AppInventor:Project Evaluation

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Our H-FOSS Summer

As our summer internship comes to a close we think it's important to evaluate our efforts and the App Inventor platform.

Overall we think our summer has a been a great success! We were not only able to learn the App Inventor platform in a matter of weeks, but we completed six android phone applications using App Inventor, created a basic curriculum, and have concrete future plans to bring App Inventor in the classroom and possibly teach!

Therefore, not only did we accomplish a lot in our ten weeks here, but we have accomplished enough to be able to continue along this trajectory and pass our project along to others.

Also, if we have the opportunity, we would like to continue working with this project and H-FOSS. Go Team Go!!!

The App Inventor as an Educational Platform

Overall we think App Inventor is amazing! That being said, there are definitely pros and cons involved, but as an educational tool, App Inventor definitely fits the bill and not only makes programming mobile applications easy, but also teaches the student enough to handle higher level computer science courses in the future. Also, unlike Scratch and Alice which are mostly implemented amongst grade and middle schools and don't teach the students much concrete programmatic concepts like procedures, loops, and three tiered systems, App Inventor allows the student to develop more complex applications that introduce them to commuting bread and butter... and retain the information and feel confident enough to continue along the path of computer science.

App Inventor has thus far been implemented in 11 colleges/universities and one after-school high school program in the Fall of 2009 during Google's educational pilot program. Professor's like David Wolber praised the success of App Inventor heartily and noted that 20 percent of his class continued on study Python and App Engine. I think the fact that App Inventor has been used in college institutions attests to the possible sophistication of the platform and it's ability to teach complex concepts.

Fortunately, it allows the student to create simple to complex applications in the simplest method possible which not only teaches the student effectively and efficiently, but also boosts their confidence because they'll soon find that computer programming is simple for them. Hopefully, this confidence will bring them to take more Computer Science courses! Also, the learning curve for App Inventor is extreamly low which means that the teachers themselves can learn the platform in a couple weeks and then teach their children. Therefore, not even the teacher has to have a background in Computer Science in order to teach AI!

Me and Pauline have only taken ONE computer science course before working with H-FOSS this summer!!! After only ten weeks of working with App Inventor, I almost feel like a seasoned programmer and really want to continue working in the field of Computer Science in some facet (mostly combined with my Theater and Dance background). And Pauline wants to major in Computer Science and Education to become a Computer Science teacher in high school. Perhaps by the time she moves onto her career, she'll be teaching App Inventor in her classrooms!

Basically, we think App Inventor for Android kicks butt as an Educational tool and blows all other graphical programming platforms out of the water!!!! Not only is it simple in it's complexity, but you get to program an actual phone that you can USE!!! You're not making leprechauns jump over a rainbow for a class project, you are customizing the way you connect to the world through your smart phone!!!

Try it!

The App Inventor as a Developmental Platform

As much as I'd like to say I'd like to say that I look forward to expanding our mobile Android apps on the App Inventor platform, I cannot say I do...

App Inventor is great at first and has taught me a lot, but right now AI feels like a shoe I've outgrown.

For all the ways it makes things simpler, once you try to program at a higher complexity you soon long to use traditional code! If I had an Android phone I would definitely love to use AI to program the social features on my phone at the click of a button, but if I were to make a full feature mobile app in the future, I would do so in code.

Now, why do I now long to learn python and android code? Well, I could list the constraints, bugs, and psychedelic mishaps we encountered on our arduous journey with App Inventor, but I will simply name the greatest hits: floating code, disappearing code, "uhhhhhhh.... I really don't think that's possible...yet???", tiny tiny tiny Web DB, and "dude where's my project?".

However, with all it's shortcomings, App Inventor is the PERFECT CS educational tool! If App Inventor did it all, why would the students feel the need to delve into actual code? AI allows you to do enough to get hooked on CS phonics, then it boots you off at the perfect time to move onto code and actually have a better grasp of what you're doing... and most of all, actually like what you're doing.

So, if you programmers out there want to develop with App Inventor, I'd say it's a great demo/prototype platform, but if you want that polished prize gem mobile app in the Android Market with sterling reviews... I'd say write it in code....

But, if you want to teach computer science to your friend so they can get hooked on CS and help you tag team that mobile app in the future... start with App Inventor, and smoothly transition into code with enough confidence to actually feel like you have some concept of what is going on.

....oh, and if you want a good laugh, read our documentation wiki... ohhhh yeah.

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