#SiliconWick: Growing the next generation of Scottish Entrepreneurs with Digital Xtra

If you’ve known us for a while, you’ll definitely have heard of Wick, a town in the Scottish Highlands where Apps for Good-famous teacher Chris Aitken from Wick High School has had more teams win our UK national awards than any other school or learning centre (you can see some of the students’ apps here and here). We think the future of tech isn’t in London or San Francisco, but in Wick – and places like it all over Scotland.

That’s why we’re delighted to announce that we’ve received a grant from Digital Xtra, funded by the Scottish Government Digital Skills Business Excellence Partnership, to help us grow our after-school activities in Scotland.

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Lamlash primary pupils get to grips with app development

Lamlash Primary School serves the coastal village of Lamlash on the Isle of Arran, Scotland. Twenty-four pupils out of the sixty-five at the school have been taking part in the national Apps for Good programme during 2014-15. As the school year comes to a close teachers, students and parents reflect on their Apps for Good experience in this case study.

Apps for Good is an open-source technology education movement, building the next generation of problem solvers and digital makers: students who can create, launch and market products that change the world. Students work in teams to find real issues they care about and learn the technology skills to build a mobile, web or social app to solve them.

Teachers guide their pupils through comprehensive resources, connecting them to experts beyond school to get specialist insights. Each theme for apps entering this year’s national competition is sponsored by a major IT business:

Theme                                                                          Sponsor

  • Sustainable communities                         Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
  • Saving, spending and giving                    Barclaycard
  • Connected communities                          TalkTalk
  • Learning                                                  Samsung
  • Productivity                                              SAP
  • Information                                              Thomson Reuters

With help from the category sponsors, the winning team will be able to develop and launch their product on the market.

Thanks to a project managed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and funded by the Digital Scotland Business Excellence Partnership, the pupils in Lamlash Primary School use the most up-to-date mobile technology to design and make their apps. By encouraging young talent, HIE hopes young people will continue to study and work in the region and add to the skills pipeline needed to support the growing technology sector in the Highlands and Islands.

Lamlash Primary students work on their app ideas

Lamlash Primary students work on their app ideas

Apps for Good course

P6 and P7 pupils worked in teams of two or three, using interest areas and problems they have experienced to plan their apps. Through a programme of online resources, they learned about both the business and the technical aspects of app design, coding and development.

The pupils developed a number of apps:

Fit Kids will encourage children to exercise and keep fit, in a way that is enjoyable, and lose weight at the same time.

Sweet Master will have recipes, food content of sweets and a catalogue of sweets.

You Can Draw will help / show people how to draw mammals, fish, reptiles, birds, amphibians, insects, plants, famous sites, objects, people, symbolic events and cartoons.

Wonderful Wildlife will help people find out about any animal they have seen.

Flagtastic is about flags of the world – learn which flag is which and design your own flag.

Art Craft will teach children drawing skills, with lots of different options of what to draw.

Translator is a translating app in Polish and French for all ages including a quiz to translate actual phrases.

Fit Pros will help people get fitter.

Animal Mania, is about animals

Lamlash Primary School's Apps for Good projects

Involving IT experts

In November, the children practiced mini elevator pitches and enjoyed a great session presenting their app to an IT expert who questioned them about their products and processes. The pupils comments included:

“It was amazing meeting someone from the tech industry.”

“I think the session was really good and he had some good ideas that we will actually use.”

Whole school approach

A class assembly was held at the end of January where the children had ‘speed-dating’ stations, no these weren’t to flirt. Each group was given just five minutes to present mini elevator pitches to parents, other classes in school and an S2 computing class. They were able to show their computer work and take questions on their apps. The reporting group in the school did an article about the assembly for the local paper.

National competition

Teachers and pupils thought these pitches were an excellent way of planning their entries to the national competition and to HIE’s regional Dragon’s Den competition on June 19th, hosted by the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Several groups from Lamlash also entered the national Apps for Good competition.

Challenges

Lamlash had to overcome a number of technical challenges to ensure the pupils could use all the resources provided. Internet connectivity was sometimes patchy and the Appshed development environment proved tricky for these P6/7 pupils.

Supporting the curriculum

Lessons learned through planning, designing and developing apps are having an impact across the curriculum. Teachers feel the Apps for Good project is:

  • positively influencing pupil engagement and motivation in IT
  • providing cross-curricular opportunities and benefits

There have been benefits for teachers too:

  • Apps for Good has improved staff technical skills/knowledge and had a positive impact on staff CPD
  • Staff have benefited from the input of technical experts such as Apps developers

What the pupils say about Apps for Good: 

“It will help us in later life and is enjoyable.”

“Using Balsamiq has made us realise that designing an app is much more technical.”

“We are looking forward to coding and seeing what the app might be like in the end.”

According to Alison Henderson, teacher in charge of Apps for Good at Lamlash Primary: “The project has been brilliant and the children have gained a lot. The pupils are really motivated by the project and I have emphasised that what they are doing is following the design process. This can be applied to any sphere and isn’t just restricted to computer programming. The fact they are getting to speak to people from industry is fantastic. There is a lot they are gaining that can’t be fully defined but are transferable skills which will set them in good stead for high school.”

Interested in helping your students develop digital and soft skills? You already join Apps for Good to teach our free course in 2015/16, just visit our website for more info and to sign up.

A healthy start for app developers at Lochdonhead Primary

Nine pupils at Lochdonhead Primary School on the Isle of Mull have been taking part in the national Apps for Good programme during 2014/15. In this case study teachers, students and parents share their experiences of the course

Thanks to a project managed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and funded by the Digital Scotland Business Excellence Partnership, the pupils use the most up-to-date mobile technology to design and make their apps. By encouraging young talent, HIE hopes young people will continue to study and work in the region and add to the skills pipeline needed to support the growing technology sector in the Highlands and Islands.

Apps for Good course

Pupils aged 8 to 11 worked in two teams to plan their apps. They identified a real-world problem to explore and develop their ideas. Through the comprehensive programme of online resources provided by Apps for Good, they learned about both the business and the technical aspects of app design, coding and development.

Getting the ideas was the easy part according to Claire Bidwell, their class teacher: “They came up with some really good ideas for apps and had an interesting time deciding which ones to take forward but since focusing on one they are concentrating on its different features and the problems it solves. Overall the pupils have identified problems and created many ways to solve these within a real world content and they have built a belief in their problem solving skills and the validity of their ideas from all they have come into contact with. This is extremely useful for them to learn that although we live in a remote island community it does not prevent them from finding the solutions to being an important part of the wider world. Furthermore they have been communicating with our local community through our community cafes and getting advice and feedback on their apps. The community have been sending in recipes or ideas for them to use to further develop their apps, which is great.”

Fruity Flamingos

My team is developing a mobile app to help children who don’t get their five fruit a day by keeping records with rewards and games to help motivate them.

View mock-ups of the children’s ideas on Appshed:
http://apps.appshed.com/493795/ and http://apps.appshed.com/494200/

Calling on experts for advice

Nicky Barr – our first expert really helped motivate the pupils by telling them their ideas were some of the best she had seen and gave the pupils some suggestions of who they could approach to support their ideas. One of her suggestions for the ‘teach me to cook app’ was Jamie Oliver but they went Scottish and I wrote to Nick Nairn and his Scottish food family website on their behalf. They invited the children to submit a blog about their learning and would be willing to share the app on their website should it ever become a reality. This has really motivated the children. The children have been researching fresh local produce on Mull and suppliers and are also growing their own.

The other group (who are developing a ‘five a day’ app to motivate children to eat their fruit) approached the NHS, choices for life website. They responded with information for the children about links and what was currently available and suggested that they thought it was a good idea.

Team Wi-hi-abc with their app idea 'Teach me how to Cook'

Team Wi-hi-abc with their app idea ‘Teach me how to Cook’

Learning new technical skills

Claire Bidwell: “We are having a very challenging yet enjoyable and rewarding experience with and for the pupils. They are developing so many useful skills.

Our local community trust have been able to help us with a Skype link and two computer education workers from Argyll and Bute have also been able to offer some advice on Balsamic and Appshed, which the pupils use to develop mock-ups of their ideas so a wide use of new technology was embraced. The experience of communicating through this medium has been very beneficial for our pupils and helped reduce the challenge of living rurally.

Our age group is from 8-11 so it has been very challenging for them to negotiate Balsamic and Appshed but I am really pleased with how they have managed and their technological skills are quite impressive for children of their age. They have also made excellent use of the resources on the Apps for Good programme.”

Building confidence in IT

“Apps for Good has helped me become more confident.” (P4 team leader)

“I have developed my confidence in IT and in team skills.” (P5 pupil)

“I think Apps for Good has helped develop my skills in technology, communication, teamwork, creativity, presenting and typing. I have enjoyed playing the computer programming game Blockly Maze.” (P7 team leader)

The parent voice

“Computers are everywhere in life, home, school, home. So the better you understand Computing the better prepared you are.” (P7 parent)

“It is very important for children to be kept up with the latest technology otherwise they will be left behind.” (P7 parent)

My daughter put a lot of thought into what might be a useful app today.” (P4 parent)

According to Joyce MacLennan from HIE,

“Apps for Good is part of our strategy to nurture and attract technology companies to this region, through ensuring that school leavers have the skills the industry needs and that we build a pipeline of talent.”

Supporting the curriculum

Lessons learned through planning, designing and developing apps are having an impact across the curriculum.

Claire reports: “The children have particularly enjoyed the videos of other students discussing their learning so far and have been discussing the examples in groups quite avidly. We have coincided the learning with a reciprocal reading approach for the children to enhance and deepen their comprehension and understanding of the course. The only problem has been finding the time amongst our active primary curriculum whilst ensuring that younger pupils grasp the concepts.”

Apps for Good:

  • Is positively influencing pupil engagement and motivation in IT
  • Is providing cross-curricular opportunities and benefits

For the staff:

  • Apps for Good has improved staff technical skills/knowledge and had a positive impact on staff CPD
  • We have benefited from the input of technical experts such as Apps developers
The solo learning wall at Lochdonhead

The solo learning wall at Lochdonhead

About Apps for Good

Apps for Good is an open-source technology education movement, building the next generation of problem solvers and digital makers: students who can create, launch and market products that change the world. Students work in teams to find real issues they care about and learn the technology skills to build a mobile, web or social app to solve them. Teachers guide their pupils through comprehensive resources, connecting them to experts beyond school to get specialist insights.

National competition

Lochdonhead pupils have been logging their work as they go from their launch pad and have now transferred this over to an entry form. They have filmed their presentations of their app for their entry for the national and regional Apps for Good awards.

Each theme for apps entering this year’s national competition is sponsored by a major IT business:

Theme Sponsor

  • Sustainable communities             Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
  • Saving, spending and giving        Barclaycard
  • Connected communities              TalkTalk
  • Learning                                       Samsung
  • Productivity                                  SAP
  • Information                                   Thomson Reuters

With help from the category sponsors, the winning team will be able to develop and launch their product on the market.

And the last word to one of team Wi-Hi-abc:

“Apps for Good is a fun way to learn.” (P6 pupil)

Interested in teaching Apps for Good in your school? You can already sign up to teach our free course for 2015/16. Visit our website to join in less than 10 minutes!