February 2014 Archives

How impressive are the Apps for Good awards winners this year?

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A few weeks ago Apps for Good announced the launch of the apps that won its 2013 awards and having gone through the winners I wanted to highlight just how brilliant these ideas are.


Appa for good awards 2013.jpgEach year the Apps for Good Awards are given to top apps created by student teams.


A panel of industry leaders select the winning apps that aim to solve a real-world problem in a new way.


The judges pick their winners based on apps that have a good user experience, are technically feasible and have a clearly defined market.


The winning apps are then built professionally by Apps for Good's developer partners and launched to the public for download.


You can now download all of the winning apps here and watch short clips of each app here.


Here are the winning apps fully developed and ready for download:

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for App 1 cattle manager app.jpg


Winning app: 'Cattle Management'


Category: Power to do More - Getting the most from your time

Description: This app helps farmers to track and manage information about their cattle.

School: Wick High School, Caithness

Winning team: John (15), Keiran (15), Ryan (14)




Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for App 3 pitch pals app.jpgWinning app: 'Pitch Pals'


Category: Keep Moving - Doing things on the go

Description: Uses playful animal characters to make instrument tuning fun for children.

School: Stratford Girls' Grammar School, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

Winning team: Jamie (14), Emma (14), Kate (14), Annie (14)





App 4 pocupation app.jpgWinning app: 'Pockupation'


Category: Saving, Spending and Giving - Making the most from your money

Description: Helps teens find odd jobs in their local communities to earn pocket money.

School: The Abbey School, Reading, Berkshire

Winning team: Chand (14), Enya (14), Erin (13), Abigail (14)






App 2 doglog app.jpgWinning app: 'Dog Log'


Category: Learning and Information - Helping others learn and using information for good

Description: Makes looking after your pet fun with points for good care.


Wick High School, Caithness

Winning team: Caitlin (14), Beth (15), Rebekah (14), Jeri (14)




App 6 supportive schdule app.jpgWinning app: 'Supportive Schedule'


Category: Our World - Encouraging sustainable and healthy lifestyles

Description: Helps people with learning difficulties and Alzheimer's Disease plan their daily routines.

School: Nelson Thomlinson School, Wigton, Cumbria

Winning team: Lauren (15), Bryony (15), Natasha (15), Eilidh (15), Joshua (15), Tara (15)




App 7 the story wall app.jpgWinning app: 'Story Wall'


Category: Connected Communities - Using technology to unite interests, ideas and good causes

Description: Collaborative story-telling app.

School: Cockburn School, Leeds

Winning team: Joe (13), Emma (13), Teigan (13), Holly (13)






App 5 social bank app.jpgWinning app: 'SociaBank'


Category: People's Choice Award

Description: Makes saving fun for young people.

School: Mount Grace School, Potters Bar, Hertfordshire

Winning team: Jack (14), Arlo (14), Andrew (14), Adam (13)



Congratulations to all of the winners on the launch of your apps!

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Drupal Camp 2014 takes place at City Uni London this weekend

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DrupalCamp 2014 is taking place 28 February - 2 March at the City University London, where computer science students will gather to learn about Drupal open software.

Drupal is an open-source content management system (CMS) used by user communities and for online content. Over a million websites are run by Drupal including the Cabinet Office, the World Economic Forum, the Grammy Awards, Oxford University and The Economist.

Over 600 students, Drupal open source software enthusiasts, established businesses and start-ups will attend from all over Europe.

The open source event aims to create a wider awareness of the Drupal community.

Leon Tong, Director of BrightLemon and one of the organisers of DrupalCamp London 2014 said: "DrupalCamp London 2014 is partnering with the Drupal Association on Drupal Global Training Days.

"City students have been invited to attend sessions and the training they receive will bolster central and local government initiatives around getting young people into the technology sector."

Alex Elkins, manager of City's Professional Liaison Unit (PLU), said: "City is very excited to be hosting DrupalCamp London 2014. This is a fantastic event drawing people from across the globe to our campus. The Drupal community has invested tremendous confidence in our facilities, students, academics and our proximity to Tech City and the digital industries.

"This is a valuable opportunity for our students to network with industry professionals for future employment and to gain exposure to leading edge technology and its applications."
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Training future generations - do we need IT skills or attitudes?

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gareth cartman image.jpgThis is a guest blog from Gareth Cartman, director of digital marketing at Clever Little Design.

I find all this talk about making kids code a little strange. I'm no coder, but as a teenager, I remember taking coding books out of the library and transcribing them onto a BBC Micro in BBC Basic. And then I'd break them, because as an inquisitive teenager, that's what you do. You code, you break it, you modify and you end up with something new.


It's this inquisitive nature that drives many coders. I'm sat in a room with three of them, right now as I write. Not one of them learnt coding from anyone older than themselves. They read books, they experiment, they learn from each other and from their peers...


So why, all of a sudden, do we need ALL of our kids to become coders?


It looks to me as if the government is staring like rabbits in the headlights at what it thinks is a forthcoming digital revolution. But the digital revolution has already happened, and it's been driven by coders who taught themselves how to code.


So rather than teaching kids how to code, shouldn't we be encouraging them to acquire more abstract traits? Such as...


Being more inquisitive


Kids are naturally inquisitive. I have two at home, the youngest of which is just 6 months. Put anything in front of him, and he'll be trying to eat it, smash it, break it. As a parent, I've learned that it's my job to encourage his inquisitive nature, at least within certain limits. I don't want him to fear my reaction every time he reaches out for something.


As kids grow, we should be looking to nurture that inquisitiveness - the idea that you can experiment, iterate, break things (again, within limits), and try to push the limits of your abilities.


Learning to code would simply establish a framework that says "this is how to code", but it doesn't teach you how to push the boundaries.


Being more rigorous


Coding is hard work. It's detailed - and a lot of people learning coding get frustrated at the level of detail required. You've missed a </div> tag? Go find it yourself.


The level of rigour is overwhelming. For those who are not coders.


Perhaps coding is a good way of instilling that rigour in children, and its application in a wider sense (learning languages, mathematics, history) would be welcomed. However, the idea that we're going to bring up a coding generation is way off the mark unless we instil these traits elsewhere.


Being adaptable


A further problem with teaching children how to code is that the code they learn will be outdated in a few years' time. You cannot anticipate advances in technology.


I remember learning French at school in the 1980s and early 90s - we were taught that the French always say "comme ci, comme ca". Try saying that to a French person today, they'll look at you as if you're trying to murder the French language. Even languages move on and evolve, and you have to keep up. Code doesn't just evolve, it metamorphoses.


The key is to be adaptable - the best coders are ahead of the game, reading up on new technologies and looking to learn new languages. We will never build a "nation of coders" if we're not instilling adaptability into our children in everything they do.


Coders will be coders


Coders are a breed apart. They have a unique combination of many skills and attributes, which is why so many of them are so well paid.


They have skills and attributes that many of us don't have - or can't combine to the level they do. And that's why most of us will never code.


However, if we want more coders, it would pay to instil the three attributes I've outlined above into our children across the board. Don't limit their inquisitive nature, help them build a level of rigour and detail, and make them adaptable. These are skills that will stand them in good stead whatever they do - and it might just make them want to code.


The ultimate aim is to ensure that school-leavers enter the workforce with the right skills, but I don't believe schools are there to teach skills. That's what we as employers are meant to do. Schools are meant to teach the right attitudes. You never remember your quadratic equations, but you always (should) remember the thinking behind it.


Coders will be coders, designers will be designers, marketers will be marketers - instil the right attitudes first, and let employers teach the skills.


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Myth busting can keep students open minded about a career in IT

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This is a guest blog from Adelle Desouza, partner marketing manager at Enlogic

As readers of my previous blogs will know, I am passionate about encouraging young people to consider a career in the IT industry. So naturally, I jumped at the invitation to speak with a group of secondary school students from Greenwood Academy as part of a recent Business in the Community (BITC) event in Birmingham. This was a great opportunity to dispel some of the myths that surround the industry I work in and stress the importance of staying open minded about career options, especially as my audience would be year 9s - 13 to 14 year olds - who had just chosen their GCSE subjects.

Adelle blog 2.jpegWith five companies attending and 60 students to speak to, I didn't have long. However, I wanted to understand their thinking process when it comes to choosing a career and to gauge their thoughts about the tech industry as a whole. To achieve this I asked two questions: "what are you looking for most in a future career?" and "would you consider a career in IT?"

The results were conclusive if unsurprising. The majority - 45 of the 60 students - said that money is the most important thing to them when deciding on a career. A similar imbalance was true for the second question, although this time 49 out of the 60 students said they wouldn't consider IT as a career choice.

As I said, I didn't find the results surprising but I wanted to find out why the figures were so biased and address any issues behind them. From my discussions with the group I was able to understand what the students' perceived a 'good job' to be. Their definition was any job that 'pays well' - a term which by its nature is relative and so I wasn't surprised when the students couldn't give me an exact amount that would constitute well paid. This was worrying in itself, although not as worrying as the students' perception of what IT jobs are like - a worker stuck behind a desk in an artificially lit office, forgotten about until something technical goes wrong. This description also matched perfectly with the attributes that would put them off of a job. To try and bust these myths I discussed my role with them and the opportunities it has afforded me to travel. This helped to dispel the misconception many of them had of IT and some even told me how surprised they were that jobs in the IT industry can be so diverse.

Adelle blog 1.jpegMany of the students also questioned the background requirements they felt were needed for an IT career. One person believed that you have to be "really clever, pretty geeky, good at Maths and Physics as well as being pretty confident". I explained that all industries need to be made up of a broad spectrum of people with different skills and attributes and once again, I was able to draw on my own experiences. I told the students about the variety of subjects I studied at school and how important it is to keep your options open at their age.

By the end of the day, I was glad to hear that some students had changed their view on the industry and taken on board my message about keeping their options open. However, it did make me consider whether the industry puts itself on an elitist pedestal and whether the younger generations believe that it's an accessible enough career path to give it proper consideration. As an industry we must continue to keep a steady line of communication between us and the younger generations. This will ensure the IT industry as a whole is fed from the bottom up with a range of people that offer different characteristics.

Altogether, it was a successful day that was made all the better when I was invited back to meet with the rest of the year. This was truly humbling and I look forward to returning in the future.

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Businesses, education and training providers need to work together

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Thumbnail image for Chant_Lee_4805_72dpi_rgb.jpgThis is a guest blog from Lee Chant, UK and Ireland IT and telecoms managing director at Hays IT who shares his views on the Year of Code and the best way to teach coding to young people.

Any initiative to encourage young people to embrace technology is a good thing, and the fact that coding will become part of the national curriculum in September is a welcome move, but we simply can't afford to wait a decade for these young people to leave school with the skills that employers need immediately. The employers we work with are struggling to find sufficient numbers of skilled coders to keep up with demand, and this will have a real impact on economic growth if not resolved quickly.  

The education system has a vital role to play in teaching young people the core attributes and skills that make good coders, many of which will also be essential to provide the digital skills that increasingly required in many industries, from marketing to finance, in the future. However, employers also have an important role to play in upskilling their existing workforces, and in being flexible in their recruitment to find employees with the transferable skills and ability to learn new technologies.

Businesses need to work closely with education and training providers to invest in targeted training to provide the skills they need, and ensure this training is up-to-date with new technologies. The input from employers is crucial to ensure that these new initiatives do not rapidly become out of date, educators can not predict changing technology alone.

For this reason at Hays we are working with not-for-profit group Coder Dojo to give primary school children a chance to try out coding. The foundation of its success is a joined up approach between schools, parents, employers and industry experts. It relies on a contribution of time and enthusiasm for coding from all these groups to help encourage young people to consider careers in coding.

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The Year of Code: Steps to teaching children

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Sue Milton.jpgThis is guest blog from Sue Milton, a member of the ISACA UK Security Advisory Group who shares her views about the government's Year of Code campaign which aims to encourage young people to become excited about technology, coding and the new computing curriculum.

Getting excited about IT is not an option for children as it is part and parcel of their life.  Getting excited about understanding how to contribute to it wisely and use it well is what needs to be encouraged. 

It is clear that the default, ever since the internet began, of people knowing what they were doing and would use it ethically, has meant an open and free environmental by default.  Unfortunately, human beings, being who we are, will interpret the use of these freedoms differently, form outright financial abuse through to social abuse, with a mix of good along the way.

First step is to teach children the difference between end user computing and coding.

·         Using an app is end user

·         Making the app is coding

·         Sometimes the division is blurred, e.g. Excel and the macro functionality within that.

So, in the coding space, we should be teaching them:

·         The science behind computing

·         How to code and the fun of getting the right result and the perils of 'garbage in garbage out' when we get the code wrong

·         The principles of sound data management and data security

·         Good housekeeping in terms of change management

·         An understanding of how others perceive and use what we code.

In the science space:

·      The basics of how maths and physics come together with the art and innovation of code to make computers fun (as in games), business partners (as in how they help companies be more efficient) and a family friend (social media, online shopping).

But within the above, we must teach them the ethical aspects:

·         Rights and responsibilities of an open society in the world of computing, especially the internet

·         Good and bad behaviour and the positive and negative consequences

·         Introduce them to standards, quality, security and keeping safe.

Like all teaching and learning, I believe we need a mixture of both formal and informal.  Formal teaching will cover the building blocks in logical way and also link them to other formal building blocks, e.g. maths and physics.

The informal approach can come from how computers are used within the home environment, and also from other formal subjects taught in school, where the computer is an aid to teaching.  

Sue Milton has been in the governance and IT industry for 30 years.  She has two main objectives when working with organisations.  The first is to improve and embed sound governance and resilience within organisations both at the board level and in operational areas.  The second is to incorporate strong IT policies and processes to reduce the potential for negative outcomes.  

Sue lectures and advises on governance-related subjects to promote corporate understanding of how good governance and sound risk management enhance organisations' reputation and bottom line.Sue is currently the president of the ISACA London Chapter.

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Are you making these 3 mistakes with your technical recruitment?

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This is a guest blog by Katrina Collier, a leading authority on the use of Social Media for Recruitment & Job Search.

In December Dice.com published a special edition of their Hiring Survey that outlined the employment picture according to nearly 900 technical hiring managers and recruiters. The results it reveals are similar to what I am hearing from UK based tech companies.

·         73% of companies plan to hire more tech pros in the first half of 2014 with 24% saying that it would be a substantial increase.

·         75% of techies cited pay as the reason they left their job.

·         34% say they've had an increase in rejected offers.

Could your company be making one of these hiring mistakes?

1.       Unrealistic expectations of availability

In my last post, I mentioned Stackoverflow's findings, that there are 4 job vacancies per developer in the UK. A quick look at ITJobswatch also reflects this increase in demand.

If you want to recruit successfully then you need to have a look at your expectations. Are you being realistic? Can you look further afield? Could they work remotely? Do they need a degree from only that specific university? What criteria can you change?

2.       Spray and pray.

It's a misconception that giving your requirement to lots of agencies will increase your likelihood of filling the role. It will do the reverse; it will reduce your success.

For two reasons, people with in demand skills don't like being on the receiving end of countless calls about the same role and this harms your employer brand, and agents like exclusivity and they will work much harder for you if you give it to them.

Find the specialists. Find the agents who are masters in the skillset who will know all of those people who are eluding the spray & pray job board posting agents.

And learn how you could use social media to attract talented techies to your company and opportunity. It's the age of influence; become an influential voice on social channels so you can be heard over the big boys with big budgets. Make the most of all the ways you can cost-effectively attract the right people by showing off who you are and what you're doing.

3.       Focusing on the outcome not the thinking

It's interesting hearing the differing ways companies choose their talent. Like yesterday in training, when one company confessed to dismissing applicants who delivers the wrong technical test results whilst the other was sharing their reasons for being more forgiving, preferring to look at the thinking behind the result.

The latter asks their applicants in to explain their thinking, either on whiteboard or in a presentation, because they have found that they can improve the skills more easily than trying to change the way they think. 

The shortage of technical talent is very real. What change could you make to improve your technical recruitment?

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Katrina.Collier.Social.Recruitment.Trainng.jpgKatrina Collier is a Speaker, Trainer & Writer on the use of Social Media for Recruitment; showing companies how to recruit directly on many social sites, including LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and a range of niche sites. She has over a decade's experience recruiting IT Professionals both agent side and in-house. She regularly speaks at industry events and she writes for Jobsite, Work4 and Firefish Software.

Tech savvy senior citizens seek out digital options for managing health

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Over half (55%) of tech-savvy senior citizens want new digital options for managing their health services remotely, according to research from Accenture.


Of those surveyed 69% said they would welcome electronic reminders and 77% said they would like online appointment scheduling, yet research has found only a third of healthcare providers currently offer such services.


Accenture's survey found 27% of tech-savvy seniors in England are electronically self-tracking some aspect of their health such as health indicators (18%), weight and blood pressure, or information on their health history (11%).  


According to data from the UK Parliament one-in-six of the UK population is currently aged 65 and over. This figure is projected to rise to one-in-four by 2050.


Figures from the Office of National Statistics showed that between 2006 and 2013 internet use more than tripled for those aged 65+ and nearly doubled amongst 55-64 year olds.


Aimie Chapple, managing director for Accenture's health business in the UK, said: "Just as the older generation is turning to the Internet for banking, shopping, entertainment and communications, they also expect to virtually manage certain aspects of their healthcare services."


"To meet the needs of an ageing population, health systems need to expand their digital options if they want to attract older patients and help them track and manage their care outside their doctor's office."

Of those surveyed 60% said access to their health information is important, but only 8% are able to do so. 64% believe it is important to be able to request prescription refills automatically, but only half of respondents have access to this capability. Almost half (46%) said they want to be able to email healthcare providers, however only 10% are currently able to.


"As a growing number of older people are digitally-engaged, healthcare systems need to consider the role the internet can play in making healthcare more convenient for patients of all ages at every touch point," added Chapple.


tech savvy oldies image.jpg

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