AppInventor Awarded Funding To Democratize Computing
Written by Sue Gee
Sunday, 07 April 2013
David Wolber and the University of San Francisco have been awarded a grant to launch the Democratize Computing Lab, an initiative to radically broaden and diversify the pool of software creators using App Inventor for Android.
App Inventor is a visual programming language designed specifically for beginners. It allows you to create mobile apps for phones and tablets using visual blocks:
If you've been following the story of AppInventor you'll know that it started as a Google project when its creator Hal Abelson took a two-year sabbatical from MIT to create a mobile programming language together with five Googlers. When Google decided to drop App Inventor as part of its closure of Google Labs, the project was open sourced and handed over to MIT with some funding for the MIT Center for Mobile Learning, part of the MIT Media Lab.
David Wolber is a professor of Computer Science at USF (the University of San Francisco) who began teaching App Inventor as part of Google's 2009 pilot program and is the lead author of App Inventor: Create Your Own Android App.
The Lab's mission is to to break down the "programmer divide", and radically broaden and diversify the pool of software creators [by introducing programming] to designers, artists, women, people of color, scientists, health professionals, humanities majors, entrepreneurs-- anyone who desires to add software to their creative problem solving arsenal.
The lab focuses on three activities all related to App Inventor:
Teaching Programming In addition to Wolber's book and its accompanying on-line course, a key focus of the lab is the further development of these teaching materials, in pa\rticular Course-in-a-box to help educators launch their own courses.
Community Outreach Working with youth groups in the community to help facilitate after-school initiatives involving mobile programming.
App Inventor deserves to be better known and appreciated, both in education and within the developer community where it has a role for rapid prototyping. It's fun and by providing quick results it provides an introduction to computer science that avoids the steep learning curve of traditional approaches.
If you want to see proof of how much can be achieved with App Inventor see the winning submissions from the recent App Inventor Contest, organized at the end of last year by David Wolber, which are now on show in the App Inventor Gallery.
One problem that App Inventor faces, however, is fragmentation. The MIT App Inventor site is still in beta and hands you over to the App inventor Community Gallery and there seem to be no links between these MIT sites and David Wolber's AppInventor.org, which is where you'll find loads of tutorials and Course-In-A-Box. Here's the introductory video for the site which as you can see is in many ways the site for David Wolber's book:
And now we have the USF's Democratize Computing Lab - a site which may be an umbrella for all the App Inventor resources but doesn't even have "App Inventor" in its url!