On Thursday night the Atlanta Leading Edge user group hosted a Teach-In for Windows Phone in which we got 15 people relatively new to phone development to build two common phone apps in about 90 minutes.
There was a lot of discussion about the ins-and-outs of the developer tools as well as strategies for the sorts of apps that people are working on.
Mostly, however, the meeting was simply about getting our hands dirty and seeing how easy it is to build phone apps using Silverllight.
The apps were trivial. First, we built an app that played a wav file using the XNA libraries from a Silverlight app. Everyone downloaded a sound file from the Internet and in 15 minutes we had meowing cats, breaking glass, screeching cars and hysterical laughing playing from each laptop in the room. This simple technique is the basis for a remarkable number of apps on the iPhone and Android phones.
Next we all built a Twitter application. Again, it is a trivial task, to use the WebClient class in Silverlight. By doing this, we demonstrated another essential technique for building phone apps – remote communication with web resources.
I’ve participated in several conversations about the best way to teach Windows Phone development. Our little experiment demonstrated that learning-by-doing works particularly well in this case. The hardest part of teaching any new technology is getting people over the hurdle of being intimidated by it. Once people realize that they have already done something they thought was difficult, the anxiety goes away and they can start thinking about what they want to do with a technology rather than how they are going to get started.