Apps in Action: Creating Educational Puzzles with Stick Around

A hectic last half term meant I was not able to post to my blog as much as I would have liked. But the summer holidays are here giving me time to play with some new apps. Following my experiences at ADE Institute, I’m fully embracing iTunes U and I’m in the process of putting courses together ready for the next academic year. In a bid to incorporate a diverse range of materials into my courses and to make them interactive and engaging, I’ve started experimenting with a fantastic app created by Tony Vincent and the makers of the superb Explain Everything, called Stick Around. This app allows the user to create puzzles and games which can then be easily shared with others to play if they also have the app installed. Stick Around has a number of puzzles pre-installed which will give you an idea of what can be created.

Creating a puzzle
Creating a great puzzle in Stick Around is very simple and can be accomplished in just a few steps. Firstly, you’ll want to choose Create New Project. This will give you the option to use one of the pre-installed templates as a starting point or to create a puzzle from scratch on a blank canvas.

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– Step 1: Enter information about your puzzle
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Selecting the info tab will enable you to add additional information to your creation. You do not have to enter information in every field: complete as much as you deem necessary. This will be displayed before a puzzle is played, including a button to play an audio introduction if you have added one.

I believe the most important fields are Puzzle Name and Author. However you may also want to consider the following:

Highlight Stickers While Checking Puzzle – if you set this to Off, it will tell the player how many stickers they have in the correct place, but will not say which ones are correct or incorrect. Setting this to All will highlight stickers in the correct place in green and incorrect stickers in red.

Answer Key Mode – if you choose Invisible, the regions you set in the Answer Key will not be shown when a puzzle is played, whereas they will be if you select Visible. Selecting Icons will show a question mark icon in the middle of each answer key region when the puzzle is played, however the regions themselves will not be shown.

Measuring Time – pretty self explanatory: Off means there will be no timer, Countdown will add a countdown timer if you want to set a time limit and Timer will time how long it took the player to complete the puzzle.

– Step 2: Add a background
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Selecting the Background tab will allow you to set or modify the background for your project. This is crucial: a well designed background will aid the user and make it obvious to them where stickers are supposed to be placed. The app features a set of drawing and text tools in the left toolbar to create your background. Selecting the + icon will allow you to import images from your Camera, Photo Library, Dropbox, WebDAV or GDrive. You can also drag and drop any of the backgrounds from the tray on the right of the screen.

– Step 3: Add your stickers
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Use the Stickers tab to add stickers to your puzzle. There are 3 kinds of sticker available; text, image and drawing (allows for a combination of text, shapes and images). To add a sticker, drag the type of sticker you want to add to your project from the tray then add the content you want. You are able to add as many stickers as necessary. Selecting the (i) on a sticker will allow you to add additional content, including help text, a web link, an arrow or an audio recording. You can also delete a sticker at any time by long pressing on it, then selecting the delete icon.

– Step 4: Add an answer key
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Next, select the Answer Key tab to add an answer key, so that the app will automatically assess the users progress. First, place the stickers in the correct positions on the puzzle, then draw around these using the answer region tools. When the user is playing the puzzle, as long as they place the middle of the sticker within its assigned answer region, it will be marked as correct. If the sticker has an arrow, the tip of the arrow must be placed within the assigned answer region to be counted as correct.

– Step 5: Check everything works
Click the Play tab and drag the stickers from the tray to their correct place. Click the Check button to ensure that it is working correctly. If anything needs modifying, you can revise your puzzle by clicking the Background, Stickers and Answer Key tabs.

– Step 6: Getting ready to share
Once everything works correctly, you’ll want to prep your puzzle for sharing. To do this, tap the info tab and press the share icon (top right). You will see a dialogue box containing a message stating that your puzzle will be saved as a uneducable file so that it cannot be changed by others: don’t worry, an editable version of your puzzle will remain in the project tab. Before your export the file, you can also change the puzzle name and select whether you would like to display the solution before starting the puzzle. Once you have completed this, tap export. An uneditable version of your creation will be available under the puzzles tab.

Sharing a puzzle
The chances are you haven’t created a puzzle for yourself: it’s likely that you are going to want to share it for others to complete. Fortunately, Stick Around makes sharing your creations a breeze. Just remember, any device receiving the puzzle will also have to have the app installed in order to open and play it.

First, you’ll need to navigate to the Puzzles tab, then hit Select. Select the puzzle(s) you would like to share and tap the Share icon (top left). Here you will be presented with a number of options:

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– Open in – here you will be given a number of options. Firstly, you can share you puzzle via AirDrop to a supported device. This is great for sending a file to an individual as it is quick, but may not be the best option in a classroom situation. Alternatively, you can open the puzzle in another app, for example Showbie (other apps including Edmodo, Everynote and more are also supported). This can then be attached to an assignment for students to access.

– Share to Dropbox/WebDAV/GDrive – any of these options will send the file to the cloud storage service of your choosing. From here, you can create a link to the file which can then be shared with students. For example, you could include the link in an iTunes U course or you could create a QR code which students could scan to access the file.

– Email – does exactly what it says: sends a copy of the puzzle file via email.

– To Explain Everything – this will convert your project to a file that can be opened using Explain Everything. If you choose to do this, it will open with the puzzle already solved and whilst you will still be able to move the labels, you will lose the self marking feature.

You can download a puzzle created by myself using Stick Around here (Stick Around app needs to be installed to open and play the puzzle).

Conclusion
Stick Around is a simple yet effective way to gamify your lessons. Its versatility and ease of use make it very appealing, even to those who are not the most confident with using technology. In particular, I’ve found the timer as a great way to add a little friendly competition amongst peers too! Furthermore, the fact it is self marking can ease teacher workload and also provides students with immediate feedback as they work their way through puzzles. Better still, why not take it one step further and get students to start creating their own puzzles as an engaging revision exercise? For some, the price may prove to be a stumbling block unless it is something which is used regularly, especially since it is also needed to play any puzzles created using the app. I was lucky enough to obtain enough copies for our school whilst it was on promotion for free for a limited time on the AppStore, so keep checking in case it happens again!

mzl.rchwyblbStick Around by Tony Vincent & Explain Everything by Explain Everything sp. z o.o. is available for £2.99 on the App Store.

*all prices and links correct at the time of publication and are subject to change

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2 thoughts on “Apps in Action: Creating Educational Puzzles with Stick Around

    • I agree, a free version for playing puzzles would be a great idea. I was lucky enough to get enough copies for my whole school through VPP when it was free. I’ve started to get students to create their own puzzles, so having the full version is great for me!

      Like

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