Apple's gift to schools: Free app development curriculum

Apple is creating a new curriculum designed to teach mobile app development to high school and college students with little to no prior coding experience.

The price: Free.

The tech giant on Wednesday will begin making the curriculum available for no charge in its iBooks store, CEO Tim Cook told USA TODAY in an interview. Already, he said, six community systems have committed to teaching the material to an estimated half-million students this fall.

"We think it's huge," Cook said, "and we're so proud to help students learn and thrive in the new economy."

The schools range from the Houston Community College System to colleges in Harrisburg, Pa., Mesa, Ariz., and San Mateo, Calif. Cook said schools will likely include the coursework in larger entrepreneurship programs—in Houston, Apple officials said, the system will actually develop its own "iOS Coding and Design School."

The new curriculum, built on about 180 hours of instruction and projects, is designed to stretch out over the course of a year, teaching app design using Swift, a programming language for Mac and iPhone operating systems, among others. Apple says several key mobile apps, including those for Airbnb, Kayak, Trip Advisor, Venmo and Yelp, were created with Swift.

The course builds on Apple's existing coding curriculum, which stretches all the way back to kindergarten. Materials from its "Everyone Can Code" initiative will be used in more than 1,000 schools in the fall, Apple officials said.

"It's sort of a next logical step for us," Cook said, noting that there's a shortage of Swift programmers "across the country and across the world generally."

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the iPhone and the ninth anniversary of the App Store. Speaking to Apple employees last July, Cook said the company had sold its billionth iPhone.

"If you think about it, this job segment really just got underway in 2008, when the App Store was introduced," he said. "Then there's just been an explosion of consumer apps, and in the last year or two there's been more emphasis on enterprise apps. That's really in its infancy, in terms of explosion, and so there's just a ton of opportunity here."

Nearly every company, he said, "likely needs a mobile app" to compete and even, in many cases, to run the business itself.

Apple says it has created two million jobs in the USA, with developers earning more than $16 billion worldwide in the App Store since 2008.

"Regardless of how you look at it, there's tons of opportunity and lots of need out there," Cook said.


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