Apple offers free app to teach students coding

Apple chief executive Timothy Cook announcing Swift Playgrounds, an app that aims to teach coding to beginners and children, in June. The app was scheduled for release yesterday.
Apple chief executive Timothy Cook announcing Swift Playgrounds, an app that aims to teach coding to beginners and children, in June. The app was scheduled for release yesterday.ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN

SAN FRANCISCO • Apple plans to release a free coding education app that it developed with students aged 11 to 13 in mind, in the latest salvo among technology companies to gain share in the education market and to nurture early product loyalty among children.

Apple's app, scheduled for release yesterday and called Swift Playgrounds, introduces basic computer programming concepts, such as sequencing logic, by asking students to use word commands to move cartoon avatars through a fanciful animated world.

Unlike some children's apps that employ drag-and-drop blocks to teach coding, the Apple program uses Swift, a professional programming language that the company introduced in 2014.

"When you learn to code with Swift Playgrounds, you are learning the same language used by professional developers," Mr Brian Croll, Apple's vice-president for product marketing, said.

The introduction of Apple's app coincides with a larger Silicon Valley campaign to press US public schools to teach coding. Tech executives have argued that such training could help address socio-economic differences among students by providing marketable job skills.

"We believe every student should have the opportunity to code," Mr Timothy Cook, the chief executive of Apple, said last week.

The Apple coding app is free but it requires an iPad, the company's tablet computer.

"How much of the motivation is for selling of product, and what does that do for schools that cannot afford this technology?" asked Ms Jane Margolis, a senior researcher at the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Mr Croll said the company was making the app free so that the coding lessons are accessible.

While it is available for use in schools, individual students, parents and consumers could also use the app to teach themselves to code at home, he said.

He added that Apple had created the app for the iPad to ensure a "high-quality user experience".

Apple said that more than 100 schools and districts worldwide had agreed to try the coding app.

NYTimes

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2016, with the headline 'Apple offers free app to teach students coding'. Print Edition | Subscribe