A new MIT center for mobile learning, with support from Google

August 16, 2011

Posted by Hal Abelson, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, MIT

MIT and Google have a long-standing relationship based on mutual interests in education and technology. Today, we took another step forward in our shared goals with the establishment of the MIT Center for Mobile Learning, which will strive to transform learning and education through innovation in mobile computing. The new center will be actively engaged in studying and extending App Inventor for Android, which Google recently announced it will be open sourcing.

The new center, housed at MIT’s Media Lab, will focus on designing and studying new mobile technologies that enable people to learn anywhere, anytime, with anyone. The center was made possible in part by support from Google University Relations and will be run by myself and two distinguished MIT colleagues: Professors Eric Klopfer (science education) and Mitchel Resnick (media arts and sciences).

App Inventor for Android—a programming system that makes it easy for learners to create mobile apps for Android smartphones—currently supports a community of about 100,000 educators, students and hobbyists. Through the new initiatives at the MIT Center for Mobile Learning, App Inventor will be connected to MIT’s premier research in educational technology and MIT’s long track record of creating and supporting open software.

Google first launched App Inventor internally in order to move it forward with speed and focus, and then developed it to a point where it started to gain critical mass. Now, its impact can be amplified by collaboration with a top academic institution. 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.