Programming may be one of the newest skills we are bringing into modern classrooms, but it can be a difficult topic to introduce. Lines of complex code can not only be quite intimidating but it can also be devastatingly boring for students new to the subject. This is where the POP app can be an excellent introductory tool to turn your students ideas and enthusiasm into interactive app prototypes. Using a tablet or phone’s inbuilt camera, POP allows students to photograph their sketches and begin designing their app before any coding is needed at all.
Compatibility: iOS / Android / Windows
Access: No signup required
A Quick Look
1. Create an app together
Perhaps one of the best ways to introduce the POP app and the concept of ‘paper prototyping’ is to create your first app as a class. Try to choose a simple concept that everyone in the class is familiar with or has some level of ownership in. This could be an app to layout classroom seating, take the class roll or simply an app to list each student in the class. This exercise works particularly well as you can draw on the class whiteboard and use the POP app to take pictures and create the prototype.
2. Recreate a simple app
Once students have been introduced to the app, it is best to have them start by duplicating the interface of an app they already know and use. My suggestion here is to choose a very simple app (clock, timer, voice recorder, etc.) that students use regularly and are very familiar with. This will not only help them prototype faster, it will help them link certain features of the user interface to interactions and functions on the screen.
3. Designing their own
Once your students are ready to begin designing their own app using POP there are a few tips to make sure things run smoothly:
- Keep it simple: Students will get frustrated and lose patience if they bite of more than they can chew. Make sure their early concept is simple BEFORE they begin sketching and help them scale back if their app idea seems overambitious.
- Set limits: It’s very easy for students to spend hours getting things just right, defeating the very purpose of prototyping. Set a limit on the number of screens their app can have (5-10) and set a sensible time limit to be spent on each (< 10 min).
- Provide feedback: An important part of prototyping is getting continual feedback to improve designs. Have your students share their prototypes with you, their friends and their family to help collect real user feedback.
4. Post-it notes and movable pieces
To save time and repetition have your students use Post-it notes to create reusable elements in their designs. This will save them duplicating effort as well as allow them to try out ideas and options more freely.
5. Use a template
Another way to make the design process simpler and a little more engaging is to print out templates for different devices. This will give students a consistent look and feel to their app prototype and make the whole process feel a little more real. Try these printable templates for tablet, phone and web browser.
Links and Next Steps
- Creating ‘Paper Apps’ to Introduce Your Kids to App Development
- Printable Tablet template – PDF file
- Printable Phone template – PDF file
- Printable Web Browser template – PDF file
- App Prototyping On Paper using the POP Classroom example – Video (30 sec)
- iPhone User Interface Design, Paper Prototype study – Video (4 min)
- UX Design Techniques: Paper Prototyping – Video (2 min)
- Game Paper Prototyping – Video (4 min)
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, Waag Society.