Archive for November, 2012

This is an article I was asked to write to by BETT show marketing

BETT show: App Development 101.

What is Appshed. Apart from being a fantastic mobile app development platform it is an amazing learning and creative tool for the classroom. I cannot praise enough the platform nor the support that I, and many other teachers, have received from the Appshed team. Especially when I have my crazy ideas “can I just do this….” generally something that requires a server farm or at least 4 developers a month to build. I am always met with a convivial “yes, it’s possible”.

A bit of history: AppShed began back in 2008 as a business need. Rob suggested that they build a CMS (content management system) for apps instead of building each app from scratch. Torsten (CEO) didn’t need any further encouragement. Immediately development began on a native iPhone app framework using XML files to create dynamically generated apps. From that initial framework AppShed.com was born.

I am such an advocate of the AppShed platform that I gave a workshop at #Mozfest November 2012. The workshop was attended by industry gurus and delivered by me… just a classroom teacher. The workshop was a great experience and we received really positive feedback. One of the “users”actually built their app using a smart phone during the workshop!. It does require some delicate touches to build an app on a smart phone.

At the BETT show Learn live lab myself and my A-level students will be delivering the workshop. Why my students.. because they are fantastic and this will enable them to experience something impossible in the class. Real World business interaction. Helping as well as designing the workshop. The students will be creating a template app for the event along with the resources to go with. What I like to call a #nanohack. As part of their course they have to develop systems for a particular “client”. I run hackdays/ hackjams for young and old alike so now my students get to join in too. They now get to enjoy the fun and excitement that goes along with creating and delivering new technology driven experiences for others.

A little explanation regarding hacks/ nanohacks:What is a hack day? A hack-day, my definition”a collaborative environment where designers, developers or anyone interested get together to create something based on a theme”. The theme is their to inspire, help and guide the creatives to the ultimate goal of building something “awesome”, as my students would put it.

During the workshop you will learn about the platform both from within and outside a classroom setting. This is important as some of the cool stuff such as twitter widgets are blocked at most schools. Though, as we are not in school – Cool Stuff here we come. You will be able to customise the app to you desired content. Galleries of images (check for copyright), Maps / Locations, links to Videos. Upload your own files directly into your profile so that you can use the documents for any other app that you might wish to create. Link to Flickr accounts, create interaction/ quizzes using google docs. The list is endless. By the end of the session you will have a fully functional app on your smart phone.

I have created an app for my GCSE Computing class and their parents/ guardians. that has links to the exam board, online homework using socrative.com, uploaded files and other websites that are helpful for the course. Any modification that I make to app is then pushed out to the user next time they launch the app.

At the time of writing this AppShed are in their final stages of testing their new learning/ development environment. This new environment has been beautifully designed to enable and engage the “user” to produce the best possible app. It allows the “user” much more freedom and independence from the instructor. AppShed will soon be launching this entirely new interface, AppShed “K2” has been re-designed from the ground up to maximise the user experience to make app-building even simpler for the novice user, while at the same time increasing the flexibility for advanced users. AppShed “K2” has a simple column layout: the simulator on the left, and dynamic toolbars on the right. Apologies for the Tron “user” reference I couldn’t help myself. 🙂

“AppShed Academy is a versatile and comprehensive online tool to facilitate student development of apps in education. Intuitive, step-by-step learning allows teachers to include app development in the ICT curriculum without the need for an in-depth understanding of the app creation.” Their own words which I could not have written any better.

We all are really excited about being at the Bett Show and the opportunity to let other experience the joy and excitement of using and building your own beautifully designed app in under an hour. You can’t beat that at the BETT Show. Come and join in the fun Friday 1st Feb 12:15-13:00, Gallery Room 6. Any questions send me a tweet @pegleggen.

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I was speaking to my lovely colleague, Russ, today about taking the Stanford/Coursera online courses. Oh the fun we both had. I remember the first course I did last year, AI Advance route….. why oh why did I do that. I remember the pressure of trying to complete assignments/homework and to study the required 8-10hrs.

This and others are not designed for Teachers. We (teachers) are already overloaded and have very little time to carry out personal study. You may disagree, which is fine, but no bashing teachers as that is already done very well at present.

I am not disregarding those online courses, they are amazing and I have learnt so much from them. It is just the format does lend itself well to those of us who are teachers. The MOOC (mass online open classroom) has, in general, a very small completion rate of anywhere between 3-7%. This is not to say those courses aren’t successful but for teachers we need a different approach. This is something that I have been hoping to develop further and it looks like I will be able to do just that after the new year.

Wish me luck on this new adventure.

What and how would you like to learn online?

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Novemeber 1st. Google offices near Totthenham Court road.
I was invited to speak at this conference in September when I visited Google’s office at Victoria, the developers/engineers site. Amazing office and working environment …. I want to work their.

Opening Keynote from Alex Hope talking about STEAM not just STEM- the future. Creativity is key. Rigorous teaching of Computer Science. Fusion of Art/Tech

The whole day conference consisted of talks both in the morning and at the close of the day with afternoon workshops. Apps for good, Raspberry Pi, Code Club, Decoded, Technology Will Save Us and many more offering a taste of what can be included in your classroom or club. It was a fantastic opportunity to see what different teachers, academics and industry experts all had to say about the role of computer science in education. It is VITAL for the economy was the message.

I spoke in the morning session about the view from the classroom alongside Donna Pratty and Peter Kemp. His A level wiki book is amazing, a fantastic resource for anyone teaching GCSE or A Level Computing/ Computer Science or ICT.

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Originally published by Institute for Learning: Shane Cowen.
original post

Liberal Democrat conference, Monday 24 September 2012.

Shane wrote a much better account than me.

The relevance and ‘functionality’ of the curriculum is of constant debate in most subject areas and none more so than in the area of ICT and computing. Whilst these subjects are discrete and different by definition, recent debates around the national curriculum in schools have brought computer science to the fore at the expense of the arguably more traditional approach taken through delivery of ICT.

This fringe meeting began with an animated (in every sense of the word) presentation by Simon Peyton-Jones, principal researcher at Microsoft’s research lab in Cambridge. He began by explaining why, as a computer scientist, he advised his own children against taking GCSE ICT. From Simon’s perspective, the ICT curriculum focuses too much on the technology element of computing and not enough on the actual discipline of computing which he believes is inherent in a computer science curriculum. His aim is to bring computer science into the mainstream, not only by having it included in the English Baccalaureate of ‘favoured’ GCSEs, but also to integrate the subject in to the broader educational experience of children through primary and secondary school to allow more young people to specialise in post-16 further and higher education.

He then introduced Genevieve Smith-Nunes, an active participant in the Computing at School campaign who teaches computing programmes in a local secondary school and at Sussex Downs College. Genevieve has created some truly innovative teaching and learning approaches which are proving successful in providing children and young people with a broad range of skills to succeed in computer science and consolidated learning in other subjects, particularly maths. The example she used was of a group of GCSE students working to program a computer game who had to use trigonometry to determine the angle at which a ramp would need to be constructed in order for a skateboarder to jump over some obstacles. We also saw mobile phone apps her students had developed which helped business students and apps that year 9 students had helped 6 year-olds build using specialist software.

The session could quite easily have descended in to the usual debate about how to ’embed technology’ in other areas of the curriculum, but thankfully it didn’t. This approach is lauded as a ‘golden bullet’ all-to-often without the necessary supporting mechanisms for teaching practitioners alongside. So whilst there is an extent to which technology is and should be utilised to support teaching and learning, the resounding message from this session was that a national programme of continuing professional development (CPD) for ICT teachers in particular, was required to, if nothing else, ensure everyone knew where to access resources to support the kind of approaches that teachers like Genevieve have been able to use.

Whilst this session was mostly geared towards the education of primary and secondary school pupils, there were parallels to be drawn to FE and skills. The types of skills that Simon believes all young people need to be equipped with are being developed in some vocational subject areas all of the time. The engineering apprentices I visited at EAGIT recently were trained in programming across a variety of platforms to ensure that they had the skills to do the job depending on the age and type of the machinery being used. But more broadly, with the Coalition’s early removal of tax breaks in the UK’s gaming industry and exclusion of computer science or ICT from the EBacc, there was concern about the current direction of travel expressed by some in the room. Nonetheless, the move towards a “more rigorous computer science approach” has been muted by secretary of state Michael Gove as a preferred way forward in schools at least, which he made clear earlier this year.

Shane Chowen, IfL policy officer

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