Apple plans to release a free coding education app that it developed with middle-school students in mind, in the latest salvo among technology companies to gain share in the education market and to nurture early product loyalty among children.
Apple’s app, called Swift Playgrounds, introduces basic computer programming concepts, like sequencing logic, by asking students to use word commands to move cartoon avatars through a fanciful, animated world. Unlike some children’s apps, which employ drag-and-drop blocks to teach coding, the Apple program uses Swift, a professional programming language that the company introduced in 2014.
“When you learn to code with Swift Playgrounds, you are learning the same language used by professional developers,” Brian Croll, Apple’s vice president of product marketing, said in a telephone interview. “It’s easy to take the next step and learn to write a real app.”
The introduction of Apple’s app coincides with a larger Silicon Valley campaign to press public schools to teach coding. Tech executives have argued that such training could help address socio-economic differences among students, by providing them with marketable job skills. In January, President Obama said he was asking Congress to provide $4 billion in the budget for a computer science initiative in public schools. (Congress has not yet passed a budget.)
“We believe every student should have the opportunity to code,” Timothy D. Cook, the chief executive of Apple, said during a company event last week to introduce the iPhone 7.