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Coding opens the door to the ‘new digital age’

Apple’s Swift Playground encourages young developers

For young people wishing to survive and flourish in the complex and challenging ‘new digital age’, coding is becoming a fundamental skill. This is not simply because of the dramatic advances in digital technologies, but because coding is an essential skill if the complex issues of the ‘new world are to be solved. And complexity, it seems, is the new norm.

Many organizations are now making a major effort to encourage young people to learn coding and programming. To most people, it is a deep mystery. In short, it is the process of using a programming language to get a computer to perform tasks and functions according to your wishes. But for students, it is no longer a boring academic struggle, due, in no small part, to the efforts of Apple. Supporting the advance of coding through its Worldwide Developers’ Conference (WWDC) Scholarships, Apple offers to reward talented students and STEM organization members with the opportunity to attend the big annual conference for MacOS and iOS developers, currently held in San Francisco. More than 5000 people gather each year to learn about Apple’s latest tools, technology and techniques.

For two young Thai developers who won WWDC scholarships when they were students, the global developer conference changed their lives forever, and the experience is now paying off.

Kiratijuta Bhumichitr, a WWDC scholarship student in 2015, remains overwhelmed by his chance to attend the worldwide developer conference, even after five years. He won the scholarship when he was a senior computer science student at ABAC University, with this own development called U Spark.

“The experience at WWDC was invaluable for me. I had a great chance to meet great developers from all over the world who were strongly passionate about developing something new,” he said.

Kiratijuta’s rewards from the WWDC Scholarship did not end with the experience. He is currently a lecturer at ABAC University, where he teaches coding. He is also co-founder and technical leader of Genxas Whiz. Moreover, Kiratijuta also lectures on Swift development for teachers who are preparing to teach coding with Swift Playground at many high schools.

His love affair with coding began when he was at high school, when his father gave him an iMac. He dedicated his time to studying coding and began to develop an app for iPad.

“It was great when I saw what happened on the iPad from my coding,” Kiratijuta recalled.

He received a scholarship to study computer science at ABAC University, and fell more deeply in love with coding. He developed a student-experience application called U Spark for the university. This app, which runs on the iOS platform, brought him the chance to win the WWDC scholarship in 2015.

“The experience at WWDC 2015 was very valuable for me. I had great chance to meet [Apple Inc. CEO] Tim Cook at the scholarship orientation session, and I learnt a lot from great software engineers, as well as getting a lot of motivation in software development,” Kiratijuta said.

Last year, he met Cook again, this time in Bangkok. He told Cook how Apple and WWDC had changed his life and had helped him to create valuable things for other people, including the U Spark app and training teachers to teach coding.

Kiratijuta has a dream of establishing a Swift Camp, as an iOS Development Champion, to give Thai students a chance to participate and pave their own way to a global WWDC challenge.

Meanwhile, Patcharapon Joksamut was a WWDC scholarship winner in 2019. He has recently graduated and is working as an iOS developer at the DataWow Company. He is responsible for a major software-development project, even though he is a junior developer at the company, because of his studies under the WWDC scholarship.

He said his time as a WWDC scholarship student was a turning point in his life, and since his return he has never stopped improving his coding skills.

He believes coding is fundamental for critical thinking and problem solving, and is a subject that should be taught while students are still young. School curricula should allow students to set their own coding goals, rather than making them learn coding according to established criteria.

“When young developers see real applications arising from their thinking, they will be excited, energized and empowered to develop new applications,” Patcharapon said.

He said Thai students had talents at the same level as students from other countries, but the local format for teaching coding needed to be updated.

“Coding is an essential skill, and programming can earn money and become a career for a lot of students if they discover that learning coding is not boring stuff. Thanks to Apple’s Swift Playground, developers are able to see in real time what their coding achieves,” he said, adding that coding skills and debugging skills were equally important.

Currently, many schools and universities in Thailand have deployed Swift Playgrounds in their coding curricula. These include Chulalongkorn University Demonstration Elementary School, Bangkok Christian College, Assumption Convent School and ABAC University, King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang, Dhurakij Pundit University, Silpakorn University and Burapha University.



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