Archive for April, 2011

App programming for the classroom.

April 13, 2011

I am bound and determined to offer a phone app programming class next year. I really think this is the programming of the future. Through the powers of my crystal ball I predict that in the near future laptops and towers will be replaced by phone/pad devices in docking stations. Pads will be the “big” device with phones doing the job presently held by laptops. Since Win7 Phone has not hit Montana with any real strength (if at all) the platforms I can use are Apple and Android. After a little research I have discovered to do anything with an Apple device requires a paid membership in their developer’s center. I also hear XCode is a challenge to learn. Android on the other hand has several free solutions. After a little more digging I found ANSCA Corona. Corona is game writing software for the iPhone/Android. Corona has a Mac version and a new Windows version. Compared to XCode and C# it is stupidly easy to work with. Corona is based on the language Lua. Lua is a small, free language. There is a free, unlimited time trial version of Corona that is fully functional except it cannot post to the apps store. It will, however, download an app you wrote directly to your Droid phone. Kids can write an app then download it on to their phone directly. I cannot think of a better way to get kids into a programming class. Remember when little Johnny or Jane used to take their art home and it was then stuck on the fridge? This is sort of the same thing only now the game project goes on their phone and they can show all their friends what they did in programming that day. Not every kid has an iPhone or an Android based phone but there will be enough to attract a lot of interest in the class. Corona does have some minor issues, the documentation for beginners is poor, and there are no real organized lessons. There are a good number of sample programs but they are poorly commented, at least for someone trying to learn how to code from them. There is a good forum and the Corona people respond very quickly to posts. There is a beginner’s book presently in the writing. If the book pans out this may be a winner for the kids. My intent is not to generate APCS level kids; I simply want increase the numbers of kids that are familiar with what programming is all about and what a useful tool it can be. I want kids to understand that not only uber-geeks are programmers and that an average person can code something cool.