Apple expands its free coding courses and materials for educators

Apple today announced its plans for a new, free resource aimed at helping educators of all skill levels gain the ability to teach both Swift and Xcode — the latest in Apple’s educational initiatives focused on encouraging more students to learn app development. On July 13, Apple will begin offering free online training to educators that will serve as an introduction to its Develop in Swift curriculum.

This curriculum has also been completely redesigned to meet students learning styles, based on user feedback, says Apple.

The new series will now include four books, “Develop in Swift Explorations,” “Develop in Swift AP CS Principles,” and “Develop in Swift Fundamentals,” all of which are available today. A fifth book, “Develop in Swift Data Collections,” will become available later this fall. All are available in Apple Books.

The curriculum is geared toward high school and higher education students and focuses on the open-source programming language Swift, designed by Apple, and using Xcode on the Mac.

Image Credits: Apple

For younger learners, grades 4 through 8, Apple’s Everyone Can Code curriculum instead uses puzzles and games to teach the building blocks of coding in Swift through the Swift Playgrounds app. This course is now being expanded, as well.

For all the students who have already completed the “Everyone Can Code Puzzles” book, they can now move on to a new book, “Everyone Can Code Adventures.” This book includes more advanced activities where students can practice building with Swift while also learning about important programming concepts.

The company says its intention with the new and expanded courses is to supplement the need for computer science instructors in the U.S., where there is often a need.

Apple noted that The Computer Science Teachers Association claims that fewer than 50% of all American high schools offer computer science classes today and many college students aren’t able to get into the computer science courses needed to graduate, due to a teacher shortage.

In addition, the courses are also being offered to parents, many of whom are now making the transition to become homeschool teachers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Also for parents of homeschoolers, Apple added a new set of remote learning resources for ages 10 and up, including “A Quick Start to Code” with 10 coding challenges on iPad or Mac. Plus, there are resources on Apple’s Learning from Home website, launched this spring. The site includes on-demand videos and virtual conferences on remote learning, and options to schedule free one-on-one virtual coaching sessions, hosted by educators at Apple.

The long-term impacts of Apple’s push for increased coding education still remain to be seen. “Everyone Can Code” was only launched in 2016, for example, and the “Develop in Swift” curriculum arrived just last year. Combined, the programs today reach 9,000 schools and higher education institutions worldwide.

The idea that “everyone” can and should learn to code is still somewhat controversial. While many may be able to learn coding fundamentals, not everyone will enjoy coding or excel at it. Plus, people often turn to coding for the wrong reasons or get duped by coding bootcamps into thinking that a few weeks of training will have them sailing into six-figure careers with ease.

On the other hand, exposing more kids to coding concepts may help to uncover the potential talent and interest in programming that would have otherwise been overlooked. That interest can then be nurtured by future courses and education as the child grows.

“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,” said Susan Prescott, Apple’s vice president of Markets, Apps and Services, in a statement. “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,” she added.