24 May Apple Extends Swift Programming Education Program To High Schools And Community Colleges

Today, Apple announced it is expanding its Swift education program the company kicked off last year targeted to younger students, called “Learning To Code”, now to high schoolers and community college students.

Extension of “Everyone Can Code”

Last June, Apple kicked off Swift Playgrounds for younger students to learn how to code on an iPad in a very visual, fun and entertaining way. My teenage son thought it was pretty cool and I did too. What was cool is that Swift is very object-oriented, so you’re moving modules around getting your program to do new stuff as you code. Literally, code is on the left and the program is on the right of the iPad and you watch it run in real-time. Apple published two installments initially, “The Fundamentals of Swift” and “Beyond the Basics” in addition to some game challenges where students need to code to solve problems.

In December, Apple brought hour-long coding sessions into all of Apple’s stores and added a third Swift Playground installment, “Putting It Together”. In addition to student materials, Apple also produced materials and tutorials for teachers to teach their students.  By download metrics, Swift Playgrounds has been successful as the company announced it had been downloaded 1M times plus 430K downloads of the add-on “Everyone Can Code”.  Apple also said more than 1,000 schools in the U.S. are planning next year to teach using Everyone Can Code materials. I think that’s pretty awesome. I took BASIC programming in high school on an Osborne and it’s great to see even younger kids programming today on iPads using Swift.

In high school I never knew then how important that one BASIC class would actually be for me in the future.

That one class started the foundation of my technology career that has spanned nearly 30 years later.

Now targeted to high schoolers and community colleges

Fast-forwarding to today, Apple announced a free, year-long curriculum targeted at students in high school and community colleges who might want to pursue future jobs coding.  Called “App Development with Swift”, Apple is designing the new course to help students learn Swift application design, code, test and deploy apps to get them ready to get internships and jobs.

When you rollup everything from Kindergarten to Community College, here is what the entire program looks like:

  • Get Started with Code 1 (Kindergarten to 2nd grade)
  • Get Started with Code 2 (3rd to 5th grade)
  • Learn to Code 1, 2 & 3 (6th to 9th grade)
  • Intro to App Dev (9th to 10th grade)
  • App Dev (10th grade to first two years of community college)

Apple is kicking off this extended, community college initiative all over the U.S. in Texas (Houston College System), Alabama (Alabama Community College System), Ohio (Columbus State Community College), Pennsylvania (Harrisburg Area Community College), Arizona (Mesa Community College) and California (San Mateo Community College District).

I can personally tell you that Columbus and Harrisburg need programs like this for retraining displaced workers.

Given the state of middle-class America and the prospects of traditional jobs getting decimated through robotics and autonomous machines, I think these moves are needed, and if successful, bring great things to communities. And who knows, if this becomes a poster child for re-education, other companies follow and brings great things to adults who have been displaced through job loss and provide opportunities for high-schoolers.

But why Apple and why now?

When you are the richest company in the world, all eyes are on you for what you do in your business but also for how you impact society. Very large and powerful companies know this and give back to communities and societies in ways which demonstrate there is societal value beyond providing jobs, paying taxes and also serve as an outlet for employees who want to help others.

I believe the current administration surely has had some impact and regardless of why you think Trump really won- the Russians, Hillary, or middle-America unhappiness, the fact is that middle America hasn’t seen much of any improvement in their standard of living for a while and they’re not happy about it. Think about what happens when drones, self-driving cars and trucks and more robots hit most U.S. factories and then imagine a robot in many places a cash register or customer service desk exists today.

Apple’s move today is on the heels of the company’s announcement of its $1B Advanced Manufacturing Fund to invest in their U.S. supply chain. While we don’t know exactly what U.S. workers will actually get from Apple’s first $200M investment in Corning, but I’m sure middle America’s expectation is that it means more jobs for them. We just don’t know yet.

So are these moves just self-serving moves by Apple to keep the Trump administration and even the trust-busters off their backs?

No, I don’t think so. Apple rolled out Swift Playgrounds to K-12 long-before before the presidential election.  The reality is, Apple has become more valuable than most cities based on GDP, has over $250B in cash (and equivalents) and in many ways, has become a very important societal impacter. The company is so big that with every major move it makes, it sends shock waves across many bows, including society. I believe the company does have an obligation to society and Apple leadership knows this. Tim Cook has done an incredible job shaping this. With great power comes great responsibility, right?
Wrapping up

I see other companies waxing on stage about middle America issues and really doing nothing about it beyond the tear-jerking montage video projected to sniffling keynote attendees. The opportunity here is that more robots willrequire more programmers and that sure beats the alternative of unemployed workers or high-schoolers with bleak futures. The app economy Apple initiated is thriving and will be augmented by an automation economy in the future leveraging similar attributes as the app economy. As for the haters saying “oh, but it’s Swift on iPad, that helps Apple to eat more of the world”, I respond, “stop whining”. I mean, what did you expect Apple to drive, C# programming on a Chromebook?  I’m glad Apple is actually creating programs to help kids and community college students to do something with their lives as kids and in their careers down the line. Apple should be applauded. I hope Apple can do more, quicker, because middle America needs their help.