Teaching App Inventor

The students in Miss Frizzle’s 9th grade Introduction to Computer Science have started the MIT App Inventor unit, which has given me some more insight into Miss Frizzle’s considerations when planning the curriculum. The first thing the students did with App Inventor was follow a tutorial from the App Inventor website that walked them through the steps of making the “I have a dream” app (a video player app). The students were able to replicate the app from the tutorial, and they familiarized themselves with the App Inventor interface along the way.

However, Miss Frizzle explained that at this point, many students often don’t think they have the skills to create their own apps because all they’ve done is follow a set of instructions. Therefore, the next part of the curriculum was meant to teach students how to abstract their knowledge from the tutorials.

The day that I observed the class, Miss Frizzle gave the students links to three different sample apps that were based off of the “I have a dream” app. The sample apps used the same concepts introduced in the “I have a dream” app, but played different sounds and videos. Miss Frizzle asked the students to test out each of the sample apps and write down pros and cons of each app. The students then discussed their feedback as a class. The idea was to get the students thinking about what constitutes a good app and give them ideas on how they can create their own.

Having completed the tutorial and seen sample projects based on the tutorial, the students were then ready to design and implement their own video player app. This was the stage where students started to feel more confident in their own app-making skills.

The following week, Miss Frizzle repeated this same process for a drawing app. The students followed a tutorial, gave feedback on sample apps, and designed their own version of the app. The second time around, the students started to get the hang of the routine, which prompted Miss Frizzle to explain to me how there is a fine line between having a routine that students are comfortable with and having a routine that students are bored with. That day, the students were still engaged with the routine and were able to stay relatively focused on the task at hand. Once the students start to get restless again, however, Miss Frizzle says that’s the cue for her to move onto something new.

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