October 27, 2019

“App smashing”: A Teaching Practice that Speaks to me as a Learner

This text was initially published by Vitrine technologie-éducation under a CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 licence, before Eductive was launched.

In this article, we’ll be discussing the term “app smashing” which was first coined by Greg Kulowiece. Though it’s presence in the academic literature is rather limited, plenty of teachers are putting it into practice today. 

 I first encountered the term, while writing an assignment on the use of apps like Duolingo for language learning. Rosell-Aguilar’s (2017) article defines app smashing as being “the use of several apps to complement each other for a purpose.” Brennar and Hauser’s (2015) definition is a little more precise in saying that “app smashing is the process of developing content on multiple digital applications and then integrating or ‘smashing’ them together in order to create a richer, innovative digital product.”

 So, what does this look like in practice? Sébastien Wart’s blog allowed us to find a very inspiring example which was created by Andrée-Caroline Boucher and André Roux from RÉCIT. Their teacher guide outlines a class project which involves the use of tablets to create a Japanese manga e-book. The example is both flexible and transversal as it includes objectives for French language (reading and writing) and arts & crafts (creating digital art). Here is a list of the applications mentioned in their teacher guide.


Apps used…

  • To store and save images; 

– DropBox

  • To give images a manga effect;

– Comics Camera Pro

– Manga Comics Camera Free

– Pixlr

  • To add graphic effects;

– Brushes 

  • To create the comic;

– Comic Life

– Strip Designer 

  • To create the book.

– Book Creator One

     App smashing activities are a great way to get your students to think outside of the box. Pulling from a greater diversity of mobile applications, students are encouraged to build competencies in thinking creatively with new tools and thus evolving with the environment around them. Students are able to utilise the strengths of apps, recognise their limitations and find solutions those weaknesses in other apps. GreenScreen makes it possible to add backgrounds to photos, but when students want to add manga effects to those photos, they need to switch to apps like Comics Camera Pro. Helping children to navigate the plethora of tools available to them on the app store is a great way of stimulating their creativity as well as their technology literacy: competencies that fall within the 21st-century skills framework

     As a language learner by passion and to support my studies in my own second language at Université Laval, app smashing is of interest to me since I use different language learning apps to improve my French. Mosalingua helps me to memorise new vocabulary through its spaced repetition system. However, the app is limited in that new vocabulary is presented out of context and relies on translation. With free dictation exercises on TV5’s website, I get to be exposed to new vocabulary in context (based on varying themes) and within the target language, although there is no spaced repetition technology. An interesting way to map out the different strengths and limitations of language learning apps is provided through this link. After studying the language explicitly, experiential learning of the language is done through the construction (usually coconstruction) of projects for my master’s degree. Tools such as Knowledge Forum, Powerpoint, Google Docs, Adobe Articulate, Ispring, Skype and Via fit into this “experiential” category. 


    My own experience has led me to ask 2 questions with regards to the term app smashing. 

     1. Apps that I use are not always mobile. TV5’s website is a great tool, but there is no corresponding mobile app. Furthermore, notebooks are also useful in accompanying and enhancing the use of digital tools. Could the term app smashing be employed to describe the use of many tools on many platforms beyond just mobile applications?

     2. Apps that I use are different from photo and text editing apps in that they focus more on language analyses rather than experiential learning through concrete projects; having functionalities that target skills explicitly rather than putting them into practice. However, examples of app smashing seem to fall into the category of project-based learning. Could app smashing be employed not just as a means of constructing projects, but also as a means of constructing knowledge? 



    Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M. (2003). Learning to Work Creatively With Knowledge. In E. De Corte, L. Verschaffel, N. Entwistle, & J. Van Merriënboer (Ed.), Unravelling basic components and dimensions of powerful learning (pp. 55-68). Elsevier Science. Retrieved from

    Brenner, A. M., & Hauser, J. S. (2015). Creating Innovative, Student-Centered Projects with App 

    Smashing. International Association for Development of the Information Society. Retrieved from

    Rosell-Aguilar, F. (2017). State of the app: A taxonomy and framework for evaluating language learning mobile applications. CALICO journal, 34(2).

    About the author

    Quinn Johnson

    Quinn Johnson is a former ESL teacher and Université Laval alumni in educational technology. He has worked with la Vitrine technologie éducation on its project to develop a portal for Open Educational Resources. He currently works as a pedagogical advisor at CEGEP Champlain St. Lawrence in Quebec City.

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