App Inventor Education Taking off in China!

There are many stories about competition and strife in US-China relations, as well as the profound differences in our cultures. This is a story, instead, of collaboration, the story of US and Chinese citizens uniting for the common goal of better educating students for the 21st century. What better agent than education to illustrate the amazing commonalities between peoples?

MIT App Inventor is the catalyst of change, a coding language perfectly suited for teaching and inspiring young people to learn how to create and solve problems in our rapidly digitizing world. While App Inventor education has rapidly expanded in the US since its inception at Google in 2009, it has been widely unavailable in China. Thanks to the efforts of the extended MIT App Inventor team and some extraordinary educators in China, this creative way of teaching computational thinking is now also taking off in China.

Hal Abelson, director of the MIT App Inventor team, has led the project from the US side. App Inventor was inaccessible in China because it runs on Google infrastructure, so Hal, Jeff Schiller, Weihua Li, Andrew McKinney, and others facilitated the creation of a version that runs on a different infrastructure and thus can be accessed in China.

But this was only the start. With the help of the extraordinary MIT student Weihua Li, a plan was set in place to jumpstart App Inventor education in China through teacher and student workshops starting in the summer of 2014. The idea spread like rapid-fire and led to the 1st International Conference on Mobile Learning and Computational Thinking Education, Based on App Inventor, which was held in Guangzhou in June (2015)..


Attendees of the App Inventor Conference in Guangzhou. See if you can pick me (David Wolber) out. Hint: I’m the tallest.


Li Yue, South China Univ. of Technology


The conference included representatives from Hong Kong, Taiwan, UK, UNESCO, and the US, as well as over 200 educators from all over China.

I was honored to speak at the conference and to teach a workshop to some K-12 and university teachers. Ralph Morelli of Trinity College and also spoke and gave a workshop to about sixty middle schoolers, shown below. MIT was represented by Tech Lead Andrew McKinney, Felicia Kamriani, and the aforementioned WeiHua Li, who spoke at the conference and was also the key translator for the English speakers.

The real story, however, is the amazing efforts of educators in China who are helping spread App Inventor based education throughout the region and country. It is a joint university and governmental project perhaps best exemplified by South China University Professor Li Yue, the conference organizer who has led numerous teacher training workshops throughout South China. I was honored to see her in action, using her relentless energy and charm to teach and inspire.


The students at Ralph Morelli’s workshop were extremely diligent as Ralph walked them through building a “Selfie-Slideshow app”

Dr. Li organized a visit to a school where we saw first hand how App Inventor is making a difference: a roomful of energetic middle school students energized about building apps. Ralph Morelli gave them a workshop, teaching them how to build a “Selfie-Slideshow” app, and it was incredible to see the joy on the student’s faces. On a personal basis, I was happy to see that the students were using a translated version of the App Inventor book I co-authored (along with Hal, Ellen Spertus, and Liz Looney).

Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 2.43.38 PM has a translated version of the book App Inventor: Create your own Android Apps

The conference and workshops didn’t solve the world’s problems, but a group of educators from East and West shared ideas on how best to educate young people for the jobs of tomorrow (as well as ideas on one-child policies, free speech, gun control, and the best Beatles songs to play at Karaouke). It was a highlight of my career to participate, not only to help spread a great method of educating students, but to help promote a collaborative spirit between the peoples of China and the US.

App Inventor now has a Gallery!

App Inventor programmers have been working side-by-side in the cloud together, but they might as well have been using stand-alone software as they couldn’t share their experience. I’m pleased to announce that the App Inventor app gallery is officially launched as part of MIT App Inventor. Students and developers can now easily share their apps and code blocks and learn from each other. The gallery turns App Inventor into a shared learning community similar to the one which has been so successful in Scratch. Now all the students, teachers, and developers who were blindly rubbing virtual shoulders can share their apps in a great, collaborative open-source environment.
Click on any app to open it and see its blocks

Click on any app to open it and see its blocks

The gallery was developed by our team in the Democratize Computing Lab (DCL) at the University of San Francisco (the same team that brings you and this blog), working in collaboration with the MIT App Inventor team. Special thanks go to lead developers Bin Lu and Vincent Zhang of USF, as well as mastermind Jeff Schiller of MIT, all of whom put in a long and concerted effort in making the gallery a reality.

The Democratize Computing Lab is generously funded by the W.M. Keck Foundation.

App Inventor Teacher Workshop this Summer in SF!

The University of San Francisco and will host an App Inventor teacher twitter-usftag-500x500workshop and follow-up activities during the summer of 2015. The workshop will take place over four days, June 29-July 2, 2015, 10 am to 3 pm each day, at the University of San Francisco. The workshop is funded by USF and the Google CS4HS program. You can apply at b​

Learn App Inventor coding and how to teach it in a 4­-day teacher development workshop funded by Google and USF. Coding apps for phones and tablets is a fantastic way to learn computer science and computational thinking! The workshop is free. If you can commit to teaching in 2015-­2016, you may also be eligible for a $1000 stipend!

Teachers from all levels are welcome to participate. No prior coding experience is required. The workshop will start at the beginning with both coding and the App Inventor language, and will focus on how to teach the material to beginners. The workshop will be taught by USF Professor Alark Joshi and USF Professor and App Inventor author David Wolber.

University of San Francisco Campus, 2130 Fulton Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

appinventororgThe workshop will prepare you for teaching either a complete programming course or a coding module in an existing course. The topics and material discussed will be appropriate for many programming courses and levels, including the High School Computer Science Principles (CSP) curriculum that is being piloted as a new AP course. You will be introduced to two popular existing on­line courses, Mobile CSP (m​obile­​ and Professor Wolber’s App Inventor Course­-in­-a­-Box (a​​.

Community of Practice
Our goal is to foster the community of App Inventor teachers in the Bay Area. We will offer two ways to continue after the workshop: (1) We’ll provide three weeks of follow­-up guidance after the workshop (July 6­-24, 2015) including once­-a­-week  meetups as you continue with the Mobile CSP on-­line course, and (2) During the school year, we have funds for a limited number of USF students, experienced in App Inventor programming, to assist you in the classroom. If you can commit to teaching App Inventor in 2015­-16, you may be eligible for a $1000 stipend.

Please apply for the workshop at b​ ​Slots for the workshop are limited, but we will accommodate as many teachers as we can.

Democratizing Computing with App Inventor: new article

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.36.53 AMI teamed up with App Inventor creators Hal Abelson (MIT) and Mark Friedman (Google) on the article, “Democratizing Computing with App Inventor”, which was recently published as first education column in the inaugural issue of Get Mobile ( from ACM SIGMOBILE Mobile Computing and Communications Review). Hal and Mark developed App Inventor from the ground up at Google. Hal continues to lead its development at MIT with Mark contributing significantly. The article introduces App Inventor and its history, and tells some of the great success stories.

The article is now available here and in the ACM Digital library.

Street Code Academy Rocks

It is the damndest hackathon coding workshop you’ve ever seen. There is music. Loud Music. Hip Hop.  Dance a little, sing a little, create an app! There are basketball hoops, low for dunking (even low enough for an old has-been). Hoop it up, app it up! There are colorful murals. There is barbecue. Eat a bit, code a bit. And the barbecue is out of control good!


Kids coding, and Rafael Cosman teaching, at the Street Code academy Kickoff event

There are black people. And brown people. People of all colors. Silicon Valley meet East Palo Alto. This is the Street Code Academy Kickoff event.

There are kids. All ages. There are Moms and dads. Families. Having fun and learning to code and create. Design the Future, say the T-shirts. They will and they are.

The kids are smiling, learning, having fun, proud. Empowered is a big word but you see it in the kids faces. Look what I can do!

Some kids spent 11 hours on the day hacking. A girl named Harshita Gupta from Mission San Jose High met with the Mayor and prototyped an app for East Palo Alto residents to report trash/graffiti (she’s spending her thanksgiving week off working no it!) Kids worked with Arduino boards, App Inventor, Wix, Photoshop, and just about every technology you can think of.

Google and Facebook, your numbers on diversity are awful. Street Code Academy is the change you envision. Check it out!

The academy is run by young visionaries: Rafael Cosman, Olatunde Sobomehin, Shadi Barhoumi. They are techies but they are experts in what kids like. They are coaches and cheerleaders and mentors. There is no kid that could resist Olatunde’s call to arms! Rafael’s energy is infectious. Shadi is everywhere. These guys are on to something big.

Support the Street Code Academy!


The music was off the charts


Best barbecue ever and 100 times better than any previous hackathon event


Olatunde Sobomehin inspired young and old

The App Inventor Book is OUT!

The App Inventor 2 bookai2cover2 is out! App Inventor 2: Create you own Android Apps, published by O’Reilly, is now available. The book is authored by Professor David Wolber of the University of San Francisco and (me), App Inventor creator and MIT Professor Hal Abelson along with Ellen Spertus and Liz Looney, two of the Google engineers who helped develop App Inventor (Ellen is also a professor at Mills College).

Fully updated for the new version of App Inventor 2  the book is chock full of cool apps and tutorials you can build, along with an Inventor’s Manual for learning computer science and programming concepts.

Buy it on Amazon:

App Inventor Presentation at Tech Museum of Innovation, San Jose

techMuseumI’m giving a presentation on teaching App Inventor to kids along with a hands-on workshop at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose this Saturday, Oct 18, 1 pm. The event is free and you can register at, The event is being hosted by Benesse CorporBenesse_America_logo_72DPIation of Japan.

Please spread the word!

Dave Wolber


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 80 other followers