As schools across the country start to wind down ahead of the well-deserved summer break, we at Apps for Good are also getting ready to finish off our year and look to the next. The Apps for Good School year of 2013/14 has been one of our most ambitious and exciting to date. So before everyone packs their swimming costume and heads for the sun, it’s time to take a look back on the year and take a sneak peek at what we have in store!
Back to school
In September 2013, we kick-started the third year of the Apps for Good course across the whole of the UK, in no less than 213 schools, colleges and informal learning centres from Cape Cornwall School, in St Just, Penzance to Wick High School in Caithness, Scotland. There were 17,000 students enrolled in the course, led by over 500 Educators.
Tech start-up in the classroom
Throughout the year students got to grips with coding, while developing core skills such as teamwork, problem solving and communication. The Apps for Good course, which has been mapped to the new computing curriculum, is a flexible framework that allows our Education Partners to deliver the course in the way that best meets the needs of their students. The course takes 30-50 hours to complete. Many of our teachers ran Apps for Good as part of the curriculum, while others conducted it as an afterschool club or in enrichment time.
Using an iterative process that mimics how tech start-ups work, teachers supported their students through each of the five modules in the course:
- Crash course in app development – students were given a snapshot of the app development process, learning how apps are built and why, using real world examples. Students also formed their teams and decided how they would work together.
- Idea generation and screening – students brainstormed everyday problems and issues that interest them, choosing a few to focus on and screening them to assess their viability. Our students often tell us this is one of the hardest parts of the course, but once they have a few ideas they are excited about, it helps drive everything else they learn.
- Scoping – students conducted further research into the viability of their ideas as well as defined target users. The initial ideas were often pivoted based on the teams’ findings.
- Product development – after narrowing down to one app idea, students identified an appropriate building tool that suited their app and abilities – from Balsamiq to create click-through wireframes through to using Facebook developer tools – and built a working prototype app. The students also created a business model and marketing strategy for their app.
- Pitch and competition – students demonstrated both their product and the skills they have learned by entering the Apps for Good Awards or organising a local pitching competition.
Connecting with technology professionals
Throughout every step of the course, students and educators tapped into our pool of industry Experts, who volunteered their time in one-hour sessions to help the students develop or pivot their ideas. Most of the Expert sessions were conducted via Skype, meaning students in more remote parts of the country could connect with Experts from across the UK and even internationally.
Some Experts also took the opportunity to visit the schools to in person. A highlight of the year for Mount Grace School in Potters Bar was a visit from Philip McHugh, Barclaycard’s CEO Business Solutions, and Michael Bristow, VP Marketing. They gave students first hand advice on making a successful business case and provided feedback on each teams’ app idea.
Celebrating our students: Apps for Good Awards 2014
This is always the highlight of the Apps for Good calendar and this year was no different! Student teams entered their ideas into our annual competition, and we worked with our Experts and sponsors to select the top 18 app ideas, a very tough task indeed.
We brought our Finalist teams to London’s Tech City, where they pitched to our impressive line-up of Dragons, including: Founder of Lastminute.com Martha Lane-Fox, CEO of Tech City Gerard Grech, and VP at Capgemini Maggie Buggie. Imagine having to pitch your idea to this formidable panel? We were proud to see that our students took it in their stride.
Our Finalist teams came from all across the UK and some were as young as 10 years old! This diversity of students was also reflected in the wide range of app prototypes that had been developed by the young people. The winning entries included ‘I’m Okay’, an app to help young LGBTQ people find support and information, and ‘Crime Time’ which helps young people stay safe in their local communities.
The huge press coverage and social media buzz created by the event are a credit to the fantastic work done by our students. Some highlights were articles in the Observer, Financial Times and Computer Weekly and, through Twitter our students’ apps were showcased to 12.7 million people!
The seven winning teams will now take their apps to market in January 2015, working in partnership with a development agency and supported by our sponsors.
We have over 400 schools signed up to deliver the Apps for Good course in 2014/15. In Scotland our course will be taught in 1 in 10 secondary schools! We are also partnering with a record number of schools in London and the South East of England.
We have made a number of improvements to the Apps for Good course based on feedback from students and teachers. Our training and materials are now all online, so that teachers can access them whenever and wherever suits them. We’ve updated our course so that students learn about building right from the start, with increasingly complex tools and approaches available depending on what suits best for teacher and students.
To help teachers implement the course, we’ve mapped it to the English National Computing Curriculum and the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence. There will also be assessment materials that tie into the new English Computing Curriculum.
Our 2013/14 school year has been a very proud one for all of us involved at Apps for Good. We remain grateful to all our educators, Experts, sponsors, supporters and students who have made this year the best yet and joined us on our journey to create future digital makers and problem solvers.
There is still time for you to teach the Apps for Good course in your classroom! Our application process only takes 15 minutes and joining is free for all UK-based non-fee paying schools. Applications are open until the end of August.