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 appInventor.org (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: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1491906847

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App Inventor 2 is Here!

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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.

appInventorBook

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.

There are also a number of AI2 video tutorials available at appinventor.org, and Shay Pokress and the MIT team have also created a number of nice tutorials available on the MIT site.

 

Dave

Google: The Time is Ripe to Flood Schools with Android Devices

I just gave an App Inventor workshop at the CS4HS seminar at the University of Illinois in Chicago– 30 high school teachers from the Chicago area were hosted by UIC professor Dale Reed and sponsored by Google.

One thing I learned is that the kids of Chicago are in good hands, at least the ones lucky enough to learn from these  teachers.

The other thing I learned is that App Inventor is striking a chord with high school teachers. Many have been teaching Java, at least for Advance Placement (AP) courses and they know how few students thrive with that as a beginning language. They see how visual blocks languages like App Inventor and Scratch can work for a much larger subset of the population. They also see the potential for App Inventor to leverage the students’ intense fascination with the tiny computing devices they carry around  in their pockets.

The BIG QUESTION, however, the first one I hear from every high school and university teacher, is

WHERE CAN I GET SOME PHONES?

How can I teach App Inventor if only a few of my students have Android devices?

One answer is that you can develop apps without a phone, using the Android emulator that comes with the free App Inventor software.  If you can scrape together a few phones for your class, or leverage those that your students bring, the emulator-based solution is workable and one I encourage teachers to take.

But there is a much better solution, one with much broader implications, but one which would require some great vision by the folks at Google and perhaps a T-Mobile.  The solution involves giving every student who signs up for  a high school Computing 1 course a device –phone or tablet.  Let them live with it and program it as part of their life. The number of citizens with the ability to create technology would explode explode! The students will learn what software is, they’ll learn problem-solving and logic, and they’ll learn entrepreneurship– how to formulate ideas and create things of use to society.

We’re not talking incremental change, but historical– and at a time when everyone from the Labor Bureau to the White House has identified a need for more programming-savvy citizens.

Why Google? Couldn’t it be some other deep-pocketed organization?

Yes, but right at this moment in history Google has a motive that can make it work. This scheme can win them the multi-billion dollar battle between Android and the iPhone. App Inventor only works for Android and there’s not yet an iPhone equivalent that is even close. This will change, soon, but App Inventor has the momentum, and so does Android in terms of casual “end-user” programming of mobile devices. Partner with a service-provider like T-Mobile, give the high school students a free device and a semester or two of free service, and suddenly you’ve got thousands of young new clients buying Android devices and service for the next 80 years.