My First App!

December 20, 2010

A few months ago I posted about the new App Inventor from Google which has a pretty impressive App maker for Android phones.

Unfortunately, I found it all a little awkward to use.  Animations for example seemed impossible.   Google own Android SDK also proved a steep learning curve.  And you need a Mac to use Apple’s iOS SDK.   So all in all, building useful Smart Phone Apps (or even rubbish ones) seemed out of my grasp.Buffalo Billy plays Pig on my HTC Desire

Then several things happened.   Firstly, Apple announced a relaxation of the policy towards third-party App making software, then Adobe released Air for Android.   Suddenly it was possible to build Apps in Flash Professional and export them for phones and tablets!

This weekend, in a couple of hours, I took a favourite game my wife and I built for a ventriliquist friend of ours (back in 2005) and converted it to ActionScript 3 (AS2 is a lot easier, but is being replaced by the more complex AS3 – though AS2 will still work for traditional flash resources on websites).   Once it was running in AS3, using the new AIR for Android template I was able to plug my phone into the PC, set it to development mode and build a new App. 

For some reason, Adobe have almost hidden their Android template.   After much searching, I found it on their Adobe Labs site.   But it was apparently available or linked from their Adobe AIR site.  Strange?

For those of you who don’t know the dice game Pig, you take turns rolling a dice and adding up the amount on the face.   If you throw a ‘1’, you lose your points and play reverts to the other person.   You can end your turn voluntarily at any point.  The winner is the first to 100 points.    You can play the original version here.  One cute thing we added for the app is that you can shake the phone to roll the dice. 

There are certificates to be correctly filled out, and testing to be handled before I submit this game to the App Market.  And in theory, I should also be able to press a button an convert it into an iPhone App too.  I’ll post here once I know more and as I understand, for Android at least, you don’t have to submit it.  You can just host an app install file on your own server.

This is going to be huge frankly!  As school budgets tighten, and ICT use expands, imagine the savings possible if we can build our own tailored apps.   The new Advent Amico is a 7″ Android tablet which costs £129.   That’s cheaper than most netbooks.   We found netbooks main disadvantage was that they look like laptops, so people assume they can handle the same software as laptops.   Smart phone tablets are taken to be big smart phones, and people only expect web browsing and basic use.

The future is looking very bright, and if not orange, then decidely mobile!


iPad

July 18, 2010

It’s Sunday morning and I’m sitting here with an iPad.  It’s not mine, Cramlington decided we should get one as let’s face it, the buzz surrounding them could mean they become the next big thing in education.Apple's iPadGetting a chance to play with it this weekend has been “interesting”.   I’m not sure where it fits into my ICT use.   If I want to check out my favourite websites, my mobile phone (an HTC Desire – Android smartphone)  can view those sites easily.   The size and weight of the iPad makes it uncomfortable to hold and operate.  And if I want to do more complex tasks, my laptop takes care of those. 

Ultimately for me, the biggest issue with the iPad is the limitations of the browser.   The lack of a Flash player aside, I found plenty of other websites it just didn’t handle particularly well.  I had planned to write this post on the iPad this morning; in much the same way as I used my phone to post on one occasion.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to using iPad’s Safari.   The software was so limited it could not interact with the non-standard text box.*

At this point, I suddenly realised what the iPad is.   It’s an App-using tool, not a mini-laptop.  Rather than using the preinstalled programs if I want to accomplish something, “there’s an App for that”.    In fairness, that’s not much different from the PC experience.

Like netbooks before it, it’s very easy to expect a higher capability than the device can deliver.  Is it my fault or Apple’s that I made this assumption?  Given the price tag (£365 + VAT for the cheapest option) I think it’s a little of both.  

My conclusion then?  That will have to wait until I’ve installed some Apps.  Given that other school staff desperate to get their hands on it, my conclusion might be some time.   So for now, I’ll leave you with this thought:   What good is a browser that cannot view Flash?  Especially that 90% of educational resources are made using Flash.


* If I had wanted I could have installed the WordPress App and written the blog that way.  I haven’t, because it’s a shared resource and in order to install Apps, you have to register with Apple.  I’ll do that Monday with the school’s credit card.


Google App Inventor

July 13, 2010

I’ve just come across this very intriguing site from Google.  Called the App Inventor, it is going to allow non-programmers to build Apps for Google Android devices.

Google App Inventor

This is going to make the mobile market very, very interesting.  Right now, Apple leads the charge on App numbers for their iPhone and iPad.  They’ve also resisted attempts to allow non-Mac owners and non-programmers to be able to create Apps.

Google, by offering this App Inventor, will no doubt see a massive surge in their market place and I can imagine this will quickly draw them level with Apple.   Add to the mix the number of different Android tablets scheduled to come out this year and Apple are going to have a fight on their hands.

That’s the business report out of the way.  For us regular users interested in e-learning, I suggest buying an android phone next time your subscription is up.  Imagine building your own quizzes and getting your students to complete them from their own mobile devices?  Or how about building a GPS game and watch as your students conduct mapping and measuring exercises.   Augmented reality – how about virtual teachers located around field trip sites?

If Google pull this off, the future of e-learning could get a LOT more mobile.  I’ve signed up already and am waiting for my account.  Expect e-learning App posts soon!