Learning Code by Building Apps: TouchDevelop by Microsoft Research


Created by Microsoft’s Research group, TouchDevelop is a touch-friendly app creation environment that allows students to build apps using their phone, tablet or desktop machine. The environment has been designed with a detailed focus on providing a safe and enjoyable space for students to learn coding basics, progress their skills and publish their very own apps to run on iOS, Android, Windows, Mac and Linux.

TouchDevelopName: TouchDevelop
Pricing: Free
Compatibility: Desktop / Mobile
Access: No signup required
Privacy: Customizable (privacy policy)


A Quick Look


In Practice

1. Hour of Code

With the Hour of Code fast approaching (December 8 – 14, 2014), now is the perfect time to gear your class up and get them excited about programming. Try using TouchDevelop as your tool of choice and give your students the opportunity to build their very own app in just 60 minutes. The Microsoft Research team have even developed a minute by minute lesson plan that you can use especially for the event.

2. Plan an App Day

This is a wonderful idea that the Microsoft Research team encourage and provide a heap of resources for. Set up a class or school wide event where students can spend the day learning to code their own apps. Not only does this associate coding with a day of festivities and fun, it’s also a good amount of dedicated time for students to really begin developing a love for coding and app creation.

3. Creating Games

While the possibilities for apps built with TouchDevelop are potentially endless, games are always a good starting point to get your students excited about coding. With a simple and powerful environment to create engaging mobile games students can start using the game board engine to create simple 2D games or check out and play some of the premade examples.

4. Math Applications

For older students who want to try some more practical app ideas, TouchDevelop offers some pretty powerful Math functions and operators. Take a look at some of the Math examples developed for the algorithm tutorials.

5. Code to Music

Whether you decide to use TouchDevelop or any other tool to introduce your students to coding, make sure to try this very clever and simple idea from the Microsoft Research team. Every time your students are given time to code, put on some of their favorite music in the background. Not only will this associate coding with fun, it will also foster the positive atmosphere of creativity and freedom that modern software development is renowned for.


Links and Next Steps


Feature image courtesy of Flickr, Janitors.

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