IMAGINE a world where young kids can not only play games on their iPads but create them.
Where they can learn how to code through fun challenges, where they can problem solve, respond to real world challenges and even share their learnings via messages and airdrops.
Welcome to the world of Swift Playgrounds, a program which is now offering Australian schoolchildren an opportunity to have fun with real world code which can be used to create apps that turn clever ideas into something we use on our phones every day.
The Apple app really is child's play and one of a growing number of toys and applications aimed at getting kids into useful technology from an early age, including robotics.
Dan Martinez, the Junior School technologies mentor at St Hilda's School on the Gold Coast, where as of next year, all girls from Prep through to Year 7s will take coding as a subject for a term, is looking forward to seeing Swift fully implemented into the curriculum next year.
He says the value of the application is that it teaches real code, and allows children to think in a different way, collaborate, perform critical evaluation and problem solve.
Those skills, he says, are fully transferable, and will serve them well in whatever job they eventually go into.
Which is pretty important when you consider we are training children for jobs that don't even exist yet.
Primary school students have already been using apps like Hopscotch and Tickle which features simple drag and drop functionality to create games and control drones.
In Playgrounds, you start out by guiding a character called Byte to solve puzzles.
One side of the screen shows the actual code while the other is a live view of Byte and a 3D world, which you can zoom in and out of and rotate by touch.
You are given options for the code from a QuickType keyboard at the bottom of the screen.
You can also bring up a keyboard to enter custom text.
You start out with the basics, like moveForward(), turnLeft() and collectGem().
Once you think you have got your list of commands in order, you tap 'Run My Code' to see if it works.
As you progress, you explore ideas like repeat commands in loops, bug fixes, and looking for errors as the challenges become harder.
For the students at St Hilda's, who have been dabbling in coding for some time, Playgrounds starts out probably too easy but there's plenty for them to learn in later challenges.
Apple says it developed more than 45 hours of content which can be customised and used by Australian teachers to meet requirements that by 2018 coding will be a compulsory part of the curriculum.
But the app is not only useful for children.
Apple is promoting a vision that everyone should be able to code.
An inspirational video tells stories about people who can develop apps to tackle issues like domestic violence or improve birth survival rates.
At a school in Canberra, an app, developed by students, allows parents to check their kids in and out of school.
So how young will the kids of tomorrow start learning to code?
You might be surprised to know that there are coding applications for those in preschool and kindergarten.
We heard the story of one child, aged about four or five, who was showing a book he created using an iPad.
The subject of the book was a Crossy Road-like game he had created using Hopscotch.
It's a brave new world indeed but one full of opportunities - especially if you know how to code.
MORE ABOUT SWIFT
Swift, which is open source, is one of the fastest growing computer languages around.
For students, its a good introduction to programming concepts. Swift skills can be applied from mobile devices to the desktop to the cloud.
Everyone Can Code
- Everyone Can Code website
- Swift Playgrounds app
- Swift Playgrounds website
- Teacher Guide for Swift Playgrounds
- Teacher Guide for App Development with Swift
- iTunes collection: Everyone Can Code
- About Swift
- Swift.org website
- Xcode app for Mac
- About Classroom app for iPad