There’s an app for that

Fort Dodge Senior High students have been learning how to make apps in the school’s Introduction to Computer Programming class since 2009.

“We talked about that this was a hook for students to be interested in programming, because they would be writing applications that could actually be put onto an iPhone, or an iPod Touch at that time. Now we’ve evolved to where we put it on an iPad,” Scott Kehrberg, FDSH instructor, said. “The language would then transfer to any other course they would be doing.”

According to Kehrberg, programming is easy once a student has learned its basic language.

“It’s like learning Spanish here at Fort Dodge Senior High School, but then when you go to Mexico, the dialect is different than going to Spain,” he said. “You just have to learn those fine points.”

The class culminates with students readying their own digital application.

“I walk them through learning different concepts and then they get that chance to write a final project, and they get to do their own idea,” Kehrberg said. “They get to write something they might like to do.”

Kehrberg said his students are equally creative and innovative when it comes to creating new applications.

“I’ve had in the past a student who said, ‘I want a way to quickly check my physics homework,’ and created an app called physics calculator,” he said. “I had another student who took the basic concept of rolling a pair of dice and expanded it to where you can pick two, three, four, five dice if you wanted to. They investigated how to shake the phone and get it to roll the dice, added sound to it, et cetera. That took it the extra mile.”

There is great interest in the class, Kehrberg said.

“I had kids who were so interested in it they said, ‘We want another course.’ So we added Advanced Computer Programming I,” he said. “Now, they have the freedom to go ahead and explore and create an app. A lot of times they come up with ideas that go beyond what that intro course was, takes them the full term to create the app because they’re going out there finding sections of code to help them out and figuring out ways to do that.”

Kehrberg said he enjoys teaching the class.

“The hardest thing for me in this class is I have to feed them a little bit of an idea and walk away, because if I stay with them they truly don’t learn it. Sometimes we have to learn by making mistakes, and then we learn to fix that mistake,” he said. “It’s really neat to see that app evolve over time and see them be so proud of what they’ve accomplished by the end.”

Especially rewarding for Kehrberg is seeing his students’ enthusiasm for learning, he said.

“They’re problem-solving, and they don’t realize it,” he said. “They’re having fun doing this. There are days where they walk out and (are) just agitated because they can’t get it to work. I’ve told them, keep a notebook, because you’re going to be out there doing something and an idea is going to pop into your head. Write it down.”