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My favorite way to use Thunkable is as part of a full-fledged app design project. You can work with a design-thinking model to conceive of and develop an app from beginning to end.
Other less time-intensive ways that Thunkable can be used include:
- Differentiated independent learning: Students choose Thunkable tutorials to build skills and create apps independently.
- Application and practice: After teaching mini-lessons on coding elements, have students use Thunkable to apply learning.
- Demonstrating learning: For students who are already comfortable with Thunkable, it provides them with an amazing medium for demonstrating their learning through the creation of multimedia projects.
Thunkable is the next iteration of MIT App Inventor, combining a block-based coding language similar to Scratch with the ability to design an app screen by screen. If you're a previous App Inventor Android user, know that the Thunkable interface is more or less the same. To start, you must choose Android or iOS. Then, in design mode, you add elements to a cell phone-sized screen. Users can add buttons, text, images, and even map functionality to create a fully functional app. Once each element is added, you can code its function by switching to Blocks and adding interlocking code blocks. Unlike with Scratch, you're not coding the actions of a cute little character, so it's not easy to just start playing around. Instead, you need a bit of a plan, or you can make use of the tutorials.
Thunkable has a set of 10 tutorials on YouTube that provide a good start in both understanding what the site is capable of and getting you initiated to building apps. As you build your app, you can test it by mirroring it on an Android device or -- if you have the Thunkable app -- on an iPhone or iPad. You can build a real app that will run on a device and can be published (and sold if it's good) on Google Play or the Apple App Store (though there's a fee for that).
For most teachers and students, Thunkable will likely need to further develop its tutorials (especially for iOS) before it can be a really viable learning tool. They've made their tutorials engaging and fun, but the average teacher will likely want more of them to support students. That said, there's a ton to learn through Thunkable, and the potential is incredible; it's just not an easy starting point for many.
Classes that stick with Thunkable will have the opportunity to work with all aspects of coding and app design. From the layout and screen flow to all the coding elements, it's a unique way to put computational thinking (decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction, and algorithms) into practice. This is real-life, hands-on learning with the potential for a truly authentic audience. And the most exciting part of Thunkable: You can build a real app that will actually run on a device and can be published.
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