The iOS design lab is a project that we started Michigan State University to help our students gain valuable skills that they need to be successful in 21st-century work. The first year is a two-semester program, with an option for a summer internship to continue working on a project.
We start students out doing work in groups and teams that are arranged by connecting their interests and passions. The first several weeks of the semester the individual students look at what they are interested in, areas they want to work in or topics they want to focus on. They form teams and the teams engage in a lot of design thinking, brainstorming, and conversation over the course of the semester to design the idea for an application that they will develop. By the end of the first semester, the teams have thought about their ideas, developed some strategies for dealing with the ethical, moral, safety, cultural, etc. components of their applications and are preparing to think about how they will handle more of the technical components as they move forward.
During the second semester, they focus largely on the technical portions of app development. They develop a familiarity with the Xcode, create small apps that allow a sense of accomplishment and which develop skills with Swift, and software, and developing a level of competency with thinking computationally and learning to use different components of the programming language to accomplish their goals. We work over the semester to get them into some state where they are able to both develop things for the app, think confidently about what they are doing and need to do in the future, and to get themselves ready to move forward with finishing out the app over their summer break.
Across both semesters we work with them to do journaling and documenting their code or other thinking in various ways. We help them collect photos of themselves in practice and we help them to collect artifacts of their brainstorming and other creative activity. The portfolio they produce at the end of the first year of the program shows a holistic process where they’ve engaged in the social, technical, cultural and creative acts of creating an application that is designed to be successful. As we move toward year two we envision the year to be one of putting their learning into practice with a different project and working to develop applications for other people or projects as they continue to develop the portfolio.
Each student is eligible at the end of year one to apply for a World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) scholarship, to apply for the World Wide Developer Academy in Naples Italy, or to take the exam to gain a credential been certified in Swift. Additionally, each of the students who complete the year will receive a micro credential granted by the University, and a line in My Spartan Story (the University level co-curricular record).