For a year and a half now I have worked with my high school students as they learned Apple's Swift coding language and their development software Xcode. Students begin by using Apple's Swift Learning Resources for both students and teachers and then branch off to develop specific interest apps. The final project that students work on is an app with a purpose. An app that will make the world a better place.
To steal a quote from Steve Hayman of Apple who has been instrumental in supporting my students and I, "Life has enough flashlight apps." This is our mantra and each student is tasked with coming up with their own purpose to develop iOS and Apple Watch apps.
Meet Nathan and Liam. These grade 10 students asked if I would give up my prep period daily so that they could work with Swift and Xcode and develop apps. I agreed and the boys started by making a browser app that loaded my website and an Apple Watch flashlight just to prove to "Steve from Apple" that it was a good idea. Then came the difficult task of making an app with global purpose. Nathan and Liam set out to make a soundboard app called "MyVOCA" which would be used by non-communicative students. Colourful, large buttoned and loaded with a selfie cam extra, this app worked flawlessly on the test iPads after hours of intense, but character building work. These two would take their new found confidence steps further pitching their ability to create apps and novel app ideas at innovation and entrepreneurial competitions! In grade 10 they were competing against 30-year-olds! You can watch these pitches here or skip ahead.
The confidence shown by Nathan and Liam sparked a series of app ideas in our school and though some used modelling services and not Xcode and Swift the idea was always to hand off the iOS app work to our computer science kids. Here our grads show off their idea for a "Safe Grad App" with the special feature of a fake phone call from Mom or Dad to get them out of tricky situations.
Alex became another highlight of our Swift and Xcode program at Caledonia Regional very quickly. When I asked him what he wanted to do for an passion project he replied "I want to make a translation app for my Syrian classmates to help them better adjust to school life." And then Global News heard about it. Watch this!
At the time of this blog post Alex is still learning his way through Swift and Xcode updates but his resolve to complete this app has not diminished. After all, the app has a purpose!
What I've learned
Creating iOS and Apple Watch Apps with Xcode and Swift is not easy. Apple has supports that make it as easy as it can get but it is difficult. However, when students have a global purpose for their app there is nothing that can stop them. Creating iOS apps builds student skills such as character, citizenship, critical thinking, computational thinking, creativity and in a team atmosphere communication and collaboration. I build my entire program at Caledonia Regional around these 21st century skills I call "The 7Cs." If you are looking to start allowing students to create iOS apps in K-12 education it can be done. I recommend starting early with the newly released "Swift Playgrounds" app and reaching out to Apple for support which has proven priceless for our work. A New Brunswick provincial innovation organization called "Brilliant Labs" was also responsible for giving our students opportunity and support. Connect with me on Twitter for more information! Happy App Development!
It takes a village to raise a student and it takes students to raise a village! This unique collaboration initiative will see your class raise a village to town status as students have an opportunity to contribute to each service the community requires. Target Citizenship, Critical Thinking and Creativity in a lesson that develops a town which can be used in future lessons and exported as an example of teamwork and determination. Engineering principles are put to the test along with ethical and environmentally responsible building practices.
Description: (Creative Mode Suggested)
Students start co-constructing criteria for a town with their teacher. I have developed a SWAY SITE HERE that offers 31 great examples that teachers can use to "sway" their class to the engaging and essential services. After criteria are established and brief talk about how at each station students should look to add positive improvements only to the site, the project begins. Students are randomly assigned a station number and service and begin building starting with a sign stating Station Number, Station Service and Their Name.
When the teacher indicates that it is time to move after a set time (Hence, Musical Chairs) the students place a sign at their station saying concisely what they did and then move number wise to the next station. There they analyse what was done, decide what needs improvement, creatively build that improvement and report it via a sign when it is again time to move!
Here are a few screen shots of a bridge and sewer treatment system being built.
This project can be started and stopped over multiple class periods and can also be applied to larger builds such as replica schools, towns, literature activies and science initiatives such as an organ map of the human body.
In the end students will have critically and creatively employed good citizenship as they work collaboratively to raise a village to town status. Each member of the class will have contributed to each essential service limiting engagement drop-off and maximizing student pride in the final product!
Here is a descriptor Youtube Video explaining the project. If you use it and like it, let me know via Twitter @BBTNB or on the official Minecraft Education Site.
Update: This project has now been submitted to the official Minecraft Education site for approval and official release!
Downloadable project card:
I'm an experienced Global Minecraft Mentor, Published Educational Researcher, Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, Apple Distinguished Educator and grade 6-12 technology teacher. @BBTNB