One of the coolest themes that emerged from the NEIT2011 Unconference was "making." Therwe were lots of great sessions on making programs (Scratch), making apps (GameSalad, App Inventor), making virtual scapes (MineCraft), and making physical objects (Makerbot). Below are some of my favorite parts of three of the sessions which I attended.
GameSalad is a free application that lets you design games and activities for mobile devices. The block-style programming can fit nicely in a progression from things like Pico Crickets and Scratch. @jsambuca and @agrill are doing really interesting things in their computer classes at Browning.
Another great session led by @jsambuca was all about MakerBot. MakerBot's Thing-O-Matic is a 3D printer that creates plastic objects designed in computer programs like SketchUp. There is definitely a learning curve for setting it up, and once it is working there are a ton of variables and settings to tinker with. However, the satisfaction of watching the gears turn and seeing a plastic toy being printed is probably worth the effort!
App Inventor started as a channel for developing native apps for Google Android devices. Google has stopped supporting it but now MIT is working to take over the project. Dan R. from Nightingale-Bamford showed some apps he had designed himself using the tools available in App Inventor. This program also might fit well into a continuum that goes from Pico to Scratch to GameSalad/AppInventor to traditional object oriented programming.
Header photo by Robert S. Donovan