What does a mobile device, television, laptop, car, airplane, printer, video game and traffic lights all have in common? The answer is they all run code. Even though you can’t see it, code is all around us – at work, school and home. Our daily lives are immersed with technology that the need for a skilled workforce to keep up with demand falls on the younger generation. But how do you get the kids involved and interested? Enter Apple’s Swift Playgrounds.
Swift is Apple’s relatively new programming language, introduced back in 2014. Unless you’re a programmer, this news probably didn’t register on your radar. However, 2 years later, Apple introduced Swift Playgrounds, an iPad app that can teach anyone (yes I’m talking to you) with zero knowledge of coding or computer science to code.
What is Swift Playgrounds?
Swift Playgrounds feel very much like a game. It has 40 levels or playgrounds (approximately 25 hours) to which the goal is to move (via code) a character named Byte to solve puzzles such as reaching the gem or toggling the switch. The playgrounds get increasingly more difficult but one can jump and move around levels without having to complete previous levels. The split screen displays the code on one side and the 3D animated world on the other. The interesting notion is Playgrounds was created specifically for the iPad — no keyboard is required as available commands pop up on screen similar to predictive text commands.
What I love about Swift Playgrounds is that it gets the kids thinking outside the box as there are a number of steps required to reach the end result. By breaking the solution to several smaller steps, it forces the kids to think in a logical manner. As they can instantly see the end result of their code, they see their efforts come to life right before their eyes. Don’t believe me? See for yourself. Watch the video below as my teen daughter walks through the lesson on “Looping All the Sides” from an iPad Pro. Hear why she feels learning to code is an important skill to have.
Resources for Educators
In addition to the lessons and various challenges, the app also allows you to build your own playgrounds. This is fantastic as the possibilities are endless for educators to create their own lessons and challenges that can be used directly in the classroom. Students can show off their creations, record and share videos of their playgrounds in action. Teaching resources are also available for educators including Teacher’s Guide: Swift Playgrounds: Learn to Code 1 & 2, iTunes U course: Swift Playgrounds: Learn to Code 1&2, Teacher’s Guide: Swift Playgrounds: Learn to Code 3 and iBooks: App Development with Swift.
It’s important to note that Playgrounds runs in actual Swift code, so projects can be exported to Apple’s Xcode to create programs that can be turned into apps. How cool is that?
The Language of the Future
Even though Computer Science Education Week recently ended, parents and educators can continue to inspire K-12 students all year round to take an interest in computer science. A report released back in March projected that Canada will create over 218,000 technology-based jobs between now and 2020 – so growing and cultivating the talent in our children is more important than ever.
As a parent, I naturally want my kids to follow their passion but my maternal instincts want them to be aware of what the high demand jobs will be. Since my kids are already big consumers of code, why not give them an opportunity to step into a world where they can also create it? Talk about empowerment.
Swift Playgrounds is available for the iPad 2 or higher running at minimum iOS 10.
I can’t think of a better way to spend time together with my kids over the holidays then to learn to code together!
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About Wendy Morelli
Wendy loves her 2 kids and her iPhone, not necessarily always in that order. She is an app obsessed mom who loves everything tech and is (unfortunately) old enough to remember the brick Motorola cell phone and the Commodore computer. Her love for technology stems back to the 10+ years of working for technology based companies. Wendy's alter ego, "AppHipMom" has been featured in Canadian Family, iVillage, Women in Biz, EverythingMom, BlogHer and Savvy Mom.