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Pros: Students can get real mobile apps running on a phone or tablet within just a few minutes.
Cons: Some students may feel overwhelmed by the programming environment's capabilities and options.
Bottom Line: A fantastic and complete introduction to programming concepts and app creation.
Teachers should think of Appinventor.org as a toolbox packed full of options. First decide exactly what you'd like your students to learn and accomplish -- you can use either the App Inventor 2 book or the "Course-in-a-Box" option, or a combination of the two. Once you've worked through the instructional materials on your own, the next steps might include beginning student instruction, or possibly making a few modifications to fit a certain format or learning level.
The site's extensive teacher materials have complete lesson plans that walk you and your students through the resources, including presentation slides, some classroom handouts, and a special teacher forum for questions and conversation. Coding and programming are often collaborative activities, and teaching them isn't any different. It's a great idea to get involved in the forums -- you're bound to find a network of other teachers and instructors who can help you and your students create and problem-solve.
The Appinventor.org site provides a comprehensive set of resources for teaching and learning programming using the MIT App Inventor and App Inventor 2 tools. The site functions as a nice companion to the book App Inventor 2: Create Your Own Android Apps. Following the book's detailed, illustrated lessons (available for download for free on the site in PDF format), students walk through a series of units focused on key programming concepts, beginning with lessons that are easy for beginning students, and working up to intermediate level concepts and projects. Under the Educator tab, you'll find Computational Thinking curriculum (10 units), Mobile CSP high school curriculum, tutorials, App Building Guides, units on AI and the Internet of Things, and more. Each of these lessons is presented as an engaging project organized around topics, such as gaming or retrieving stock market data from the web. The lesson modules include videos, text, quizzes, creative projects, readings from the book, and Learning Nuggets that teach students more about programming in the block code environment. Students can also access the App Inventor Classic tutorial videos, if they are interested in seeing the site's original content.
Step-by-step, the fully illustrated lessons take students through the App Inventor's drag-and-drop puzzle-piece interface (familiar to anyone who has ever used Scratch). There are also downloads of complete projects and, in many cases, video walkthroughs. Students are also able to expand on their learning and add additional functionality to their apps with the "glossary" of app building techniques that addresses specific coding tasks and has specific examples. Additionally, the site includes Java Bridge, which teaches students how to code apps -- both iOS and Android -- in Java. A free, downloadable Java code library is available that's easier to learn than the Android SDK, along with several example applications and short beginner and intermediate courses in the topic to get students started.
Appinventor.org was designed for teachers by a university professor and is based on an actual university computer science class. As a result, it offers a rich array of teaching resources, guidance, and tools that are ready-made for classroom use. The Course-in-a-Box offers the materials and a series of lesson plans to help teachers offer a college-level introduction to programming for non-computer science folks. With some minor modifications, the site could provide the spine for a high school intro to programming course that's accessible to almost any level of student who wants to learn how to code. The Java Bridge option allows students to learn even more real-world programming language skills that might open a door for them to the larger world of computer science.
With that said, some users might find the site's interface just a bit clunky. While it's great that the site offers resources for both versions of the App Inventor tool, new users could get confused about where they should focus their attention. Nevertheless, once they're inside the top-notch, step-by-step lessons, students start learning immediately as they create fully functional mobile apps that respond in real time as they program. The included visuals explain exactly what students are seeing and what steps they should take, but there's also plenty of room for creativity and app modification.