Connect, Create, Collaborate: Creating Apps with Teens

For almost anything you need or want to do on a smartphone, “there’s an app for that.” According to ZDNet, teens average 25 apps on their mobile devices, with many installing over 40. Going behind the device and the apps and exploring what goes into making an app can help teens learn a variety of skills, and help demystify the technology. That’s why teaching teens how to make apps is something you might want to do. But, you may ask, “how can I teach teens to do something that I don’t know how to do myself?” Don’t worry, MIT’s App Inventor has everything you need to start teaching workshops on Android App creation, all online, and all free.

The first step is to spend a little time on the Teach and Learn pages of the App Inventor site. The Teach page includes everything that you, as the teacher, need so you can help teens through the process of creating an app. The site includes curriculum materials, including lessons on how to create three apps (a Magic 8 Ball, a painting app, and pong).

In addition, you can check out the teaching resources page and spend time in the Forums to see what others are doing with teens and App Inventor. After you have chosen a project to work on with teens, but before running a workshop, you should look through the Learn page to find out how to make sure the computers teens will use to create their apps are set up correctly and to find out if your technology for app building is running correctly. Familiarizing yourself with the Teach and Learn materials will also help you to be able to answer quickly questions teens might have.

Each participant will need a Google Account in order to sign in. The account is required for authentication purposes, and does not need to be used for anything else. While it is nice if teens have an Android device so that they can use their app in real-life, it is not necessary. Teens can test apps within an Android emulator, a tool that makes it possible to use the app on a computer instead of on an Android device. After guiding teens through the creation of a few basic apps, they should have enough knowledge to begin creating their own. They can even upload their apps to Google Play so that others can download them.

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