Apple releasing Swift way for kids to learn coding

Apple's chief executive Tim Cook announcing Swift Playgrounds at the firm's Worldwide Developer Conference. Users of the app will be asked to write codes for an animated character to perform simple tasks.
Apple's chief executive Tim Cook announcing Swift Playgrounds at the firm's Worldwide Developer Conference. Users of the app will be asked to write codes for an animated character to perform simple tasks.ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN

iPad app to be launched in September uses games to teach beginners the basic concepts

This is one video game parents won't mind their children playing.

Apple's new iPad app Swift Playgrounds, to be launched in September, is designed to teach beginners and children coding concepts, in particular Apple's programming language Swift, through games and step-by-step guides.

"Because Swift is so easy to learn, it has the potential to bring many more people into coding," said Apple's chief executive Tim Cook during his keynote address at the firm's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) yesterday.

Swift is used by professional developers to create apps for iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS operating systems that power Apple's mobile devices, computers, smartwatches and set-top boxes respectively.

Swift Playgrounds uses a fun and interactive interface to teach basic programming concepts, such as variables and loops. Users will be asked to write codes for an animated character to perform simple tasks like moving and picking up stuff.

"We believe it is the absolute best way to teach everyone how to code," said Mr Cook.

Mr Christopher Overton, principal associate at tech law firm Olswang, said: "Apple's release of Swift Playgrounds aims to engage the next generation of coders with its next-generation coding language."

Teacher Kelvin Su, 26, is excited about Swift Playgrounds as he believes coding to be an essential skill for the future. "It is only a matter of time before coding becomes an elective subject in schools," he said.

"Imagine the possibilities for kids; they could learn the spirit of enterprise through coding, in developing apps and programming robots."

Senior software engineering manager Tang Weng Sing, 44, said he would let his 10-year-old daughter try Swift Playgrounds. "It is good to expose coding to kids at a young age. It lets them have a sense of logic," he said.

Mr Muh Hon Cheng, 35, founder of local mobile developer company BuUuk and SG NextBus, said: "It looks like a great app, not just for kids but also for anyone interested in coding."

Swift Playgrounds will be available as public beta next month. The full version will be available as a free download this September, around the same time as Apple's latest software update for all its devices.

The new iOS 10, for its iPhone and iPad, comes with a new design for Maps, Photos and Apple Music. Messages get plenty of features with bigger emojis, emoji predictions and animated bubbles.

Apple's desktop computer operating system OS X has been renamed macOS. Its latest version, macOS Sierra, will come with built-in Siri voice assistant and Apple Pay on the Web.

The latest watchOS 3, for Apple Watch, has faster performance and intuitive interface, while the updated tvOS powering Apple TV allows for expanded Siri searches.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2016, with the headline 'Apple releasing Swift way for kids to learn coding'. Print Edition | Subscribe