Our Android Masterclass at The New Digital School

The New Digital School challenged us to organize an Android masterclass. If you don’t know about them, it’s a different kind of school with an innovative yearly course, student-centered. What does that mean? They help people discover what skills can advance their career and build a curriculum around them. See this video to learn more.

So, the students asked to learn more on how to building mobile apps. And not just the concepts, but to actually be able to design and build an app, through a 3-days workshop.

We had already done a 2-days introduction to Android development before, but most attendees had an engineering background. In this case, students had a mixed background, leaning towards design and with less programming experience. Thus, we decided to try out a mixed teaching approach. Together we would show how to build an Android app from scratch, with both the design and the programming knowledge required.

Like any experiment, we kept readjusting our plan and expectations throughout the workshop. Programming concepts can feel daunting to students, until they try them and understand their purpose. As an engineer, I’m used to work on top of abstractions, without much concrete matter to guide me on. But to keep non-engineers on board, it’s important to be simple and concrete on what we’re trying to achieve. Link concepts with their results.

We realised that, on a 3 day workshop, we could skip complex Android concepts like RecyclerViews. Simpler methods can achieve similar results, while helping students maintain a sense of progress. If all goes well, students will be the ones asking for features missing on their app, instead of following a theoretical plan of learning topics.

Mixing both programming and design also brings its own advantages:

  • Using different parts of your brain helps you get through an intensive workshop;
  • It gives a broader picture of what building an app is like.

Not everyone finished with an app released by the end of the masterclass. Some preferred to use their last day improving app designs, with their new knowledge. But here are 2 apps released by the students:

It’s great for design students to learn how to build an app by themselves. But there are other advantages from learning app development. You understand better the effort and constraints that come from design decisions, and you gain the confidence to dig into the code and iterate on front-end details by yourself.

This kind of training is definitely something we will explore more. So keep an eye out for our next training announcements. In the meantime, if you are looking for an Android training tailor-made for your team, let’s talk.

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