Like many of you, a little over a week ago I attended BETT. I was in attendance for two reasons, firstly to deliver a presentation within the Arena session on Schools and Real Computer Science and secondly to launch the Kodu Kup!
Schools and Real Computer Science
Presenting in the arena was an amazing experience and I was honoured at being invited to be part of the panel alongside Doctor Jo Twist(CEO of UKIE, the leading authority on the UK games industry), Professor Simon Peyton Jones (Principal Researcher for Computer Science at Microsoft), Roger Davies (Director of IT at Queen Elizabeth School) and Charlotte Avery (Head Mistress of St Mary’s School). Here’s a summary of what the session covered:
In my section, I talked about my four main challenges in relation to computing, which were:
- Getting children interested and understanding programming from a young age. In this challenge I mostly spoke about Kodu and how it can be used with students of different ages including the use at primary school.
- Progressing from visual languages into industry-standard technologies. Here I first looked at Touchdevelop, which allows you to build your own mobile phone apps from within the browser. This is a great programming environment that uses real programming syntax but without the need to type lots of complex coding. Instead pieces of code can be selected and inserted into the application. This is a great stepping-stone in bridging the gap between visual languages and traditional programming languages. I’ll write more on this again soon. Another progression option is the Microsoft IT Academy in which students can earn industry-recognised qualifications.
- Staff training. This is a huge issue as many teachers of ICT do not necessarily have a computing background and are tense about how the subject is changing. It is important to support everyone involved at times of change. I’ll be organising some training in Kent later on in the year to help teachers in this situation.
- Encouraging girls into the IT industry. Another challenge is that there is a shortage of girls going into the IT industry. I have been looking at ways to address this issue. Recently I launched Geeky Barbie’s Travels; a site dedicated to my mascot “Geeky Barbie”, which documents interviews with real women in the IT industry. It is hoped that girls will be able to read about the wide variety of jobs available and find inspiration in some of the stories.
The Launch of the Kodu Kup
Following the morning session I was thrilled to be the person to officially launch the Kodu Kup in the UK! I have been working with Microsoft since September to produce resources for the competition and it was great to see it all come together to be launched at BETT.
The Kodu Kup is open to any child enrolled in a UK school and who is aged between seven to fourteen years of age. Children may enter competition as individuals or as part of a team of up to three people.
There are three different game themes to choose between, children can either create a retro arcade game, a game to help teach and understand water awareness or a Mars exploration game.
All entries are made by the teacher through the Microsoft Partners in Learning website by the 31st May. The top ten entrants (groups or individuals) will be invited to Microsoft Headquarters in Reading where they will participate in workshops and present their games to a panel of judges. In total three winning entrants will be announced who will each receive an Xbox 360 with Kinect.
It’s going to be an exciting few months and I can’t wait to see some of the entries! To get started with the competition download the Teachers Pack and keep up-to-date with news about the competition by liking KoduKup on Facebook and following @KoduKup on Twitter.