All week school leaders have collated and collaborated at the 9th Annual Microsoft in Education Global Forum. It’s been a fantastic week and one that was made very special when mentor school Broadclyst Community Primary School took centre stage to take part in the ‘Pitch Competition.’
Inspired by the Dragon’s Den, schools were given the opportunity to present a business idea to a selected panel – the pitch – and convince them that it is relevant and doable with the goal of transforming learning and student outcomes in their school. The winner gets to tap into funding and investors get to tap into ideas and connect with some of the most innovative schools in the world and partner with them to improve student outcomes.
Last night we heard from the 6 finalists (79 countries took part) who pitched to judges Tamela Noboa, Chief Strategy Officer, Discovery Channel Global Education Partners; Sandra Licon, Senior Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director, Microsoft Citizenship and Public Affairs.
They recognized 3 winners: Broadclyst Primary School, UK; Gayaza High School (Uganda); Schloss Neubeuern ,Germany.
Broadclyst Primary School came first and were awarded the highest amount $25,000 for their business model:
Idea: Global enterprise challenge, where students from schools around the world connect to run an international company. This will include international companies, each with a different product, competing to become the most successful company globally with cross-school and cross-country collaboration.
Why they were chosen: Gives students awareness of cultural diversities, an understanding of world markets and currencies along with the core skills of communication, collaboration, teamwork and problem solving. This will bring together students from many countries to work in one global challenge.
The highlight of the pitch came directly from the school when two amazing young ladies, Poppy and Jess, were beamed into the auditorium using Lync to assist the one and only Jonathan Bishop (HT) sell the idea to the judges.
Poppy: ‘‘I think that it was a great experience being able to Lync call Barcelona and be able to give our point of view on the Enterprise Project. It was quite nerve racking but I felt confident talking about the Project because it is something I have really enjoyed doing. I loved seeing ourselves on the big screen and it felt great to be involved in an international conference with people from around the world. It really is incredible that we won and I think it proves that if you work hard, you see the rewards.’’
Jess ‘‘I found the whole experience extremely exciting as we were able talk about our Enterprise project to people that didn’t really know what it was about. It was a great learning opportunity as we got to speak to a large group of people even though it felt quite daunting. It was brilliant to see ourselves on the big screen and it felt like we were famous! It really is incredible that we won the competition and it will be amazing to see how the Enterprise Project develops globally in the future’’
Jonathan Bishop: ‘‘The event was an amazing opportunity to share what we have been doing at Broadclyst through an Enterprise project bringing together children from different schools into a collaborative project. To take this now to the next level and make it a truly global enterprise project will be really exciting. The children involved benefit tremendously from these international links but this project will get over a 1000 children working together across 20 countries. The ‘pitch competition’ was certainly a test of my nerves but it was not only good fun but just brilliant to meet the judges and have the support of everyone at the MS Global Forum. I never dreamt that we would get through to the final let alone have our ideas accepted and receive the full $25,000 funding to make the project a reality. The hard work now begins and I am looking forward to working with all our partners in turning the ideas into reality. If there are any schools who would like to be part of the competition then please do get in touch.’’
Look out for further blog posts on Broadclyst Primary School and the exciting journey they are about to embark on!
Today is World Book Day and children (and I suspect some teachers) will be dressed as their favourite characters from books. I personally am sat writing this post as Spiderman!
This day is a time to celebrate all that is great about reading, the wonderful worlds and characters that books create in the imaginations of children.
Technology can play a role in bringing those worlds to life and the Windows Store has some great apps that can help children learn to read and develop their love of books.
Looking for more great free Windows 8.1 Apps then check out this blog post
Enjoy World Book Day!
This week in Wales many school children will be celebrating St Davids Day. This will be a celebration of welsh culture and tradition , and an essential part of the celebration will be the Welsh Language. Welsh is the official language of Heaven as we say in Wales, about 20% of the population speak it fluently and it is taught as a compulsory subject to the age of 14 in schools. Some children like my daughter have all there education taught through the medium of welsh and I proud that they regard themselves a bi-lingual.
It is with great pleasure that I can announce that The Welsh language has now joined a growing list oft languages to benefit from translation services provided by Microsoft Translator. Developed by the National Assembly for Wales in partnership with Microsoft, the system consists of tools, services and applications which provide support across the suite of Microsoft products and services, including Word and Outlook, along with Bing Translator applications for Windows, Windows Phone and online at www.bing.com/translator.
So for example using Lync, you can use the conversation translator and converse with somebody in your own language and have it converted to Welsh , live and immediately , and then translated back to you, amazing.
ComputerXplorers specialise in igniting young children’s interest in computing with accessible, engaging classes. Their classes don’t simply teach skills – they give pupils a hunger to stretch their abilities and try new things.
ComputerXplorers is part of the world's largest franchised network providing fun and engaging quality technology education for children. ComputerXplorers operates across the UK in the South and South West of the country as well as the Midlands, the London area, the North of England and Scotland and Wales. For more specific information on locations check out their website.
As part of the ComputerXplorers Programming for Primaries Week (24th to 30th March 2014) ComputerXplorers is providing free programming classes to local primary schools in their areas.
The free classes are available to a group of children (Year 3+ working with Kodu) or to a group of teaching staff (an Introduction to Programming for Primary school teachers).
Get in touch with them via their website ComputerXplorers Programming for Primaries.
What happens when your favourite App is removed from the Store. It’s obvious, build your own version. Simon Johnson one of our ten Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts has developed this tutorial to develop your own version of Flappy Birds.
It’s perfect as an Hour of code activity.
Hour of Code
To give you to even more incentive to register and take part, end your school name in the registration form with code – Microsoft and your school will be automatically entered into a free prize draw to win and Xbox and Kinect for your school.
With flappy bird removed from online stores, you may be all in a flap over where you are going to get your next flappy related fix. Well worry no more because, thanks to a free online tool called touchdevelop, you can now create your very own flapptastic app by simply following a few easy steps.
What is touchdevelop?
touchdevelop is an online app creation tool from Microsoft Research. Originally designed to develop Windows Phone 7 apps, the touchdevelop Web App now allows you to develop Windows Store apps suitable for Windows 8 touch screen devices and runs on iPad, iPhone, Android, PC, Mac, Linux. There is also a dedicated touchdevelop app on the Windows Phone 8.
Created for the UK hour of code, this easy to use step-by-step tutorial will teach you how to create your very own flappy bird clone. Just follow this step-by-step tutorial and your flappy bird woes will soon be over. Click here: https://www.touchdevelop.com/nczy
All in a flap - Create your very own flappy bird clone with this step-by-step tutorial.
Hungry for more?
If this tutorial has wet your appetite and you want to learn more! Why not sign up for UK hour of code (running between the 3rd and 9th March 2014). Through fun tutorials and lesson plans, Hour of code plans to be the biggest ever national initiative to get students, teachers and parents learning to code in just sixty minutes. Hour of Code has already been extremely successful in the United States with more than 15 million participants. Register for the UK hour of code here: http://uk.code.org
Like to find out more about touchdevelop or want to try out some more tutorials? Below is a list of courses and schemes of work that introduce you to the programming concepts and the environment of the touchdevelop Web App.
touchdevelop hour of code – official tutorials from the touchdevelop team
Build your first app - free online course from Microsoft
touchdevelop challenge hour of code – step-by-step tutorials created to support the UK hour of code
touchdevelop Challenge - series of lessons and challenges to get students building games and apps with touchdevelop.
games4learning - Created by David Renton (Extended Lecturer in Games Development: Reid Kerr College, Scotland) A series of YouTube tutorials which introduce students to game design using touchdevelop.
Ray Chambers' touchdevelop Scheme of Work - A complete scheme of work for touchdevelop which sees students design and create an app from scratch.
I have had the pleasure of working with Cardiff-based Dad and former Silicon Valley software developer, Dan Bridge, this week launches his thirty day funding drive on Kickstarter for “Craft Computer Club”, a new product set to revolutionise the way in which computer skills – specifically computational thinking and coding – are taught to primary age children, comprising a colourful craft book with online support resources.
A father of two, Dan acknowledged that tactile engagement with educational materials was critical in successful early
“I initially developed The Craft Computer Club for my 5 year old daughter, who, like all other children, loves to cut and stick. As friends and family asked if they could use it too, I realised I could be onto something. My aim was to make it easy for anyone to use and I have designed particularly for parents who may not feel technically confident, but want to help children adopt twenty first century skills in a way that doesn’t involve simply sitting in front of a screen.
“As the UK Government launches initiatives and shows a firm commitment to making computational thinking a critical part of our national curriculum, I’m excited by how much this product could achieve. It’s simple, accessible and fun to use. It has a place at every play table.
Through his work as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) ambassador, Dan has piloted the scheme over six weeks with a primary class of twenty girls.
“During the pilot, the girls learnt about the internal components of a computer, making their own models and moving on to games teaching them aspects of computing such how algorithms work and other facets of programming. By the end, they had a fantastic grasp on the workings of a computer, and how they relate to programs and programming.
Why am I supporting this? well these resources are ideal for young children when they are at their most creative. It is the most perfect way to help them develop their computational thinking processes and prepare them for a future that has technology in every aspect of their lives.
If you can support this project, its exactly what is needed.
You can try some of Dan’s activities on his website - http://inpractice.org/microtowns/ada/, these are ideal if you are looking to do something for the Hour of Code with young children.
Are you looking for that ultimate geeky romantic gift for that special someone this Valentine’s Day? Then why not code them their very own ‘Love me, Love me not’ app using a Touchdevelop tutorial?
Created for the Hour of Code the ‘Love me,Love me Not’ tutorial guides you through making a simple visual app that simulates plucking petals from a virtual rose to discover if you have a special place in someone’s heart. Find it at http://www.touchdevelop.om/hourofcode2
Touchdevelop is browser based and will run on any platform. If you have a Windows 8.1 device then you can publish your app onto your device.
This is all good fun, hopefully not only will it help you find true love, but encourage you to register for the UK’s first Hour of Code taking place between the 3rd and 9th March 2014. There are range of tutorials available for all ages, expertise and devices. Of course you can always use you own resources, maybe a lesson you have already planned for that week, can be an ‘Hour of code’.
When completed, there are even personalised certificates you can print off for your students. All available from http://uk.code.org
If you would like to learn more about Touchdevelop or want a more in depth tutorial to start during the hour of code, then download the ‘How to build your first App Course’ -
So Happy Valentine’s Day, Red Roses are so overrated, give code to the one you love!
I will let you know what the current Mrs Ball thinks
Last year’s Kodu Kup was a resounding success and has been celebrated with a prestigious BETT Award of which we are very proud. We want to say a big heart felt thank you to all the teachers and students who have found Kodu a great resource to learn how to code and have fun with computing.
To make sure Kodu is front and centre of Microsoft’s Education offering we need your thoughts and comments. Please share your love of Kodu this Valentine’s Week by completing this survey.
We would like to invite you to complete a simple survey asking you your thoughts about Kodu and our KoduKup UK..
Click this link to complete the survey.
Also, please join on us on Twitter and Facebook by posting our Kodu Valentine’s message.
‘Roses are Red, Violets are Blue. We love Kodu, Do you?’ @kodukup
This survey will assist Microsoft in understanding your school's use of this visual programming language and games lab environment which allows students from KS2/3 upwards to design and build three dimensional games using either a PC or an XBox and XBox controller.
For every completed survey Microsoft Partners in Learning UK will send you a FREE copy of the amazing 528 page book 'KODU for Kids', saving you over £18.**
** Offer only available to UK Schools. One book per school.
Share your love of Kodu in the Hour of Code, sign up today http://uk.code.org
Put Microsoft at the end of you school name when registering to enter a free prize draw to win Xbox and Kinect for your school.
Great news , we are teaming up with the organisers of the UK Hour of code. So Teachers and students get ready by signing up today.
Hour of Code has already been extremely successful in the United States. More than 15 million students tried an Hour of Code over one week in December 2013, meaning the campaign spread faster in 7 days than the first 7 months of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram combined.
UK schools are set to take advantage of coding resources that have already taken the US by storm, in an ambitious campaign to help UK teachers and students get to grips with the basics of computer programming in just one hour.
Hour of Code teaches the basic skills of computer programming in just sixty minutes, through fun tutorials and lesson plans that feature well-known characters from apps and games. In one tutorial, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft’s Bill Gates team up to encourage learners to program their very own Angry Bird. For more experienced students and teachers, there are some more advanced tutorials as well.
It couldn’t be easier. Neither students nor teachers need any prior experience to use the highly engaging, self-guided materials that are accessible for free on computers, tablets, and smartphones. There is even an ‘offline’ lesson plan for teachers to use when technology isn’t readily available in the classroom.
This date is also the 25th anniversary of the creation of the World Wide Web by the UK’s ultimate coder, Tim Berners-Lee.
We at Microsoft Partners in Learning want to help encourage every teacher to register and participate by visiting http://uk.code.org where further details can be found.
He starts with sharing Project Spark… enjoy.
Project Spark Demo
I spent two days at the Skills Show at Birmingham NEC, at the invitation of Lee Stott (Microsoft Technical Evangelist), presenting on Microsoft’s amazing new game creation tool Project Spark and on Microsoft’s cross-platform app development tool TouchDevelop. Microsoft sponsored the City and Guilds stand at the Skills Show, which was an amazing event which had at least 75,000 visitors over the 3 days of the conference.
I also got to meet up with another one of Microsoft’s Innovative Expert Educators, Simon Johnson Highfields School - Secondary Comprehensive (11-18) in the City of Wolverhampton.a High School Computing teacher from Highfields School in Wolverhampton. I had been corresponding on Twitter with Simon for months about TouchDevelop, as he was using some of my TouchDevelop game creation tutorials with his pupils. Simon has set up a TouchDevelop challenge website with some great resources on it and fascinating examples of games created by his pupils.
Simon concentrated on TouchDevelop at the Skills Show, while Simon Michael (Microsoft Technical Evangelist) and I concentrated on spreading the word about Project Spark to the legions of High School pupils passing by. The reception for Project Spark was incredible; I really think the creative types who love Minecraft will love it. Project Spark has the creative aspects of games like Minecraft and game engines like UDK, but unlike Minecraft you can change the way the world works and program the characters to do what you want, including programming NPC (non-playable characters) with AI. Spark was created by the same minds behind Kodu and it builds on the simplistic language of KODU, so those who are familiar with coding in Kodu will take right to it, however there is so much more you can do in Spark than you could in Kodu. In Project Spark you can create a rich beautiful 3D world with its amazing next generation graphics, far superior in my opinion to the blocky world of Minecraft, but for those who love their Minecraft blocks there is even a cubify option. Project Spark has been added to the Kodu Kup competition this year and it will be launching free soon on Windows8.1, Xbox One and Xbox 360. I had a great 2 days at the show, showing off Project Spark to the multitudes and even saw a few famous faces, like Theo Paphitis of Dragons Den fame and Princess Anne, who came by our stand for a visit, but unfortunately did not try her hand at Project Spark. I also got to demonstrate and do a recording of my Kinect Math Mage game, being played by Dolly bow bow. What you have never heard of her? Neither had I, she is YouTube famous evidently J.
Straight after my 2 day stint at the Skills Show, I jumped on a plane to Seattle from London for my first visit to Microsoft HQ in Bellevue, which is just outside of Seattle on the North West coast of the USA. I was visiting for the Global MVP summit, as I have recently been awarded the title of Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for Kinect, making me the only Kinect MVP in the UK. The MVP programme has around 4000 professionals in it from over 90 countries and they answer more than 10 million questions a year to the technical community.
I got to Seattle on Saturday and the conference was beginning Sunday evening, so I spent Sunday during the day doing a bit of sightseeing, my favourite thing was having brunch at the top of the Space Needle.
I spent the first 2 days learning about the new Kinect for Windows version 2 which will be coming out probably around summer 2014. It is based on the Xbox One Kinect and has many new features over the old Kinect for Windows, such as:
1. Full HD colour camera feed.
2. Much wider field of view (removing the need for the tilt motor).
3. 6 skeletons can be tracked at once instead of 2.
4. Much improved depth camera.
5. Much more accurate skeletal tracking with more joints detected and far less jitter. It can now track when someone is standing side on to Kinect. It can also detect if you are leaning forward or backwards and continue to track joints.
6. Hand detection and tracking, allowing for better grip detection and new gestures such as lasso which is pointing two fingers together for drawing or dragging. Also thumb tracking allowing the detection of a shooting gesture, which I’m sure, will have applications in games.
7. Facial expressions are now available such as left or right eye open or shut, smiling, mouth open or closed and more. It should even be able to tell if you are wearing glasses or not.
8. Most of the processing is now done on the GPU rather than the CPU of your computer.
9. It now comes with and requires a USB3 port, which allows for a much higher throughput of data from the sensor.
While I was at the conference all Kinect MVPs in attendance (about 12 of us) were gifted an alpha version of the new Kinect for Windows (K4W) v2 developers kit. It really is an amazing piece of kit and the accuracy of skeletal tracking is far superior to the previous generation.
All MVPs attending the summit also received $300 off a Surface 2, making it a bargain at only $150, plus they gave us a free keyboard cover as well. I really love my Surface 2 and my iPad mini has almost been retired. There are still some Apps missing that I would love on Surface, but when I want to do some serious work on the go, or I want to take my work with me without having to carry about my full size laptop, there is no comparison and Surface wins. Plus it has a USB3 port, which might seem like a minor thing, but it really is a God send on a tablet when you have been used to not having one on the iPad.
On the afternoon of day 2 of the conference I was able to visit with the TouchDevelop team in their offices and meet Peli and Nikolai who I have been emailing for the past year. I have spoken with Peli on the phone and in person many times while I was creating my games development curriculum for TouchDevelop, which I have been using to teach games programming to our entry level college students. It was great to see where TouchDevelop was created and meet with the rest of the TouchDevelop team.
On the morning of day 3 I got a message from Peli early in the morning, asking if I wanted to go to a School with him, so I quickly got ready and took a taxi out to the school for 8.30am. Peli goes to the School 3 or 4 times a week from 8am until around 9.30am and then goes into Microsoft to do a full day’s work, that’s commitment for you. I gave a talk to the class about games development and TouchDevelop and showed them some techniques I use with TD to make games with my students back in Scotland. It was fascinating to see a full class working on TouchDevelop just using phones or tablets to program on. In college we mainly run it on a pc and load it up on a phone or tablet for testing, but these students were doing it all on the phone. It was also strange and flattering to hear that students from half-way around the world were making games using my games curriculum.
Later that day I recorded a video for Microsoft where I was interviewed about my use of Kinect and they also recorded me demonstrating my Kinect Games. That evening I had a great night out at the MVP attendee party at the Seattle Aquarium and Seattle Great Wheel, at which I beat Ben Lower at Kinect Golf and enjoyed a ride on the Seattle Great Wheel, which is a slightly smaller version of the London Eye.
On the last day of the summit I visited Microsoft’s amazing Envisioning Center with the rest of the Kinect MVPs and I got a glimpse into the future of technology, which evidently involves a lot of talking to appliances and rooms which sense your presence and sets the environment to suit you. I also got to go to the games studio that is behind Project Spark and meet with Scott Fintel who is project lead on both Kodu and Project Spark. I got to see the team hard at work on Spark and see the amazing concept art behind Spark. Peli & Nikolai from the TouchDevelop team came over later on and we jointly recorded a video with Scott, about Kodu and Project Spark for the Hour of Code on Channel9.
The MVP summit was truly an amazing experience and I got to meet some incredible people from Microsoft as well as some inspirational MVPs who are doing amazing things with Kinect and other technologies. I just hope they renew my MVP award next year so I can attend again.
Project Spark https://joinprojectspark.com/
Microsoft MVP http://mvp.microsoft.com/en-us/mvp/David%20Renton-5000398
Microsoft in Education Global Forum http://www.pil-network.com/Forums