APIs as Learning Tools?

I’ve had some interest for a while now in studying APIs as learning tools. What I think is particularly interesting about APIs is the connections that are possible with APIs to span so many fields of interest and knowledge: computer science, data mining, visualization (i.e., data presentation and information design), the natural science, the social sciences… I’m sure the possibilities are pretty infinite, really. APIs are interesting in themselves because they provide a lever for accessing and doing something else with data sets – so using APIs are, in a way, inherently inquiry tools. APIs also let you gather data, filter it, and repackage it in a way that is either personally meaningful/useful, or in a way that may be useful for someone else, so the potential for API-based projects to connect to real-world issues is huge, especially with regards to Internet literacy and privacy. I’m really curious how much work has been done around this in schools – K12 or higher ed – and what kind of success people are having in using APIs to encourage what might be called a “developer’s mindset.” These are all just initial thoughts right now, but I’m hoping to begin some work on this soon.

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