Three Semesters of Teaching App Development

When I started teaching Intro to App Development with Swift a year and a half ago, I had never taught a high school class before. The only professional teaching experience I had was from my days leading workshops at the Apple Store. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to share my love of coding with the students, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous. Now, closing out the third semester of teaching this class, I can say it’s been a big success and I have learned quite a lot along the way.

My class is an elective, which means it is something the students can choose to take but is not a requirement. This generally causes me to have two types of students: those that are genuinely interested in learning coding, and those that want a fun elective that is also relatively easy. The class size has been pretty small so far, with this semester being the largest with eight students.

What Has Worked Well

The curriculum that Apple provides for Intro to App Development with Swift is completely free, which is obviously a good thing. It is easy to follow along with, starting from an absolute beginning standpoint and going from there. This class isn’t just teaching students how to use Xcode, it’s teaching them the Swift programming language and coding concepts along with it. Each lesson has self-guided project files for the students to work through.

What Could Be Better

Overall the curriculum is a great starting point for offering this class – it’s hard to complain about something that is free and easy to use – but there are several ways that I think it falls short.

I appreciate that it starts with no programming experience required – very few of my students have any coding experience whatsoever – however, I feel like the beginning of the book stretches itself out too far. It could be condensed which would keep the students’ attention better.

The book also seems geared toward a self-guided approach. I really think you could download the book on your own and go through the whole thing without a teacher at all. Which would be nice if that’s what you want, but for a high school class it left my students wanting more. On the days that I would deviate from the book and try to do some sort of project together as a class, they were much more interested and engaged.

Going Forward

I plan to take the curriculum as a jumping off point and really make the class my own going forward. I may not even use the provided book. If I had an infinite amount of time, I would write my own, but realistically that probably won’t happen. However, I can write my own lessons that are more group focused rather than self guided.

I also plan to increase the pace of learning Swift. My plan will be to spend the first half of the semester focused on learning the major concepts of Swift, and then spend the second half of the semester making an app as a class from nothing. Maybe we can even come up with the concept for the app as a class.

I’m very grateful for the curriculum that Apple offers. Without it, my class may never have happened. But I’m excited to make the class my own going forward and see it continue to improve in the years to come.