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Project guide: Coding in an hour with Swift Playgrounds

With the basics of coding and programming a key requirement in the National Curriculum's computing programme of study right from Key Stage 1, it's never too early to introduce code to the classroom. And with the rise of mobile devices in schools, it's now easy to do. 

Shariff Ibrahim

Coding was a big focus of Apple at the BETT 2020, and they have recently updated and expanded their 'Everyone Can Code' curriculum to help introduce more primary school students to the world of coding, with heaps of resources for teachers and students. With the rise of iPad in schools, many institutions no longer require UIT suites for coding as they can do everything on the devices, saving money on extra technology.

If you're new to coding in the classroom, Swift Playgrounds' 'Learn to Code 1' module is the ideal starting point, intended to introduce the fundamentals of code in an accessible way, in just one hour. Here, we guide you through it step by step, from a simple introduction through to getting students to create their own dancing robot animation in MeeBot Dances!

What is Swift Playgrounds?

Swift is Apple's own programming language, used by professionals to create apps for the Apple ecosystem, including iPad, Mac, iPhone, Apple TV and Apple Watch. Swift Playgrounds is an app that teaches coding using interactive puzzles and colourful characters. It’s designed for students aged eight and over, and helps you introduce coding in the same language used by professional app developers. 

What you’ll need

Before you start, make sure you've got all the necessary kit. You'll first need to download the Swift Playgrounds app from the App Store, which requires a 64-bit iPad with iOS 10 or later or iPadOS. It's recommended that every student has an individual iPad to get the best experience, but you could feasibly have one device between two. A display at the front of the class will let you guide students through the Hour of Code presentation (download it here). This teacher guide from Apple will guide you through the Hour of Code session.

Open Swift Playgrounds and Find the Learn to Code 1 and MeeBot Dances projects from the list below (subscribe to UBTech Jimu Robots from the From Other Publishers section). 


When you're ready to start, open the presentation and give a brief introduction to code and what it's used for in the real world, plus a rundown of Swift Playgrounds and what the class will be doing during the session.

Part 1: Learning commands and functions

The first part of the session focuses on commands and functions. Run them through slide 2 and ask them to create a paper fortune teller using the instructions on screen. Slide 3 explains how steps can be put together to create a command that performs a function. This example is all about being told to brush your teeth, which in code could be formatted as 'brushTeeth()'.

Now they have grasped the reasoning behind commands and functions, you can advance to slide 4. This shows how the process of them making their fortune teller can be split up into separate steps which act as a command. In Swift programming language, this command is makeFortuneTeller().

Part 2: Try Swift Playgrounds puzzles

Now, students can try out Swift Playgrounds themselves. Get them to open the app on their iPad and load up the Learn to Code 1 playground. The eight slide Introduction reinforces what you previously taught the class about the fundamentals of code with real world examples. 

There are then four puzzles on the next page to complete: Issuing Commands; Adding a New Command; Composing a New Behaviour, and Creating a New Function. Guide students through these puzzles to move the Byte character around his little world, but let them try figuring the solutions out for themselves first.

Part 3: Apply code to a MeeBot Dances video

Once students have completed the puzzles, they’ll be able to apply coding principles to other functions. Get them to open the MeeBot Dances playground which you downloaded before, which lets you program a virtual MeeBot character to dance. Give students a challenge is to make an awesome dance video to enter their robot into a competition.

Once they have their dance moves down, guide them through how to record a movie of their robot dancing, using the panel on the right (as shown in slide 5 below). You can then regroup and get students to show off their dances, and even ask them to guess what moves the robot will pull just by looking at the code.

Final thoughts and wrap-up

The final 'Connect' slide shows just how vital code is to various everyday appliances like microwaves. Your Hour of Code is probably coming to an end about now, but wrap up by showing students how to share their MeeBot Dances videos via AirDrop, and encourage them to download Everyone Can Code Puzzles and the Learn to Code 1 and Learn to Code 2 playgrounds for further exploration into coding!

Key takeaways

You've now got a class full of potential coders on your hands. Here are some of the things they will have learned:

  • How code is used in everyday life, with real world examples.
  • The basic fundamentals of commands and functions.
  • How to use commands and functions to create and run a basic program.
  • How to then apply commands and functions to creative processes.
  • How code can be used to create something that can change the world!

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