Apple announced in a press release today that its Swift Playgrounds app for iPad would soon be able to connect with and control real-world devices.
Apple is working with leading device makers to make it easy to connect to Bluetooth-enabled robots within the Swift Playgrounds app, allowing kids to program and control popular devices, including LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3, the Sphero SPRK+, Parrot drones and more. The Swift Playgrounds 1.5 update will be available as a free download on the App Store beginning Monday, June 5.
Since the primary purpose of Swift Playgrounds is education, today's announcement serves as a solid next step toward making coding fun and interesting for children. And the timing is fitting too. Expanding the capabilities of Swift Playgrounds with a 1.5 update Monday is a perfect kickoff to Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, where the app was first introduced last year.
Apple introduced a new year-long app development curriculum today for community college and high school students that is available as a special collection on the iBooks Store. The free-to-download course, which is an extension of Apple’s existing Everyone Can Code curriculum for kids in grades K-12, teaches students how to build fully-functional apps using the Swift programming language. In the fall, six community college systems that serve over 500,000 students will offer the new course.
Tim Cook explained why Apple has created the development course:
“We’ve seen firsthand the impact that coding has on individuals and the US economy as a whole. The app economy and software development are among the fastest-growing job sectors in America and we’re thrilled to be providing educators and students with the tools to learn coding,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Community colleges play a critical role in helping students achieve their dreams, and we hope these courses will open doors for people of all ages and backgrounds to pursue what they love.”
Swift Playgrounds has proven to be a powerful teaching tool with over 1 million downloads since it was introduced. In addition, over 1,000 schools in the US plan to teach using Apple’s Everyone Can Code materials in the fall. The extension of Everyone Can Code to older students should make the entire program even more attractive to educators than before.
App Camp for Girls is making a big jump geographically this summer. The camp for middle schoolers who self-identify as female, trans (regardless of identity), or gender non-conforming, was founded in 2013 by Jean MacDonald and Grey Osten in Portland, Oregon to address the gender imbalance in technology professions. Since then, App Camp has started camps in other cities including Seattle and Phoenix, but the debut of a camp in Chicago, Illinois this summer marks the first time a camp has been held east of the Mississippi River.
Design Code Build and Girl Scouts San Diego are developing a curriculum to teach girls programming and design by building a game called Marshmallow Run. It’s an ambitious program to bring Marshmallow Run to life through Scratch, the web, iOS, and Android as a way to reach girls of all age levels and provide opportunities that will appeal to a wide variety of interests. To make the program a reality, Design Code Build and Girl Scouts San Diego launched a Kickstarter campaign to cover the cost of computers, meeting space, developer accounts, and other overhead.
What’s unique about the Marshmallow Run campaign is its breadth. The project isn’t constrained by the programming platform chosen or other structural decisions that might limit its appeal. Design Code Build has developed the characters for Marshmallow Run, but the rest is up to the girls who participate in the program. The participants will have the opportunity to learn to program physics into a game, design levels, set timers, detect collisions, along with everything else that programming a platformer game entails. Girls will also learn graphic design, storyboarding, audio design, and much more. The result is a curriculum designed to foster imagination and creativity in a fun way that teaches new skills.
The project’s campaign has just 3 days left to reach its goal of $25,000. As of publication, pledges are just over 50% of that goal. If Marshmallow Run is funded, backers will receive a variety of rewards depending on their pledge levels including stickers and t-shirts, but the reward that’s most interesting is a programming starter pack for backers who pledge just $25. The starter pack includes character sprites and other game elements for building Marshmallow Run in Scratch. At higher pledge levels backers receive beta access to the web and mobile versions of the game. The starter pack and access to the betas are a terrific way that Design Code Build and Girl Scouts San Diego are sharing what they hope to create beyond their local community.
I have three boys and have experienced the frustration of trying to find opportunities for them when they wanted to learn to program. There just aren’t enough good programs available for kids in general, and even fewer for girls. Marshmallow Run is a chance to start fixing that, foster the next generation of programmers and designers, and make a difference in addressing the gender imbalance in tech fields.
If you want to make a pledge, you can do so on the Marshmallow Run Kickstarter page.
Great story by Christina Warren at Mashable on how the iPad is being used to teach interactive problem solving in a fun, new way:
I’m sitting on the floor at The Academy of Talented Scholars (PS 682) in Bensonhurst, watching kindergarteners create robots on an iPad.
It’s one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen, and I don’t even like children.
The exercise is part of the curriculum led by co-teachers Stacy Butsikares and Allison Bookbinder, focused on helping the 5- and 6-year-old students come up with ways to solve problems.
I often wish I had an iPad when I was in elementary school 20 years ago.
In the same story, Christina focuses on the Hopscotch programming app and kids who grow up using it:
So what happens after kids master Hopscotch? Do they continue coding? Conrad says that the team receives fan mail all the time (something she calls “really gratifying”) from kids who have parlayed their experience with Hopscotch into learning other languages too.
I wonder what Apple thinks of teaching Swift to a new generation of programmers on an iPad.
Yesterday, I got Apple Classroom up and running at school thanks to the release of Casper 9.9, which supports the new features of iOS 9.3. Here are some early impressions. I'll mostly focus on the technology and how well it works, rather than how effective it is for teaching since I've only had a day or so to play with it.
There are some missing features and issues in this first release (low frame rate for screen monitoring or the use of Bluetooth, for instance), but it sounds like Apple shipped a solid foundation for Classroom on iOS 9.3.
One of the core changes of iOS 9.3 is Education, and a big part of the updated framework is the Classroom app. Apple has now released Classroom on the App Store, and it's a free download for iPads running iOS 9.3.
Classroom is a powerful new iPad app that helps you guide learning, share work, and manage student devices. It supports both shared and one-to- one environments. You can launch a specific app, website, or textbook page on any device in the class, or share student work on a TV, monitor, or projector using Apple TV. You can even reset a student’s password, see which apps students are working in, and assign a specific Shared iPad for each class.
Apple also published a PDF document detailing the features of Classroom, including Shared iPad and Screen View. You can read it here.
The off-cycle release of major new features in iOS 9.3 is quite a departure for Apple. The usual cycle until now has been for major releases to debut at WWDC in the summer and ship in September/October. For the education market, however, this schedule has been extremely difficult to deal with. School usually starts in August or September - in the northern hemisphere at least - and having a major platform upgrade happen right after school starts is hard to cope with.
That has all been turned on its head. On January 11th, Apple announced the developer beta release of iOS 9.3. Unusually for a developer beta, Apple also produced the kind of iOS preview webpages that are normally seen in the time between the WWDC announcement of a new major iOS version and its eventual release.
Karan Varindani has a great story about the role of the iPad Pro in his college studies, and how he's been consolidating his textbooks, notes, and more into a portable, digital workflow:
I saved writing about my experience doing Linear Algebra homework for last because it is, by far, my favorite anecdote about the iPad Pro. I usually have the assignment sheet open on my Mac in front of me, the textbook open on my iPad to my left, and sheets of A4 paper scattered everywhere else on my desk. I first go through the assignment, making lots of mistakes along the way, then rewrite everything again neatly on the second run. Next, I scan the 10–15 pages to my Mac, merge them into a single PDF document, and upload them to the course server. The entire process takes about 3–4 hours depending on the number of questions assigned and leaves me with a pulsing wrist every time. Last week, I did the entire assignment on the iPad Pro. I had both Notability and PDF Expert open in Split View; the former was a blank canvas where I wrote down my answers and the latter had both the assignment and textbook open in tabs. I was able to erase mistakes as I made them and I didn’t have to scan anything afterwards, both of which saved me a tremendous amount of time. I uploaded the document in Safari using iCloud Drive when I was done.
Almost immediately after I got the confirmation email, I decided that I wasn’t going to be returning the iPad Pro.
A good primer for those who argue that the iPad is only being used by tech bloggers – with a fair assessment of the Pro's portability trade-offs.