Hello Apple Playgrounds

June 15, 2016

View all articles

Dear Apple:

When we embarked on our quest in 2014 to bring mobile app development to high schools, we were thrilled when you introduced Swift. We immediately saw it as a language with lower barrier to entry, allowing kids and teachers to learn skills that are increasingly sought after for nearly every facet of our society.

Yet, we also found a common theme among the schools we work with. Many of them had recently heeded the call of “one-to-one,” giving every student a single device to do their work, learn for classes, and live their academic digital lives. Tablets and mobile devices were often a better fit for government-funded adventures, so when faced with the decision between iPads or laptops, many schools went iPad. But that was the catch: because it was prohibitively difficult to code on an iPad, these schools had to leave CS out of their curriculum.

This is why your Swift Playgrounds for iPad announcement at WWDC 2016 has us feeling thrilled, invigorated, and just plain over-the-moon about the possibilities for the schools and youth that we work with, as well as all aspiring developers. I’m sure you have already heard dozens of stories about the possibilities this opens, but having worked directly with schools, administrators, teachers, and students – we can tell you with sincerity, and not a hint of hyperbole: this is revolutionary.

For far too long, the numbers of schools that could offer CS or programming classes was, put simply, dismal. Now that your coding tools have officially begun spreading to the iPad, many of these schools can begin introducing coding courses for the first time. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg—the real revolution is in the opportunities and doors this opens for the students and, ultimately, our society and the world.

In his closing speech during Apple’s keynote yesterday (the Playgrounds announcement starts around 1:45:00 mark), Mr Cook mentioned the potential for those who know how to code to solve problems. Please allow me to extrapolate: coding allows people to solve problems we didn’t even know existed. We are a global world, but we all have so much to learn about our neighbors’ trials, tribulations, and solutions. Allowing people to code on the iPad empowers them with tools they can use to create those solutions where they are, in the culture they live, with the constraints and freedoms at their disposal – not solutions created half a world away. This holds true in our high schools, too.

I have seen high school students build better solutions to their big problems—from bullying and sex education to intimate issues like the stress of casting calls—all better than any adult. By having the tools and know how, all people – including the next generation – can create immediate solutions to close, personal situations that they uniquely understand. That is how you change the world.
We are honored to play our own small part in this cause by empowering and educating teachers and students on this technology. We cannot wait to see what they do next.