Byte from Scratch Playgrounds

Learning iOS Code with Swift Playgrounds

This is an amazingly detailed, wholly interactive and fun coding app. Marketing itself as a revolutionary and interactive way to learn Swift (the powerful programming language of Apple itself), Swift Playgrounds presents the player in an interactive 3D world where a character called Byte stands before a series of obstacles in a digital maze.

With assistance and guidance instructions you must help Byte navigate throughout the world using real code such as moveForward() and turnLeft(). These commands evolve and become more detailed as you move through the lessons and build on your coding knowledge. Once these concepts have been mastered you can then move onto more advanced concepts. The app assumes no coding knowledge starting out, and therefore is perfect for students at the beginning of their voyage of exploration.

The logical labyrinth lesson in the Swift Playgrounds Coding App

Identifying a New Generation of Swift Developers

Beginning with the “Fundamentals of Swift” lessons, you will tackle goals using the same types of code instruction professional developers use every day. As you move forward, more complex code is introduced and you will continually build on what you’ve learned to date. So what if anything makes this coding app different to all the others? Why would you decide to choose this one over any of the others?

If your child is an Apple fan then this is probably the best option there is. The app takes full advantage of the high-quality resolution display that is available on the iPad. It also utilises the multi-touch capabilities and simplicity of the iPad, where you can just tap, drag or type text and numbers before interacting with what you’ve just created. The sleek design interface presents something that is shiny and interesting. It stands before you as a way to bring the coding experience to the masses… on an Apple device.




Let’s be honest. By creating this coding app (which requires iOS 10 by the way) Apple have shown themselves to be interested in the “Everyone should have an opportunity to learn how to code” mantra of the early 21st century. But it’s also an opportunity for them to turn kids into Apple fans. The quality of the graphics is far superior to other coding apps out there. Byte is an absolutely adorable character and the way in which the interface responds to user input is amazing. It’s obvious that some serious design and development budgets were put into this. But hey, if you have it why not use it ….

The home page of the Swift Playgrounds Coding App

Usability

Swift Playgrounds is really designed for the bright pre-teen or adult. It assumes a good level of reading capability and may be more suited for team exercises or in a guided classroom scenario. The continuous scrolling required when the iPad is in portrait mode is somewhat annoying and the tap and type can sometimes feel monotonous. Personally we felt frustrated a lot with the instructions given. It’s safe to assume that you won’t find your 5 year old spending hours on this.

Swift Playgrounds won’t see kids making apps which they can put on the App Store. Instead, like most of its genre on the market today, it’s meant to get them to think programmatically. Mistakes are gently corrected and there are no “WRONG ANSWER – TRY AGAIN” popups here. You are simply encouraged to have another go with some suggestions on the route to take.

One great feature that we must mention is that Swift Playgrounds is accessible with voiceover, the screen-reading tool built into every iOS device on the market. Once VO is enabled, the interface turns from a 3D perspective to an aerial view of the world, mimicking a digital checkers board. The structure of the world is given to the user in audible form as are the locations of the obstacles. This is an addition that we haven’t seen before on coding apps similar to this. But as Apple have been at the forefront of accessible tablet technology since 2007, this was only to be expected. We applaud their mindful efforts.

7 comments

  1. Hello there

    This app looks very interesting, being able to iOS code while interacting with this byte character seems the best way to integrate kids into the coding world. Apple, they always find the way to innovate and most times than not they do it right.
    Swift Playgrounds really caught my attention and will try to test it for a while.

    Great article.
    Ruben

    1. Thanks Ruben,
      I’ll admit I was very impressed the first few times I played it with my 7 year old. Unfortunately our iPad is quite old and it was probably not the best idea to install iOS 10 on it as it slowed it down a lot but hey c’est la vie! I had to opportunity to test it out on an iPad Pro and wowzers – the graphic and audio quality was just amazing! Thanks for commenting and have a great day!

  2. Whaaaat! This looks so cool! I had no idea something like this existed! It took me a while to learn the basics of coding, and I still feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface. Thank you for bringing this to my attention!

    1. Hi Dan,
      Hey, we are always learning! The possibilities are endless when it comes to coding aren’t they? I’m so glad you found this interesting! Best of luck with the journey!
      Dan

  3. Glad I found this! Is it available for Mac? I need to learn how to build an app, and I REALLY need something simplistic as I am not proficient in app building or programming. If it isn’t suitable, I would love to hear your recommendation on what would work for me!

    1. Hi Kathy,
      No, unfortunately Swift Playgrounds is only available for the iPad.

      Regarding building your own app there’s a few things you would need to consider.

      1. Native or Web Based – you can create apps for the App Store and Google Play Store which are the native ones or a web app which is like a website but as the name suggests is just on the web. Personally I would go for the web app. Check out this article for some better information that I can give here: https://www.lifewire.com/native-apps-vs-web-apps-2373133

      2. Do you have the time to devote to learning and developing an app? I’ll be completely honest – it takes a long time to learn the concepts for coding and programming languages. I totally believe that everyone can do it with a bit of hard work and dedication but not all people can commit. There are drag and drop app builders out there that do a lot of the heavy lifting. Something like this might be helpful: https://codiqa.com/ – I don’t have any experience with this but if you google “drag and drop app builder” I’m sure you might find something that helps you a lot!

      Keep in touch and if there’s anything else I can ever help you with just give me a shout. I’m at all of the social media spots (linked at the bottom of the page) or send me a mail on the contact form. All the best! Dan

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