For the last few weeks, thousands of students in dozens of countries all over the planet have been competing in the Imagine Cup Local Finals. They've formed teams, dreamed up big ideas, and then set to work making amazing software. This July, we're going to send several hundred of them, the best of the best, to St. Petersburg, Russia, for the Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals.
At the awards ceremony on the 11th July, finalists will be joined by Doctor Who, Matt Smith, who will be hosting the finals, itself.
The Imagine Cup awards ceremony will be streamed live, and as a short taster for the finals, Matt asks the question: What’s next?
The Daily Edventures Web Show is now live! Celebrating the best classroom educators from all over the world, the Daily Edventures Web Show will share the best ideas and practices in education today in a fun and engaging TV show format. Each episode will address a different theme, such as game-based learning, one-to-one,accessibility or building teacher capacity.
Catch the latest episodes at Daily Edventures and, in case you missed it, you can watch the pilot episode below.
Got an idea for a future show? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. We look forward to hearing from you!
In another great tablet in education video, Mark Reynolds gives us a sneak peak at the Surface Pro. Scheduled for launch in the UK before the end of May, in this short video, Mark discusses some of the Surface Pro’s unique features such as pen input, great build quality, full manageability and the ability to run both Windows Store and legacy X86 apps.
Mark also demonstrates the difference between both the touch and type keyboards.
Not long now
In the first in a series of device orientated HeadsUp videos, Mark Reynolds gives us a detailed, but non-technical, overview of the Acer W510 running Windows 8 Pro.
The Acer 510 is a highly portable dockable tablet, with 9 hours of battery life, that is available via Shape the Future for £395 and includes Office.
We will be releasing additional videos via the blog on an ongoing basis. If there is a specific device you would like us to feature, just leave your request in the comments below.
Originally posted on the UK Students Blog.
Richard Walters is a pretty cool guy.
A Physics graduate from the University of Oxford, he’d never built an app – or even thought about it – until he got a Windows Phone and as a student encountered DreamSpark, a free way for students to get all the tools you need to build apps. He built his scientific calculator app, Calculator², for Windows Phone and now has over 250,000 downloads. Not only that, but he ported the app to Windows 8 and in just six months has – wait for it – over 500,000 downloads. It’s the singular most successful calculator app on the Windows Store. How did that happen?
Richard got his Windows Phone when the Windows App Store was still in its infancy. As a Physics grad, calculators were integral to his life. When browsing through the available apps, he was disappointed to find that the selection ‘back-in-the-day’ was not great. However, building the definitive calculator app was not what Richard set out to do. He thought, “if I could build a calculator, I could build anything.” Using building a calculator app as a means to test his skills, Richard inadvertently built the most successful calculator app to date. He had to start from scratch – whilst his PhD was very numbers-oriented, he didn’t know about object-oriented languages and had never used C# before. However, downloading and working with the tools for developing Windows apps was much easier than he thought it would be, and he found helpful online resources in such places as MSDN and stackoverflow.
Richard initially built the app for Windows Phone 7 and then extended his repertoire to Windows 8. “It was very easy for me to port my Windows Phone 7 app to both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. Particularly in the latter case, my code is 99% identical between WP7 and WP8, with the difference simply because of a few updated controls in WP8. At the moment I’ve duplicated the projects for the app for each platform, but one thing I’ll be doing over the next few weeks is setting up the code to share the same projects/files across each version so that it’s even easier to continue working on the app. Also, it was much easier than I had expected to handle the various screen resolutions and pixel densities in WP8 and W8.”
One of the biggest challenges for Richard was marketing the app. As he wryly observed, “as an independent developer, you can’t invest in marketing.” He initially released the calculator as a paid app with a trial. “This in theory should work well, but for new apps rarely does. If you publish a new app, it’s very difficult for you to get the ratings you need to become visible in the store.” He decided to release a free version with adverts to accompany the paid version without adverts. The free version has not impacted the sales of the paid version. On Windows 8 the app is free and ad-supported, but with an in-app purchase option to remove the adverts. He earns a lot more from the adverts and has had 30-40,000 daily impressions pretty much consistently since it was released. His marketing strategy included contacting WMPoweruser, WPCentral and various other community websites and cajoling them into publishing articles on his apps, as well as using social media methods like Facebook and cross-promotional premises like AdDuplex. “Often one article is enough to be a catalyst for a wave of responses; very often people will pick up on a new app and write their own reviews.”
Should he publish another app, it’s to his advantage that he already has a foothold in the market. He can advertise his new app in Calculator² and get a decent number of downloads off the back of his first insanely successful app. He’s looking forward to adding more features to his app, including a financial calculator and a graphical calculator for instance. “I imagine I’ll spend at least another year working on this app – a good exercise for my new job will be porting Calculator² to Android – before working on something new for Windows. My ultimate aim is to try my hand at developing a game.”
Richard attests his app’s popularity to its design. Before his app came along, the calculators in the app store were essentially clones of hand-held scientific calculators. “Mapping a traditional calculator to a phone screen is not a good idea, as the buttons are too small and mistakes are easily made without tactile feedback.” Richard threw tradition away by utilising the Windows UI and making the app in line with the phone itself. The Windows UI was particularly useful, as it strips away all the stuff that doesn’t need to be there. One of the tricky things was conveying the hidden buttons in the app, but not flooding the app with message boxes. Striking a balance was difficult, but gathering feedback from users has helped to continuously make improvements. “The primary function of the app is that it has be functional,” Richard said.
From Windows 8 design session to 500k downloads
He added all the features that aren’t used often in the app bar and incorporated live tiles – which show the calculation history – to allow the user to jump straight into different parts of the app. Specifically related to Windows 8 (along with live tiles) the snap mode is particularly useful as his app gets used often alongside other apps when doing calculations. The whole app can be navigated by keyboard and touch, complimented by the semantic zoom. He had no means of user testing the app during development, so relied heavily on his own instincts as to what worked best. He never wrote anything down or planned anything; it was literally a case of playing in Visual Studio to see what worked.
Richard didn’t have any preconceptions about working with Windows because he came to Windows 8 and Windows Phone with a clean slate. “The opportunity is definitely there to be successful,” he claims; evidenced in the huge number of downloads he has had since launch. He’s currently earning more from Windows Phone than from Windows 8; a lot of that is to do with the user base as a lot of people are much more used to buying apps on phones than they are on computers. “Hopefully that’ll change as more tablets get into the market,” he observed.
What also adds to this app’s success is its multi-functionality. Not many apps are calculators, currency converters andunit converters. Nor are all these modes calculators within themselves. The app doesn’t just convert one number to another, you can do a whole calculation within each mode.
App building gave Richard a new view on his career; while he was getting into app building toward the end of his PhD, he was becoming disenchanted with academia. He presumed up until this point in his life he’d continue to do scientific research in a research firm after finishing his PhD. From building the app he soon realised he thoroughly enjoyed software development and his eyes became firmly fixed on this as a future career. He didn’t know what his skill set was like compared to other people who’d been taught formally; he just knew he wanted to do it.
Richard once claimed “Windows changed my life” – and that’s not just relating to the success he’s had with his apps. “I went for an interview and as part of introducing myself started talking about my app building experiences. That conversation took up most of the interview and I felt confident afterwards that I had a good chance of being offered the job.” Richard now works as a Graduate Consultant Developer at ThoughtWorks.
“I would definitely recommend developing for Windows 8,” Richard said. “And Windows Phone is looking really good at the moment. The great thing about building apps is just designing something, having a play, and seeing the results instantly. Plus you learn a huge amount from the whole experience, not just in terms of how to code but also marketing, customer support, dealing with finances and much more.”
The US Windows team have been so impressed by Richard’s success that they flew him out to film his story – you can catch the video here (see Independent Developers).
If Richard has whet your appetite for some app development then here’s everything you need to get started:
>> Sign up for a Windows Store account >> Download the Windows 8 SDK for all the free tools you need to get started >> Build a Windows 8 app in 10 minutes with ZipApp
>> Sign up for a Windows Phone store account >> Download the Windows Phone 8 SDK for all the free tools you need
A guest post written by:
A recent graduate in English Literature and Language from the University of Oxford, Laura O’Connor now works at Microsoft as an Associate Consultant in Unified Communications. She is currently immersed in Exchange, Lync and O365. Outside of work, her interests lie far from the realm of technology; she enjoys going to the theatre, reading and writing.
Taking the first step into the cloud can be daunting, and often brings up questions about security and back-up of data, but there’s a lot of great reasons to make the move. As well as the productivity benefits, the cost savings elements of embracing the cloud cannot be ignored. Think about how many times teachers print hand-outs or photocopy work for students in their class, how much your institution spends on licenses every year, or how long IT support spend ensuring the services are running as required.
There are a number of ways to approach cloud computing for education, from cloud storage to VLEs and services such as Office 365, there’s really no reason not to join in and take advantage of these great anywhere working tools.
We’ll start with Office 365 for Education, which gives your institution everything it needs to fully embrace the cloud. Re-launched only last month, Office 365 Education plans provide you with enterprise-grade communication for all your users and industry-leading management capabilities for your IT.
How can it save your college money?
With the majority of students today being part of 'Generation Y' it's important for colleges to embrace and encourage technology use in education, both during contact and personal study time. A virtual learning environment (VLE) is an essential step into the cloud for any college, and connects students and educators in a central, online learning environment. Microsoft's SharePoint 2013 is a easily managed learning platform which provides a single infrastructure for all your internal websites and allows users to share documents, collaborate on projects and publish information within a secure environment, which can be accessed from almost anywhere.
How will it help?
Amongst many productivity and collaboration benefits, SharePoint can make a real difference to your outgoing costs:
For an in-depth look at how SharePoint can be deployed in a college, check out Kentucky Community and Technical College System who used SharePoint to provide simplified access to data for over 100,000 students and 16 colleges across the state.
Earlier this week we showed you Khan Academy, an app which enables students to learn through a library of almost 4000 videos.
Today, we’re showing you Corinth, the original interactive education app which lets you discover plant microbiology in a completely new way. This fun yet insightful app allows you to explore 200,00 times magnified images, 3D interactive models of all elements of plant life and different forms of plant viruses, creating a learning experience you just can’t get from a textbook.
Corinth embraces all of the integrated features of Windows 8, giving the user the option to share the information to OneNote, specific users, or any other app they have installed which subscribes to the share function.
Corinth is free to install, so why not try it out today and wow your students!
Guest post from Daley Robinson, Stone Group.
As most will already be aware of, the de-support date for Windows XP is 8th April 2014. After this time, PCs running XP will be exposed as there will be no security updates, no new bug fixes or patches to the legacy operating system - leaving networks critically vulnerable.
There’s a desperate need for those educational institutions running XP to act now and make sure their organisation's data is protected by ensuring their entire PC estate is migrated over to Windows 8 - if not a minimum of Windows 7 - before this date.
With most educational institutions doing the majority of their hardware refresh and significant network projects over the summer break, then action needs to be taken now.
As well as the fact that migrating to a more modern Windows platform will help you to minimise the risk from any security breaches, you’ll also save money. In June 2012, leading analysts IDC, put the additional cost of running XP over Windows 7 at an incremental £460 per PC per year for IT and end-user labour costs – representing a staggering potential return on your software and hardware investment.
Recognising the benefits is one thing, but actually migrating is a different matter altogether. And while there are tools such as Windows Deployment Services that make the process of centralised Operating System (OS) deployment as simple as possible, as always with any IT change project there are common threads to follow which will help avoid the most common pitfalls:
Understanding what you have
It’s important to understand if the PCs you currently have will run Windows 8. Some older PCs in your estate (e.g. those without a dual-core processor, or without 2GB of RAM) will need replacing as they won’t meet the minimum technical specs required to run the new OS.
Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant is a handy tool for individual PCs. It’s feasible small primary school ICT suites of 30 PCs could use this individually, but secondary schools, FE colleges and universities should undertake a network-level audit of what hardware will work and what won’t.
From a software perspective, it’s critical to get a picture of what you currently have. In situations where software installations are managed, this is far more straightforward than those situations where users are free to install whatever applications they like.
If you have a managed environment, then chances are you’re already using System Centre Configuration Manager or another similar tool to keep tabs on what applications you’re managing. In unmanaged environments, the task of asking each teacher or checking the start menu on each machine and keeping a manual log in Excel or SharePoint may be cumbersome, but doable for a primary school. In larger institutions, this process would require significant time and admin overhead.
Depending on the applications you uncover, there will be varying degrees of testing required before full rollout. This will allow you to isolate any compatibility problems. Your test machines can be Microsoft Hyper-V based to save on space, time and money.
Fixing any software compatibility issues
Any applications which have software compatibility issues should be resolved wherever possible. Once you believe they’ve been resolved, test it just to make sure. The Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit has everything you may need for this kind of activity.
Establishing a pilot group
Pick individuals from each role within your organisation. In a primary school, this will be pretty straightforward – getting increasingly more challenging as you go through the key stages and into higher education. This ultimately works up towards…
By getting each member of the pilot group to sign off on application use within the new operating system, you’re building a credible and validated list of managed applications.
Once the list of applications used by each user group has been fully signed off, then pilot deployments can be completed - leading to the whole estate being migrated across to the new OS in an appropriate timescale.
Importance of training
Evaluating the different methods of training end users on their new operating system would be a new blog in its own right. No matter how much more intuitive Windows 8 may be over the legacy Windows XP, you should still plan effectively for ensuring all users can use your new technology efficiently. Depending on your institutions and the different roles, this can be done at various stages in the process and all have their advantages and disadvantages.
Things to consider:
· The experience curve - with an operating system upgrade project, experience can be everything. Consider bringing in a Microsoft partner to help with your project – and factor in knowledge transfer into your scope to give you the tools to manage future central deployments.
· Server engineering - ensuring your domain is upgraded to the latest level to allow appropriate control over your systems. Microsoft have a great collection of tools to help (Windows Deployment Services, System Centre Configuration Manager), but they must be configured correctly up front otherwise you will run into unforeseen challenges during your implementation.
· Maintenance and on-going management – if an OS upgrade spurs you into getting more serious with your asset management, look at setting up proven FITS compliant processes to make things easier going forward.
· Don't forget, even if you have devices which won’t run your new OS, there’s a chance they still have residual value left in them. Speak to a Microsoft Authorised Refurbisher, you may get a chunk of cash to offset some of your new tech investment.
Originally posted on the UK Faculty Connection blog.
Updating your game for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 with GameMaker: Studio™ is easy
Want to learn more?
Check out the getting started resources below.
Get help from Game Maker experts!
On 25th April, the fashion and technology worlds collided at a schools event where girls were encourage to create Wearable Technology. The event, held in celebration of International Girls in ICT Day, was hosted by social enterprise company Little Miss Geek, who aim to inspire upcoming generations of women to become engaged in the technological world of work.
The stats speak for themselves. The number of women working in technology is decreasing even though the overall number of jobs is increasing. Astonishingly, only 17% of jobs in the UK tech sector are held by women, yet the next generation of workers have grown up with technology at their fingertips. We should be encouraging these young girls to embrace the technology they use and enjoy every day, and turn their passion into a career.
Little Miss Geek wants to change that, and want to run Little Miss Geek academies in every school in order to help young girls realise that those exciting jobs in technology could be theirs.
During the Wearable Technology event last month, young girls were encouraged to make technologically advanced fashion designs throughout the day, and were inspired by successful women in technology from Dell and Microsoft, as well as fashion designer Francesca Rosella, known for her interactive and futuristic designs such as the Nicole Scherzinger Twitter dress.
Check out this video to see the girls’ creations!