Ever since Scratch took over the young programmer world with its easy to use block-based programming puzzle pieces, Many companies have joined in this trend including MIT and Code.org. Through easy to read and use blocks, users of the software or website are able to easily figure out how and what each block is used for. For example, if the block has an if statement, it will have the word “if” written on it and then an empty space for the command.
As a result of the popularity of the block-based development environments, both MIT and App Inventor released their own block-based android app builders to allow students to easily create apps using their computers with little to no programming knowledge whatsoever enabling them to use their ability to read to figure out and create something new.
It has been several years since MIT updated their App builder so the tools are a little out of date, for example the Android emulator uses Android 2 or 3 and some features are too basic for today’s smartphones.
I have no idea when but somehow Code.org eventually stepped in and has dominated this block-based development thing by releasing tutorials and lessons for non-coders to learn to code by giving them tasks to do and letting them see what code is in the block.
After trying out the MIT App Inventor, I found that it was very old but offered a decent emulator and had very basic features which I didn’t really enjoy using. There was no proper database connection and I could not enjoy the sleek new Android interface and was stuck with the older Android look.
Code.org’s lessons were a little more interesting. Code.org’s tutorials were more targeted at children and a little bit time consuming for people like me who are impatient. Other than that, I still love the feature where you can see the code you “wrote” with the blocks and the graphics for the results were well done. I love the themes too, Minecraft and Frozen!
In the end, I enjoyed (partially) using these block-based dev tools but I found that they were a little too limited in features and too slow paced. If you are just getting started, I highly recommend trying out Codecademy or something similar because it is a nice pace to start but if you already now the course, it might be a little bit annoying.
MIT App Inventor: