Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Skitch: An App to Enhance Student Learning

  What is it?

Skitch is an image editing app designed by Plasq software, the same company that created Comic Life. This multi-purpose tool allows users to capture and annotate images, and the app is available for both Macs and Windows, as well as iPads and iPhones.

Why should we use it?

There are numerous advantages for using Skitch to enhance student learning and to create a student-centered learning environment. This app is much more user-friendly than Photoshop, which allows students to spend less time learning how to use the app itself and more time actually completing their assignment. In essence, Skitch is a professional, educational Snapchat for the classroom, and since there is much hype surrounding Snapchat among the iGeneration, they will likely enjoy the photo-editing freedom that accompanies Skitch. The app itself promotes group collaboration, as students can edit their images on several devices and easily share photos and maps with each other through email. Some additional advantages for teachers is that the app is completely free to download and use, plus it helps subtract from the endless accumulation of papers floating around the classroom.

Teachers who have used Skitch in their own classroom have found it to be quite successful. I first heard about this app from Matthew Switzer, the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for BCLUW, GMG, Gladbrook-Reinbeck, and North Tama. He spoke to my Methods of Teaching Literacy class this past month about ways to incorporate technology in the classroom and mentioned Skitch as an app we all should familiarize ourselves with. I have been in contact with him and plan to interview him further regarding his experiences using Skitch. In addition, numerous teachers have blogged about their positive experiences with Skitch.  
Here is a sample of just some of many teacher testaments:

How can we use this app?  

1. Create a Skitch image (6 ways)

  • Take a photo using Skitch camera
  • Select an existing image from your device
  • Create a Skitch image from a webpage or map
  • Paste an image from the device clipboard
  • Create a Skitch image from a blank page
  • Open a PDF in Skitch from another app

  2. Use markup tools to edit the image

  • Arrow tool: tap and drag to draw arrow
  • Line and Shapes tool: select shape, then hold and draw
  • Text tool: click where you want text to appear, then type text
  • Pen and Highlight tool: Use pen to freehand draw or highlighter to highlight with transparent ink
  • Stamp tool: select stamp and add to photo (ex: a check mark)
  • Emoticon tool: select the emoticon you wish to use
  • Pixelate tool: blur portions of the photo
  • Color and Stroke options: choose color of text, arrows and shapes as well as the size of the stroke
For more information on how to use the app, please watch the video below:

How can we adopt it with appropriate pedagogy?

CREDIT: This image is taken from the Scholastic article "Leading the Way" from Scholastic News, Weekly Reader, Edition 3, March 2015 Issue
This app can be used across the curriculum and is easily adaptable to fit almost any unit of study. Let's consider how Skitch could be used in the core content areas as suggested by this blog:
  • Math: Use as a white board to practice computational problems, draw geometric shapes and label vertices, deconstruct word problems by taking a photo and marking it up
  • Science: Use as a white board to draw life cycles, annotate parts of a cell or parts of a plant, or create diagrams for the food chain.
  • Language Arts: Use text annotation and highlighting features for any text, label the elements of a story, add images to vocab words by taking pictures or drawing, use with ESL students to combine visuals with text
  • Geography: Use map feature to show points of interest or highlight specific regions, create a map of your classroom or school, create a treasure map incorporating key features of a map, label a blank map with names of states or countries

What are the challenges for adopting it and how can we turn these challenges into opportunities? 

One challenge of the app in particular is the issue of copyright. Students have the ability to upload and edit copyrighted images that they may not have permission to use. While this first appears as a challenge, it can also be seen as an opportunity in the classroom, for teachers can use this as a chance to educate their students on copyright images and the need to use images with permission.
Another challenge is the fact that Skitch works best with iPads or tablets because these devices allow for easy picture taking at various angles. For example, it would be difficult for a student to take a picture on Skitch via their MacBook Pro. However, this challenge can be seen as an opportunity if the teacher plans to take a picture ahead of time, share the image with their students on Skitch, and then allow the students to annotate the photo using the app.

What can help you for the adoption? 

If students are already utilizing technology in their classrooms, adapting Skitch is an easy transition. Students will simply need to download the app on their devices and become aquainted with it, and then they will be able to use Skitch to enhance an assignment as they see fit. Teachers should spend at least part of class time helping students learn the tools of the app, but due to the technological savviness of the iGeneration and Skitch's similarities to Snapchat, it should not take long for students to learn how to use Skitch.

To see an example of Skitch in use, please watch the video below: