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!
I'm an experienced Global Minecraft Mentor, Published Educational Researcher, Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, Apple Distinguished Educator and grade 6-12 technology teacher. @BBTNB