USF students Andrea Conway and Kelly Lazzara are featured in this BusinessWeek.com video report on App Inventor and our course at USF.
They take a computer science course each and every semester. They build mobile apps. They learn using a visual language, App Inventor, that allows them to create their first app within an hour and sophisticated ones within days. They become so excited about programming phones that they join the Technovation after-school program and spend their afternoons learning more programming and entrepreneurship skills. One app– an educational one about Mitosis and Meiosis, wins the regional competition and a trip to California. Who are these kids? They’re the students from the Advanced Science and Math Academy (ASMA), a public charter school in Marlborough Massachusetts, and, President Obama, they are exactly what America needs!
I met these incredible students and learned about their fabulous school at the MIT App Inventor Summit. The students were invited to MIT along with their teachers, Kelly Powers and Padmaja Bandaru, two women who should be given millions of stimulus dollars for their exemplary work.
The students demonstrated their projects, talked tech with App Inventor project lead Hal Abelson and the other conference attendees, and with great aplomb illustrated how App Inventor can help change the face of education.
You hear everywhere how we’re not educating our kids for life in the 21st century. What should the President do? Call Kelly Powers and Padmaja Bandaru at the AMSA school!
Two humanities students took an App Inventor course and built a prototype; two graduates in computer science pushed the project along by building a more complete version using Java. Together, this uncommon comingling of students is competing in an international mobile health (m-health) contest. And they just make the lives of thousands suffering from Multiple Sclerosis (MS) just a little bit easier!
The school is University of San Francisco. The humanities students are Dylan Hindenlang and Samantha Lam, who walked into a core curriculum computer science course and will end their year traveling to Cape Town to pitch their project. The graduate students are Chen Chen and Yaoli Zheng, who for their final project in a Mobile Programming course worked with the humanities students and a person with MS to build a sophisticated piece of software. The contest is the GSMA Mobile Health Challenge to be held at the Mobile Health Summit 2012.
Angelo Taylor is a University of San Francisco student who took my App Inventor course last year. He has created this video about our App Inventor course. Great work Angelo!
This video was created by University of San Francisco student Angelo Taylor. A longer version is coming soon. Do you have video of students working with or talking about App Inventor?
App Inventor was used in the summer program BAYCAT–The Bay View- Hunters Point Center for Arts and Technology in San Francisco. In just a few weeks, these students learned the basics of app building and created a game. One is a fashion app where you can drag clothes into a virtual closet. Another lets you grab for dollars before the police officer snatches you. Another lets you skateboard while boulders fall from the sky, while two others are fun soccer games. The students learned some complex programming, with if-else blocks, timer events, and the like, and they also had to work with Photoshop and other tools to build their user interfaces. Impressive work!
Congrats to the students and to their wonderful volunteer instructor, USF grad student Roderick Lisam.
App Inventor provides a component, TinyWebDB, which can be used to talk to web data sources (APIs) that follow a specific protocol. You can use APIs bring in book data from Amazon, stock information from Yahoo Finance, and data from blogs (see appinventorapi.com for samples) There’s also a new Web component in App Inventor that provides another method for talking to APIs.
Last semester, Jackie Tong, a University of San Francisco student taking our App Inventor course, created an”App-Inventor-Compatible” API to Yelp’s recommendation data. The API gives access to simple search on Yelp.
You can access Jackie’s API directly from your App Inventor apps. Just add a TinyWebDB component and set the sourceURL to cs1072spr11.appspot.com.
You can also download the source code to modify it and add new Yelp commands. She wrote the code in Python and using App Engine, and she’s been kind enough to share the code at:
Jackie was a beginning computer science student. She is exceptional, but her work shows that even beginners can create APIs using Python and App Engine, and thus, with App Inventor, can create web enabled Android apps.
Youth Radio is an Oakland, CA organization which promotes young people’s intellectual, creative, and professional growth through education and access to media. They’ve won a MacArthur Digital Media and Learning Award and now they’re adding mobile apps to their game and and using App Inventor to make it happen.
Here’s a clip about them:
No women in computer science? Not so fast! The University of San Francisco’s App Inventor class is helping to encourage more women into the field. These four students, recent A-listers in the USF course, are now helping high school girls learn programming and entrepreneurship in Iridescent’s Technovation Challenge. Jenny Horowitz, Paige Carrington, Julie Cahill, and Melanie Garcia– Way to go!
For more info about the Tech Challenge, check out this PC World article
Hal Abelson, the MIT professor who took a sabbatical at Google to develop App Inventor, wrote a recent piece for EDUCAUSE Quarterly. Not surprisingly, Hal’s article deftly characterizes the great potential of App Inventor in education and society. Here’s an excerpt that gets to the gist of App Inventor’s unique educational value:
One of my favorite App Inventor examples comes from an introductory computer appreciation course at Wellesley (one of the Google-sponsored pilots). The instructors, Takis Metaxas and Eni Mustafaraj, had the idea that students should learn about the societal implications of information systems by building some of these systems and seeing first-hand the choices involved. In one example, the class created a polling application. As people walked around the Wellesley campus, they could pull out their phones and see that there was a new poll — for example, “Who is your favorite female singer?” — and select and send their responses, which were recorded by a web server.
At the next class, Eni pulled up the web page and showed the results. Then she pulled up the database and said, “and here’s how you all voted.” The students were startled. In the “private” experience of using their phones to answer a poll, they’d simply not appreciated that:
- The polling system could keep track of their identities along with their votes.
- This was a choice made by the system designer.
- They could experiment with that choice implementing their own variations of the polling system.
As a topic for introductory computing, this goes beyond the issues involved in learning about programming or computational thinking. It gives students direct experience with a technology — online polling — that has major social impact and lets them look through the eyes of the system implementer. By creating their own variations, students explore the design choices and grapple with the implications, social as well as technical. The next time these students encounter polling systems or proposals for electronic voting, they’ll be asking some good questions as informed citizens.