There’s an App for that… and Parkwood Middle is developing them

Seventh grade ELA teacher Ms. Logan Thayer poses with her students after the MAD-learn Showcase.

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For a middle school student, technology is life. Recognizing this trend, Union County Public Schools Superintendent Andrew Houlihan has charged STEM-school Parkwood Middle School with piloting the web-based curriculum MAD-Learn to integrate their core subjects with the fundamentals of mobile app development.

MAD-Learn was instituted at Parkwood at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year with a strategic approach to training their staff in three different Cohorts, such that the first wave of teachers can be mentors for subsequent waves, and provide supplemental training as well as share their lessons learned.

While the MAD-Learn platform has a built-in curriculum for the teachers to follow, they get the autonomy to decide in which ways it will be incorporated. Seventh-grade language arts teacher Logan Thayer assigned her students to create an app about “Who Am I”. As an example, one student used her love of baking as the premise for her app – using her hobby as a means to explore all the “ingredients” that go into the “recipe” of her.

Additional examples include, in Math to explain the numbers system, Social Studies to honor the American Revolution, and Technology to illustrate the engineering design process.

“In middle school, this age is exploratory and all about these kids finding themselves…this is an out-of-the-box and unique way of doing it,” says Career Development Coordinator Brian Elliott.

Parkwood Parent Tammy Patterson credits MAD-Learn with giving her seventh-grade son the opportunity to use creativity and innovation to create apps that would express his thoughts as well as really showcase his understanding of the concepts they were covering in class. She saw a shift and newfound excitement in her son when he came home from school. Once created, the apps are then graded by the assigning teacher. For a few students, their apps are published into the MAD-Learn App Store, which showcases those that particularly stand out so they can be used as models going forward.

“We are focusing on creating student centered STEM experiences at Parkwood Middle School, thus our partnership with MAD-learn gives our students a technology-enriched solution for enhancing their college and career readiness skills in middle school and beyond,” said Principal Dr. Jeff Kraftson.

The biggest takeaway from this program contends Elliott is classroom synergy. “It’s creating this learning space that’s so student-centered, and utilizing something they love while giving teachers a different way of reaching them. Seeing the teachers and students working together and being so engaged is so exciting!”

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