Teen software whiz shows challenges facing schools

Alex has earned more than $50,000 from the iPhone apps he's developed.

Ninth-grader Alex Britton, and the friends he has made throughout North America with the help of Skype, offer insight into the challenges schools face in educating members of the so-called iGeneration.

A software entrepreneur at age 14, Alex learned how to develop iPhone apps by watching YouTube videos posted by other teens. He and his friends are living examples of the themes often spouted at ed-tech conferences and highlighted in research such as Project Tomorrow’s annual Speak Up survey: Many of today’s students are taking ownership of their own learning outside of school and are teaching each other through digital media … and educators will have to change their approach to instruction if they hope to engage this generation of youth.

Alex is now trying to put his most professional foot forward, so the teen recently took his Whoopee Cushion iPhone application off the market.

“I just want to be more professional, and be taken seriously,” said the Darien, Conn., teen, who spends his spare time creating programs for Apple products.

For more on teaching the iGeneration:

eSN Special Report: Empowering the iGeneration

Author: ‘iGeneration’ requires a different approach to instruction

Report: Digital access, collaboration a must for students

Alex created his first app—the Whoopee Cushion—a year-and-a-half ago.

“I started out making YouTube videos, reviewing apps,” Alex said as he sat in front of a desk holding two Apple computers, an iPad, and an iPhone in his bedroom, which also serves as his office. “Then I started seeing videos of 14-year-olds—tutorials they made about how to make apps.”

“Thank God for YouTube,” said Alex’s father, Tony. “They just post these tutorials on there. It’s great. Some people learn with books, and some people learn this way.”

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