Swift Playgrounds, announced during Apple’s WWDC keynote on Monday, aims to make learning how to write code possible for anyone, including those totally new to the concept of coding, namely young children.
What makes Swift Playgrounds standout from other learn-to-code apps on the market, including Sphero’s education-focused development platform, or even Codeacademy (which also features a graphical user-interface), is the colourful and playful physical representation of the code users are working on. Though it’s worth noting that the Sphero Spark Plus is also compatible with Apple’s Swift Playgrounds app.
Swift Playgrounds user interface is divided into two difference sections, with the coding view present on the right side of the screen, while animations indicating exactly what the code means, are located on the left, allowing those completely unfamiliar with coding (like myself) to gain an understanding of what the code they’re creating actually means. This gives the process of learning how to code a much-need cause and effect perspective.
When the Swift Playgrounds app is first opened, it gives users a number of basic coding tasks, as well as challenges, gamifying the learning process. Coding shortcuts are also available for those who have difficulty remembering specific coding syntax.
The entire platform runs solely on the iPad, allowing users to progress through simple “Playground books,” letting those unfamiliar with coding look up terms and their definitions with a simple swipes and touches.
On a functional level, Swift Playgrounds has a lot in common with Apple’s other proprietary apps, a fact Apple CEO Cook placed emphasis on during the app’s reveal.”Swift is powerful but it’s also simple and approachable,” said Cook on Monday.
Furthermore, what makes Swift Playgrounds stand out from other educational coding apps is it resembles playing a game, a significant shift from how traditional coding lessons operate. This makes the prospect of learning to code considerably less intimidating, especially when compared to technical programming textbooks and technical manuals. Users are able to view exactly what strings of code do, all from an author’s perspective.
More advanced users, those familiar with Xcode, will also be able to import and export their creations between Mac toolkit and Playgrounds, an essential feature for anyone interested in graduating to more advanced coding techniques.
It’s also possible that Swift could make its way to Android and even Linux since it’s now open source – this is yet another example of Apple’s wall-garden approach to software dissipating – though it doesn’t look like this is the case yet.
“Because Swift is so easy to learn, it has the potential to bring more people into coding,” said Cook during Apple’s WWDC keynote on Monday.
Swift Playgrounds will hit the Apple Store this fall and an early build of the app is currently available to Apple developer partners.
Related reading: Apple announces Swift Playgrounds for iPad users at WWDC