Home MIT Launches Center for Mobile Learning with Support From Google

MIT Launches Center for Mobile Learning with Support From Google

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has announced the creation of a new Center for Mobile Learning. The center will be housed at the MIT Media Lab. Google supported the creation of the center with a grant from Google University Relations. The center’s first project will be the adoption and further development of App Inventor for Android, a do-it-yourself tool for building apps for Google’s Android mobile OS with no programming skills required.

App Inventor was a Google Labs project that was discontinued last week, but Google open-sourced the code. The MIT Center for Mobile Learning’s adoption of the code comes as a relief to fans of App Inventor, many of whom worried that no one would step up to carry on its development.

Professor Hal Abelson

The Center for Mobile Learning will be co-directed by professors Hal Abelson, Eric Klopfer and Mitchel Resnick. Abelson’s input helped shape the initial development of Android App Inventor in 2008, aiming “to enable people to become creators, not just consumers, in this mobile world.” He says that Resnick’s Scratch software, also housed at MIT, was inspiration for the project. App Inventor uses the OpenBlocks framework, another MIT project advised by Klopfer, to visually represent blocks of code, so that App Inventor users can simply build their applications from a menu of modular options.

The center’s stated goal is “transforming education and learning through innovation in mobile computing.” Android App Inventor was popular among computer science educators because it lowered the barriers to entry for new developers and served as a teaching tool to computer science students. Its new home at MIT will reassure those who feared that this tool would become deprecated after Google stopped development.

“Google incubated App Inventor to the point where it gained critical mass,” says Dr. Maggie Johnson, Google’s Director of Education and University Relations. “MIT’s involvement will both amplify the impact of App Inventor and enrich the research around it. It is a perfect example of how industry and academia can work together effectively.”

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