David Wolber and the University of San Francisco received a $200,000 grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation to launch the Democratize Computing Lab at USF. The Lab’s mission is to break down the programmer divide and radically broaden and diversify the pool of software creators.
The Lab’s strategy is based on App Inventor, a visual language from MIT that allows beginners to learn by programming their phone or tablet. The language has a low barrier to entry. Instead of being bogged down for months in the syntax of a traditional language, beginners can build useful applications within days and early on experience the joy of computing and real-world problem-solving.
Wolber has been involved with App Inventor since its inception at Google in 2009, and co-authored a book with App Inventor creator Hal Abelson and two of the Google engineers on the App Inventor team (including Mills College professor Ellen Spertus). His site appinventor.org, which provides video lessons and course materials for students and teachers, recently received its millionth hit.
The Lab is involved with a number of App Inventor education projects for providing beginners with an entry-way into the world of programming. Wolber and his students are completing and refining the “course-in-a-box” materials for students and teachers on the appinventor.org site. They’re also working with MIT and UMass-Lowell on the App Inventor Community Gallery, a site where students, teachers, and developers share apps and learn from each other.
Wolber will continue to direct the Lab in the fall while on Sabbatical at MIT, where he’ll be serving as a visiting faculty member and working with Hal Abelson and the App Inventor team.