Apple launches coding camps for kids in its retail stores

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Apple this summer is expanding its lineup of Apple Camp sessions to include a new course that teaches children the basics of coding. Aimed at children ages 8 through 12, the new 3-day session will use software from Tynker to introduce concepts of block-based coding and will allow kids to program Sphero robots. These classes will be small – capped at around a dozen attendees – and are opening to registration this morning alongside others in Apple’s ongoing summer camp series.

While Apple has hosted Apple Camp for years, this is the first time it has offered this “Coding Games and Programming Robots” course. The company has participated in Hour of Code, however, but that is in December and separate from Camp.

The debut of the new coding class comes at a time when Apple has been increasingly focused on helping to introduce coding to younger users. At its WWDC event, for example, the company debuted a new iPad app called Swift Playgrounds which teaches kids to code in Swift.

140723_AppleCamp_0555 (3)However, that app is aimed at slightly older children – those aged 12 and up.

On one day of the session, the children will use Tynker’s learning software as an intro to coding concepts.

Tynker, which just raised another $7.1 million as it expands its footprint in schools and camps, offers a visual interface that helps kids understand how programming works using blocks. It also works as a means of programming the Sphero robots.

On another day of the coding class, the kids will actually teach their robots to move and light up using commands.

Apple Camp started in 2003 as a way to introduce children to Apple technology and its software. The company offers sessions in its retail stores around the world, but they are not true “summer camps” like those where parents drop off kids then go to work.

Instead, children spend 90 minutes learning a new technology, while parents stay in Apple’s retail store where the classes are held. During this time, staff will offer the parents an overview of what their kids are learning, while also training them on other family focused features of Apple products, like how to set up restrictions or manage multiple devices in the household.

Apple has previously offered sessions on iBooks and iMovie, and these will also be available for sign-up as of this morning, too. The iBooks Camp allows children to create their own story using illustrations and effects, then show off their final book to parents when the session completes. This year, Apple will expand the class to include the use of iPad Pro and Pencil.

Meanwhile, the iMovie Camp lets kids use Apple devices to shoot and edit their own movies.

140723_AppleCamp_01059 (3)

Apple offers one Camp session each week in July, but at different times throughout the day. The weeks of July 11th and July 18th will be focused on iBooks and iMovie (“Stories in Motion with iMovie” and “Interactive Storytelling with iBooks”). Then the last week of the month will be the new coding workshop.

The courses are free, but available on a first-come, first-served basis. And because of the small class size, registration for classes can fill up fast in some markets. Apple once again expects 60,000 kids to participate in Apple Camp this year.

However, while iBooks and iMovie sessions will be available in all of Apple’s retail stores, the coding class will not. Only stores in the U.S., U.K., Canada and greater China will feature this course. Elsewhere in the world, the stores will choose to fill the last week of July with one of the other classes instead.

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