Coding on iPads – Beginner to Pro

Code and programming may not be the most important topics on the planet but it is an area of study that sufferers two major problems. one: an industry with millions of unfilled job positions and two: a world where not enough teachers feel confident to run programming projects. The iPad can offer a solution in these situations.

There’s an app for that (and a generation)

Fortunately, the world of code education is getting easier and more self-sufficient every month. When I say self-sufficient, I mean such that having an expert in the room is not longer a requirement. Thousands of children, some as young as four, are teaching themselves to program and make apps and games . They are using, apps, YouTube, gadgets, drones and robots, all available at home. This generation are also becoming experts at collaborating online.
Initially, many code teachers in the world were skeptical about whether the iPad had any role to play in code learning and thought of it as just a consumption device. That was never quite the case and now the millions of iPads held by children everyday are primed to take them on the full coding journey from beginner to pro.
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Here’s a summary of some of the apps on offer and the level they cater for:

Code Beginner to Pro with iPad-EduWells.png

Where do I start and end this journey?

Here I will attempt to summarise the various levels of learning and the apps that sit at each stage.

Stage one – Single procedure

Getting from A to B might be easy for humans but computers need commands every step of the way. There’s also a long way and short way to code anything to get from A to B and learning the shortcuts is important. These apps are great at introducing the main options when doing any type of coding. They will do the teaching and the students can get quite competitive over how far they’ve got.
code1

Stage two – multi character

All apps, websites and games always have more than one thing on the screen that has been coded to do something. Learning how components and characters can interact, pass messages and information and even borrow each other’s code is key to start the development of full products. These apps will open up more open ended options and allow and the students to get creative whilst still delivering extra lessons to spark ideas. They do all this with friendly drag and drop commands, whilst still offering the full toolkit. Pictured: Tickle; Hopscotch; Tynker.
code2

Stage three – IDEs and Text code

Before you take the final plunge into typing your own code to make products that might change the world, it’s worth being introduced to the type of application coders use, namely the integrated development Environment (IDE). These apps offer tools, buttons and shortcuts specific to a platform or language. For example, Apple’s IDE is called Xcode and has iPad specific tools and will emulate an iPad to trial your app on. It’s important to introduce to text coding so students discover how carefully you have to be with syntax. These three apps find a friendly and fun way to introduce IDEs and JavaScript and a real text language. Pictured: HyperPad; Hakitzu; Codecadmy.
Screen Shot 2015-11-26 at 12.36.26 PM

Stage four – time to go pro!

IMG_0688There are a number of app developers creating apps that allow you to type, compile and test real code in nearly every language. They can cost a dollar or two but come with keyboards specific to providing shortcuts to allow you to type and organise the code quickly. This will allow students with iPads to make a serious start on their coding career. Pictured: Python 3 (but they all look similar)

Journey as a team

This whole process from beginner to pro can be done without the need for an expert. More teachers need to feel confident that they can introduce coding at almost any age, get the students onto the apps and then step out of the way. I find teams of 4 work well to build coding knowledge collaboratively and helping each other through the various challenges.

Jobs for the boys and the girls

Find your local jobs website and do the >$100 job search. In nearly all cases, IT will be the industry with the biggest need and in many cases it will be double the 2nd place industry for job availability. There’s a global discussion about success rates with boys and coding often interests boys who struggle elsewhere. It can also act a a gateway to covering much math. Girls are also being encouraged into the industry with extra incentives and programmes such as GirlsWhoCode.com. Google also run special initiatives just for women.
Kids – start coding! 
Teachers – let them show you what they can create!

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