“I have spent this week going into both my ex secondary school and also my ex sixth form college to talk about game development and how with the help of DreamSpark you can get games and apps onto the Windows 8 and Windows phone 8 Stores for free.
“Firstly, John and I spent Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon at Trinity House Academy talking to year 10’s and 11’s that study Computer Science at GCSE level, about 40 students over both days. Then on Friday, all by myself I did the same talk to 50 2nd year BTEC ICT students at Wilberforce College, many of whom are looking to go to University next year. Both days followed the same agenda. (On Friday I bribed the kids with a sweet if they took a picture and tweeted me it, as John wasn't there to do that!)
“We firstly introduced ourselves and explained our roles as a Windows Games Ambassador (myself) and Microsoft Student Partner(John), talking about the benefits of doing what we do to improve our CV’s and portfolios. We also gave a quick plug about local game development community on Facebook; Hull Indie Game Dev, Platform Expo and Platform Studios and of course our own game companies The Gnome Factory and Beard Bandit.
“We then showed the opportunities with Windows development, detailing how to get free software and developer licences through DreamSpark. We also educated on making a game on all the different devices, considering how the users may use them.
“I gave a quick demo of Construct 2, the drag and drop HTML 5 game engine aimed at Designers and Artists that is very useful for some quick prototyping. Construct 2 is brilliant for cross platform deployment- including web browser - so you can easily send the link to anyone without installation.
“To create participation and involvement from the students, we passed around Windows 8 devices and phones so the students could check out some of the games myself, Josh, and other ambassadors have made.
“We then ran an exercise which involved splitting the students into groups, then giving each group a specification for a game. They needed to have an initial concept, some artwork and discuss why they met the client’s needs. We received some weird and wonderful answers - but that’s what it’s all about, creativity, making the students do something they had never done before. They were really engaged with this exercise, you could really tell it’s something they loved doing. The winners of each day received some sweets, and we have some t-shirts on the way to them.
“Finally we finished off by showing the students a live demo of coding. John had put together a nice tutorial of adding a ball texture into Monogame, and making it bounce around the screen. It did become a bit scary for some of them to see live coding, but by the end of all the questions they seemed to really be inspired to pursue this in the future. The big Q&A session at the end was very successful, mainly due to the offering of a sweet per question. Many students then stayed back to talk further, and some have already joined the group on Facebook. A great success!
Stacey Watkins is a BSc Information and Communications Technology (ICT) student at Birmingham City University. Stacey is a great evangelist for females in technology and below gives insight into her views on females in computing, and her desire to change the preconception that coding is an activity only for males.
In Stacey’s words:
“Birmingham City University Campus is largely dominated by males, having over 80% male students, although my course has about 1/3 females which was a much higher percentage than I was expecting when I first started! I personally do not view coding or development as a ‘male thing to do’, but I think it is still sadly stereotypically viewed this way. I think women can shy away from coding because of how the field/subject is filled mostly by males, and it can be seen as unimaginative and boring. I really disagree with how coding is given a bad name, you can build your own games/applications which is highly creative and really good fun when you see it working.
“As a little girl I was always fascinated by computers and often wondered what they actually did. I loved playing video games from an early age, which really made aware of computing as I grew up. My uncle gave me his old PC which was running Windows 98, I loved making pictures in paint and creating PowerPoint presentations about my favourite cartoons (with the over-use of animations and sounds!). I soon taught myself how to work the PC on my own, the PC was better than playing with Barbie dolls, but I wanted to do more and know how things work. School alone was not enough for me in terms of the knowledge I wanted on computing, I used to buy extra books and read more about computers - I didn’t ever think I’d ever be good enough to write my own code! It wasn’t until college/university that I finally got to write code and build my own programs, my first program I build was a web browser.
“In terms of influences into coding, Ava Lovelace was a major female influence for me – a huge inspiration for women interested in science, technology, engineering and maths. Without her I don’t think we’d be able to program today (she didn’t even need a computer when she wrote the world’s first algorithm used by a machine!) I think women and men need to think twice when they think of coding to be a male thing, Ava was the world’s first programmer and we all have a lot to thank her for!
“Now, I’m even more determined to carry on coding, and get more females to code too. I’ve learnt more languages and for my dissertation/Final Year Project at university I am building a Windows 8 app to support teachers with the new computing curriculum at schools. This will hopefully make coding fun so that more children (especially girls) want to create their own programs. One of the reasons I stood for the Women’s Officer Position at Birmingham City University’s Student Union was because of the low number of women choosing to study computing courses and pursuing careers in IT. I hope one day girls can look up to me as an inspirational influence in their journey in becoming a programming goddess!”
Meet Richard Walters.
Richard is the proud creator of the Calculator² app for Windows which recently hit 1 MILLION DOWNLOADS in the Windows Store. Richard had never built an app, he hadn’t even considered it until he got a Windows Phone and as a student encountered DreamSpark.
For background on Richard, the app and his story read;
1. Introduction to the app and Richard’s story
2. How Calculator² hit the 500,000 mark
To view and download the app click here
“I am thrilled to have reached a million downloads. I’ve been looking forward to passing the million mark for quite a while and it’s amazing to think that it’s finally happened. It’s still a bit surreal to think that 1 million people have downloaded the app - it’s not what I imagined when I started out.
“I haven’t needed to do too much to get the app from 500,000 downloads to a million. It has taken around 6 months and I have done very minimal promotion. Since Windows 8 launched, my downloads have been very consistent at approximately 3000 per day. Half of these are from people browsing the Store, while the other half are from people reading reviews on websites. Windows is such a big platform; there’s a lot of interest in the apps across the internet and quite a few reviewers have picked the app up.
“There are a few contributing factors to the success of the app. It’s now in a variety of languages, including Chinese, French, German, and Russian, thanks to users helping to translate the app. I also use AdDuplex, a cross-promotional advertising network, which has resulted in approximately 300 clicks through to the Store page per day. Finally, I believe the app works really well on desktops in addition to tablets, and so appeals to as broad an audience as possible.
“One of the amazing things that’s come from having built Calculator² is that a number of people have contacted me asking for advice on how they can start developing apps. I recommend download the SDKs and just have a play around. It helps to have an idea in mind, even if it’s simple and has been done before (such as a calculator!), and then see how it grows. There are lots of resources on the internet to check when you hit a problem, which is great. Looking back, a piece of advice to anyone just beginning would definitely be to pick up a few books on the basics of programming as you set out, and to continue reading as you progress. There are lots of things I’ve learnt in the past few months that I wish I’d known a bit sooner.
“At the moment I’m concentrating on Calculator². There’s quite a bit of work to do to improve the code so that it will be easier to maintain going forward. I’m rewriting much of the code base using Test Driven Development, and once complete I plan to add new features such as Financial and Graphical calculators. I’m aiming for Calculator² to be the complete calculator app for the Windows platforms.
“Creating an app in the Windows Store has genuinely changed my life; it resulted in me switching careers. I was a physicist thinking about a future in academia, and now I’m a software developer at ThoughtWorks. I’ve spent most of this year in a team working at Morrisons, helping the company to build an app that streamlines the way their stores manage and order stock. I wouldn’t have envisioned achieving any of this before I started on the app, but I’m really happy with the way things have worked out.”
Richard never anticipated he could create such a successful app – you could do the same. Download DreamSpark, have a play around, and you never know what could happen.
I’m James Croft. I’m a 4th year student at the University of Hull studying Computer Science with Industrial Experience. I’ve experienced a lot while being at University, and I’ve always wanted to give something back to help out prospective students who are eager to get a degree and move on to greater things (because that’s what we are all at Uni for, right?)
In my second year, I became a course representative for my department. This started off my desire to to do things for others and not just myself. At the time, the course representative scheme allowed students to review modules and liaise with key members of the departmental staff to raise issues with modules and promote those that were working well through peer evaluation at the end of a semester. This required a pair of reps to get up in front of the entire lecture and ask questions that would then be fed back into the staff-student committee meetings, and then to academic council meetings with all course reps from all departments.
While this seemed a good scheme when I joined, it just didn’t have the best impact on the University, as the organisation is run through the University Union and not the University itself. This is where student ambassadors came in.
I know that I should be really focussed on my work this year and getting the First Class degree that I am after, but the great thing about the Student Ambassador programme is that I can do it around my University timetable. This means I will be able to give students from schools and colleges tours of the University, my department, and tell them on a personal level the experiences that I have had as a student. Through this I can encourage students to take up the opportunity of higher education, especially at The University of Hull.
Dene and I demoing Windows Phone & Windows 8 App Dev at Campus Party 2013
I’m definitely on a mission to inspire people to come to University and in particular, study as a Computer Science student – irrelevant if you are male or female. Computer Science may be male dominated, but it definitely shouldn’t be that way. I don’t believe that female computer scientists should be segregated from the rest of the computer science community. Programming in any language is a skill that anyone can learn, so combined with my role as a Microsoft Student Partner I am always aiming to encourage students to develop applications. I also encourage students to get the software that they need for development, through tools like Microsoft DreamSpark which is free to students – a fantastic opportunity.
Click here to find out more about the Microsoft Student Partner or Windows Games Ambassador programmes.
An article by David Easton, click here to see the original post.
Since Windows 8 was released, it has been one of the most controversial and most talked about operating systems, partly due to how it takes away what most Windows users are used to using and brings in a completely new mind-set. I have been able to experience a time when Windows 98 existed, Windows 2000 then I spent the majority of my time on Windows XP in my High school (even when 7 was released). I completely skipped Vista and finally got Windows 7, what a wonderful operating system, but then Windows 8 came out and it was…confusing at best. I got the preview build on my Samsung non-touchscreen laptop, it was pretty hard to use at first but the keyboard short cuts helped and I just assumed it was much better to use the OS on touch screens and I summarised ‘Windows 8 is good, but really it was made for touchscreens I believe”.
Now that I purchased my Lenovo Yoga laptop, I now realise just how much I was missing.
With the portability of my new laptop (my old one was…pretty big and I couldn’t take it anywhere, stupid purchase decision), it helped me realise how wonderful Windows 8 can be with the touch controls and all of its capabilities, with my old laptop I was still stuck in the Dogma that I needed the start button, I would shy away from the Metro UI and go straight to desktop, it even came to a point I used a add-on start button to add in the old features, kind of embarrassing now that I think about it, I realise now that the removal of the old start button could not have been better. I have everything I need and more on my start screen, it allowed me to maximise my productivity and creativity, as a designer and developer my time is valuable and having access to all of my tools with a few key strokes is amazing and helps you feel much more in control of the system.
And this was on Windows 8, on Windows 8.1 , an update I managed to received a few days ago through MSDN (thank you again Microsoft, always being awesome), it allowed me to check out what I had been missing in the 8.1 preview and more. And whilst it isn’t a ground shaking update to the system, it improved lots of little things and added in fantastic features that make this operating system more ideal for everything I do.
The sidebar/startmenu that slides in from the right is an integral part to the experience and it is a fantastic idea that no matter what app you are on, you are able to access the settings, share app contents and search for things in an app in the same place. Microsoft also makes it easy for developers to take advantage of the extra Windows 8 functionality in their development process.
So I am going to summarise the different sections so it doesn’t feel like a wall of text and you can skip what you don’t want to read.
The main start screen.
In less than an hour, I set up my start screen the way I wanted it. I tried to think of the best way to integrate all the stuff I use onto this ‘dashboard’, one awesome thing about Windows 8 is that if you use an address that already has contacts/calendar, they all sync straight away on your account, so on there you can see live people notifications, tweets and I have set up my various email accounts which is awesome for getting all my mail and keeping up to date with instant notifications.
In Windows 8 it allowed me to manage all my apps and favourites well but on 8.1 you can modify the size of all your apps and so I can make ones that are important, very noticeable and others smaller, this is all trial and error because I wanted my home screen to look aesthetically pleasing whilst offering me all of my quick-links to everything I might need.
As a Creative Cloud member I have access to all of Adobe’s wonderful apps, I have been able to neatly tidy these all in one space with their own group name. Some of the apps are only found on the web and Internet explorer gives you a great feature that allows you to add websites to your start screen, a fantastic addition, as you can see I have Kuler and Edge web fonts in there as well. (At the moment my OCD to keep things neat is bugging me because I still have 2 little slots to fill on the right hand side there on the adobe stuff). You can see on the right I have the game I am working on as a wide tile, with Visual studios and the map maker ‘tiled’ with it, this way I have all the tools bundled together when I need them. I have yet to download office again, an amazing must-have for me, because when I installed this update I could only keep my files so downloading all the software is a work-in-progress at the moment.
I even set up a little ‘inspiration’ group where I put links to great sites that allow me to take a break and try to jog my mind and be productive, though I access these links sparingly, I don’t rely on them everytime I find my self with a ‘creative block’. These links are just there to remind me that I have those at my disposal. You see that is another reason I have this set up, the internet is massive, you know that already and so its easy to lose some of your favourite links if you are always discovering new things. Your bookmarks can fill up fast and you forget what tools you have, in this instance, I have my main apps and shortcuts that let me know what I have straight from the start screen. Also I have rainymood.com on there because I JUST LOVE RAIN. I am a Pluviophile, a lovely word I learnt the other day.
And finally, speaking of rain, my background is a fantastic photo (I couldn’t find the source to thank the owner), but it is actually my desktop background and whilst a subtle feature it is one of my favourite additions, when I go from Desktop to Start, it feels inter-connected. That these two systems aren’t separate, they come together seamlessly and its a big thing for me, to see that wonderful background when I switch between the two states. Maybe it is just me, but I do love it. So now I am going to discuss the apps.
I assume the very reference to that browser makes many people scoff and immediately tell others how much better other browsers are, as a web developer myself I understand the short comings of Internet Explorer (what a lot of people don’t realise OTHER browsers have flaws too, yet IE gets most of the hate from the public). Well If you feel a little open minded you might be surprised to hear that Microsoft are making sure that people who may have not been a fan of past iterations are having less and less to complain about with Internet Explorer 11, I prefer to use the desktop version however the touch app is also amazing and is something I need more time to spend on. I am using it as my default browser now, mostly due to how well it runs and how it looks, I got sick of Google Chromes massive search bar.
Also, if you haven’t seen it yet, watch this amusing ad Microsoft made for their browser;
Despite that, a lot of people do still hate IE relentlessly but some people never change.
A new app that comes with 8.1, a very nice feature for people that like to read a lot of articles. Essentially if any of you ever used ‘Pocket’ on android, it is the same kind of deal, if you find an article you really want to read but don’t have time to at the moment, you can save it to your reading list by simply going to your side-menu and ‘sharing’ it with your reading list, on the app all your shares are available to read and it dates them to when they were added. A pretty great feature I will have more fun with later.
A previous app from Windows 8, it is more deeply integrated into the system and it is a wonderful addition to the OS, it makes it very easy to access, add and remove files on the cloud from your file explorer.
Zune was a cool piece of software but Xbox music takes it to the next level, I have used quite a lot of music players before but none of them match just how intuitive and easy this app makes music selection and playback. The best part of the app is that its integrated with the sound, so if I am in the middle of some work with the app playing in the background with a song on, if I wanted to change that song I just need to press the volume button and it shows up with the volume with the addition of the current track with music player options and the album cover. I can pause or change tracks which is fantastic. Many of the other players I have done this before but it was a ‘always on top of other programs’ thing that is always on screen and is a bit distracting. Xbox music gets it right and oh, did I mention there are millions of songs to listen to apart from your own library? Yeah, that is pretty awesome. It also has a beautiful design, might I add.
The scope of Windows 8
Windows 8 was not just envisioned as a OS standing by itself, Microsoft have a brilliant vision that connects their Windows Phones, Xbox consoles and Windows 8 together and it is such a powerful concept that, for example on the way back from University, I might want to play some Battlefield, but I want a cool playlist to go with it, so on the bus home I can go on my Windows Phone, check out the Xbox Music app, put a playlist together and then once I get home, I go on the Xbox and the playlist is already there, ready to play as I game, then later on I decide I want to listen to that playlist on my laptop as I work, it is also there. The fact that nothing needs to be singled out on a certain platform is amazing, because despite all 3 devices being so very different yet offer core features, is fantastic and I could start talking about Xbox Smartglass, that connects a tablet to your xbox but I will stop there.
Whilst I have missed out many features and there is a lot more to discover with this update, I absolutely adore Windows 8.1, it is early days and yet I am building it up around me to be my personalised work space that allows me to maximise my efficiency as a developer, designer and as a well-informed human on all the latest news and social updates about my peers.
And the fact is, this is just the beginning of a large vision, its been a hard road to get there, but Microsoft listen very closely to its consumers, it completely changed its vision for the Xbox One (which in some ways, was a shame in my opinion). They try to do their best to offer the best experiences that can only be found on Windows, whilst I am a massive fan of other operating systems, I believe Microsoft nailed 8.1 and hopefully the adoption of the OS should rise when people realise the potential it brings to the table.
Thanks so much for reading, I hope it was a rather informative article and if you have any questions, send them to my askbox on my blog!
What is DreamSpark?
DreamSpark is a Microsoft Program that supports technical education by providing access to Microsoft software for learning, teaching and research purposes. If you are a student, educator or part of an institution you could be missing out on Microsoft software.
Why would I want DreamSpark?
You can download Microsoft software and development tools for no cost. I.e. if you are a student you can get Microsoft software FOR FREE!
A few examples of DreamSpark software:
Click here to see see the full DreamSpark Software Catalogue.
To look further into how to get DreamSpark or how it could help you..
Dene Palmer, a Microsoft Student Partner at the University of Lincoln gives his insight on the value of DreamSpark below. (The image below is Dene giving presentation on DreamSpark to 14 students at Campus Party Europe!)
‘I’ve used DreamSpark over the last 3 years of my University life, mainly for the latest versions of the Windows Operating System and the Visual Studio IDE. More recently I’ve also utilised Project and Visio for University Assignments and the free Windows Store Developer account registration offered to students.
DreamSpark has allowed to me to keep up to date with the latest operating systems and development tools which the price, as a student, would make hard to obtain without DreamSpark. Microsoft providing these resources has allowed me to keep up to date and current in the development world. This grants me a much better looking CV and higher employability upon leaving University.
This year at Lincoln I’ve been asked to help teach our Social Applications Development module, focused on Windows Phone Development. Having just updated all our lecture materials to Windows Phone 8, we have updated all our lab machines to run Windows 8 and Visual Studio 2012 - the required development platform for Windows Phone 8. The immediate response from students was fear they now could not work from home, due to not having Windows 8 or VS2012 – meaning they weren’t aware of DreamSpark. Because of this, it was decided I would do a talk on DreamSpark to Lincoln University Students.
My presentation runs through the sign up process, and how to activate the extra benefits of an Institution DreamSpark Premium subscription. Something I am really trying to push is encouraging individuals to register for a Windows Store Developer account, which allows you to publish apps. Publishing an app to the store demonstrates to potential employers that an individual has worked on a project from its creation to delivery, meaning understanding of every stage of a product lifecycle. It also great numeric proof of success for your CV, as you can say you have created (X) apps with (Y) downloads.
None of this app publishing, development experience and CV improvement would have been possible without Microsoft DreamSpark. It provides an extremely important tool to any student who’s passionate about a career in the IT industry.’
1. Have you checked if you can get more software through your school/ academic institution at no cost?
Enter your full academic institution to see if your school has enrolled in a DreamSpark Premium account: https://www.dreamspark.com/Student/Default.aspx
2. Why not look into developing applications for Microsoft software that showcase your talent, skill, development creativity?
DreamSpark has the tools for app development for Windows Phone 7, Windows Phone 8, Windows 8, Indie Games and Windows Azure. Many students have developed, got apps into the Windows Store and have become success stories - you could too.
3. Do you know an educator who could benefit from Microsoft software for learning, teaching and support?
Direct them to the following page: https://www.dreamspark.com/institution/subscription.aspx. Through an institution subscription, an educator can get access to DreamSpark software at no cost.
4. Do you know an institution that could benefit from Microsoft software? Your school, University, a family member who works in a school or institution?
Inform them about DreamSpark! Pass on the following link: https://www.dreamspark.com/institution/subscription.aspx. An institution can get either DreamSpark Standard (for all types of institutions) or DreamSpark Premium (a wider software catalogue of over 500 products for qualifying technical departments).
5. Unsure about the capabilities of DreamSpark? Have a specific question?
There is a great support tool: https://www.dreamspark.com/Student/Support.aspx so experiment, play around, begin some app development - then ask if you get stuck.
After the amazing night I was not amused when my alarm starting ringing at 6:00, which meant only 3 hours sleep - I am definitely getting too old. A lovely big breakfast sorted everything out nicely though and we made our way back to the venue for 8:00, so we could have a play on the stands before doors officially opened at 10:00. I managed to play Forza, Zoo Tycoon and Kinnect ventures. It was then time for Friday’s zombies to zombie up.
I spent most of the morning roaming around the indie section, evangelising the games on both the Surface and Windows Phone. I also checked out some of the other games. I especially liked a game by Norwegian Studio Rock Pocket Games called Shiftlings. The game is based on two aliens attached by an umbilical cord type rope. One alien is huge and the other tiny, they can shift the weight between them through the cord by solving puzzles. They’ve also just been accepted onto Steam Greenlight so check it out! http://t.co/aAz191gOOG
Another indie game was Assault Android Cactus, which is a hectic twing stick shooter, really good fun. You can read about it here. http://comicbuzz.com/2013/08/assault-android-cactus-is-now-on-steam-early-access/
Josh is one of our Windows Games Ambassadors who spent two days at Eurogamer, Earls Court on the 26th and the 27th of September. Below is a post he has written on his experience at the very cool event. Check out Josh’s personal blog: http://www.jenaylor.co.uk/.
Eurogamer – Day 1
Myself and 9 of the the other Windows games Ambassadors were invited to spend two days at Eurogamer to promote Windows 8 and Windows phone 8 through the power of games. We were displaying two games by Rebellion; Judge Dredd vs Zombies and Zombie HQ, both available on either platform. As both games involve the undead, it was perfect time to go guerrilla and zombie up to roam the event.
So Wednesday afternoon John and myself set off to London and had some fun with the Rando app on the train. Rando lets you take and receive pictures to anyone else across the world randomly. It’s very fun.
We got to the hotel with plenty of time to spare as we didn’t need to be there until 7 so we decided to go to The Natural History museum as it was just 10 minutes walk down the road. There was some really cool things to see and it’s FREE! We couldn’t stay for too long as it closed but still got to see a lot.
We met up with everyone and went out for some pizza and a few beers, catching up with various things as we hadn’t seen each other for a few months. As you can see it was riveting conversation.
We went for a quick walk to see if anyone was camping out to get in super early and Earls Court looked really cool in lights.
Next morning we arrive super early getting into the empty event hall to have a quick look around at all the Exhibitors and to get all zombied up. The Dredds look really awesome too.
We demoed the games throughout the day whilst the Dredds and other Zombies got peoples attention by having fights in an open area.
The day continued with dinner out, and I was picked to go to the after-party with Lee Stott from Microsoft to meet some VIP’s. It was an amazing night; free drinks and food, a Jägerbomb bar and a photo booth with fancy dress. I got to meet some really cool people from Lionhead, Sony, Microsoft, Ardvark Swift and Bossa Studios.
The photo booth was well used - if you didn’t notice. And that was the end of day one.
Stacey Watkins, 22, is a student in Information and Communications Technology at Birmingham City University.
As an extra-curricular enthusiast and a Windows 8 Go-to student ambassador, I was keen to find out Stacey’s view regarding tablets on campus. How tablets are being used by university students – the where, when and how. In Stacey’s words…
I don’t think a laptop offers any functionality for a student that a tablet cannot do anymore. I think tablets are becoming the new laptops, an increasing number of students are now bringing tablets to university rather than laptops. A prime example of using a tablet – for example the Surface – as a student is using Office 365 when typing up all-important reports and assignments. I see students working with an Xbox music motivational playlist they’ve created on the side to try and get them in the zone. It can be skipped, paused and changed in just a touch.
When they’ve spent time (procrastinating!) by changing tracks, a student can then go to Internet Explorer to find that piece of research they have been meaning to do. There is no need to change windows on a Surface when you’ve forgotten what part of the study you require, IE and your assignment are sitting next to each other and you can Bing search and type seamlessly. The beauty of apps being snapped side-by-side on a Surface makes it quick and easy to multitask – crucial for a deadline time pressured student! I also see the tablet function of game playing a lot around university. Students have told me they choose the iPad because of the vast amount of apps in the app store, using their iPad to play games in-between lectures - even in lectures too when bored. The Windows store also offers great quality apps for the Surface.
At Campus Party Europe we had Microsoft Student Partners programming apps and developing games in the full version of Visual Studio live on Surface Pros. In comparison to a laptop, the Surface tablet is much more practical in size and weight. This makes the tablets portability more favourable when carrying it around campus between lectures or on the go. The beauty of having the full version of Windows 8 on tablet means you can install everything you need for university (such as Office 365 as a desktop app). You don’t need a tablet for fun and a laptop for work anymore.
In terms of creating a beautiful experience, every time I turn my Surface on I feel I get a beautiful experience. As a student I like to do things quickly and easily, so my live tiles on my Surface tell me everything about the day ahead without me having to open an app or browser. This includes the weather for the day, my social media notifications, how many emails I have, my next appointment in my calendar app and even live BBC/Bing news feeds. All this information is constantly updating on my start screen, which is not only useful but makes my tablet look really alive and personal. To me this creates much more of a beautiful experience than a static home screen.
Looking forward, I think a really bizarre but useful tablet feature for a student could be a mini projector built into the back of the device. This would be amazing for students when presenting work, and when doing set tasks as a group. It would also be a great thing to have when watching a film during time off studies!
Check out Stacey’s personal blog: http://staceywindows8ambassadorbcu.tumblr.com/.
It’s September, it’s time to head back to University after a great three month summer. This year you’re prepared: you’re armed with a laptop or tablet running Windows 8.
You've been using it for fun and games over summer, but now it's time to get serious – you’ve got something in your hands designed for connectivity, that will make learning that much more interesting.
It’s that time. Fresher’s excitement is over and lectures are beginning. Here are six ways in which Windows 8 can help you.
1. Organising your study time
The best students are often the most organised ones. They will spend enough time studying, while leaving time free for society events, sports club training and big nights out. That's why on the most basic level, the default Windows 8 calendar app on your start screen is key. You can keep track of what you're doing using month, week or two-day views, notifying yourself about appointments when necessary.
If you want an organiser app specifically aimed at students, a good choice is My Study Life. This stores lectures and tasks (such as assignments details and revision) in the cloud. Because the data is synced, you can access this information using Windows phone or a web application. Having the potential to access your information on any device or platform is important, there will always be times you won't have your gadgets with you.
2. Recording your notes and keeping track
So you’ve got your timetable sorted and know where you need to be during the days, weeks and months ahead. It’s now time to get down to lectures and seminars, and you need to start noting down information as you go. If you're a digital native, you might prefer typing notes to writing them. There's a free Windows 8 app for that: OneNote.
OneNote isn't just a glorified word processor – there are numerous features to assist you in creating and organising notes.
· It lets you draw in your notes with a device pen or finger using a compatible device
· It works in the cloud, meaning you shouldn’t be losing information
· It lets you organise the notes the way you want, crucial during exam time
· It works with Windows 8 search, so you can find that vital note quickly
3. Reading and research
The problem with physical books is that you have to carry them. Academic books can often be clunky and heavy–particularly when you have several to carry. And how frustrating is it when you need a certain book for an essay which isn't available, as it’s already been checked out by one of the 400 students in your department?
Many forward-thinking educational institutions are offering e-books for purchase or loan. To read them, there are already several book readers available for Windows 8 such as Kindle, Nook and Kobo. Because these books are held in the cloud, you have the option of reading them on different devices. And with eBook Treasures, you can see original books from authors like William Shakespeare and Jane Austen.
If you're looking for information on the web, you can browse using Internet Explorer 10 which is optimised for touch-screen tablets. If you'd rather look up information through an app, Windows 8 also offers Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica to look for knowledge.
4. Writing your essays
We’ve all heard the traditional incomplete assignment excuses – the student portal crashed, computer corrupted, notes left in your best mates halls, etc. . . . With Office 365, losing your work shouldn’t be an issue due to it working in the cloud.
· Office 365 is cloud-based, so all your documents are held there. If the worst happens to your computer, you’ll still be able to access your files from elsewhere.
· Students can subscribe to Office 365 for four years at a special rate of £1.25 per month, allowing you to install Office 365 on two PCs or Macs, as well as two mobile devices.
· If you happen to be using a PC without a copy of Office 365 installed, such as a library, you can still use Office through Office on Demand, a streamed version of Office 365.
5. Communication with your loved ones
Email is vital for communication while at University, and the Windows 8 email app is available for use straight from the start screen. Here you can add different email accounts, such as Outlook.com, Gmail and Yahoo, which means it's the only email client you'll ever need to use.
If you're living away from home, Skype is a great way to communicate with friends and family, using real-time messaging, phone or video call. Windows 8.1 will have Skype tightly integrated – so you won't have to download the app because it'll be part of the Start Screen Line-Up.
The majority of University students use social media for communication. Windows 8 has a Twitter app which offers the same Home, Connect, Discover and Me tabs you'll find on a browser, but which also makes use of Windows 8 features such as Snap view, photos and Live Tiles and notifications.
6. Leisure Time
Once your day of study is out the way, it’s time for the second University past time - to have some fun! Windows 8 is great for that – cook up a great meal for your flatmates using the Great British Chefs app, or host a great pre-drinks with Cocktail Flow map. You can also keep the parents back home happy by keeping a close eye on finances – use financial apps such as the NatWest app to keep track of your money.
Enjoy semester 1!