Thursday, June 30, 2011

Students Creating Mobile Apps in ANY Class*

*must have a computer with internet :)

I am a computer programming teacher.  The first nine years of my teaching career...  Enough about me! :)

Actually, let me give a little background on why I wrote this post...

A local university contacted me about helping create a PD class for teachers on App Development.  As I was writing him back about my interest and history, I thought... "what does he mean 'App Development'?  Will the teachers already know how to program?  Uh, oh, this will be like the not-so-old 'Build a Class Website' PD (see e-portfolio example in next paragraph)."  I decided to turn my replies into a blog post for others to benefit from.

There are two ways to look at app development in education.  Is your goal for the students to be users or producers?  Do you want students to be able to create apps showing their competency of a specific content area, or do you want students to learn how to program via app development?  Are the students creating an app or developing an app?  Think of it like this: you want your students to create e-portfolios.  Do you want to teach kids how to code in HTML and use Dreamweaver to create the site, or do you simply use a tool like Google Sites or Weebly to easily create the site? -- is the content more important or the tool/software?

Either way, I have your answer.

First, I am going to list the tools and a brief description of each.  Afterwards, I will give examples of which teacher would use which tool.

Tools for Academic/Content Teachers:

  • Free web tools to build apps: Appmakr (easy), Appsbar (easy) and Buzztouch (medium - must install native SDK to compile)
  • Kwik: this is an add-on tool for CoronaSDK.  It is a plugin for Photoshop that allows the easy creation of eBooks and comic books for iOS (iPod Touch, iPad, iPhone) and Android devices while using NO coding.  Affordable license.  CoronaSDK is free to test and affordable for publishing (only need to license one computer).
  • Android App Inventor: This is very easy to use.  It uses block coding instead of traditional written code like other tools.  It is good for teaching programming concepts.  100% free.
  • Stencyl: This is a game-creation software.  Right now, this is only for Flash games, but it is adding iOS functionality this summer.  It is block coding similar to Android App Inventor.  It has an awesome feature for collaboration.

Tools for Computer Teachers:

  • PhoneGap: An HTML5 tool used to author native apps for multiple platforms (iOS, Android and others).  Is now integrated in Dreamweaver CS5.5.
  • CoronaSDK: A tool to make 2D games for iOS and Android.  Free to test (only costs money when/if you plan to publish).  Uses LUA programming language.  Has a great user community with tons of free sample app code, etc.
  • Unity: This is a game engine that can be used to create 3D games for Windows, Web, iOS and Android.  To make games for mobile, it costs money.
  • UDK: This is similar to Unity, but is easier to use in most aspects.  It can build 3D games for Windows and iOS.  Free to test.  You can deploy onto an iOS device using a PC (no Mac needed).

An Art teacher could use Kwik to create comic books or eBooks.  They could also use AppMakr or Appsbar to make image gallery portfolio apps for each student.

A Math teacher could use Android App Inventor to make calculators, real-world math-related apps, etc.

Any subject teacher could use Kwik to create student-created eBooks to show knowledge, and they could use AppMakr or Appsbar for content-specific apps, or for student clubs/sports, or their own class app, or... etc.

Web design teachers could use PhoneGap to create apps, because the teachers/students are familiar with PhoneGap's coding (HTML, CSS, Javascript).

Computer programming teachers could teach programming using CoronaSDK to create 2D games for iOS and Android.  They could also teach programming using Unity or UDK to create 3D games for iOS devices.  They could also use the native SDK's, which I am not a fan.  For one, they only make apps/games for their specific devices.  I like tools that work for multiple platforms/devices and/or are available for the PC also (as my classroom is a PC lab).

Now about the cost.  Many of the tools are free or very affordable.  Almost all that cost money come as free unlimited testing (not publishing). - For these, install one license on one machine to compile for publishing, and use the rest for testing/learning/creating.  The other bit of cost is being a publisher through iOS and Android.  iOS is $99/year, while Android is a one-time $25.  Some tools offer free publishing though their name as long as your app is free.  Be sure to read all of the tools' terms.  For example, UDK requires a percentage of profits instead of upfront cost. - a free app is free through UDK.

As you can see, there are many app creation tools for many different situations.  I hope my post helped.  Please let me know if I can assist in any other way.

No comments: