Apple Turns Stores Into Classrooms
Apple is using all of its worldwide network of stores as temporary classrooms this week to teach coding. The technology firm is using its 468 stores as bases for tutorials in the annual "Hour of Code" project. Craig Federighi, one of Apple's top executives, says he wants to "set off a spark" in young learners. He also wants to dispel the geeky image of "solitary" computer programmers, saying "it's an incredibly creative medium, not unlike music".
The Hour of Code is an international project giving people an introductory lesson in computer coding. It runs in about 180 countries, backed by technology firms and national governments, and last year claimed to have reached more than 100 million people. It is supported by US President Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron, along with technology figures such as Bill Gates and Sir Richard Branson and representatives of Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Amazon. The Minecraft computer game is producing a special tutorial for the project.
This year Apple is supporting the outreach project with coding workshops, talks from developers and tutorials from software engineers. Mr Federighi says that when modern lives are so immersed in digital technology, understanding the language of computers has become an essential form of literacy. "These devices are so much a part of our lives, we have a computer in some form wherever we go, that the ability to create in that medium is as fundamental as the ability to write," he said.
Now Apple's senior vice-president of software engineering, Mr Federighi said he began to experiment with code when he was 10 years old. "That first moment of realising I could enter some commands in a computer and make it do something was a revelation."
He says programming should be seen as a "language and a way of thinking". And while many young people have a great facility in using devices, he says being able to programme them is the "next level of literacy". But he says there can be something of an image problem. "People sometimes have a view of programming that is something solitary and very technical. But programming is among the most creative, expressive and social careers.
"It's an incredibly creative medium, not unlike music, and there's a tremendous cross-over between people who programme and musicians." In terms of the blame for the "grave injustice" of the geeky image, he said: "It must be how the early programmers dressed." Mr Federighi says he wants Apple's global chain of showrooms to be used more often as bases for training and education.
The early roots of Apple, he says, had strong links with education and now computer technology is part of the classroom landscape. The next phase of how digital technology will be used by students is hard to predict, he says, when "young people move so fluently between different types of device". But there has been something of a backlash about technology in education. That included a major report from the OECD highlighting that there was no link between billions spent on educational technology and any improvement in results.
However Mr Federighi adds: "There's no question in my mind of the value in technology in fuelling young minds. "Like any other tool, if you simply throw it in the classroom, and don't consider how best to take advantage of that tool, and you try the old ways with a new piece of technology on the desk, it's no panacea.
"But the potential of the technology when well applied is phenomenal."