Nov 09 2015

MIT Helps Train the Next Generation of App Inventors

App creation has become a solid launching point for students interested in the pursuit of computer science education.

An app-programming platform pioneered at MIT to help young students bring their ideas into reality is expanding its scope to include K–12 educators.

MIT's App Inventor is a beginner's crash course for creating mobile applications. It doesn't require knowledge of a programming language. Instead, the App Inventor software allows users to create programs by connecting pre-coded building blocks.

The open-source app maker is the creation of members of the MIT Media Lab's Center for Mobile Learning, which launched in 2011 to focus on the study of new mobile technologies and applications. Hal Abelson, a professor of computer science and engineering at MIT, and the co-director of the Center for Mobile Learning, told MIT News that to reach students in modern computer science education, you have to provide a relatable experience for them. App creation provides that middle ground.

Starting in March 2016, MIT will offer a master trainers program to certify K–16 educators in mobile computing education using the App Inventor platform. The program will combine online coursework via the edX platform with a three-day workshop on the MIT campus.

It’s the first offering of its kind for App Inventor, and the timing couldn’t be better: Computer science education is booming.

Several of the country’s largest K–12 school districts are now working to bring students more computer science offerings, including Chicago Public Schools and the New York City Department of Education.

An introductory computer science course for undergraduates at Harvard last fall broke the prestigious school's course registration record for a single course after more than 800 students enrolled, accounting for almost 12 percent of the student body.

Startup coding schools, such as Flatiron School, have found success by teaching adults — and now students — the basics of web and mobile software development through courses that last just a few weeks.

Wangkun Jia/Thinkstock

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