The Showdown Between App Inventor and Scratch

Michelle Lau Blog

Though I have hardly mastered Scratch since my first coding workshop (read about it here), I charged ahead anyway into another coding workshop to learn about App Inventor, a web application maintained by MIT that allows you to create and install stand-alone applications for Android tablets and phones. My verdict? Embrace it! At first glance, App Inventor is very similar to Scratch; they both use a drag-and-drop interface, making computer programming much more feasible for beginners since it eliminates the need to produce fleshed out codes. They both allow users to create fully functional programs and help students ease into “real” coding. So which one should you choose? It depends. Here are some notable differences between the two that you should take into account when choosing which one to incorporate into your classroom: Usability I found App Inventor harder to grasp compared to Scratch because of how the code blocks are labeled. Whereas Scratch uses labels that make sense syntactically and semantically, App Inventor uses labels that are semantically invalid in English. Let me give you an example of what the two applications would say if I wanted to play an audio file after I click a button: Scratch: {When this sprite clicked} > [play sound (audio file)] App Inventor: {When (Button1) .Click} > {do [call (audio file) .Play]} Even though this example is relatively easy to figure out, I think we can all agree that the App Inventor language does not resemble the way we normally speak in English. …

Project-Based Learning AND Community Service? We’re in!

Michelle Lau Blog

As we diligently work to bring fresh updates to 30hands for the upcoming school year, we are also working on a project to get students more involved in hands-on activities while helping others in need. This came about when our CEO, Eric Braun, stumbled upon an organization called e-NABLE, which encourages volunteers to make cost-efficient, 3D-printed hands for those in need. We knew we had to jump on board. Why? Because here at 30hands, we are not only crazy about storytelling, flipped classrooms, and project-based learning (who’s not?); we are also crazy about empowering students with a wide-range of tech skills that will become increasingly relevant in the 21st century. With e-NABLE, we saw the opportunity to encourage teachers and students to become makers, learn about 3D printing, and help others with their newfound knowledge. What’s more, our name 30hands actually came from the idea that in a class of 30 students, everyone would raise their hands enthusiastically to participate. It therefore made sense for us – 30hands – to do social good by bringing many hands together to engage in PBL and literally provide a helping hand for people who have missing arms, hands, or fingers! Am I right or am I right? I want to switch things up a bit and end with a video story that I created about e-NABLE. Hopefully, it will get you excited about participating in the project and thinking about how you can get involved!   What do you think about this project? Are you interested in …

So THIS is what coding feels like!

Michelle Lau Blog

BEFORE you try to escape from yet another article related to coding (and more generally, Computer Science, the thinking behind coding) in the context of education, ask yourself, do you have any understanding of it? Have you personally evaluated the pros and cons to incorporating coding into your curriculum? Have you actually tried it to learn it? If you have coded, cool. If you haven’t… well, I am not actually here to give you the hard sell about coding in schools. I do however want to share my recent experience learning to code for the first time at 30hands Academy’s one-day workshop called Intro to Programming with Scratch, because it gave me a lot of insight into how and why learning coding is valuable. My first encounter with coding goes back to my elementary and middle school days when Xanga (a blogging platform) was still a thing. Besides publishing some cringe-worthy nonsense, I spent the better part of my time online customizing blog layouts by tweaking other user’s layout codes through pure luck trial and error. Did I work with Java? Python? Who knows. The point is that I modified preexisting code to bring to life what I had imagined — and that turns out to be what coding (and Scratch) is largely about! Scratch is a free programming language developed by MIT through which users can take pre-existing blocks (basically code), fit them together, and create something new, such as interactive stories, games, music, etc. Although Scratch was developed for children, I think it makes a great …