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MIT Opens Center for Mobile Learning with App Inventor Research

Google Education provided an undisclosed amount of seed funding for the opening of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Mobile Learning, according to the Cambridge school.

The center, located at the MIT Media Lab, will focus on new mobile technologies, apps, and their uses in education, including location applications, mobile sensing, data collection, and reality gaming.

The first project will study and extend, for educational technology use, App Inventor for Android, a tool developed by Google Labs designed to allow anyone--from novices to programmers--to create apps by using a graphical interface of buttons and menus in a web browser called the Open Blocks Java library. Google, which is in the process of open-sourcing the App Inventor code, released the beta version in 2009.

Maggie Johnson, Google's director of education and university relations, sees the Media Lab initiative as the next logical step for App Inventor. "Google incubated App Inventor to the point where it gained critical mass," said Johnson.  "MIT's involvement will both amplify the impact of App Inventor and enrich the research around it."

The center will be run by Hal Abelson, professor of computer science and engineering; Eric Klopfer, professor of science education; and Mitchel Resnick, professor of media arts and sciences.

"At MIT, App Inventor will adopt an enriched research agenda with increased opportunities to influence the educational community. In a way, App Inventor has now come full circle, as I actually initiated App Inventor at Google by proposing it as a project during my sabbatical with the company in 2008. The core code for App Inventor came from Eric Klopfer’s lab, and the inspiration came from Mitch Resnick’s Scratch project. The new center is a perfect example of how industry and academia can collaborate effectively to create change enabled by technology, and we look forward to seeing what we can do next together," wrote Abelson in a Google Research Blog.

Scratch is a programming language that lets users create and share interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art.

For more information, visit media.mit.edu.

About the Author

Tim Sohn is a 10-year veteran of the news business, having served in capacities from reporter to editor-in-chief of a variety of publications including Web sites, daily and weekly newspapers, consumer and trade magazines, and wire services. He can be reached at timothyjsohn@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @editortim.

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