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Oak Creek students get smart with cellphone apps

Dec. 18, 2012

Oak Creek High School students could be the next creators of smartphone apps such as Angry Birds, Draw Something or Words With Friends via their new class, Smart Device Programming.

The new class, approved by the School Board on Nov. 12, will be incorporated into next year's curriculum, coming on the heels of a reorganization of the Oak Creek computer programming classes.

While Apple's iOS software - used in iPhone and iPad technology - will not be used, students will be able to use Android software, which is free and open source and doesn't require a Macintosh computer to be used in programming.

Having a smartphone for the class is not a requirement. Computers are rigged to emulate Android phones. While students don't need a smartphone, those with can have their parents check their phones' apps to make sure they're doing their homework.

Computer programming teacher Marc Rivest came up with idea for the course, which he sees as increasingly valuable in terms of career potential.

"I'm seeing such tremendous growth in application development in the smart devices," Rivest said. "Even as early as seven years ago there was no such thing. There are I don't know how many millions of applications that are out there now."

The class will be offered as an advanced-level programming course due to the complex nature of the coding language.

When Rivest learns a new coding language, he creates a simple program called Hello World, which might take him minutes to code but could involve pages of instructions for smartphone users to learn. Students will be creating similar simple programs. Rivest wants to include the use of tilt in the devices and plans on having the students create a simulation of the game "Connect Four."

If the students are ambitious and successful enough, they can even sell their applications. The school is involved in Dreamspark, a program which not only lets students install software from classes they're enrolled in on their home computers, but will let the students put their applications online for sale.

As part of the curriculum revamp, students will no longer need to take two graphic programming classes to be eligible to take Advanced Placement courses starting next year, though the number of classes won't drop due to the introduction to the Smart Device Programming class. Students will also be able to take the introduction to graphic programming concurrently with the introduction to programming.

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