I'm in Fort Worth Texas this week. The event is the ACET Conference which is being held at Texas Christian University. My friend, and the person in my group who supports universities in Texas, Bradley Jensen and I have been presenting a day long workshop on Microsoft .NET and Mobile development for a group of university and high school faculty. It's been a great day with some good interaction with the people in attendance. And of course for someone who likes TexMex food as much as I do any excuse to come to Texas is welcome!
Mobile development is an exciting technology and Visual Studio .NET and the .NET Compact Framework makes it a lot easier than many people realize. Surprisingly writing software for pocket devices, Pocket PCs and Smart Phones for example, is not much harder than developing for a PC. The big restraint is screen size. The same Visual Basic .NET or C# code that you write for a Windows application will work with a Pocket device.
But suppose you don't have a pocket device? No problem. Visual Studio .NET has emulators for a number of pocket devices. Development and testing can take place without an actual Pocket PC. Some schools will buy (grant money is sometimes available) one or a few devices to let students use them around school once a project is completed. Students love showing off their work.
Why would you want to do this sort of programming when you are already doing Windows programming? A couple of reasons. One is that it is something that seems quite different from what "everyone else" is doing. Students get excited about the novelty. But educationally it also has benefits in that students have to think out their user interface design to deal with the limits of the screen. Thinking about limited memory and screen force more planning and understanding of the consequences of wasteful habits. I also think that it is helpful for students to spend some time thinking about the different ways that different devices can be used to solve new problems.
If you want students to think out of the box having them think in the pocket may get them started.
- Alfred Thompson