My son and I made a deal! He could “zone-out” playing games if he also spent some time creating something; he chose to create android apps. Don’t worry! He also swims in the pool, plays piano, goes to school, empties the dishwasher etc.
About a week ago he created his first Android app using MIT App Inventor. I gave him a book, showed him where to find the online tutorials, helped him set up MIT App Inventor on his laptop (very easy!) and showed him how to connect it to his Samsung phone for testing/playing his apps. He grudgingly spent about 5 minutes following the first tutorial in the book and then he just started creating his own. Within 30 minutes of starting he had created his very first app and was excited to show everyone in the family. He had included images, touch-screen commands and switched between 4 screens.
This weekend, without any prodding from me, he started working on his 2nd app. He created an app with 3 screens; a welcome screen, level 1 screen and level 2 screen. He refuses to read/follow any of the online tutorials or books, so it wasn’t too long before he started asking me questions. “Why do only 3 of my ‘baddies’ move?”, “How do I check if the user has touched all the ‘baddies’?”, “How do I take a point away if the user clicks on a ‘good guy’?” Mum to the rescue! I helped him out and explained & showed him how to create global variables, assign new values to variables, check if something is touched by the user, etc. It was fun.
Of course, I can’t teach a class of 20+ students this way, it would take too long. It is interesting how my son likes to figure it out all by himself but he’d rather ask me for help than to read instructions (btw he’s an excellent reader). Many students in my classes are similar, they will skip my paragraph of information on a task sheet and just start coding! I think this is great for improving problem solving skills but it also can start
bad (not so great!) habits in coding. Also as a parent I’m just excited to see my son excited about developing apps. I don’t want to sit him down and make him do tutorials and follow a systems design life cycle (although I know how important that is). I had talked to a student’s parent last week and they commented that their son loved technology but quit IT subjects because of the amount of documentation required. I wonder how many kids are turned-off by technology in the classroom because of the documentation requirements alone? When I worked as an IT Analyst at EDS Canada years ago writing system development life cycle (SDLC) and quality control documentation was the bulk of my job.