Creating a mobile app can be a great way to get students interested in learning programming concepts. It’s also a good way to get them to dive into researching a topic so that they can build the best apps they can. For example, my ninth grade students (computer science principles) have just started a project in which they’re building apps that feature review games for history and geography.
My students are using the MIT App Inventor to create their apps. If you teach younger students, there are programming options that are appropriate for them. These are the tools that I usually recommend to introduce programming to students.
MIT App Inventor
The MIT App Inventor is a great tool for developing an Android app. The MIT App Inventor works in your web browser (Chrome is recommended). The only download that is required for App Inventor 2 is the optional emulator. The emulator allows people who don’t have Android devices to test their apps on their desktops. If you have an Android device then the emulator is not required and you don’t need to worry about installing it. MIT provides excellent support documentation and curriculum for classroom use for new users of App Inventor.
I’ve talked about Glide over the last six months because I think it’s amazing and many readers have reached out to me to share how excited they are about it too. Glide enables anyone who can make a spreadsheet in Google Sheets to create his or her own mobile app. If that sounds simple, that’s because it is just that simple. Here’s my video about how to use it. And here’s a list of ways you might use it in your school.
ScratchJr & PBS Kids ScratchJr
ScratchJr & the PBS Kids version of ScratchJr is a great platform for elementary school students to use learn programming concepts through visual interface. Students won’t create stand-alone apps with ScratchJr, but they will be able to create their own animations and games. ScratchJr offers a series of progressively more challenging learning activities that you can do with your students. ScratchJr also provides a curriculum for using programming to reinforce literary and math standards.