makes for a slick presentation and gives control over the sequencing of information from the Popplet.
Trading Cards + Explain Everything
Design a set of cards based on characters, places or even words themselves then import into Explain Everything to screencast, sharing more information about each card or even telling the story they are part of.
Another variation on a '2 hit' combo would be A + C. Perhaps you aren't looking to spend a long time on a subject and thus aren't building a longer presentation. Content from an absorption app could be brought into a creation one. Quite often the absorption apps don't have an export feature so the use of screen grabbing comes in handy...
Maps + Doodle Buddy
Screen grab an image from the native Maps app then import into Doodle Buddy to annotate. When the 3D effect is applied in Maps, you can achieve some impressively detailed imagery at key locations. Doodle Buddy is obviously one of several annotation style app options here but I find yournger students still veer towards it due to it's simplicity.
Kids Discover + Tellagami
Screen grab a page from one of the vast library of outstanding Kids Discover apps and have students explain what it taught them whilst standing in front of the page itself. Digital app/ebook reviews are another option here. Note that in this example, Tellagami is second rather than first.
Avokiddo Emotions + Chatterpix
Great combo for the Early Years educator. Let students engage with the emotive characters from Avokiddo's excellent Emotions app then snap an image of the character. The character can then be given a voice using Chatterpix. As such the students can express the feelings spotlighted in the first app through the second one!
Naturally you could also skip the creation level and combo A + P:
Motion Math Pizza + Timeline 3D
Have students learn about enterprise through the wonderful Pizza app, screen grabbing key images along the way to highlight their struggles and successes. Import into Timeline 3D to chart the story of their business as it evolved.
Dragonbox Algebra + Slideidea
Allow students time with the Dragonbox app, again exporting relevant screen grabs, then present how the game works, and thus the balancing of equations through Slideidea. I chose this in particular here as it has the sweet function of being able to jump to a whiteboard screen mid presentation, thus allowing for live demonstrations as they go!
Something I learnt from my years as a gamer is that you need to spend time experimenting and perfecting the easier combos before moving on to the tougher stuff. So I'm going to sign off here and save the '3 hit' and '4 hit' combos for the Level 2 post...
I'll leave you with this info graphic I've put together detailing just some of the apps I recommend that can fall into each category. Feel free to share it and hit us up on Twitter or Facebook with any combo ideas of your own!