Reflecting on the “Networked” approach

This was an amazing experience! I learned how to create a basic iOS app using Xcode and Swift and deployed it to my phone. I have been wanting to do this for over a year now. There were a few reasons for not doing this sooner but two of the major reasons were time (the lack of) and fear of the unknown. I conquered both! And in the process, I successfully created two apps and they now both reside on my phone. Success! Whew!

There weren’t a shortage of online resources, but it did take some time locating the most relevant, quality resources and those that would best suit my needs based on my experience level (beginner). Before starting the project, I spent approximately 2-3 hours searching the web for the exact type of resources that I wanted to use – bookmarking and documenting each of them as I went along.

I originally had planned on creating a single mobile app (but actually created two). I figured it was an attainable goal that I could accomplish within 2 weeks. I used an Apple tutorial located on the Apple Developer website to create my first app. The online tutorial was very detailed and included step-by-step instructions along with screen shots every step of the way. It was a perfect starting point! As I progressed through the tutorial and gained some confidence, I started to tweak things. Quickly I learned that that was not the best idea and parts of the app were not working correctly. I had to repeat several sections of the tutorial multiple times to fix the “bugs”. The positive side of that was that I learned a lot through repetition and having a resource to always refer back to was invaluable.

For the second app, I used only YouTube videos. Being able to watch a coding demonstration and hearing it explained, created a slightly different learning experience than simply reading instructions and viewing screen shots. The YouTube videos were more dynamic, but I learned equally from using both methods. I didn’t realize how much I had learned from the online Apple tutorial until I started watching the YouTube lessons and realized that I actually had a basic understanding of what was being demonstrated. Cue the aha moment! On the flip side, I also learned new concepts and techniques from the YouTube videos that I didn’t get from reading the online tutorial. The bottom line was that each method complimented the other.

I will continue using the “networked” approach for learning. I think that having resources that you can reference repeatedly during the learning process, is very important and helps to reinforce learning. Not only can this approach be used for acquiring a new skill set, it can also be used to update or refresh previous skills as well as teach, share, and collaborate within an online environment.

I currently encourage my students to incorporate and use this approach for their learning and most definitely will continue to do so. I see it as a necessary supplemental approach to traditional learning both online and in the classroom. In the field of technology in which I teach, it moves very quickly and in order to keep current with what’s needed in this industry and the skills and knowledge that it demands, learning new skills and refreshing old skills, never ceases. A “networked” approach supports the industry’s needs. However, I will continue to stress the importance of time management, motivation, self-learning, and patience that this method requires.

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Apps on Apple

To learn how to create an app for iOS, I started my journey on the Apple Developer website with the “Start Developing iOS Apps (Swift)” online tutorial. Why not begin with the company that actually developed the IDE and programming language (Xcode and Swift)?

The app within the online tutorial is a FoodTracker app. This app allows the user to add an image of a meal (or restaurant), use a rating system to rate the meal, and provides the basic functionality of editing, adding, and deleting data. Pretty cool stuff!

I encountered some errors while progressing through the tutorial and accessed Google to find explanations of the errors and locate solutions. This was successful most of the time. Thankfully the tutorial provided a lot of screen shots and thoroughly explained things along the way. One of the great things about online tutorials is that you can refer back to a particular section if needed. And in my case, it was needed. My errors occurred when I tried to be fancy and venture out on my own. Quickly I realized that since this was completely new to me, I had better stick to the plan that Apple provided.

After completing the FoodTracker app, it was now time to deploy the app to my phone. During the creation process, I used the built-in Simulator in Xcode, but it’s always best to test on the actual device. The tutorial didn’t have directions for this, so I turned to Google once again. I came across a great resource Launching Your App on Devices and voila! But it wasn’t that easy, sort of. I ran into a few setup errors and it was back to Google. I found another great resource on the stackoverflow discussion forum that solved my issue. Once I corrected the errors, my iPhone connected, and all was well!

I wanted to extend my journey, so I located a fantastic 17-episode series on YouTube called “How To Make an iPhone App with No Programming Experience”. I strictly used YouTube for my second app based on the popular card game “War”. I added a twist to my app and created it with a baseball theme (you think I would have learned my lesson about trying to be fancy). While progressing through the videos, I realized how much I had learned from the online tutorial and how the YouTube videos were reinforcing skills as well as teaching new techniques and concepts. The combination of the two made for a rewarding learning experience…well worth the extended journey.

Both resources that I used to learn how to create an iOS app played an important role in the overall learning process. Each resource complemented each other. I made errors along the way and had to re-watch videos and re-read sections of the online tutorials, but that’s part of the learning process and I embraced it. When I ran into a “sticky” part, I jumped to Google in search of answers and solutions. One of the challenges that I did encounter, aside from learning a new IDE and programming language, was finding the additional time to sit down and learn something new. Once I built time into my schedule to accommodate learning a new skill, I was able to better focus on the task at hand.

Before and after screen shots of the Baseball War Game app.
Before and after screen shots of the Baseball War Game app.

I do have a few bugs in my Baseball War Game app that I will try and resolve over the next week (fingers crossed). So, it’s back to watching YouTube, searching help forums, and Google of course.

Networked Learning Project (Post #1)

Something that I have wanted to learn for a few years now, is how to use Apple’s Swift Apple iPhoneprogramming language and Xcode IDE to create a simple, functional app that I can deploy to an iOS device so I have chosen this as my learning goal for the Networked Learning Project. I have been an Apple fan and user since being introduced to Apple computers in 1985 and have had, and currently have, multiple Apple devices, but I have never ventured into the area of actually creating an iOS app. I will be removed from my comfort zone over the next few weeks (my background is in design, not computer programming) and embark on an educational journey that I believe will be very rewarding.

I have already identified a few online resources that I plan on using to get started on this learning process. Apple has informative “Getting Started” tutorials on their Developer website in their iOS Developer Library. The Start Developing iOS Apps (Swift) online tutorial will be my starting point after reviewing the Xcode 7 + Swift 2 Resources page that contains guides and references, videos, sample code, and free iTunes U Courses.

Another resource that I will be using is the Lynda.com library. I have a subscription to Lynda.com and there are multiple training courses that I can access for additional information, references, and video instruction.

There is also a short five-part series on YouTube created by Skip Wilson titled Swift for Absolute Beginners that I discovered during my research, and I will be including the series as part of my research and instruction.

Through the use of a variety of resources that include videos from Lynda.com, YouTube, iTunes U, and Apple, online tutorials, and sample code, I hope to successfully create a functional iOS app using the Swift programming language and Xcode IDE that will make its proud appearance on my iPhone and/or iPad in the weeks to come.