Open Source Collaboration
Trinfo.Cafe is part of Trinity College’s Humanitarian Free Open Source Software (HFOSS) initiative which in collaboration with the Computer Science departments at Wesleyan University and Connecticut College, strives to leverage open source technology to tackle humanitarian endeavors. Free Open Source Software is a global movement to create computer software that is free (as in freedom) for people to use, change, and redistribute. Trinfo is host to a new program to introduce high school students to FOSS and computational thinking by targeting their interests in Android smart phones and teaching them to build applications for the open source phones. “I’ll Write That App For You” is a six-week, eighteen-session, pilot program that uses a user friendly open source development platform called AppInventor, sponsored by Google Research and created at MIT, to build apps for Android smart phones. After two Trinity College students and two high school teachers learned and evaluated AppInventor during the HFOSS Summer 2010 program, collaboration was done between HFOSS, Trinfo.Cafe, and the Greater Hartford Academy of Math and Science (GHAMAS) to create an after-school program on AppInventor for high school students.
The collaboration resulted in the creation of the “I’ll Write That App For You” program and the program was taught by one of the Trinity College students from the HFOSS Summer 2010 program. A total of 10 ninth and tenth grade students joined the program. The group consisted of nine boys and one girl. The students were randomly put into pairs and worked together to create projects in AppInventor. The projects were based on an educational theme and ranged from apps that were student planners to apps that assisted with studying. The students presented their work to family and friends at the final showcase celebration. Feedback and evaluation forms were completed by the students on the final day. The students rated AppInventor as a fun program that was easy to use.
After receiving positive feedback from the fall 2010 participants, the program was offered again in the summer of 2011. Four students were recruited from GHAMAS with one student being a participant from the pilot program that returned as a teaching assistant. A curriculum was developed with lessons and activities that were designed to teach the students basic Computer Science principles, such as conditionals and procedural abstraction, through AppInventor. The students completed AppInventor tutorials, created their own game apps, and completed a final project with an educational theme. The final projects included apps that assisted with math skills and note taking. The note taking app that was created was also developed on the tablet, in addition to the Android phone. The students presented their games and final projects to family and friends at the final celebration showcase. Feedback and evaluation forms were completed by the students on the final day. After reviewing the forms it was found that the student thought that the class handouts and assignments were helpful. The students also thought that the time frame in which the material was taught was accurate.
In the fall of 2011, the program successfully ran for a third time and was also a part of the Community Learning Initative‘s Research Fellows Colloquium, as part of the ongoing research on AppInventor. This time, the program was again provided to GHAMAS students, but the primary focus of the program was to determine if the program was suitable enough, and attractive to, students of color. An anonymous pre- and post- survey was created and the students completed the pre-survey before the start of the program. On the final celebration day, the students completed the post-survey. The change in both knowledge and interest was measured to determine how effective the program was. Overall, the students felt that the program was fun, interesting, and they learned the basic Computer Science principles by completing the program.
In the spring of 2012, the Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy (HMTCA), expressed interest in running the “I’ll Write That App For You” after school program with their students. The program was held on-site at HMTCA and met twice a week for a total of nine weeks. Six students, four boys and two girls, participated in the program. Three of the six students presented their final projects on the final celebration day. One new addition to the Spring 2012 program was opening the program to have a teacher’s assistant. A Trinity undergraduate, Kaiyan Ding, volunteered her time to assistant the instructor, Pauline Lake.
If you are interested in viewing the curriculum for the “I’ll Write That App For You” curriculum and/or would like to see materials to start a similar program, please visit the curriculum page.