NYC Technovation Week: Creating Mobile Applications With Young Students

Did you know that third grade students can easily create their own Android apps? This summer, we used the Technovation Challenge curriculum and the MIT App Inventor at our summer camp. Within four days’ time, all of our students had created their own applications that sought to fix community problems functioning on their Android phones.

We are so excited at Iridescent to teach kids about programming and to make computer engineering an accessible subject. Our team was a little nervous that the campers would be too young to fully understand the App Inventor, but the visual interface was straightforward and mostly intuitive for our students to use. Below are some insights that we picked up along the way about teaching children to create their own mobile applications.

Tips for Helping Children Use the MIT App Inventor to Create Mobile Applications

  1. Challenge students to completely storyboard their application’s screens, sounds, and buttons on paper before trying to program them in the App Inventor. A nice resource for this is the screenshot worksheet (located on page 14).
  2. We had the students complete the HelloPurr and MoleMash (page 7) tutorials before creating their own apps. This familiarized them with the process of creating buttons, adding sounds and making new screens. 
  3. Talk with children about the Boolean commands (like “if,” “or,” “and,” “not,” etc.) that will be used in the MIT Block Editor–what does it mean to craft statements out of that language? How do these words impact a command?
  4. Let children explore the app inventor’s Block Editor before challenging them to create anything. We found that when they gradually learned on their own to manipulate the platform they were much more invested in the outputs they can create and willing to persist in working with the program.

Check out one of the applications created at our camp in four days’ time:

Learning to create applications helped our students to realize how accessible these programs and experiences are. At the end of the week, one of our girls said she had previously thought that only Apple could make mobile applications, but now she understands that she can too!

If you’re interested in teaching children to create applications, feel free to check out our online Technovation curriculum and sign up to participate. Also, check out other articles about our Technovation program here.

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