Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Maker Party - AppMaker

Maker Party

Yesterday evening the school district again hosted a #teachtehweb Maker Party.  As they did last year Mozilla, NWP, and several other non-profits are promoting digital literacy around the world

We started the evening asking why apps such as Flappy Bird might ask for things like location data? It was quickly decided that while it doesn't seem harmful (if they are using the information to provide more targeted adds) it is certainly a bit uncomfortable having so much information about ourselves being passed around. We realized that free apps aren't actually free, we are paying for them by selling information about ourselves. If an app is free to you, that means you are the product being sold to someone else. 

If we want to play games on a tablet or phone it would be nice if we could create the games ourselves. How could we do that? We would look at two app building programs Mozilla Appmaker and AppInventor from MIT.

We started by creating a simple counter app. Add a button and every time you click the button it counts. Some of the participants modified the app to use pictures of cats inside the button, some added a second button to count down, and some added automatic counters. 

With our first app created I passed out some paper planning sheets.  However, most were busy creating apps already and didn't want to step back and start planning. 

Fifteen minutes before the end I stopped everyone and asked they to take a tour around the room to see what everyone else had created. 

Some had created musical instruments that would play when tapped. Others created video players that would play favorite youtube videos when a button was pressed. 

Especially, nice was the way parents worked with their children to create, but the kids did most of the heavy lifting and were the creative force behind the app being created. 

After our tour of each other's work we took a quick look at AppInventor from MIT. This is an actual programming system for Android. Appmaker from Mozilla is a bit easier and allows students to create an app quickly. AppInventor will allow the kids to create something at home and actually put it on the phone or tablets. Eventually, if they want they can also share their apps with their friends. Hopefully they won't create a messaging app that they will then use in school. 

We ended the day talking a bit about net-neutrality and the implications around the world. 

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