Teaching 1st year programming using MIT App Inventor

Good news and bad news: Reflections on Using AppInventor to Teach First-year Programming | blog@CACM | Communications of the ACM.

MIT App Inventor is a graphical programming system that runs in the cloud via your Internet browser. Programs are developed in the browser and then offloaded to an Android phone or tablet, or emulator, to execution and testing. App Inventor is likely the fastest and easiest way to create Android apps, certainly for the novice developer.

Good news: Beginners really take to using App Inventor to create Android apps.

Bad news: Advanced students found App Inventor stifling and preferred using Android SDK and Eclipse once they reached that level of ability. App Inventor 1’s limitations hindered the advanced students development of the apps they wanted to produce.

Observations

  • Instructors found the training materials good but did not always work as expected: “Sometimes students told me that they worked through the exercises mechanically, without really absorbing the material“. Students learned better when they came up with their own project ideas. App Inventor 2, which is now available, is a significant advance over AI 1.
  • Students like the instructional materials but they were not challenging – in fact, the materials seem to me to geared to late elementary to middle school level.
  • They were using App Inventor 1 (version 2 is out now), which was known to have limitations and defects. Version 2 might yield different results.

Recommendations

They recommend that App Inventor be used for an initial introduction to programming for college students. Beyond that, App Inventor is good for teaching complete novices and non-computer science students, and younger students. Advanced students and computer science students will likely wish to migrate to Java programming in Eclipse and the Android SDK, relatively early on in their learning experience.

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Labor Force Participation Rate

The decline in the labor force participation rate is worrisome: The Demise Of The American Dream In 2 Charts | Zero Hedge. Link shows a chart for men in the workforce, which is different than the general labor force workforce. That figure has dropped from 86% to 69%. But the general labor force participation rate is down quite a bit too – this chart is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a Federal agency:

latest_numbers_LNS11300000_2004_2014_all_period_M02_data

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Did Newsweek really find Bitcoin inventor Satoshi Nakamoto?

Newsweek has posted a cover story by Leah McGrath Goodman, claiming to have located the inventor of Bitcoin, publishing a photo of his house and his car license plate.

Goodman ties together weak correlations with one almost fact – saying the individual said “I no longer have any connection” when she allegedly asked him about Bitcoin. But the individual said he was misunderstood, saying his answer was in reference to no longer being involved in engineering, where he had made his career. She fingers Nakamoto because he’s an engineer, knows math, he’s really smart, he might have been out of work during the time bitcoin.pdf was designed, and the original bitcoin.pdf document references saving “disk space” and she says, only old engineers care about disk space.

There are other developments including that a long dormant Bitcoin account used by the inventor (here) came back to life to say Dorian is not the inventor of Bitcoin: BREAKING: Dorian Nakamoto Is NOT Satoshi Nakamoto—Source: Satoshi Nakamoto « Null Byte.

The accused has written many Amazon reviews and filed public comments with local government – and his writing is nothing like the writing of the person who invented Bitcoin. (See for yourself.)

Another person say’s Nick Szabo is probably the inventor of BitcoinOr the inventor may be the Dread Pirate Roberts. The evidence is at least as strong for those conclusions too.

And the reporter forgot her ethics thinking cap.

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Disclosure: I have a BS in computer science, an MS in software engineering and an MBA.  I have computer and mathematics skills and have taken graduate courses in cryptography.  I took graduate finance and economics courses in MBA school.  I have a son whose first and middle name are the same as the lead programmer on Bitcoin today (and my son is also an engineer).  I have suspicious hobbies like having a ham radio license, a pilot’s certificate, a hovercraft, and I shoot 3D video. I tinker with electronics.  And I still care about disk space.  I often put two spaces after periods.  I am older than most software developers today.  I often use TOR, pay cash, turn off my cellphone to avoid being tracked and am concerned about our surveillance society.  That’s Newsweek’s evidence trail.  Obviously – OMG, I might be the creator of Bitcoin too!

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