Is Coding Simply A Buzzword?

Coding. Everyone is talking about coding. It is a hot topic, especially in the education sphere, and there are numerous (confusing at first) coding platforms to choose from.

At our campus, we offer coding as part of the curriculum and have done so for a number of years. Our students code on computers with (currently, but not exclusively) or on their iPads with Swift Playgrounds. We also offer Robotics as an extramural. This year it is our aim to up our offering significantly. This will happen over the course of the year as my co-teacher, Mrs Louw, and I work on our own knowledge to expand the programme.

In doing my research around coding, I did initially wonder what all the fuss was about. I had my own questions about why kids should code and what value it really had from them. My questions have, over time, been suitably answered and I now strongly feel that coding should be part of the modern learning offering. It is not our intention to turn all our students into coders – in fact it has less to do with the actual coding, but is rather much more about the fact that we would like to see them develop into lateral thinkers who think out of the box and who can grapple with problems and make every effort to solve them despite the amount of effort required. We want students who do not give up, who persevere and who show determination in tricky situations. We want them to become collaborators who can put their heads together to creatively solve problems and come up with new ideas and designs. We need to develop computational thinking and cater for the world our students live in and for their futures which look very different to our own when we were at school. In fact, we have no idea what their futures look like. We can only use our imaginations.

If you also have questions about why your child should learning coding, this article shared on the Parent24 website, entitled Why do my children need to learn to code? What’s all the fuss? might just answer all your questions. It is an interesting read!

Here is another interesting article that might answer more questions for you: What is Computational Thinking? Why thinking like a computer builds skills for success.

Implications of iOS 10

small_logoWith the arrival of iOS 10 late last year, some of the older iPads were dealt what seemed to be a death knell, even if it was not an immediate one. Initially we thought it only applied to the iPad 2, but it later became clear that the iPad 3 and the iPad Mini (1st generation) were not included in the iOS 10 roll out because they simply do not have the processing power to run iOS 10 and they cannot keep up with the latest app requirements. As a school we were immediately faced with a problem – what would we now do with these devices? We have a bank of 25 iPad 2s in daily use and not all of our students have the latest devices either. In a school environment this could be very annoying. Would we have to replace our devices immediately?

Realistically one can understand this step taken by Apple. The iPad 2 was first launched in March 2011. At the rate that technology improves and rolls over these days the fact that it was still holding its own in 2016 as a five-year old device was impressive. At some point a device will go to technology heaven. The iPad 3 was launched in March 2012 with the same processor as the iPad 2, but with improved graphics. The first generation iPad Mini was launched late in 2012, also with the same processor, so now in 2017 these devices are by technology standards, “old”.

It is not all bad news, however. After doing a little research, it turns out that these devices will still work for the foreseeable future. How long exactly is not clear, but they will in all likelihood still receive app updates and be able to download older versions of most apps (the trend thus far has been two years). However, no apps requiring iOS 10 will be compatible. The latest iOS update for these devices is 9.3.5, but while these devices will need to be replaced eventually, this means that we can continue to use these devices as we were for a little longer, until planning and budgets allow for device upgrades. I believe there are still people using their old first generation iPads (2010), although the apps are now very limited. Typical issues displayed by an aging device are poor battery life, slow processing speed and inferior graphics.

Some of the latest, most current apps require serious processing power as only provided by the later iPads, the iPad Air and iPad Pro. One such app is the Apple Coding app, Swift Playgrounds which was launched in late 2016. We found out the hard way, unfortunately. After attending an Hour of Code workshop at a local Apple reseller in early December, a colleague and I were enthused and fired up to roll out Swift Playgrounds with our students in 2017 (our students used last year). It soon became clear that the iPad 4 (Nov 2012), despite running iOS 10 with a faster processor and more RAM, would not run Swift Playgrounds either. We will now have to go back to the drawing board and come up with an alternative plan, as there are a fair number of our students still using the older devices, especially the iPad 4.

To find out what model iPad you have, look on the back of your device. It is written in microscopic lettering. Alternatively on your device, go to Settings/General/Regulatory and you will find your model number at the top. Below is a useful table from which will clarify which model of iPad you have: