5 Different Ways to Start Creating Apps With Students

The founder of Fractus Learning, Nick Grantham is an Australian educator living and working in Dublin, Ireland. With a background in education, engineering and digital product development, Nick launched Fractus Learning to connect people with a shared passion for technology and how it can bring education to life.

It’s true… Coding is officially cool! Well, at least that’s what Will.I.Am is telling me. With high profile figures in business, sport, technology and music promoting coding, it is no longer a space reserved just for geeks and nerds.

A huge part of this mainstream adoption to coding has come from our daily interaction with smartphones and Apps. With 17 year old students becoming App millionaires and thousands of new Apps entering the marketplace each day, the opportunities for kids to get involved in App development is exploding.

Here are five very different ways to get enthusiastic young coders into the App space. And, you never know, you just might get caught up in the hype too!


1. Join or Start a CoderDojo

Arguably, one of the best ways to get started with App development is to get “hands on”. We know that students learn best by doing, and that is the premise behind the revolutionary movement that is CoderDojo.

At a CoderDojo, young people learn how to code, develop websites, apps, programs, games and more. Dojos are set up, run by and taught at by volunteers. Dojos organise tours of technology companies, bring in guest speakers to talk about their career and what they do, and organise events. In addition to learning to code, members meet like minded people, show off what they’ve been working on and so on. CoderDojo makes development and learning to code a fun, sociable, kick ass experience. CoderDojo also puts a strong emphasis on open source and free software, and has a strong network of members and volunteers globally.

If you are interested in joining a Dojo, you can search for one in your area. Or, even better, if you are interested in setting up a Dojo in your community, check out how to get one started.


2. Try an Online Course

You can pretty much learn to do anything online these days. Whether it be via MOOCs, YouTube, Vimeo or Lynda.com, there is video content to step through each and every phase of app development.

Here are two excellent video courses for first time coders. Featured on Udemy, both the course for iOS and Android focus on learning to create Apps from scratch:

Android Apps in 1 Hour: No Coding Required

“This course is far and away the top selling App Inventor training course in the world. Join the thousands of satisfied Android Developers who are already making Apps from the skills learned in this course.”


Make iPhone and iPad games in 1 hour without programming

“This course goes through all of the fine details you will need to start building successful games. The course is designed for beginners to help you understand how a game engine works and the logic behind game production.”



3. Get Reading

That’s right… Books. Those paper things we used to use before picking up the iPad, Kindle or Nook. Patronisation aside, whether you choose to put a reference book on your device or go for a proper paper copy, you can’t beat the huge variety of specific App development books available.

From the perspective of developing apps with kids who may not be proficient or strong programmers, look for books that are geared at a novice audience. Try and find books that use examples and practice projects to re-enforce skills and techniques.

A great place to start is with ‘Diving In – iOS App Development for Non-Programmers Series‘. The book goes into a good level of detail while keeping key concepts as simple as possible for a younger audience (I would not recommend it for very young learners). Take a look at some of the comments in the Amazon store and see just how popular the book is within the App building community.


4. Go to College

Once upon a time “Go to college” was a pretty expensive option (and it still is in many ways). But, the openness of online learning has ‘flipped’ this concept, allowing students around the globe to learn from some of the world’s most respected educational institutions.

Via iTunesU, Stanford University offers an extremely well recognised set of material on creating Apps for the iPhone and iPad. Delivered via an archive of audio and video content from schools, departments, and programs within Stanford, the course is a great option for older students (aimed at tertiary, but applicable to enthusiastic high school students too).


5. Creating Apps from the Source

Finally, it would be unfair to complete the list without directing you to the official starting points for App development. Apple, Google and Microsoft all offer a huge amount of material, links and resources to get started in App creation. Take a look at the links below and launch you and your students into App development:

iOS – http://developer.apple.com/library/ios/navigation/

Android – http://developer.android.com/develop/index.html

Windows – http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/apps/br229519.aspx


What have you used to leap into the exciting world of App development? How eager are your students to join the fun? Let us know in the comments below.


Image courtesy of Flickr, William Hook.

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  • Sam

    Very nice article. I use AppInventor with my students. (Kenya, Africa). Its something of unbelievable power. The excitement when they are finally “Download to the connected phone”, try it out and yeah!

    • FractusLearning

      Brilliant tip Sam! It looks like a great starting point for students and a neat interface to simplify the App making process. Thanks for the comment.

      • Sam

        Neat intuitive interface … the soft sounds while locking the blocks together… aaaw! I recommend it for anyone who wants to have friendly learning in apps development.

  • Rebecca Dovi

    Don’t forget MIT appInventor for Android. Drag and drop interface similar to Scratch. The newer version lets you see the Java begind the blocks. Free, and is a great first step in making apps

    • FractusLearning

      Thanks Rebecca. Sounds like AppInventor is a great starting point. If it’s half as good as Scratch then it would be perfect for students testing the App waters.

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