Best known for being the manufacturer of one of the most popular mobile phones on the planet, Apple has dedicated a lot of its resources towards educating the next generation. One new educational tool the company has released is Swift Playgrounds. Available for free on iTunes, Swift Playgrounds provides young children with a vast array of computer science resources on the iPad.
Source: The Next Web
What is Swift Playgrounds?
Just as the name implies, Swift Playgrounds emphasises teaching kids about a lot of the components from Apple’s primary coding language Swift. Swift is a very popular general purpose programming language that is used to develop applications for all of Apple’s devices from Apple TVs to iPhone’s. For people more familiar with computer science languages, Swift is an object oriented language like Java and C#. Learning about Swift is important since one of the principal goals of Swift Playgrounds is to get more young minds developing applications with Swift as early as possible.
Because Swift Playgrounds features a significant amount of instructions to read and follow, the app is best suited towards children aged ten years and above with adequate parental help. While coding with Swift Playgrounds is easy, kids below ten years of age may not have the required problem-solving skills needed to complete many of the challenges the coding app uses to teach kids about programming. It is important to note that while math skills are often important in computer science, much of the learning in Swift playgrounds does not require the advanced understanding of math and as such is easy for children to use.
How does it work?
Just like many other popular coding apps on the iPad, Swift Playgrounds uses fun, interactive puzzles and games to teach kids coding. Learning with the app is best accomplished by following the custom programming lessons provided by Apple. The coding app offers many lessons ranging in difficulty from basic concepts to more advanced ones like Algorithms.
Swift Playground contains a lot of extra resources available for children who want to go above and beyond with their understanding of swift or create their own apps
Fundamentals of Swift
For kids looking to learn how to code with little to no experience, there is a lesson plan titled “Fundamentals of Swift.” The Fundamentals of Swift lesson plan primarily covers very basic ideas of coding applicable to all Computer Science languages. Some basic concepts explained in the lesson plan include universal computer science ideas like Commands, Functions, Loops and Parameters.
Following the lessons provided by Apple sees kids learn different principles of Swift via experimentation. Children can input code on one side of their iPad and run the code and see what type of effect it has on an active area on the other. Most of the lessons in the Fundamentals of Swift lesson plan see kids guide an animated character named Byte across the virtual world on the left of their screen via the code they input. Children make Byte find gems via inputting simple commands via methods like moveForward() or turnRight(). Selecting “Run My Program” will see Byte follow the code or instructions written by the user. Running code is simple in practice, however, trying to run a lot of code at once can result in errors. Detecting errors in the code written is one of the few difficult aspects with Swift Playground as it does not tell the user what code is currently running meaning that a lot of trial and error is needed to find mistakes.
Not being able to tell what code the animated character Byte is following means that it is easy for your child to get confused and frustrated. This type of reaction is normal and is why using Swift Playgrounds requires a lot of patience by the user to complete most of the lessons successfully. The app also provides penalty free hints in case the lesson is too difficult to understand. Make sure to give your kid an adequate amount of breaks to avoid frustration and or let them come back to it at another time when they might be feeling more determined.
While kids may get frustrated trying to solve the puzzles and lessons, inputting code is frustration free and accomplished via a dedicated coding keyboard. The dedicated keyboard makes it easy to type bytes of code quickly via a search feature that can look for commonly used pieces of code to insert. Similarly, Apple has also provided a Quick Type feature that can predict the user’s next command based on the current context making typing coding on the iPad straightforward and easy. Moving snippets of code around are achieved via simple drag and drop that feels very natural.
Educational Content and Features
Besides the introductory “Fundamentals of Swift” lesson plan, Swift Playground contains a lot of extra resources available for children who want to go above and beyond with their understanding of swift or create their own apps. Apple provides two additional lesson plans following the Fundamentals of Swift lesson titled “Beyond the Basics” and “Putting it Together” which are excellent choices for kids who want to learn more about the language and how to code before venturing on their own path. If a child wants to refine his or her skills, there are a lot of challenges available to complete. These extra challenges range from activities like “an hour of code” to mini games that kids customize and edit to their liking.
One of the ways Swift Playgrounds differentiates itself from other coding apps its ability to provide easy access to more advanced concepts for learning. Since kids write actual Swift code in the app, experienced users can create their own applications featuring custom models and images created by themselves. Apple even makes it possible to use most of the iPad’s features like its camera in applications if the user desires. Not only does Swift Playgrounds provide beginners with a simple introduction to computer science but the ability to further their knowledge by using advanced concepts.
Free to download
Fun and easy to use
Numerous resources for all skill levels
No method to show current code running
Can be frustrating to use in tougher lessons
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