Teaching Swift

Meadows professor develops courses to help educators teach students how to develop apps

Responding to the rise of young students wanting to learn how to develop apps, Apple Inc. contacted SMU Meadows Visiting Professor Yong Bakos in 2014 and invited him to develop a product that would help educators teach high school students how to master Apple’s Swift programming language. Swift is used to develop apps for the iOS, OS X and watch OS platforms.

Bakos’ course, titled “Teaching App Development with Swift,” launched in June 2015, first debuting on the website GitHub, then made available on Apple’s iTunes U as part of the company’s Apple Education offerings. It reached the number one spot on iTunes U.

At the annual Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco in June, Apple CEO Tim Cook noted during his keynote speech that increasing numbers of students as young as 12 and 13 are wanting to learn app development.

To help students reach that goal, Bakos designed the materials for high school teachers, equipping them with lesson plans, presentations and Xcode projects to lead their students through experiential learning. The four-level, 15-week course is modular, allowing teachers to employ various lessons to fit the needs of their particular classroom.

The materials are available free of charge.

“Before we developed ‘Teaching App Development with Swift,’” says Bakos, “there were no pragmatic, instructor-facing materials for leading Swift/iOS teaching in the classroom.”

In an article for appleinsider.com, writer Jonathan Lace calls the material a “watershed in high school computer science education” and says the materials “will prevent teachers from having to reinvent the pedagogical wheel” and will “provide standardization in Swift programming instruction, which will benefit the entire development community.”

About Yong Bakos

Bakos is a visiting professor in SMU’s Center of Creative Computation, an interdisciplinary research and teaching center exploring computation as a universal generative medium, integrating creative development, quantitative analysis and interdisciplinary synthesis. He has worked with companies ranging from small startups to Apple. 

With a background in both the arts and software engineering, Bakos pushes the boundaries of cross-disciplinary research and teaching. Hailing from Denver, Colo., Bakos previously served as the assistant department head of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at the prestigious Colorado School of Mines, where he taught for six years.

A professional software engineer by trade, Bakos studied art theory and practice (B.A., Northwestern University) and software engineering (M.S., Regis University). As an undergraduate in the early nineties, he worked to combine education across the arts and engineering disciplines even when no such program existed. 

A hobby musician with an affinity for keyboards, Bakos has also worked on collaborations in Chicago and Denver as an artist and technologist, combining live code and music performance.