I 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.
App Inventor 2: Create your own Android Apps is now available in early-release form from O’Reilly. The early-release gives you discounted access to the book while the authors are making final edits. You receive the preview version now, then all significant updates as well as the final version.
I wrote the book along with three of the original creators of App Inventor: MIT Professor Hal Abelson, Mills Professor and Google Engineer Ellen Spertus and Google’s Liz Looney. The book is designed for absolute beginners and is also useful for programmers looking to add App Inventor to their programming arsenal.
The book is used in many K-12 and University courses. Check out the course-in-a-box to see how the chapters fit in to a course outline.
Watch this incredible interview with MIT’s Hal Abelson, who created App Inventor, and Asha Richardson, who co-founded the app lab at Oakland Youth Radio. If you are interested in motivating kids to be creators and thrive in today’s society, you have to watch this!
As part of code.org‘s terrific “Hour of Code” week, Barrack Obama has called out youngsters to learn how to code. There are some great learning tools at code.org, including Blockly, Scratch, and App Inventor. The initial “Angry Birds” code challenges involving programming character’s movement through a maze is a great beginning to programming. My twelve-year-old son Tomas had a blast and learned a lot of programming (if, loops, complex logic, etc.).
App Inventor Answers the President’s Call
Learning to program a maze is great, but App Inventor stands out as a tool that actually lets you program your phone and build all kinds of apps. You can build apps that auto-respond to text messages or an app that with a single click sends “thinking of you” to a list of phone numbers; You can build apps that remember where you parked your car, or how far you’ve run. And you can build meaningful, media-rich apps such as an “I Have a Dream” app that plays the speeches of MLK and Malcolm X. Most importantly, you can share your apps with your family and friends because App Inventor works on the open Android platform.
The “I Have a Dream” screencast tutorial is below. If you have an Android, click on the link and follow along, and you can have a cool app downloaded within minutes. And you’ll learn enough programming to build your own apps of various types– the sky is the limit!
App Inventor 2 is the new version of App Inventor now available at http://ai2.appinventor.mit.edu. It is fabulous– a real game changer in terms of app building and computer science education for beginners. Congratulations to the MIT team for this great achievement!
The tool is much easier to setup and usually requires no downloads on your computer. If you want to build apps and learn some programming, and you have an Android phone, you can literally get going within minutes.
Besides the better setup, the new system provides a much more elegant programming experience. The blocks editor loads immediately — its now in the browser, not a Java app!. And there are a number of new features that simplify the app building process. Once you use it you will NEVER go back. However, AI “Classic” (beta.appinventor.mit.edu), and the projects you’ve already built, will still be available for some months. For a description of the key changes in AI 2, see http://www.appinventor.org/appInventor2Changes.
Teachers– you should teach with AI2 this Spring. For my take on why, see http://appinventor.org/appInventor2. In terms of supporting materials, the App Inventor book has been partially translated into AI2. You can find some chapters in web form at http://appinventor.org/book2. Most of the book will be translated in web form by early January. I am also working on a new book which will be available in plenty of time for next Fall.
AppInventor.org has been updated with the following:
1. Conceptual roadmap — find what you want to learn! This page should be helpful to students and teachers designing courses.
2. App Inventor 2 tutorials and video screencasts.
The first batch is ready, many more to come…
- “I Have a Dream” soundboard app tutorial for beginners. video text
- Paintpot, the classic tutorial now in App Inventor 2 video text
- Math Blaster, an app that generates and checks arithmetic, lots of iteration! text
3. Course-in-a-box updatesDesigning an App Inventor course? Make use of the materials here, including these additions:
- Quizzes, with solutions (organized within modules)
- Updated “shared data” module with a TinyWebDB Notetaker app
In the next few weeks we’ll be rolling out more new content, especially for App Inventor 2, and we’ll have a new design!
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.