Saturday, June 09, 2012

Capacity focus, 48: Java Development Environments for -- and on -- Android devices (Key development: MIT's Media Lab is investing in the Android mobile device as a platform for education)

Cf next post in this series, here

For some months now, the KF blog has been looking at the low cost, 7" or so Android Tablet (especially cradled in a folio with a QWERTY keyboard) as an emerging revolutionary device for web based education and training.

We saw where Libre Office, a fork of Open Office, has been hoping to release an Android office productivity package by about December this year, but noted that Integrated Development Environments [IDE's] for writing software in especially Java (cf. here at KF), seemed to be not quite there yet.

This was a point of concern, as a key target is to move our region beyond being consumers of digital technology, to being digitally productive; and being productive on a mobile platform that you can basically take anywhere, looked like a great idea. Especially, if this opened up a gateway to the smart phone apps market. But, it seemed that we had to patiently wait for such Android-resident  development environments to emerge.

That has now changed.

The wait and the search are over.

For writing Java coded Apps ON the Android, we now have the free- for- download Android Integrated  Development Environment.  

(This video shows it in action, but is a little hard to follow, because it is not zoomed in tight enough and is shot from the side, not "over the shoulder.")

To write FOR the Android, the formerly Google/now MIT open source App Inventor provides a "click together blocks" approach that has been fairly popular with educators. App Inventor, of course, works on a PC serving as host system to create code FOR the Android Mobile device.


Perhaps the biggest news connected to this is that MIT's famous Media Lab, has launched a centre focussed on using mobile devices in education, and features App Inventor, based on a seed grant from Google -- probably connected to the handover and going open source of App Inventor:
The Center, housed at the Media Lab, will focus on the design and study of new mobile technologies and applications, enabling people to learn anywhere anytime with anyone. Research projects will explore location-aware learning applications, mobile sensing and data collection, augmented reality gaming, and other educational uses of mobile technologies . . . . 

The Center's first activity will focus on App Inventor for Android, a programming system that makes it easy for learners to create mobile apps for Android smart phones by visually fitting together puzzle piece-shaped "programming blocks" in a web browser. Abelson proposed an idea that prompted the development of App Inventor during his sabbatical at Google in 2008.

Google made App Inventor publicly and freely available as a beta release at the end of 2009, and it has attracted a community of about 100,000 educators, students, and hobbyists. Google is in the process of open-sourcing the App Inventor code. As part of its research, the new Media Lab center will be engaged in studying and extending App Inventor, connecting App Inventor to MIT's premiere research in educational technology and MIT's historic track record of open software innovation . . . . the idea for App Inventor was directly inspired by Resnick's Scratch software, and the core code for its programming blocks came from Klopfer's lab.  
 In short, BIG NEWS: MIT's Media Lab is investing in the emerging Android Tablet (and smart phone) revolution as a pivotal platform for education transformation. END