DIY: Make An App

AppMaker is a free, online application that enables tech users, regardless of digital skill set levels, to create and publish apps. Currently in pre-alpha phase, AppMaker’s long-term goals are to:

“[C]reate a mobile app drastically more accessible to a brand new set of app creators who are not self-identified as developers, and are primarily motivated by something other than “desire to learn the web”. We expect their motivations will range from creative satisfaction of ‘having made a thing that looks & feels real’ to a desire to have an app to send to clients of a small neighborhood offline service business.

The grand goal of AppMaker is for millions of people to be able to create apps that give them utility or joy. It need not be through the use of our software, although we expect that we’ll have to build or assemble parts of that whole product experience, partner for parts of it, and work with many, many people to both get input into both what the product should be, how our stuff does or doesn’t meet the needs of real people, and how to get the software in front of the right users.

To explore AppMaker, open a Firefox browser window and visit:

To track AppMaker development, visit the GitHub repository:

To learn more about building apps, begin with the following resources:

Experienced developers may download software development kits for Apple and Android platforms using the below links:

Emerging Technologies Illustrated (INFOGRAPHIC)

Projecting twenty-plus-years into the future, the Envisioning the future of education technology infographic illustrates and arranges emerging technologies into six distinct categories.

Worth exploring, the categories include: digitized classrooms; gamification; opening of information; disintermediation; tangible computing; and virtual/ physical studios.

Click here to view infographic (downloadable version) and related website.

How have emerging technologies influenced your instructional design and practice?


TFE Research, and Michell Zappa. “Envisioning the Future of Education Technology.” Envisioning Technology. N.p., 2013. Web. 27 Aug. 2013.

Hope You Can Make It: Places & Spaces for Makers

The Maker Movement is a technology subculture formed at the nexus of traditional craftsmanship and modern techno-engineering, combined with a self-starting do-it-yourself ethic. (New Haven Independent)

Think geeky tinkerer.

A makerspace (also referred to as a hackerspace, hacklab, or hackspace) is a community-operated workspace where people with common interests – often in computers, technology, science, digital art or electronic art – can meet, socialize and collaborate. (Wikipedia)

Independent in its roots, the movement is so widespread in its popularity, scope and impact that MIT recently announced that it now accepts, as a supplement to the application process, Maker Portfolios. And as a natural evolution, the movement has caught the attention of venture capitalists, academics and corporate America.

Curious to learn more?

At Smith, The Center for Design & Fabrication is a hands-on space, where users may design and fabricate objects from metal, wood, plastics, and glass. Available machinery includes 3D printers and a laser cutter. A maker-type, for credit course is offered every Jterm (IDP250.) The CDF is open to the Smith community, and faculty members are invited to bring a class or conduct research projects there.

Photo Credit: Wheel hanger for recumbent bike by Prateek (IDP250J, Class of 2009), Smith Center for Design and Fabrication.

Consider attending a maker-related event:

Workshop: NERCOMP’s “The Technologies of Makerspaces”
When: October 21 at Siena College (Loudonville, NY)
Libraries around the world are starting to implement Makerspaces. These are dedicated areas set aside for the physical creation of things and can vary greatly but include fabric art, wearable computing, electronics projects, robotics, 3D printing, as well as more traditional skills such as bookbinding or paper making. Most library makerspaces are currently focused on teaching and creating projects involving inexpensive computing power such as the $35 Raspberry Pi computer. We will be covering this as well as other technologies associated with getting a space like this up and running.

Exhibition: 2013 World Maker Faire
When: September 21 & 22, 2013 (New York Hall of Science)
Part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new, Maker Faire is an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors. All of these “makers” come to Maker Faire to show what they have made and to share what they have learned.

Pioneer Valley Makers:



Smith College’s Center for Design and Fabrication (CDF):


MacMillan, Thomas. “On State Street, “Maker” Movement Arrives.” New Haven Independent, 30 Apr. 2012. Web. 19 Aug. 2013. <>.

“Makerspace.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Aug. 2013. Web. 19 Aug. 2013. <>.

Get in Touch: New Technology Allows Users to Feel Virtual Objects

I am a big fan of 3-D movies and don’t mind paying the added price of admission to see one. Add motion seats, squirts of water or bursts of air to the viewing experience and I may never leave the theater. I recently had such an experience at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Reflecting on the experience, I wondered: Did the added 4-D sensory experience deepen my understanding of content? It certainly made it memorable. But how might I use technology to replicate this experience and design 4-D-like experiences for learners, in particular, the visual and kinesthetic ones?

Potential answer: Haptic technology

Haptic comes from the Greek verb, meaning to contact or touch. To experience your haptic capabilities, close your eyes and notice your ability to determine the position of your hands, arms, and legs without looking at them. Haptic technology refers to the science of touch in real and virtual environments. Haptic sensations are created in consumer devices by actuators, or motors, which create a vibration. (Robles-De-La-Torre, PhD, What is Haptics?)

AIREAL, a product currently in development at Disney Research Pittsburgh, is a new scalable haptic technology that enables users to feel (in their physical world) virtual 3-D objects and receive haptic feedback on gestures performed in free space. To create this augmented reality experience, the device combines interactive computer graphics with coordinated bursts of high-pressure air to create live feedback (see video below).

Imagine the possibility for increased understanding of topography when one is able to virtually fly over the world and physically feel multi-textured, changing terrains.

Potential applications of haptic technology include gaming, education and training, tele-operation in hazardous environments, medical simulation and rehabilitation and any related interactive virtual reality application. (Saddik, Orozco, Eid, Cha, 2011)

What’s more, the device is almost entirely 3D printed.


The Siggraph paper is available online.

The AIREAL project is being developed at Disney Research Pittsburgh by Rajinder SodhiIvan Poupyrev, Matthew Glisson, and Ali Israr. Joanna Dauner and Alex Rothera joined the AIREAL research team for the design and production of the SIGGRAPH 2013 Emerging Technologies Installation.



Sodhi, Rajinder, Ivan Poupyrev, Matthew Glisson, and Ali Israr. AIREAL:Interactive Tactile Experiences in Free Air. Disney Research Pittsburgh, 21-25 July 2013. Web. <>.

Robles-De-La-Torre, Gabriel, PhD. “What Is Haptics?” What Is Haptics? International Society for Haptics, n.d. Web. 01 Aug. 2013.

Saddik, Abdulmotaleb El, Mauricio Orozco, Mohamad Eid, and Jongeun Cha. “Haptics: General Principles.” Haptics Technologies: Bringing Touch to Multimedia. [s.l.]: Springer Berlin, 2011. N. pag. Web.