Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Four Free Tools for Creating Your Own Mobile Apps

Creating a mobile app can be a great way to get students interested in learning programming concepts and to get them to dive into researching a topic so that they can build the best apps they can. For example, if a student wanted to create an app that serves as a fun review game, he or she would need to have a solid knowledge of the topic in order to create a meaningful app. To that end, here are four free tools that students can use to develop their own mobile apps.

MIT App Inventor
The MIT App Inventor is a great tool for developing an Android app. The MIT App Inventor works in your web browser (Chrome is recommended). The only download that is required for App Inventor 2 is the optional emulator. The emulator allows people who don't have Android devices to test their apps on their desktops. If you have an Android device then the emulator is not required and you don't need to worry about installing it. MIT provides excellent support documentation and curriculum for classroom use for new users of App Inventor. Tutorials are available as videos and as written PDFs. A couple of the videos are embedded below.



Thunkable
If you want to create an iOS app, Thunkable provides a way to do that in a manner that is very similar to that of the MIT App Inventor. In fact, Thunkable is based on the MIT App Inventor framework of using jigsaw-like pieces that have commands labeled on them. Your job is to put the pieces together to make your apps work. Thunkable offers detailed written tutorials and video tutorials. A playlist of tutorials for beginning app designers is embedded below.


Metaverse - Create an Augmented Reality App
Metaverse Studio is a free service for creating your own augmented reality learning experiences. With Metaverse you can create interactive, augmented reality games and challenges for students to complete on their phones or tablets. Metaverse Studio is a block programming (sometimes called visual programming) interface similar in concept to what you will find in the MIT App Inventor and Thunkable. This means that you don't write code. Instead of writing code you create your augmented reality experience by selecting commands and selecting pieces of media from a menu. Put the commands together in the proper sequence and your augmented reality experience can be used on any iOS or Android device. At first glance the Metaverse Studio might look a little intimidating, but after a couple of tries it becomes rather intuitive. It also helps that Metaverse has recently launched a new set of clear video tutorials. The first of those can be seen here.

Glide - Make a Mobile App from a Spreadsheet
I've written a lot about Glide in the last couple of weeks because I think it's amazing and many readers have reached out to me to share how excited they are about it too. Glide enables anyone who can make a spreadsheet in Google Sheets to create his or her own mobile app. If that sounds simple, that's because it is just that simple. Here's my video about how to use it. And here's a list of ways you might use it in your school.