This is an extensive hands on tutorial and development tool for students new to Android App building. Students learn basic programming by following specific examples and drag/drop options.
It's a visual, blocks-based development tool for the building of apps for Android phones. Predefined blocks preclude the need for coding. However, programming concepts are integral to the blocks. There is no cost for use of the tool. It was originally developed at Google and was taken over by M.I.T. Students learn the basics of event-driven programming through the manipulation of pre-coded blocks. They create the graphical user interface, define variables, and develop procedures that respond to events using these blocks. There are many well-developed tutorials, a user forum, support documentation, curricula, and an educator's forum. An eBook is available at no cost. A community of users has developed.
Type of Material:
tutorial and development
Anyone who wants to develop Android apps. It would be helpful to have some instructor guidance even with the excellent resources available on the site. The programming concepts could be confusing to a beginner.
There could be an attached wiki site on brainstorming for useful beginner app building (for example, basic tracking/reminders).
Up to date browsers, the ability to install Android emulator on a computer, if users don't have a Droid device, preferably a Droid phone and tablet. Internet access (preferably high speed). NOTE: Chrome and Firefox are best. The Emulator doesn't work on IE.
Applications created with App Inventor can be installed on any Android phone
Identify Major Learning Goals:
1. Students will learn the following:
2. Navigate the development environment and use the basic built-in components to design a user interface
3. Perform programming tasks such as: create global variables to store temporary data; develop procedures that respond to user- and system-triggered events
4. Use components to manipulate features of the phone such as its camera; create animation using a timer.
Target Student Population:
high school, college, and professionals
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Familiarity with using the web, working with drag and drop interfaces, basics of graphic design, at least some understanding of program development, and some programming background (not required but useful)!
App Inventor provides blocks that allow the user to create both simple and powerful apps. For example, apps can use the phone's GPS system for location or an orientation sensor for games requiring response to screen orientation or the ability to respond to text messages. This can all be done with relative ease.
The content is excellent! It's very clean, there are a lot of tutorials, working through building your first app helpful especially with all the step by step guides and community forums. There is a section for educators with additional instructions. It may even be helpful to professionals who are working with the site on their own.
Programming concepts, even basic ones, come with a learning curve. It would be helpful to have instructor's guidance (maybe youtube videos) and a QA session.
Connecting App Inventor to the phone or emulator can sometimes be quirky.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The materials are excellent and students will be motivated to create an app. There is a lot of support and a user community. The site is designed in mind with visual learners (in this case, it's a big plus). It's very helpful have an "App of the Month" section for examples: http://appinventor.mit.edu/explore/app-month-gallery.html There are a lot of trouble shooting and community support options. The creators will recognize that not all beginners will have a Droid phone so it's helpful to have an emulator. The videos and downloadable guides are well done and professional.
This is an excellent module for giving the student a successful experience creating a meaningful app. This can serve as a motivating introduction to programming.
Emulator and block editors are slow. Instructor's role is important because more time is needed to understand all concepts.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
Excellent tutorials, user groups, examples, and hands on portion make this module easy to use. It's helpful to go through the whole site, including additional resources, and maybe even start by peaking into the community. The instructions are clear on setting up the inventor: http://appinventor.mit.edu/explore/ai2/setup.html Concept cards are very helpful: http://appinventor.mit.edu/explore/resources/beginner-app-inventor-concept-cards.html.
Everything is stored on App Inventor server so there are no concerns about storage.
Slow download time for the emulator and blocks.
Other Issues and Comments:
Slow download time for the emulator; more explanations of programming concepts. Still, this site is highly recommended! Everything is explained step by step, there is extensive user support, sample apps, and concept card downloads:http://appinventor.mit.edu/explore/resources/beginner-app-inventor-concept-cards.html.
Even if you DO NOT create apps but are an educator, I strongly recommend reviewing the site for teaching tips, learning from the participants and other educators.
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