February, 2013

  

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Get FREE certification exam for 70-480: Programming in HTML5 with JavaScript and CSS3

    • 21 Comments

     

    html5 Win8_logo

    Exam 70-480: Programming in HTML5 with JavaScript and CSS3, you complete the requirements for the following certification(s):

    counts as credit toward the following certification(s):

    • MCSD: Web Applications
    • MCSD: Windows Store Apps using HTML5


    Use code : HTMLJMP for a free exam credit, the exam will normally cost £99.


    After passing 70-480, you will be given a certification for Microsoft Specialist and this is one of the three exams which will ultimately certify you as MCSD (Microsoft Certified Solution Developer).

    MCSD is one tier above MCSA (Associate) and is a respectable title in the field of web development.

    Exam registration: http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/exam.aspx?id=70-480
    Link for free online training: https://www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com/tracks/developing-html5-apps-jump-start?o=1943
    Link to MCSD page: http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/certification/mcsd.aspx

    This offer is available for a limited time only until March 2013 and is open to IT Academy members also so all students undertaking a course can sit a free exam at  any prometric testing centre.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Scirra Construct2 a tool for students to rapidly develop games for Windows 8

    • 4 Comments

    Guest blog by Andrew Wilson, Course Director, BSc (Hons) Computer Games Technology, Birmingham City University

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    Introducing students to the processes of game development that is designing, prototyping, play testing and refining the original idea has to be fun and engaging. Many students joining game development courses such as ours at Birmingham City University have little exposure to programming and can be frustrated by not being able to develop their game ideas as quickly as they hoped.

    Therefore to complement the teaching of software development tools such as Microsoft XNA Game Studio, MonoGame or Unity3D we need tools where our students can quickly produce fun playable games and which they can learn very quickly.

    As an experiment in 2012 a group of first year students were asked to develop a mobile game based on a brief set by a local independent games studio Distorted Poetry. The students were allowed to use a tool of their choice as long as it was free and that they were comfortable with teaching it to themselves. Teaching other people is one of the best ways of learning and an approach we encourage and cultivate on the BSc Computer Games Technology course a skill that has rewarded several of our students with employment in local games studios.

    scirra-logo-01

    The 2012 teams predominately chose Scirra’s Construct2 as developing games in HTML5 was high on their agenda. Construct2 is a very nice tool to learn game development without the overhead of learning complex coding practises. Once the students mastered the environment they quickly developed game ideas within a few hours.

    Construct2 game Soul survivor developed by first year BCU Computer Games Technology students (2102)

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    This year’s first years were given the challenge of developing a Construct2 game for Microsoft’s Imagine Cup 2013. They have just completed their prototypes and are in the process of play-testing their games.

    Their ideas are clever and innovative and demonstrates how easy Construct2 is to learn and what is achievable with it

    image image

    First year Computer Games Technology (2013) prototypes for this year’s Microsoft Imagine Cup

    Deploying to different platforms has also been made incredible easy with the export function and can be published onto the Windows 8 App store which is available to students via dreamspark. A great addition that helps students develop their portfolio of published games which is very important for a career as a games developer.

    image image

    Usman Mohammad, a second year Computer Games Technology student, is working on a Birmingham City University Student Academic Partner Programme.

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    This scheme is a unique partnership involving the Students' Union and Birmingham City University. The scheme topped the 2010 Times Higher Education (THE) Awards in the ‘Outstanding Support for Students’ category. Usman is working on developing a workshop using Construct2 which can be used in our University’s outreach and master class programmes, where school and college students can have an introduction to games development and experience studying in our University.

    So well done to Scirra and we hope you keep producing such an excellent teaching tool.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Want to learn HTML5 Game Development

    • 1 Comments

    clip_image002

    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

    clip_image003

    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

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

    • 0 Comments

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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

    PhoneLandingHero1

    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 USB To Go Support USB Sticks

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    One of the questions I received at BETT was related to Windows To Go and what USB Stick should I purchase?

    So What is Windows To Go?

    Windows To Go is a fully manageable corporate Windows 8 OS image provisioned on a certified bootable USB drive that allows faculty and staff to work from anywhere. To use Windows To Go, you simply insert the provisioned USB drive into a compatible PC and boot into your personalized Windows 8 image, all while maintaining access to key security and management features of the operating system, as well as other key programs included within the corporate image, such as: Group Policy, BitLocker, BranchCache, App-V, UE-V and DirectAccess.

    What are the Benefits? 

    Windows To Go users are able to have their personalized Windows environment on their certified USB with or without network connectivity, which means they may be fully productive from any location they choose to work.

    What USB Stick should I use?

    At present there are five vendors whom meet th eWindows To Go certification tests and requirements. Each of the manufacturers listed below have rigorously tested their products, and have worked with Microsoft to create high quality Windows To Go optimized drives.

    • Imation is a global scalable storage and data security company whose portfolio includes tiered storage and security offerings for businesses and consumers. Imation offers the IronKey™ Workspace certified for Windows To Go, available in 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB sizes.
    • Kingston is a global provider of memory, solid-state drives, USB drives, and flash memory products. The Kingston Windows To Go certified drive, known as the DataTraveler Workspace, is available in 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB versions.
    • SPYRUS, Inc. develops, manufactures, and markets hardware-based encryption, authentication, and digital content security products. SPYRUS offers two Windows To Go certified drives: the SPYRUS unencrypted Portable Workplace and the hardware encrypted Secure Portable Workplace, which is designed to be compliant with FIPS 140-2. Each drive is offered in 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB sizes.
    • Super Talent designs and manufactures Flash-based storage solutions for Enterprise Servers, Workstations, Personal Computers and Consumer Electronics. Currently, Super Talent offers the RC8, in a variety of sizes, 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB.
    • WD, a subsidiary of Western Digital Technologies, Inc., is a global storage industry leader, providing internal and external storage solutions for consumers and businesses. The WD My Passport Enterprise is a 500 GB external hard drive designed and certified specifically for use with Windows To Go.

    Want to know more about Windows To Go

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    GameSalad & Creating Games for Windows 8

    • 0 Comments

    Gamesalad

    GameSalad launched their Windows 8 support back in September. Since that time game developers have ported over many of their games to the brand new platform.

    For the past few days I have been short listing and selecting my team of Windows Games Ambassadors. Its been interesting process and yes I have had to play all the entries. What has been interesting is the vast array of engines and frameworks the applicants have used for the final assessment, which was a task to build a Windows 8 Games in around 10 days. The technologies and frameworks ranged from C++/DX, C# to GameMaker, Construct2 and even Touchdevelop

    So I wanted to highlight the opportunity of GameSalad as only a few of the applicants used this. GameSalad will no doubt become pretty popular as its a HTML5/JS visual, drag & drop interface with support for complex behaviour library which therefore provide almost limitless freedom to game designers additionally GameSalad asset can be used in Construct2 so the visual drag and drop opportunity is becoming pretty competitive.

    To help demonstrate the power of GameSalad I thought I would quickly highlight some games which have used GameSalad in their production.

    Check out these games. Download them. Buy them. If you want to develop your own game, download the GameSalad Creator. If you’re a current student, check out the discount licensing available from Studica offers for GameSalad.

    Is your GameSalad game in the Windows Store and not listed above? Let me know in the comments!

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Are you a gaming student? Want to be Mobile App Developer? Want to be an Indie? Do you need £10,000? Get building your portfolio and win an awesome prize

    • 2 Comments

    Rapid2D £10,000 Competition
    Want to be a Mobile App Developer Do you need £10,000?


    If so, we have a competition that could provide you with just that! Rapid2D, the brand new Game Engine (which is designed specifically for developing on the Windows 8 platform) is running a competition which has a first prize of £10,000. That's a serious amount of money! The competition involves making a number of apps for the Windows 8 Marketplace.

    Rules

    Each entry can be an individual or a team; the competition rules, terms and conditions are the same whether you enter as an individual or a team. If entering as a team, the maximum number of people allowed in any one team is SIX, including the team captain. Each entry - whether the entrant is an individual or a team - must publish a minimum of FIVE apps per entry in order to be entered for the prize draw and have the chance of winning the first prize of £10,000. If 6 or more games are published, the individual or team will receive one additional entry into the prize draw.

    Team area

    When you enter the competition you will be given access to a team progress area where you can enter the names and statuses of the games as they are produced. Please note that you must self-publish every app you produce to the UK Windows 8 Store. Just entering the name and status of the game on your progress page within Rapid2D does not constitute publishing the app. You must publish every app to the UK Windows 8 Store in order for it to be considered for this competition.

    Closing

    The closing date for app publication to the UK Windows 8 Store is 11:59:59pm GMT on 2nd April 2013. All apps which are to be considered for the competition must be published to the UK Windows 8 Store by this time. Apart from the main prize of £10,000 there will be runner up prize for 2nd place of an Xbox 360 console and games bundles for each individual entrant or member of the runner up teams.
    Click here for more information

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 Game Development in Education Event

    • 0 Comments

    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

     

    windows 8

    student resources

  • 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.

    logo

    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.

    Azure_logo

    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

    Windows 8 TouchDevelop Appathon and BETT Show 2013

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    Before Christmas a number of UK Academics took part in 3 virtual university sessions on TouchDevelop with Peli de Halleux from Microsoft Research in USA. 3 UK academics were selected from the 50 or so educators from around Europe who took part, to go to London for a final 24 hour appathon

    TouchDevelop.com is an exciting new platform which allows you to create apps on any HTML5 enabled browser and therefore you can develop on pretty much any platform, including mobile devices such as tablets or even phones. The apps you create can also be tested in the browser, so this platform provides the opportunity for students to create apps on mobile devices for mobile devices and on pretty much any device they have and see it running on that device. The final apps can be published as Windows 8 RT apps or Win7/8 phone apps on the Windows marketplace.

    So the three academics travelled to London (courtesy of Microsoft Corp) David Renton (FE Academic) Ray Chambers (School Teacher) and Jimmy Edwards (School Teacher).

    They began the event on Monday in CP. What’s interesting about David Renton, Jimmy Edwards and Ray Chambers is that are members of the UK Microsoft Partners in Learning network and are part the K Team academic evangelism programs helping UK Academic’s use MS technology in the classroom.

    The appathon kicked off properly at 11am with Ben Nunney and MS Research staff to provide technical support, guidance and direction. The key goal of the appathon was to develop educational app ideas into reality using TouchDevelop. With the academics using Windows 8 and Windows Phone devices, the academic got down to creating Win 8 and Windows Phone apps and getting their hands on RT Slates, surfaces and Windows 8 laptops.

     

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    Appathon kicks off

    The competition went on late into the early hours and David was last to leave at around 4am.

    I arrived at CP early on the day judging day to be involved in the final judging at 1pm the teams started to present their apps to the judging panel and to our fellow educators.

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    David Presenting Math Mage at the Appathon

    What was interesting about David games was he got his students involved and one Michael Philp a Scottish art student created the amazing original art work for Math Mage and a really interesting concept of involving students into activities such as this.

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    Math Mage for Windows Phone

    However at the judging it was clear the Ukraine teachers were amazing! They built an amazing app which lets you construct and test electric circuits on your Windows 8  mobile phone or Windows 8 device.

    The winner received a brand new Surface RT Tablet courtesy of Microsoft.

    Despite the UK not winning I was really impressed with the apps that David and Ray Chambers produced unfortunately Jimmy had to be rushed to hospital with a kidney stone on the Tuesday evening he is now recovering. Both David and Ray are now in the process of publishing them both + more to the Windows 8 and Windows Marketplace.

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    Winning App from the Ukraine

    On Wednesday the BETT Show at the ExCeL Convention Centre started where Vince Cable and Microsoft VP Anthony Salcito opened the show in the new Microsoft Arena in the middle of the massive ExCel conference centre.

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    Anthony Salcito Microsoft VP

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    Windows 8 Surface Pod

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    Microsoft Stand

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    Yes it was really busy!

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    Microsoft Stand and Theatre

    Apart from Windows 8 everywhere, The overall theme running through the show was BYOD, Bring Your Own Device and the idea that in future students of all ages from Primary through to FE and HE should be allowed to take the amazing technology sitting in their bags out and use it in the classroom.

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    BETT Show 2013

    On the Thursday I had a presentation slot on Surface in Education and apps being the centre of the new learner experience, Before I presented, I went to the NAACE stand for the launch of the Kodu Kup in conjunction with Microsoft and UKIE.

    On the NAACE stand Stuart Ball from Microsoft Partners in Learning along with Nicki Maddams from the Microsoft Partners in Learning K-Team launched the exciting new competition for all school kids aged 7 to 14, where they are challenged to work together in teams of 3 to produce a game which will be judged by Microsoft, with the top ten teams from around the country winning a trip to Microsoft HQ in July, where the top teams will be rewarded with XBOX360s and Kinects.

    After this we rushed over to Learn Live D Theatre where we were presented on Kodu, Kinect, xGames and TouchDevelop and the Imagine Cup, DreamSpark using Microsoft Development tools and how they are being used to the classroom to engage and excite learners. We had some famous faces in the audience such as the team from LionHead the game developers behind the Fable game series and a number of educational titles.

    The presentation from the K team went very well and it seemed to be well received by everybody, as David and Ray simply presented their experiences of using technology in the classroom.

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    On the Friday Ray and David had initally planned to take it easy and just take in the show and had planned to go see Professor Brian Cox presenting, but I managed to gently persuade them both to take part in another Appathon, this time it was the Stone Hackathon which was being judged by Pearson education, stone computers and Johnny Ball of 80s kids tv fame.

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    Ray made a French and Maths version of his Spelling Bee app and David made an English version of my Math Mage called Word Mage which tests kids knowledge of Nouns, Verbs, Adverbs and Adjectives.  

    Ray completed his Spelling Bee App and won a portable printer for his efforts. So it was a great day for Windows 8 with Apps both being for our platform built using different technologies.

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    David and Ray with Jonny

    David has also gratefully agreed to produce teaching materials for Microsoft Faculty Connection Resources on using TouchDevelop for games development and programming. The materials will cover basic programming concepts and how to use TouchDevelop to create classic arcade games like Pong, Breakout, Space Invaders.

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