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Posts tagged with "education"


Snowman Announces New Creative Studio and Its First App, Pok Pok Playroom, A Digital Play Experience for Kids

Today, Snowman, the studio behind some of our favorite games on Apple platforms like Alto’s Adventure and Odyssey, Where Cards Fall, and Skate City, announced Pok Pok, a new creative studio that is launching an app on May 20th called Pok Pok Playroom.

Pok Pok Playroom is an app designed to encourage interactive play with a series of digital toys that spark curiosity and creativity in kids in a low-key, calming environment. The app’s digital playroom includes multiple brightly colored toys that prompt children to explore through independent play. Here’s how Snowman explains the app in its announcement:

Pok Pok’s first app is called Pok Pok Playroom. It’s a playroom filled with educational toys that spark creativity, imagination and learning through open-ended play. There is no right or wrong way to play, only lots of opportunities for experimentation and exploration. Pok Pok puts kids at the centre of the experience so they can follow their noses and learn at their own pace.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting Pok Pok Playroom since I got a demo of an early version at WWDC in 2019 from Esther Huybreghts who, along with her husband Mathijs Demaeght, are the artist-duo and parents of two young children behind its development. I’ll have more to say about Pok Pok Playroom when it’s released on May 20th, but for now, check out the trailer, which does an excellent job of providing a feel for what the app is like:

Alongside the announcement of the trailer and app release date, Snowman announced that Pok Pok Playroom is part of a new creative studio called Pok Pok. The studio, which was incubated inside Snowman for the past few years, was co-founded by Huybreghts and Demaeght, along with Snowman’s Melissa Cash, Ryan Cash, and Jordan Rosenberg, and will continue to build Pok Pok Playroom and new content for it that will be released periodically.

For more information about the app and studio, visit playpokpok.com.


Apple Announces Major Expansion of Its Racial Equity and Justice Initiative

Today, Apple announced a significant expansion of its Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI), the $100 million project to help eliminate barriers to opportunities and address injustices confronted by communities of color. The new projects, which build on the company’s existing initiative, include a global innovation and learning hub for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the first US-based coding and tech education center, and venture capital funding.

In announcing the projects, Apple CEO Tim Cook said:

We are all accountable to the urgent work of building a more just, more equitable world — and these new projects send a clear signal of Apple’s enduring commitment. We’re launching REJI’s latest initiatives with partners across a broad range of industries and backgrounds — from students to teachers, developers to entrepreneurs, and community organizers to justice advocates — working together to empower communities that have borne the brunt of racism and discrimination for far too long. We are honored to help bring this vision to bear, and to match our words and actions to the values of equity and inclusion we have always prized at Apple.

Cook is scheduled to be interviewed today on CBS This Morning by Gayle King, and although the topic of the interview has not been revealed, it’s a safe bet Cook will be discussing REJI.

Rendering of the Propel Center.

Rendering of the Propel Center.

REJI was launched in June 2020 in the wake of the killing of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and others and is led by Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives. As part of the initiative, Apple announced it is contributing $25 million to help build Propel Center in Atlanta, Georgia, to support Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). In its press release, Apple explains that:

The center is designed to support the next generation of diverse leaders, providing innovative curricula, technology support, career opportunities, and fellowship programs. The Propel Center will offer a wide range of educational tracks, including AI and machine learning, agricultural technologies, social justice, entertainment arts, app development, augmented reality, design and creative arts, career preparation, and entrepreneurship. Experts from Apple will help develop curricula and provide ongoing mentorship and learning support, along with offering internship opportunities.

Apple is creating two new grants to support HBCU engineering programs, and a new Faculty Fellows Program is being established for HBCU educators, too. Apple also offers 100 Apple Scholar scholarships to students from underrepresented communities.

Apple has opened developer academies in several cities around the world, but today’s announcement marks the first US-based academy that will be established in Detroit, Michigan. The academy is being launched in collaboration with Michigan State University and will offer an introductory 30-day program and an intensive 10-12 month program. The company will also host a virtual Entrepreneur Camp for Black Founders and Developers next month.

The third prong today’s announcements is venture capital funding for Black and Brown entrepreneurs designed to address systemic barriers to funding. Apple is investing $10 million with Harlem Capital, a New York-based early-stage venture capital firm. Harlem Capital will also participate in the Detroit Developer Academy and Entrepreneur Camp. Also, Apple is investing $25 million in Siebert Williams Shank’s Clear Vision Impact Fund, which invests in minority-owned companies and making a contribution to The King Center.

The breadth and depth of Apple’s REJI initiative is impressive, focusing on educators, students, and start-ups as a way to create opportunities and address systemic injustices. It’s heartening to see Apple pour its resources into this initiative and one that I hope will continue to grow and succeed.


Puppr Review: Teach Your Dog New Tricks

I came across Puppr during its recent feature as Apple’s App of the Day and decided to give it a try. The app is a simple and fun instructional tool for teaching your dog new behaviors and tricks. Since I’ve been staying with my parents for the last couple of months, I decided to take it for a spin doing some training with the family dog.

Puppr’s Home view consists of a scrolling list of categories for dog lessons. You can start simple with the ‘New Dog’ or ‘Basics’ categories, but it quickly ramps up from there. Each category consists of a series of behaviors or tricks, and tapping one opens its details view. Within this view you can see a brief video of the trick in action with a real dog. There’s also a difficultly rating, a description, and a badge for whether it’s safe to teach this trick to puppies. Each trick includes a status dropdown which you can use to note that you’re in progress of teaching it to your dog, or that your dog has mastered it.

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Apple Partners with Historically Black Colleges and Universities to Create New Coding Centers

Today Apple announced an expansion of its initiative of partnering with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to create hubs for training the next generation of coders. 10 new HBCU coding centers are being added throughout the US, from which nearly 500 teachers and community leaders will soon participate in “a virtual Community Education Initiative Coding Academy that Apple is hosting for all initiative partners.” During this training:

Educators will learn the building blocks of coding with Swift, Apple’s easy-to-learn coding language. Participants will work in teams to design app prototypes to address real community challenges. After completing the coding academy, educators will begin to integrate the coding and creativity curricula into their communities by launching coding clubs and courses at their schools, hosting community coding events, and creating workforce development opportunities for adult learners.

This announcement comes as Apple just last week shared updates to its lineup of coding resources for students, educators, and families alike, demonstrating the company’s investment in developing coding initiatives across all age groups. The move also follows Tim Cook’s open letter in June addressing racism in America and subsequent creation of a new $100 million Racial Equity and Justice Initiative by the company. The executive leading this initiative, Lisa Jackson, commented on today’s HBCU news saying:

“Apple is committed to working alongside communities of color to advance educational equity,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives. “We see this expansion of our Community Education Initiative and partnership with HBCUs as another step toward helping Black students realize their dreams and solve the problems of tomorrow.”

These last couple months have seen many companies express a desire to work toward pursuing racial equality and justice, but true change takes more than just words, so I’m glad to start seeing the early fruits of Apple’s new commitments.

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Apple Updates Coding Resources for Students, Teachers, and Families

Apple has updated its lineup of coding resources for kids and educators across the board and introduced all-new resources for parents and children interested in learning to program from home.

Apple first introduced its Everyone to Code program in 2016. That program was joined by Develop in Swift in 2019. Between the two programs, Apple has developed resources for students of all ages and their teachers. With today’s announcement, Apple has updated its existing materials and is expanding them with new offerings. As Susan Prescott, Apple’s vice president of Markets, Apps, and Services describes it in an Apple press release:

“Apple has worked alongside educators for 40 years, and we’re especially proud to see how Develop in Swift and Everyone Can Code have been instrumental in helping teachers and students make an impact in their communities. We’ve seen community college students build food security apps for their campus and watched middle school educators host virtual coding clubs over summer break. As part of our commitment to help expand access to computer science education, we are thrilled to be adding a new professional learning course to help more educators, regardless of their experience, have the opportunity to learn coding and teach the next generation of developers and designers.”

The new course that Prescott mentions is a free online course that educators can take to prepare themselves to teach Apple’s Develop in Swift curriculum.

Apple has also updated its set of four free Develop in Swift books that are available from the Apple Books app. The company also introduced a new Everyone Can Code book and teacher guide called Everyone Can Code: Adventures, which is also available in Apple Books.

Also introduced today is a new coding guide that parents and their kids can use at home:

To support parents with kids learning to code at home, Apple is adding a new guide to its set of remote learning resources. “A Quick Start to Code” is now available and features 10 coding challenges designed for learners ages 10 and up, on iPad or Mac. Additional resources are available on Apple’s new Learning from Home website, launched this spring, where educators and parents can access on-demand videos and virtual conferences on remote learning, and schedule free one-on-one virtual coaching sessions, all hosted by educators at Apple. New videos are being added all the time as part of the Apple Education Learning Series — including videos about using Apple’s industry-leading accessibility features.

As someone who struggled to find good resources for my kids to learn to code when they were younger, I’m pleased to see that Apple has continued to expand and support its educational programs. These programs, along with Swift Playgrounds, are rich resources for kids, teachers, and their parents and a terrific way to help kids get started with coding.

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Apple Announces iTunes U and iBooks Author Will Be Discontinued

iBooks Author will become unavailable soon.

iBooks Author will become unavailable soon.

Today through two new support pages that have been posted on Apple’s website, the company announced that iTunes U will be discontinued at the end of 2021 and iBooks Author will become unavailable much sooner: on July 1, 2020.

While both announcements are noteworthy since they concern software with long histories, signs of these moves have been visible for years. iTunes U has received minimal investment of late as Apple has redirected resources to its Classroom and Schoolwork platforms. iBooks Author, similarly, has grown stagnant as many of its features have made their way into recent Pages updates.

Apple is recommending that publishers of public iTunes U content move their content over to Apple Podcasts or Apple Books, as appropriate. Private content, on the other hand, is better suited for moving to Schoolwork.

iBooks Author won’t receive any more updates and will become unavailable for download altogether as of July 1. Anyone who already owns the app will be able to continue using it, but Apple encourages everyone to move book creation to Pages. According to the company:

If you have iBooks Author books you’d like to import into Pages, a book import feature is coming to Pages soon. It will allow you to open and edit iBooks Author files (.iba) in Pages.

Hopefully this forthcoming update will also bring Pages’ book creation tools closer to feature parity with what currently exists in iBooks Author, but it’s possible that may not happen for some time.

With WWDC 2020 drawing ever closer, Apple is clearly trying to get any pre-announcements out of the way so the big show can focus on the future rather than the past. In this context, we may see more app- or developer-related announcements over the next couple of weeks.


CNET Interviews Phil Schiller About the New MacBook Pro, iPad Pro, and More

To mark the release of the new 16-inch MacBook Pro, Roger Cheng of CNET interviewed Apple’s Phil Schiller. The interview begins with a discussion of the laptop’s new keyboard but covers the role of the iPad Pro in Apple’s hardware lineup as well as Macs in education too.

According to Schiller, Apple spent a lot of time talking to pro users in the wake of criticisms of the MacBook Pro’s butterfly keyboard and was told that pro users wanted something like the Magic Keyboard available for desktop Macs. Of that process Schiller told CNET:

There’s a bunch of learning that happened. Some because of moving the desktop keyboard to the notebook and some because we just learned more along the way and wanted to further advance the technology.

Conspicuously absent from the interview though is any mention of changing the keyboard in response to the hardware failures that many users reported.

Cheng also asked Schiller where the iPad Pro fits in Apple’s pro lineup and whether there are plans to merge it with the Mac lineup. As Apple executives have told CNET for years, Schiller was clear that the compromises that a hybrid touch-based Mac would require wouldn’t benefit either platform. Specifically with respect to the iPad Pro, Schiller said:

It was literally to create a different product category. A couple years ago, we split off and created the iPad Pro. This has been a wonderful thing because it allowed us to create two models where we can push the technology. It really accelerated the use cases for iPad.

So now there are a lot of cases where people will use iPad, especially with Pencil, as an artist-creation tool or as a field-compute tool. What we find is there’s a fair number of people who actually spend more of their compute time on their iPad than personal computer. They didn’t choose one or the other. That’s just where they spent a lot of their time.

It’s refreshing to hear Schiller push back on the notion that Macs and iPads will inevitably merge or that consumers need to choose between the two. As someone who uses a Mac and an iPad Pro, I know that’s nonsense, but I also understand that a ‘winner-takes-all’ narrative is more entertaining.

The interview closes with a short discussion of the Mac in the education market where it has struggled at times against Chromebooks. As a parent who’s seen two of my kids learn to code on a Mac while a cheap, locked-down Chromebook sits idle in my house, except when it’s used to turn in assignments and take tests, this from Schiller resonated with me as true:

Kids who are really into learning and want to learn will have better success. It’s not hard to understand why kids aren’t engaged in a classroom without applying technology in a way that inspires them. You need to have these cutting-edge learning tools to help kids really achieve their best results.

Yet Chromebooks don’t do that. Chromebooks have gotten to the classroom because, frankly, they’re cheap testing tools for required testing. If all you want to do is test kids, well, maybe a cheap notebook will do that. But they’re not going to succeed.

Don’t miss Roger Cheng’s full interview on CNET with Schiller. It’s one of the best articulations of Apple’s pro hardware perspective and the place of the iPad in the company’s hardware lineup that I’ve read in a long while.

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Apple Celebrates the Hour of Code with Today at Apple Sessions and Announces New Curriculum Offerings

As in the past, Apple is marking Computer Science Education Week by participating in the Hour of Code. The company will host special Hour of Code sessions in its retail stores from December 1 - 14 as part of its Today at Apple programming. Apple also announced new curriculum offerings:

The company also introduced Swift Coding Club materials to help teach coding outside of the classroom with Swift, Apple’s easy-to-learn programming language used by professional developers to create world-class apps. And to help prepare and develop students for the workforce, the company unveiled new Advanced Placement curriculum and App Development with Swift certification.

This is the sixth year that Apple has participated in the Hour of Code. Participants from 6 - 12 years old will learn to code with robots, while kids 12 and up will use Swift Playgrounds and the iPad.

The Hour of Code is just a small part of Apple’s Everyone Can Code initiative, which has dramatically expanded in recent years. The program now reaches children from their earliest years in school through college graduates.

My kids have participated in past Hour of Code sessions and had a great experience. They are an excellent introduction to coding for any kid who is curious about programming. I suggest signing up soon if you’re interested though because in past years, the sessions, which should go live soon, have filled quickly.