An app that can help your child get answers to tough questions on practice papers. Or one that can help you improve your communication skills and boost your confidence in social situations. And how about an app that helps caregivers manage their elderly loved one’s needs, like medication, exercise, and doctors’ appointments? If these sound like something you’d like to have at your fingertips, you are not alone.
In March this year, students from 58 schools were given access to resources to help them identify, design, prototype and build apps, as well as learn business skills when pitching their app ideas. These students were part of the inaugural Swift Explorers Singapore (SES), a seven-month-long app development initiative organised by Crescent Girls’ School with the support of education and technology company, Tinkercademy. The mission? To develop apps that can help the community, and benefit society.
Just over a week ago, students from 16 schools presented the app prototypes that they had brought to life through Swift, Apple’s proprietary coding language, on the iPad. “Swift Playgrounds first came out as a game, with a little character that you move around the screen. It’s really fun, and great especially for younger audiences. But since December last year, Apple came up with a new functionality for it, where you can actually build apps. Just about everything can be done on the iPad, which I think is quite remarkable,” said YJ Soon, co-founder of Tinkercademy.
Coding is Learning through Play
If you’re thinking of getting your child learn something new this year-end school holiday, why not consider coding? There are numerous apps and websites that teach coding to all ages, from as young as preschool age. Those below are some that we have tried, and enjoy. Coding can help kids develop those critical 21st century skills – like logical and critical thinking, problem-solving, patience, and creativity – so it’s screen time that is beneficial, right? Just remember to set limits, and balance it with outdoor play and non-device activities, like these ever-popular board games, too.
Swift Playgrounds makes it fun to learn and experiment with Swift — a powerful programming language created by Apple that is used by the pros to build apps that you see on the App Store. No prior coding knowledge is required, so it’s perfect for beginners, who start by guiding a cute character through different 3D worlds and helping it to collect gems. Once you master the basics, you get to learn the building blocks of apps with interactive walkthroughs.
2. Code Karts
For the youngest learners. This fun game introduces kids to the fundamentals of code as they play; they won’t even realise that they’re learning! There are over 70 levels, and kids use drag-and-drop blocks to race their cars, overcoming obstacles to win the race.
Designed by the MIT Media Labs, this free app teaches kids basic programming concepts using visual tools. Beginner-friendly, it lets kids build programs by putting jigsaw puzzle-shaped pieces together, then having Scratch the cat perform the actions specified. They’ll also get to see programs created by other users and play them, share their own programs, and even see how another coder created the program. Best for ages six and above.
Built by a team that includes parents, scientists, and educators, Hopscotch is an easy entry-level introduction for kids to develop their own app, animations, and games using colourful drag-and-drop blocks. What’s useful are video tutorials that go on concurrently as they are creating, so kids can learn as they go. Though the Hopscotch app is designed for children aged 10 to 16 years old, younger kids who have some experience with coding can probably navigate it easily too.
As long as your little one can match a picture to its similar, they can start learning on this platform. The online tutorials are highly structured and well-paced. In fact, they are almost like a homeschool curriculum that you can do together with your child. Code.org also organises the annual Hour of Code in December, where students around the world celebrate Computer Science Education Week with online activities and tutorials.
Featured image: Alex Green