We work with a diverse range of fantastic impact organisations, who are all utilising the Skills Builder Universal Framework to support their mission and ensure effective essential skill development helps to unlock learning for their participants.
Education technology charity Apps For Good believe that all young people should be empowered to take action on the things they care about most, and recognise the important role essential skills play in enabling this. In this blog, they tell us more about their work and how a focus on key essential skills is ensuring young people from all backgrounds can create a brighter future through technology.
"Teamwork is a big skill we need to learn in life. Trust your team, merge your ideas together and create one big idea."
At Apps for Good, we believe that young people can shape their future through technology – they just need the support, skills, inspiration and pathway to make it happen. That's why we teach computing within a context and aim to inspire young people to be socially engaged citizens. We believe that we are more than just a Computing course provider, and have created our four core pillars that we truly believe make us unique:
- Tech for Good: we believe young people can shape their future through technology.
- The need for essential skills: our content develops the essential skills needed for future work.
- What matters to students: young people are empowered by solving problems they care about.
- Industry engagement: students build their apps using processes aligned to industry.
The need for essential skills
The focus on essential skills has helped Apps for Good as an organisation refine our approach and the way we reference and encourage the development of life skills. The Universal Framework helps us as educators as well as our learners to develop a language and shared reference around communication, creative problem solving, self-management and interpersonal life skills, the skills students need to succeed in education, employment and wider life.
What does this look like in action?
Our two core courses are inspiring, introductory computing courses, designed to teach computing within a real-world context. Both courses are aligned to essential skills, with session outcomes focused on explicit skill steps and reflection questions taken from the Universal Framework used to support discussion. These are:
Innovate for Climate Change
As a charity, Apps for Good have always felt a responsibility to prepare young people for the future, and there’s no bigger issue that will impact young people than climate change. A survey of teachers by climate education campaign group Teach the Future revealed that 9 out of 10 teachers in the UK also agree climate change education should be compulsory in schools, yet 7 out of 10 feel ill-equipped to teach it. Innovate for Climate Change helps students learn about the 5 UN Sustainability goals which focus on climate action and are introduced to our industry-inspired Youth Ideation Toolkit, which then supports their ideation of a climate action app.
App for Social Action
App for Social Action aims to empower young people to take positive social action by creating an app with others. We present facts about social action and change carefully, while encouraging young people to think critically when addressing issues that motivate them to help to shape their future. During the course, students work on an app that is relevant to them and a community that they are familiar with and passionate about.
Check out our blog to find out more about how young people can take social action with our Youth Ideation Toolkit!
Seeing the impact
As a result of undertaking an Apps for Good course, 84% of students reported developing more than one essential skill, 71% of students overall reported that their teamwork had improved as a result. Chloe, a Year 8 student from Putteridge High School, confirms that, "Teamwork is a big skill we need to learn in life. Trust your team, merge your ideas together and create one big idea."
Teachers also noted the benefit of collaborations: Richard Gledhill from Dr Challoners School notes, “As part of Showcase and the programme, there was a real channelling of the student's energy, both individually and within their teams, as well as collectively, in terms of dividing up responsibilities as to who was going to focus on each element. And a real, real sense of everyone working towards the same goal. I think they really flourished with that kind of clearly defined end goal in mind.”
Student Zakariya Miah reported, “The most useful thing about Apps for Good for me in building essential skills was teamwork. To be able to work as a team, during lunch times, or after school sessions, and actually think about real life problems. It was nice to see the different types of leadership styles and teamwork styles develop.”
What does the future look like?
Looking ahead, we have a new course in the pipeline – AI for Good, which explores new ways to use AI to improve the quality of people’s lives and/or solve problems that people in communities are facing; AI is already doing good in society. During the AI for Good course students generate ideas for an app. They then develop their chosen idea into a working prototype app using code.org’s App Lab. Essential skills will support students to unlock this new learning and develop skills for the future.
We are also developing a pre- and post-course questionnaire app for all our courses. Using apps, we hope to engage more students in feedback using the existing programming environment which students use on the course and support reflection on essential skills developed. We will be able to monitor progression from before and after experiencing a course. This additional level of impact will hopefully enable us to move from the current Impact Level 3 to an Impact Level 4.
Internally, we are aiming to incorporate Skills Builder into Apps for Good's staff development and professional learning processes, through discussions with line managers and by sharing the importance of essential skills with the wider team.
Apps for Good is an independent education charity that provides free creative technology courses to 100’s of schools throughout the UK and to students primarily in KS3/S1-3. They offer a range of courses that can be delivered either as part of the curriculum or in enrichment time.