My iPad is an iPad 3; the battery life is still pretty good and the touch sensitive display has no dead zones. All the hardware buttons such as volume control and home button still function correctly and there are no dead pixels on the screen. It works really well and I can’t remember ever having an app crash on it! I kinda knew it was on the slippery slope to old age when I couldn’t upgrade it to iOS 10 but I thought that this wasn’t going to be that great an issue and that everything would be fine. However I found out a few weeks ago that my iPad was obsolete! When I tried to install two apps that I needed for a Summer Course, Toontastic 3D and Swift Playgrounds, I discovered that my iPad wasn’t able to run them! I always knew that a time would come when my iPad would spec out, I just didn’t expect that day to come this soon.
It also looks like I won’t be able to get “new apps” when Apple makes changes to the App Store to reflect the launch of iOS 11; it seems that 32-bit apps might not be allowed on the store and that only 64-bit apps will be supported. I was really disappointed as I was so looking forward to using Swift Playgrounds! Having gotten so used to Scratch on my laptop and ScratchJr on my iPad I had wanted to move on to something new. Eventually I managed to borrow a “newer model” iPad so that I could try out Swift Playgrounds, an app from Apple aimed at children to help them learn to code in a fun way. In the same way that Scratch is associated with a cat character, Swift playgrounds has a big orange character called Byte (there are two other characters available also, Hopper and Blue)!
Inside the app, after the introduction, there are two featured courses:
Learn to Code 1: Fundamentals of Swift
Learn to Code 2: Beyond the Basics
Tapping on either one opens a “Get” option to download a course.
Once the download has finished you can open the contents and follow the onscreen instructions to manipulate “Byte” around the screen to collect gems. The onscreen instructions introduce different code in a “task / challenge” format; successfully completing a task takes you to the next level.
To help teachers introduce Swift Playgrounds to their pupils, Apple has a free teacher guide available on iTunes.
A Swift Playgrounds screen has two main parts, left side and right side along with several sub-sections. Here is a complied visual overview of the different parts of a Swift Playgrounds program screen.
Once you have completed the featured courses you can dive right in and begin to create your own code. It’s important to know that you can’t create an app using Swift Playgrounds however you can export your code to Xcode on a Mac if you want to get into app publishing on the App Store. From the Playgrounds screen you tap the + sign to create a new document and you can begin to enter code.
Here is the code that will draw a blue rectangle with a black border.
To get the same result in Scratch the code would look something like this!
As you can see it’s a lot simpler to code the drawing using Swift Playgrounds on an iPad. It is also worth remembering that Scratch 2.0 isn’t compatible with an iPad unless something like Puffin Browser is used as an intermediary.
I think 6th Class pupils could probably cope with Swift Playgrounds but realistically I think it’s better suited to pupils at Post Primary level. It needs an iPad Air and iOS 10 and these requirements will probably rule out lots of schools that are using older generation iPads! The graphics in the lessons and challenges are amazing and the Code Completion bar simplifies the coding experience. The curriculum resources provided by Apple will help teachers to introduce Swift Playgrounds to their pupils.
Swift Playgrounds is a definite must for anyone (teacher or pupil) who wants to move on from Scratch while still retaining the familiar easy of use and the visual user interface.
Definitely something worth taking a look at and a great reason to support a request for an iPad upgrade!