Getting Started with Swift Playgrounds: Coding App

Featured Image: 
Screenshot of Swift playgrounds showing commands on left side and World Grid on right side.

Apple's Swift Playgrounds is an interactive app that teaches how to write Swift code - Swift is the language that developers use to build iOS apps. Swift Playgrounds is geared for middle school students and older and is accessible with VoiceOver.

Most teachers of the Visually Impaired are not necessarily coders and are often uncomfortable with coding applications. Learning and teaching Swift Playgrounds may initially feel overwhelming, especially when  learning to use Swift Playgrounds with VoiceOver! Swift Playgrounds is very visual - the first game includes using commands which move the character. Students who are visually impaired can use their finger to explore the World Grid -map to locate the character and gem. The character, Byte, has to move through this grid to collect the gem. Don't panic! All of this is accessible with VoiceOver!

Hadley Institute has created a series of videos on how to get started with Swift Playgrounds with VoiceOver. To see the list of Swift Playgrounds videos and other Hadley video tutorials, go to Hadley's Instructional Videos and scroll down to Swift Playgrounds.

This first video demonstrates how to download and manage 'playgrounds' on your iPad running VoiceOver. 'Playgrounds' are the various challenges or lessons that take you through how to code using Swift.

Additional Hadley Swift Playground videos:

  • Exploring the Playground
  • World Grid Orientation
  • Custom Rotor and Actions
  • Entering Code
  • Solving a Simple Puzzle

When exploring the World Grid (see video listed above), it is important that your student understands grids, columns, and rows. The grid in this game has columns, rows and height. To help build these pre-concepts, see the post, Digital Transitions #2: Math Grid Activities and Blindfold 3D Tic Tac Toe.

Initially, recreating the grid to tactually represent the World Grid is critical for your student's success! Legos is a great way to recreate the World Grid, as you can stack Lego blocks on top of each other to demonstrate the height. Think of the height as "floors" in a building. 

Note: Students need to understand that the row 0, column 0 and height 0, starts in the bottom left hand corner. A right swipe will move up the column. (Normally, we visualize a right swipe to move from left to right, top to bottom.)


Posted by Diane BraunerJan 25, 2019

Exciting news! Apple has released a teacher's guide to Swift Playgrounds for VoiceOver users! Apple has collaborated with the San Francisco Lighthouse to produce Tactile Puzzle Words (tactile graphics of the different Swift Playgrounds 'Worlds') which are available as free files that you can download and emboss them or you can purchase them through the Lighthouse (US) or RNIB in the UK. Read more about Swift Playgrounds support materials here.