App Inventor is a free software that allows users to build apps specifically for Android devices. Housed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) after being developed by Google, App Inventor is aimed at empowering teachers and teens with the tools to build robust and functional apps. The software provides creators with a framework of “building blocks” that can be assembled into apps that serve a variety of purposes, from controlling a real-life robot to calculating military measurements.
With both a “designer” and “editor,” App Inventor makes it easy to control the look and function of the app while testing it instantly on a Android mobile device. Creators can take app invention to the next level with the ability to create apps that feature mobile games, remote controls, interactivity with external objects, RSS feeds, data aggregation, and real-time updates. App Inventor hosts the information and the apps can be packaged to be downloaded by other users.
Keywords / Definitions
- App: Software application specifically designed to run on a mobile device
- Android:Google’s operating system for smart phones, tablets, and other electronic devices
- Free-Range Learning: Self-directed by student in out-of-school and informal environments
Creating apps has changed my perspective on computers and these so called ‘smartphones’ See, I realize that phones aren’t smart until you tell them what to do.
—Donta Jackson, 18 years old, Forage City creative team
With App Inventor, both students and teachers will gain high-level understanding of how mobile apps are created. The software needs to be installed on a computer and is supported by most operating systems (Mac OS X, GNU/Linux, and Windows). Prior to getting started, all users must have a Google account.
It is recommended that creators have an Android mobile device on hand to test their app during construction, however an Android emulator is available for those without one. While App Inventor is designed for those without coding knowledge, students and teachers should have a working knowledge of computers, internet research, using mobile devices, and gathering content. Teachers will find a growing list of online resources generated by the MIT App Developer Team as well as from educators across the globe. Free-range learners can take advantage of the wealth of self-teaching materials on the web, but all students should expect to spend anywhere from several hours to several weeks developing an app depending on its complexity.