February, 2013

  

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Want to learn HTML5 Game Development

    • 1 Comments

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    Yeti Bowl has been developed to instruct and inspire developers to produce games in HTML5.

    YetiBowl is now a Triple Play teaching solution supporting Window 8 App, Web and Windows Phone 8 its codebase is FREE on CodePlex.  So if your interested in teaching HTML5 for the web or for apps its perfect!

    What is YetiBowl?

    YetiBowl is a HTML5 game development workshop.  With Windows 8 HTML5 development for the web or for the app markets on Windows 8 and Windows Phone.

    How do you play the game?

    Yeti bowl is a challenge oriented game where you play the Yeti.  Armed with snowballs you have to knock the hikers off the mountain before they reach the summit.  Once three hikers reach the top of the summit, game over.  Go ahead and try the web version of the game

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    Why is Yeti Bowl special?

    Yeti blow show the powerful portability of HTML5. With no changes to the code base, this web based game can easy be ported to both a Window 8 app and a Windows Phone 8 App.  You’ll see our Windows 8 App is also tricked out with additional features utilizing a handful with Windows 8 APIs to differentiate the App version from the web version of the game.  .

    Who is this for?

    Students:  To take student developer from the basics of building an HTML5 app, to the advanced features that will set an app apart.  Any student with a basic understanding of web standards should be able to be successful in this workshop.

    Web Developers:  Developers with asp, php, or even ruby skill sets will be comfortable with the constructs of an HTML page and JavaScript files.  Whether they are familiar with traditional Microsoft technologies or not, HTML5/JS app development often provides enough familiar grounds for them to build a great app. 

    JavaScript Developers: JavaScript developers have endless opportunities inside of a windows 8 app.  They can use their same skill set, and some of their same js libraries to build windows 8 apps. 

     

    HTML5 YetiBowl game: an HTML5 cross browser version of the game that works with keyboard or touch.  The game can be found in the “web” folder:

    https://yetibowl.codeplex.com/SourceControl/changeset/view/1738d57d6e63#YetiBowl_web/game.html

    Windows 8 game:  the windows 8 game requires you install the Microsoft Ad SDK first. You should then be able to open the game and install it:

    https://yetibowl.codeplex.com/SourceControl/changeset/view/1738d57d6e63#YetiBowl_Win8/YetiBowl/game.html

    Windows Phone 8 game:  the web version of the game ported to windows phone 8.

    Windows Phone 8 code:

    https://yetibowl.codeplex.com/SourceControl/changeset/view/1738d57d6e63#YetiBowl_WP8/Yeti/Html/game.html

    Live coding version of talk:  From build 2012

    Watch the follow session in which we live coded an HTML5 game then converted it to a Windows 8 Store app, all within the one hour session:

    http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2012/3-110

    Feedback

    This is version 1.1, and I want to continue to develop this content.  For that to happen we need your feedback.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Irelands Game Developer Conference – Live Stream

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    It is less than 24 hours until Ireland’s largest ever game developer’s conference takes place. 

    I would like to share the live streaming link http://aka.ms/GamingStream

    They whole day will be live streamed at http://aka.ms/GamingStream so even if your not in Ireland you can watch the sessions and join into the Q&A

    Game developers can discuss the day and submit questions on twitter with hastag #GIG2013

    The stream will start at 10.30am GMT tomorrow. on the 28/02/2013

    see full Agenda below.

     

    Running Order for Gaming Reimagined & GIG13 Conference

    10.30am-12.00pm:     Keynote by Andrew Webber and AJ Head of DLALA studios

    12pm- 12:45pm:         Lunch and Expo & Imagine Cup showcase

    12.45pm – 1.25am:    Irelands Imagine Cup Winners Announced

    1:25pm - 2:15pm Tech Talk 1: Unity

    2:15pm - 3:05pm: Tech Talk 2: Monogame

    3:05pm -3:25pm:        Engine Q&A Panel

    3:25pm -3:45pm:        Break

    3:45pm-5pm   Keynote on Game Design by Andrew Spooner

    5pm – 7pm Games Ireland Gathering

    Update on Irish Game Industry, Keynotes, Demos & Panels

     
       

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  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Design Students – What a challenge!

    • 3 Comments

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    Yippee Entertainment are launching a unique competition.

    Yippee are offering one person in the UK and one in the US a chance to design a member of Chuck’s Chimpact family and have their design turned into a character in the Windows 8 & Windows Phone 8 versions of the game. Chimpact is available on a variety of platforms but this is an exclusive to the Windows game versions that will have this new character.  What’s more the UK winner will get a chance to go to the Yippee Entertainment game studio in Manchester and see their creation turned into a video game character!

    You can find details to enter at the website: http://www.chimpact.com/competition/

    This competition is open to anyone in the UK or US who wants to draw, paint, crayon, use a software design programme or any art and crafts they fancy to design a new member of Chuck’s family on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Building Apps for Windows Phone 8 Jump Start MVA Training and Rewards

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    Start your professional training with Microsoft Virtual Academy Building Apps for Windows Phone 8 Jump Start

    WinPhone8

    This Microsoft Virtual Academy course is tailored for developers looking to leverage C#/XAML to build cool apps and games for Windows Phone 8. This platform is another leap forward in Microsoft’s overall mobile strategy and the developer community has taken notice. Now is the time to embrace your opportunity and start building Windows Phone apps.

    This fast-paced, demo-rich online course features two mobile development thought leaders as presenters: Andy Wigley, a sought-after mobile app developer and co-author of three best-selling books on mobile application development and Rob Tiffany, mobile strategist, author, and speaker for Microsoft.

    Register and complete your training for FREE here http://www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com/tracks/building-apps-for-windows-phone-8-jump-start

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    Modules and MVA Points

    01 | Introducing Windows Phone 8 Development   7 Points -  Level 200

    After some brief introductions and a detailed overview of the agenda, expert instructors Andy Wigley and Rob Tiffany kick off the course with an information-packed introduction. This module has two parts. In the first part of a two-part module and covers the new app platform in Windows Phone 8, application development models, the Windows Phone 8 version of WinRT, supported application models and a "getting started with WP8 app development" section. In the second half of a two-part course introduction led by Andy Wigley and Rob Tiffany. This section provides a broad new features overview (details of these new features are covered in later modules), Windows Phone 7x compatibility, and using the Windows Phone Developer Tools.

    02 | Designing Windows Phone 8 Apps  4 Points -  Level 200

    With Windows Phone 8, it's more essential than ever that developers know how to properly express apps so they adhere to the overall look and feel of the phone. In this session, Andy and Rob introduce the Windows Phone design language and how to start designing an app; application structure and navigation models, getting started with XAML, understanding Themes and built-in control styles; new features in Windows Phone 8 to help you align controls correctly; how to generate design time data in Blend, an introduction to MVVM and databinding; ListBox and LongListSelector and designing list item layout templates.

    03 | Building Windows Phone 8 Apps  4 Points -  Level 200

    This module provides developers with a comprehensive understanding of the key components required to build a Windows Phone 8 App, including Page Navigation, the Application Bar, building UI for multiple screen resolutions and portrait/landscape orientations, implementing page transition animations with the Windows Phone Toolkit and Localization.

    04 | Files and Storage on Windows Phone 8  4 Points -  Level 200

    This module covers new storage concepts for Windows Phone 8. The concepts covered in this module include accessing the Installation folder or the Local folder using the Windows Phone Runtime Windows.Storage APIs. Additionally, Andy and Rob focus on background file transfers, Special Folders (Shared/Media, Shared/ShellContent, Shared/Transfers), and exploring the local folder with ISET Using Removable SD cards. If you're looking for Local Database information, see modules 8a and 8b from the Windows Phone Mango Jump Start (see related links).

    05 | Windows Phone 8 Application Lifecycle  4 Points -  Level 200

    During this session, Andy Wigley and Rob Tiffany focus on key concepts like the Windows Phone 8 program lifecycle (Launching and Closing, Deactivating and Activating, Dormant and Tombstoned applications and the Simulation Dashboard). Next, they discuss Idle Detection on Windows Phone and Detecting Obscured events, Fast Application Resume, Lifecycle design, and Page Navigation and the Back Stack.

    06 | Background Agents  4 Points -  Level 200

    Andy Wigely and Rob Tiffany cover concepts during this module that will help ensure your apps help ensure the best possible performance and battery life for the phone user. Topics such as Windows Phone task management, multi-tasking with background agents, updating tiles from a background agent, creating tasks in Visual Studio, File transfer tasks, and Background notifications will be covered.

    07 | Tiles and Lock Screen Notifications  4 Points -  Level 200

    In this module, developers learn about Tiles in Windows Phone 8. Topics include Local Tiles API, Updating Tiles from ShellTileSchedule, Updating Tiles from Background Agents, Lock screen notifications for Windows Phone, and Lock screen background for Windows Phone.

    08 | Push Notifications 4 Points -  Level 200

    During this session, Push Notifications and server-initiated communications are covered. Andy and Rob discuss Push Notifications Infrastructure and demonstrate three kinds of Notifications: Raw, Toast and Tile, then cover Push Response Headers.

    09 | Using Phone Resources in Windows Phone 8  4 Points -  Level 200

    Andy & Rob demonstrate how to leverage a variety of Windows Phone 8 resources in tihs module. Working with Launchers and Choosers, using Contacts and Calendars (SaveAppointment Task, Custom Contacts API), taking still images and manipulating video streams (Camera APIs, lenses), working with the Windows Phone Microphone and Sensors (such as the Motion sensor) and working with Video Content are all covered in this module.

    10 | App to App Communication in Windows Phone 8  4 Points -  Level 200

    In this session, Andy and Rob demonstrate app to app communication in Windows Phone 8. Topics such as auto-launching with File and Protocol Associations (URI), launching apps to handle particular File Types, and launching one app from another are covered.

    11 | Network Communication in Windows Phone 8  4 Points -  Level 200

    During this module, developers learn how to leverage patterns for asynchronous use of networking APIs. Topics include WebClient, HttpWebRequest, Listener Sockets, Web Services and OData V3, Data Compression support, Simulation Dashboard, Data Sense and applications. Storing data in Skydrive. Encryption and Authentication. Accessing services running on localhost.

    12 | Proximity Sensors and Bluetooth in Windows Phone 8  4 Points -  Level 200

    Andy & Rob cover local communication with Windows Phone 8 in this module. After a Bluetooth Overview, using Bluetooth from an application, Near Field Communications (NFC), bump-to-connect, using NFC from an application and proximity API functionality are covered.

    13 | Speech Input in Windows Phone 8  4 Points -  Level 200

    In this session, Andy and Rob illustrate the vast speech capabilities for developers on Windows Phone 8, including speech synthesis, controlling apps using speech (voice command definition files, building conversations, selecting application entry points), simple speech input/speec recognition, and speech input and grammars, such as using Grammar Lists.

    14 | Maps and Location in Windows Phone 8  4 Points -  Level 200

    During this module, developers learn how to leverage the new Location API and new Maps Controls with Windows Phone 8. Primary topics include the Windows Phone Runtime Location API, acquring the phone’s current location, continuously tracking the phone’s location, running location-tracking apps in the background, the New Map Control, specifying Map center and zoom, animating Map Display using Map Views.

    15 | Wallet Support  4 Points -  Level 200

    Andy Wigley and Rob Tiffany provide and important overview for Wallet Support during this session. After the Wallet Overview (applications and wallet storage, wallet capabilities), they cover creating and using a membership card, the Wallet Background Agent, and creating and using a payment instrument card.

    16 | In-App Purchasing  4 Points -  Level 200

    During this module, developers learn how to support In App Purchases. Rob and Andy cover topics such as adding products to your application (durable and consumable items), the purchase lifecycle, and the Application Programmer Interface (finding products, purchasing products, using product receipts).

    17 | The Windows Phone Store  4 Points -  Level 200

    This key module provides important content for preparing your app succesfully for the Windows Phone Store. Performance Analysis, creating an Application (configuring the application, the Store Testing Tool), Distributing an Application, the Windows Phone Store, Advertising Supported Applications, and Maximising Uptake will be covered.

    18 | Enterprise App Architecture  4 Points -  Level 200

    Rob Tiffany illustrates a variety of ways Windows Phone 8 can be effectively leveraged in the enterprise. During this module, focus is on both enterprise architecture, publishing and device management. Specific topics include Mobile Enterprise Concepts, building mobile middleware with SQL Server 2012 + IIS, securely publishing enterprise data out to the Internet, consuming and working with data on Windows Phone, Phone Devices in the Enterprise, managed and unmanaged devices, Device Enrollment, and distributing the enrollment key.

    19 | Windows 8 Cross Platform Development  4 Points -  Level 200

    Building for consistent experiences across Windows devices (Tiles, Notifications, Animations for differing screen sizes, controls, Lifecycle), Minimizing Development through reuse (Portable Class Library) and Sharing Code from Windows Phone Runtime and the Windows Runtime, and Architecture (Architecture APIs, Visualizing Data, and Navigation).

    20 | Mobile Web  4 Points -  Level 200

    Teresa Greiner joins Rob Tiffany for this strategic final session of the Building Apps for Windows Phone 8 Jump Start. By 2015, Gartner predicts that 80% of all mobile applications developed will be hybrid or mobile web-oriented. Teresa shares important approaches developers and application architects can take now to best prepare for this coming reality. Additionally, Teresa and Rob will discuss a myriad of mobile web best practices. Finally, Rob explains how you can leverage new HTML5 capabilities to build enterprise web apps.

    If you’re a developer or architect who needs to move beyond the hype and come face-to-face with what’s real, you will love this experience.

    Register and complete your training for FREE here http://www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com/tracks/building-apps-for-windows-phone-8-jump-start

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 Game Development in Education Event

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    Windows8opp

    FREE EVENT FOR UK ACADEMICS

    Date: March 26th 2013

    Time: 9am – 5 pm

    Register here – http://windowsinacademia.eventbrite.co.uk

    Location:

    Birmingham City University
    Faculty of Technology, Engineering and the Environment
    Millennium Point
    Curzon Street
    B4 7XG

    With the release of Microsoft’s most daring OS ever – Microsoft Windows 8. This revolutionary OS is considered to be a major milestones for Microsoft’s in regards to the shift from in-the-box computing to cloud computing. Adding to it, Windows 8 is one of the 3 key elements in Microsoft vision on what a total Eco-system should be like – an Eco-System that starts with PCs and moves to smart phones (Windows 8 Mobile) and personal tablets (Windows 8 Tablet).

    Understanding Windows 8 Games development in the curricula

    Microsoft UK is pleased to announce the launch an awareness seminars aiming to introduce the latest technology released by Microsoft and the curricula resources and 3rd party frameworks available to be used within your teaching, learning of games development. We will highlight the new changes PC users should expect from games developed in Windows 8, the new cool features available and the new integrated services in the OS and partner frameworks.

    9AM – 5PM FREE EVENT 

    Register here – http://windowsinacademia.eventbrite.co.uk

     

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  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Welcome to the Windows Games Ambassadors

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    With the launch of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, this academic year promises to be our biggest yet for the opportunity of building amazing games in a variety of technologies and frameworks including C#, HTML5/JS,  C++, DirectX, Unity, MonoGame, Marmalade, Construct2 and GameMaker!

    So we decided to recruit a bunch of talented gaming students to become Windows Games Ambassadors

    On Feb 13th 2013 the team was inaugurated, at an event at Yammer HQ in Central London.

    Firstly Huge thanks to all the team and speakers who made this possible and the support from MonoGame, YoYo Games GameMaker, Scirra Construct2, Rapid2D, Yammer and Nokia

        

    Yammer is great vibrate location, from the comments, it wasn't what the Windows Games Ambassadors had expected or even imagined a Microsoft office to be like. So from my perspective this was a great start of resetting impressions of Microsoft.

    The Agenda

    9.00 Welcome and Introduction to the Windows Game Ambassadors Scheme – Lee Stott
    9.45  The Opportunity of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 – Aj Grand-Scrutton Dlala Studio
    10.45 Break
    11.00 Windows Phone 8 - Riaz Ahmed Nokia
    12:00 The Role of Windows Games Ambassador - Lee Stott
    12.30  Lunch
    13.15 Technical overview of Rapid2D.com C++/DX - Myra Smallman
    14:00 Technical Overview of Construct 2 from an indie developer - Henry Hoffman Mudvark
    15:30 Break
    15:45 Technical Overview MonoGame - Dominque Louis & Dean Ellis Xamarin
    17:15 TIGA – Nick Brown Boss Level Games
    17:30 Execution Plan
    18:15 Close

    Here are some of the highlights of the day from the team

    Aj Grand-Scrutton of http://dlalastudios.com and now one part of the recently announced Microsoft Lift Studio Incubators.

    Aj’s talk was also very inspiring and shows success in the games industry really is within reach, but it takes hard work and a lot of determination. I think he also showed us the sort of attitude we need to have to get people excited about making games and improving their portfolio.

    Aj Grand-Scrutton, CEO of DLala Studios, about his transition from University to making Facebook games, to making games out of his garage and finally to his current position as head of a studio working for Microsoft. It’s all rather inspiring and assuring; as long as I remain passionate then the capacity for amazing things to happen stays high.

    AJ's story really inspired me to work hard at that, because my aim is to start a company with Tim and produce great quality games and AJ story of how he went from nothing to having his company brought in-house by Microsoft to be "incubated" (basically DLaLa Studios stays as its own company and makes the games they want and builds a portfolio for after the incubation, but the IP of anything they make belongs to Microsoft, which I think is a very fair trade off).

    AJ’s story of where he started Dlala and how much they have grown has given me the drive to push forward

    Nokia

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    I really appreciated the phone demonstration as I was fairly new to the features which have been added since WP7 and it was interesting to find out what help Nokia offer for developers.

    Riaz and Junior at Nokia, who gave us a great presentation on the new features of the Nokia Lumia phones as well as a technical demonstration of the features and what kind of things can be achieved with the new Nokia Windows Phone 8's.

    Amazing devices and Developer resources!

    Huge thank you to Nokia for Supporting the Windows Games Ambassador Programme with nice new Lumia Windows Phone 8 devices

    Henry Hoffman from Mudvark presenting on Construct 2

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    Construct 2 looks like a really powerful piece of kit and a great learning tool. I would imagine that, akin to game maker, it would make a great introduction to games development for kids while at the same time being a powerful prototyping tool for developer. I particularly like the idea of a built in level designer. Henry was also very inspirational as he had a lot of success while being a student which is what we are trying to promote amongst our peers.

    Henry Hoffman Student to Indie Studio and creator of Mush!

    Henry showed us what you can achieve on the HTML5 2D game engine construct 2, a fantastic piece of software which gives efficiency for things like level design and collisions. I’ll defiantly be giving it a try in the coming weeks to make a game.

    Henry great story of student to Dare to be Digital Winner, BAFTA Winner to Indie with 160,000 + Downloads Inspiring!

    Huge thank you to Scirra for supporting the Windows Games Ambassadors with licenses for Construct2

     

    MonoGame

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    Being a big fan of MonoGame I really enjoyed their presentation 

    I think MonoGame is a great middle ground for students and developers who believe that tools such as GameMaker and Construct 2 are “cheating”.

    Monogame, my personal favourite Windows 8 development framework (so far anyway)

    Rapid2d

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    I've got to say it's a good engine, it's a C++/DX engine so if you're used to making games with DirectX and C++ it's a great engine to give you a rapid start on the beginning of your project or as the base engine of the project itself

     

    Overall conclusions.. one of my favourite quotes!

    I’ve learned a lot of new things and a lot of stuff that we can use to inspire other people and I've got to say I've been inspired even more to develop games and apps for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, and my general opinion of Microsoft has been changed due to a lot of the things I learnt and how much they are doing to try and get involved with the community and help indie developers like DLaLa Studios and how they are making a better reputation than they have had in the past.

    What do the Windows Games Ambassadors do?

    They help inspire students to overcome the following issues

    ·Lack of time. When you have deadlines all the time at university it can be hard to find the time or justify spending it on projects that are not coursework related. Quite often when you do get some free time you don’t want to be spending it working.

    ·Lack of belief. I think a lot of students, whilst they might believe in their ideas may not think they are able to get that game to market.

    ·Lack of support. This ties in with the previous point but whilst there is official support from Microsoft and other sites there is no dedicated support at University for helping you get your game to market and working through problems you have.

    ·Lack of motivation. Again when you’re spending all your time working on projects as part of university it can be hard to motivate yourself to work on an extra project.

    So who are they?

    These are regular Students Developers who are undertaking gaming course, but what made them stand out is their proactive and personable natures. They are all games development and have demonstrable skills in at least one of these technologies XNA, C++, C#, DirectX Unity and HTML5 and there to help inspire you to the next ninja!

    Like you they are all student studying a gaming related course at university in the UK and looking for an opportunity in the gaming industry and the Windows Games Ambassador is your and their launch platform.

    So what does it involve?

    As a team they are responsible for helping students, start-ups and indies design, create and publish great quality games for Windows 8, Windows Azure and Windows Phone.

    The Ambassador role is to help achieve this by:

    ·creating great quality games and showcasing their talents and portfolios

    ·writing great content and blogs that we can use to showcase student talent

    ·co-delivering content with Microsoft at events aimed at the gaming industry

    What skills have they already shown:

    · Software developers specifically in gaming check out their Windows 8 and Windows Phone apps see http://www.windowsgamesambassadors.co.uk

    · Are passionate about developing games and for Microsoft

    · Are able to prove this passion

    Learn more about the Windows Games Ambassadors

    Follow this blogroll dedicated to the Windows Games Ambassadors, providing a way for them to share their experience of development on Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and helping inspire fellow students build a selection of awesome games to ensure they have the ideal portfolio.

    So what can you do?

    We do want to encourage discussion and debate about technology and hence your experiences and opinions are extremely valuable. If you want to share your passion and develop industry-leading skills, we want to hear from you, we want to play your games we want to share your games with others.

    So go ahead take the challenge download the software for FREE from http://www.dreamspark.com and developer licenses for FREE and publish your games to the Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 Stores.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    March 12, 2013 – One day in the cloud that could change the trajectory of your career

    • 0 Comments

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    As the cloud transforms IT, the need for qualified IT professionals has never been more urgent, and certification has never been more valuable. Registration is now open for Certified Career Day, an interactive LIVE event for IT professionals.

    Attendees will join a Live Industry Panel Broadcast comprised of industry experts who will discuss how the cloud is redefining IT recruitment and the growing need for certification. Then, Microsoft Product Specialists will host Live Product Sessions—in-depth depth discussions on Windows Server 2012 and SQL Server 2012 that will help attendees learn how to prepare to get ahead of the inevitable shift to cloud-based technologies.

    So do you…

    Want to be a leader in Cloud technologies?

    Need training and tools you can use now?

    Join us for Certified Career Day on March 12 at 8:30AM PDT 16:30 GMT

    Registartion and further details here http://www.certifiedcareerday.com

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Windows 8 and Azure at Derby University

    • 1 Comments

     

    Guest blog by Gerald Haigh 18 February 2013 seeing first hand students achievements with Windows 8 in the curriculum.

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    Anyone – teacher, parent, student – who thinks degree level computer programming must be a boring affair should have been with me at Derby University’s Microsoft sponsored ‘Games@Derby Expo’ the other week. Held in the big atrium at the main Kedleston Road site, the Expo featured dozens of games and apps created by students so it’s not difficult to imagine the scene as crowds of students, high on success and enthusiasm, gathered round the big screens.

    My main reason for being there, though, was focussed on one particular screen displaying Windows 8 apps created by final year students of both the Computer Games Programming and Computer Science degrees. The task, one of the assessments for a final year module, was to develop a Windows 8 application that met the Microsoft certification requirements for release to the Windows Store. (Some, in fact, have made it to the store.)

    ‘We left it deliberately open-ended,’ says senior lecturer Wayne Rippin, ‘Challenging the imagination as well as their technical ability.’

    Before visiting the Expo, I had a long talk to Wayne about computer science at Derby. It quickly became apparent that Microsoft technologies have a key role to play in an innovative department focussed on producing creative, enterprising and highly employable graduates.

    DreamSpark

    ‘It’s important that the tools we give them are the ones they will use in industry once they leave University,’ says Wayne. ‘ Microsoft DreamSpark http://www.dreamspark.com allows us to do that affordably.’

    In particular, he says, the department’s labs are, as Wayne puts it,

    ‘Set up with the latest Windows technologies. We’re very aware that when the students go out into the world that’s what they’ll be working with. We were among the first with Windows 7 and so we wanted to give students early exposure to Windows 8. For us it’s an implementation platform that enables us to try different techniques in practice as well as in theory.’

    The module has proved a real success, he says.

    ‘Students like being able to use Windows 8 and to have an assignment that allows them to create an app that others can use.’

    As he says, it clearly ticks the employability box.

    ‘Imagine a student with a Windows Store app applying for a job and being able to say, “I wrote that. Would you like to try it out?”’

    Sixty five students from the two degree courses completed the app development module, says Wayne.

    ‘The overall quality was very good. At the Expo we’re showing thirteen apps, all of which have met the Windows Store requirements.’

    Leading on from that, second year students are now studying an application development module, the platform for which is also Windows 8.

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    A considerable advantage here lies in the cost-effective availability for students of Microsoft’s ‘Azure’ cloud platform see http://www.windowsazure.com/education

    As Wayne explains,

    ‘They can have their own webspace, virtual machines, everything in the cloud so we don’t have to deal with web hosting. For example they can have admin access to their own space where typically in a university situation if we provide webspace we can’t give admin access. Azure gives us much more flexibility and ability to do things as in the real world.’

    I had a quick look at some of the student apps shown at the Expo, such as Kevin Chandler’s ‘London Transport Info’ which pulls together published feeds about buses and trains in the Capital, integrating it all into something really useful. A nice touch is the live tile on the start screen that keeps up to date with problems. I also saw Christopher Morley’s ‘Project Smash’, a game which adds a twist by incorporating live weather information as one of the variables to be negotiated. And, too, there was Karn Bianco’s mind-bending ‘Sliding Blocks’ and Luc Shelton’s ‘Meme Factory’ for creating internet memes. I had a chat to Luc at the Expo about his app and he explained that there’s already plenty of activity around memes on the internet, and what he wanted to was to produce something very functional, using the features of Windows 8.

    ‘For example I made use of the Charm Bar – sharing, searching, settings, so that users can customise the experience.’

    Thinking about the independent learning aspect of the task, I wondered if he’d had to ask for help at any point.

    ‘Once, I thought I’d got to email Wayne,’ he said, ‘But I decided I had to persevere on my own.’

    That self-driven approach was evident in each of the students I met, as was the determination to exploit the available technology. Luke Chester’s app, for example, ‘Memory Bank’ is actually a multi-media scrapbook, a place to drop thoughts, ideas, photographs. Like Luc, he’s exploited the Charm Bar as well as Bing Maps and GPS. What makes this app particularly attractive is the Windows 8 feature that allows it to be brought up while another app is being used, so it’s possible to add a very quick thought that occurs as it always does, when you’re in the middle of something else. Luke’s Memory Bank app is now available on the Windows Store - http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-US/app/memory-bank/8b08e5b2-f358-430e-a8c8-eabdf50dd69a

    The students view

    With schools in mind, I asked some of the students about their back stories. I found that Luc Shelton, for example, had arrived via an FE course that armed him with the right number of UCAS points. Karn Bianco did humanities at school, and kept all of his programming interests to his spare time. Now he’s found what he was looking for.

    ‘I wanted problem solving, and I didn’t get any of that at school.’

    In fact it’s important not to miss the pedagogical lessons that emerge from a course that’s run like the undergraduate programming degrees at Derby.

    ‘There’s no such thing as teaching to the test here,’ says Wayne. ‘We encourage independent learning. The student who sits and just listens to the lectures will pass, but if they want to get a good grade, they have to really demonstrate their ability to learn for themselves.‘

    Open ended assignments play a big part in this, he says.

    ‘We give them the minimum standard they need to pass and then to get the top grade they almost need to wow us. Really there are no constraints.’

    The thought is echoed by Dr Tommy Thompson, who leads BSc Computer Games Programming.

    Describing the project leading up to the Expo, where students had been given twelve weeks to develop a game to show, he says,

    ‘In the real world it would take two or three years. Some of them put in a ridiculous amount of time. There was an interesting moment when students asked me whether I thought I had overworked them. But they conceded that the problem really lay with their own expectations.’

    From the teacher’s point of view, says Tommy, it’s an ideal position to be in,

    ‘They want to be here. They have a passion for the programming.’

    That means, though, that their expectations of teaching are high.

    ‘We have to meet that, and always try to throw something at them that they’re not expecting.’

    I was interested, too, in Tommy’s insight into who are the successful students and the fact that it’s not necessarily about technical ability.

    ‘There are some in all years who, regardless of ability, have a fantastic maturity of general approach to taking the curriculum seriously.’

    Very clearly, what gives the teachers on such a course the necessary high credibility with their students is their record of long-term and continuing engagement with the industry. Tommy puts it briefly and clearly when he says,

    ‘We don’t just look at the application, we look at the code, and we’re people who’ve looked at code for a living.’

    This, in turn, means that courses are run with a continuing eye on employability. Both degrees are sandwich courses and, says Wayne,

    ‘Some students set up their own company during their placement year. The thing that’s changed for software development is the way the app stores have made it easier and cheaper to publish applications and make them available to a wide audience, so it becomes an interesting exercise to set a goal of producing a publishable app.’

    The enterprise aspects aren’t neglected either.

    ‘A key thing about this university is that a lot of the staff have real industry experience so a lot of the advice we give is not just about the programming. It’s about how to set up a company, creating business plans, and so on’

    This was one visit that gave me a lot to think about. I’m pretty sure, for example, that what’s happening in computer science at Derby, and no doubt at other universities such as UCL (we’ve covered their work extensively already) carries lessons for teachers of every level and subject about independent learning, motivation, creativity, and credible, real-world-relevant teaching.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Global Windows Azure Bootcamp Day in the UK – Registration now open

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    bootcamp

    Welcome to Global Windows Azure Bootcamp! On April 27th, 2013, you’ll have the ability to join a Windows Azure Bootcamp.

    Learn about locations, install the necessary prerequisites and get excited!

    This one day deep dive class will get you up to speed on developing for Windows Azure.

    The class includes a trainer with deep real world experience with Windows Azure, as well as a series of labs so you can practice what you just learned.

    How much does it cost?

    This event is FREE to the attendees.

    How do I attend one?

    Find a location close to where you live. Click through to see the details for that class and then register. Keep in mind you will need to bring your own laptop to do the labs.

    London http://azurelondonbootcamp2013.eventbrite.com/

    Manchester http://azuremanchesterbootcamp2013.eventbrite.com/

    Bradford http://www.blackmarble.co.uk/events.aspx?event=Global Windows Azure Boot Camp

    The UK Windows Azure User Group will be running two bootcamps for beginners in Windows Azure which will take delegates from no knowledge to deploying a cloud service with storage, data and security support.

    The closing session will focus on building diagnostics into a package and creating continuous deployments through the various service management APIs and tools like the CLI and Powershell. Exercises will be run in both in C# and Java in both Visual Studio and Eclipse.

    London, 27 April: http://azurelondonbootcamp2013.eventbrite.com/

    Manchester, 27 April: http://azuremanchesterbootcamp2013.eventbrite.com/

    Want to get access to Azure Resources for Teaching Learning and Research?

    Azure_Online_Banner_blue

     

    What do I need to bring?

    You will need to bring your own laptop and have it preloaded with the software listed here. Please do the installation upfront as there will be no time to troubleshoot installations during the day.

    Is this for beginners?

    Yes and no. The local trainers will use the Windows Azure Training Kit to guide you to the basics.

    More details

    See the Web site for more details http://globalwindowsazure.azurewebsites.net/

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    IEEE Hosting TouchDevelop Webinar

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    Touchdevelop

    TouchDevelop Web App Webinar Hosted by IEEE CS Society

    The age of keyboards and mice is coming to an end, touch is the new way to interact with computing devices.

    But can you write code by using touch? With TouchDevelop you can! You can now develop useful software for your touch-enabled devices while sitting in a bus or waiting in line.

    P1020856

    So pull out your smartphone or tablet and start programming with TouchDevelop. IEEE CS Society is hosting a related webinar, Developing Mobile Apps on the Go—TouchDevelop for all Platforms, on February 21 at 11:00 A.M. PST 19:00 GMT. Learn more or register.

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