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Last month, we told you iPad was the best device for teaching students to code. The response? Instant outrage – from the half of our education team who prefer to code on a Mac. In an attempt to calm things down in the office (and make sure teachers across the country are making an informed choice) we offered them the chance to make their case…
There are some fantastic, engaging apps to help pupils get to grips with coding on iPad, but as they get older and begin to code more seriously, you’ll want to introduce them to a professional coding environment. By combining Xcode and Visual Studio for Mac or Nova you can recreate the workflow a professional app developer would use, which means your students can start developing the right habits and workflow for higher education or the workplace well ahead of their peers on iPad. Using these professional tools also makes it easy for them to put together projects that show the skills they’ll need in the workplace and start building a portfolio.
Plus, using a professional system has other advantages. For example, students can write apps in Xcode and download them straight to their own phones, so they can see and test their work in a live environment. Got a student without a phone? No problem. You can simulate devices in the Xcode environment so students can see how their app would work on a tablet, desktop or phone without actually needing any other hardware, so no student is left out.
We’re not going to lie: Apple really, really like Swift. It’s the language used to code apps for iPadOS, macOS and iOS, and it’s the language a lot of the coding apps and tools for iPad are geared toward. But we’ll let you in on a secret: you can use a Mac to code in any language.
A Visual Studio environment gives your students all the tools they need to code in Python, Basic, Java, C and more. Macs themselves actually have a UNIX base, so you can open the terminal to show students how it works, and give them the chance to write their own bash scripts. You could even have students attempt the same project in different languages, so they can compare and contrast different approaches to coding.
If you’ve been coding with iPad and have invested in drones, Sphero robots, Lego MINDSTORMS kits and more, don’t worry. Most devices that work with an iPad will cheerfully work with a Mac notebook or desktop too. There are Mac versions of apps for Lego, Sphero and more in the Mac App Store, and newer MacBooks can even run your existing iOS apps straight from the desktop.
Dave Dudman, leader of our professional development team and a former Head of IT, feels quite strongly about this point. “When I was teaching coding to FE students they all worked on Macs, so I’ve seen them in practice and they do work better than Windows PCs for coding. The Mac is a far more stable platform: it’s less buggy and prone to crashing when students try and run their code. When you’re coding on Windows you spend almost as much time watching your computer crash and restart as you do refining your actual code, so switching to Mac will mean you get a lot of lesson time back.”
Mac is equally at home as a creative tool for budding web designers. With a MacBook or desktop Mac, you’re able to run professional web design software like Adobe Dreamweaver, so students can get the hang of HTML and CSS alongside any other languages you teach.
As fun as our office debate has been, it’s entirely possible to code on iPad and Mac, or move students from one to the other as they progress. Swift Playgrounds, one of the most popular iPad coding apps for classrooms, will also run on the Mac, which means students can code in a familiar environment until they’re ready to try Xcode, Visual Studio or Nova.
If you’re thinking of updating your IT setup, your local Jigsaw24 education specialist would be happy to help you find the best devices for your students – drop your details in the form below to arrange a call.
Find out how to take your coding skills to the next level with Jigsaw24. Call the team on 03332 409 290 or email education@Jigsaw24.com. For the latest news, follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.
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