Review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2019

MAD-learn

Create mobile apps with extensive help from start to finish

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Science

Skills
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
3–12
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Pros: In-app hints, a broad library of lesson plans, and tutorials guide kids through every step of the app creation process.

Cons: It may be cost-prohibitive for some teachers, and since there's no autosave, students may lose their work if they forget to save it.

Bottom Line: Intuitive platform encourages students to engage in design thinking and coding with loads of support.

There's really no limit to how teachers can incorporate MAD-learn into the classroom. Students can create apps for English-language arts (ELA) on characterization, or design choose-your-own-adventure applications. Engage kids in conceptualizing math activities that focus on skill development or game-based learning. In social studies, challenge students to create virtual field trips through places with historical significance, and spend a class or two exploring the worlds they created. Or charge students with creating a foreign language app where their peers can have fun while learning valuable conversation skills.

Encourage kids to start coding or further develop their skills by writing the code for their application, and while you're at it, consider developing coding skills yourself. The lessons contained on the site are designed to assist any teacher wanting to implement the four C's into their curriculum, making the development of 21st-century skills an attainable goal. 

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MAD-learn is a mobile application development website where teachers guide students through the design process from start to finish. The developer's YouTube playlist and lesson plan library will help students learn the basics step by step, but the user interface is surprisingly intuitive. Teachers create classes to manage their students, comment on designs, and view analytics, and users can add design collaborators from within or across schools.

For the build, students generate ideas for design, content, and flow for their app via a mind map. In the design phase, students choose a template or upload images for the app's different screens (splash, home, icon, augmented reality, etc.) for both mobile devices and tablets. Here, students customize their app's layout by choosing themes, colors, and shapes to make it their own. The next phase, content, is where creators really dig in, adding text, buttons, and graphics and linking to other screens. Both sides of the screen contain HTML code; students can modify what's there or write their own commands and press the play button to see their changes reflected on a device's screen.

Along the way, students can preview their own and others' apps on their devices with a unique nine-digit code. The developer didn't leave out real-world applications, either -- if students come up with something unique, there's an opportunity to submit their app to MAD-learn for publishing consideration.  

From inception to publication, MAD-learn encourages student engagement in the design process. Because students design at their own pace, differentiation is an easy fit. The platform encourages design thinking from the start, with mind maps preceding any sort of layout or content design. This encourages students to really think about what they're creating and why it has value. Students will engage in creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and coding while exploring the iterative process of revision and testing.

The site's support features coupled with teacher guidance are key: If kids get stuck on a skill, there's likely a tutorial, blog post, or lesson that will help them get unstuck. The biggest challenge for teachers will be students who are overwhelmed by or disinterested in mobile app development. Encouraging collaboration might help here, especially if less experienced kids are grouped with peers who have a passion for coding or design.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Students who are interested in coding will likely engage from the start; others may be daunted by a steep learning curve. Teachers will need to provide relevant differentiated instruction and support for their classes.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

The hands-on site immerses students in the design process and provides them with the means to learn through multiple avenues.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

The developers have provided multiple avenues of support, from detailed lesson plans to FAQs to social media tips. Kids work at their own pace, so opportunities exist for beginning, intermediate, and advanced coders and designers.


Common Sense Reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Media specialist/librarian

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