This is a guest blog by Claire Higgins, a student from Notre Dame High School in Scotland, who recently visited Silicon Valley after winning the Founders4Schools Appathon competition. Claire and her team mates thought of the winning app idea Smart Wardrobe.
Monday morning rolled around after much anticipation and excitement about the trip. The 4:30 morning wake up was a tiring but welcome experience as we were buzzing about going to California. We were all incredibly excited for the trip despite the fact that some of us had already been to the States- the west coast was unfamiliar ground to all of us. The fifteen hours’ worth of traveling felt longer than we had expected, probably because we just wanted to get to San Francisco as soon as possible. When we eventually arrived and collected what luggage we had, we went to meet Iria from founders4school and the Cambridge University team; Ben, Joseph and Patrick. The Cambridge teams 4th member was still finishing is first set of exams and so was meeting us on the Wednesday night. We got to see different parts of San Francisco which was amazing as none of us had ever visited the city. We went shopping and walked down to Fisherman’s Warf where we could see Alcatraz across the water. We were all exhausted and extremely jetlagged by the end of the day, and so we were relieved when we got back to our hotel rooms.
On Tuesday we attempted to wake up at 7:45. When we were ready, our driver Jason drove us to our first company, Square. We were very excited despite our tiredness. In Square, we had an amazing breakfast- which was also free! Our tour guide, Megan, was an employee who has been working at Square for just over a year. She and a current intern showed us around the amazing offices before taking us to a conference room to talk to another two square employees. They told us the story of how square started and how much more advanced the UK are in payment methods as in the US you still have to swipe your credit/debit card and sign the receipt. They spoke to us about their goals, which is to have everyone paying bills on their smartphones with their product.
Then, we went to the wonderful world of Facebook. First, we were taken onto campus by two engineers who showed us all the options we had for lunch, which (like Square) was unbelievably free! We sat down and spoke to them about what they do at Facebook and what it’s like to work at such a big, well known company. We also went to the Facebook shop to buy some souvenirs. Then, we were shown around the campus by another Facebook employee who also told us what the main offices and teams were and what they do. We were particularly surprised about how the Employees didn’t have any set working hours, as long as they were working on something and were making an impact, which we soon found out was the way most companies worked.
Our final tour of the day was tesla where we were told the history of the company, how the tesla car is made and even got a picture inside one! We were given a tour of the factory and were told what each machines job was. None of us had ever been to a car manufacturer’s factory before and so found it incredibly interesting to see how the cars were built.
By the end of the day, we were all very tired, so after a quick mean at a close by pizzeria, were glad to go to bed.
On Wednesday, we had to wake up at 5:30 to go on the Stanford Dish trail. From 06:30 to 07:50 we walked the 4.6 mile trail before heading to LinkedIn.
Our tour guide, Aaron, who works in the marketing side of the company, took us to breakfast, where the food choices were endless. After breakfast, he gave us a tour of the offices and games room before taking us into a conference room to talk to current employees and interns. They spoke to us about what they like about the company, what their job is at the company and how their job makes an impact. We found this extremely helpful as it gave us a better idea of what careers we may or may not want to pursue when we’re older.
After LinkedIn, we walked down the street to Google. At Google, we had lunch with 2 employees who told us all about their job and department at Google. We were also told about how voice recognition works and how they feel it’s becoming a bigger part of today’s society. We were shown around the visitors centre and told a bit more about Google (its history etc.) before going back to the hotel for a few hours free time.
On Wednesday night we all went bowling before meeting Evgeny, which was fun. Once he arrived we went to a BBQ type restaurant, before heading back to the hotel.
On Thursday, we went to Paypal and Edmodo. We were all tired and dreading the long flight home later that day.
At Paypal, we were shown around the campus by two employees. We also spoke to them in a large conference room about the advantages of working at Paypal, what each group of people do and their own personal life’s history. It was interesting to learn how each team work differently from each other.
After Paypal we went to Edmodo where we had lunch. We were then brought into a conference room where we spoke about our idea before learning about Edmodo and what each person’s role is in the company. The university team had to leave early as they were going on a road trip to LA to visit other places such as SpaceX, which they had organised themselves. When they left, we got a tour of the offices.
After Edmodo, we had to say goodbye to Iria as she was going back to San Francisco for a few days. We were driven back to the airport where we began to make our way back home.
We all arrived back home on the Friday afternoon at around 2:30 UK time and we were extremely excited to tell our friends and family all about the incredible experience.
Going to California really gave me an idea about what I want to do when I’m older. I’ve always thought about doing engineering, and this has helped me narrow down what types I may want to do as a job when I leave school. I really loved going to all the companies as it’s a once in a lifetime experience, and I know that I was really lucky to get the opportunity to go. It’s also shown me how different businesses are in the UK, as in Silicon Valley it’s all very casual and chill. When I was there I never felt unwelcome and everyone who we met made it easy to feel comfortable in such a big place. I really did love the trip and want to thank Appathon for giving us the opportunity to go.
This is a guest blog by Chris Hale, software product marketing manager, working for Sharp in the UK.
Today, education and teaching methods are on a transformative path. Schools, colleges, universities and other educational institutions are endeavouring to keep up with digital and technological advances and what their learners – largely digital natives – demand. A lot has changed since chalk and blackboard were the only means of communication. Today learners expect to work from PCs, laptops and tablets daily for their lessons and research as well as for homework. The challenge of creating and sustaining engaging learning material is faced by teachers every day; a task that is being made easier by using Interactive White Boards, up-to-date printing facilities and collaborative file sharing. Meanwhile in the background Managed Services can streamline administrative processes and reduce costs.
Interactive whiteboards combine advanced high definition displays with multi-touch screen technology and wireless connectivity to other devices. They help to create highly stimulating lessons and present engaging visual information that brings learning to life. The immersive learning experience is more collaborative and enables teachers to create and deliver compelling interactive material to enhance understanding of the topic, optimising engagement and stimulating their students. Making the whiteboards as intuitive to use as the blackboard allows teachers to focus on their teaching, not the technology.
With increased access to digital technologies, schools are also implementing Managed Print solutions for quicker, more convenient printing from PCs, interactive whiteboards, and mobile devices. Print demand in education remains strong – with classroom handouts, test papers, homework, essays, research… a Managed Print Service (MPS) can help both save paper for the school and offer secure and convenient Printing for students. The new digital age of education means that documents can be printed when and where they are needed but still give administrative staff clear visibility into printing usage and costs. Features such as scanning and storing can also reduce unnecessary printing.
Leeds West Academy (LWA), part of the White Rose Academy Trust, specialises in English and Performing Arts, and several LWA students have gone on to establish themselves as chart musicians or stars of the screen and stage. While preparing for its move to a new building, the Academy planned IT services requirements for its 1250 students, teachers and administrative staff, to enable them to connect instantly to the network and wirelessly access support services. LWA implemented Sharp multi-function printers, which provide a simple and secure way to print, copy, scan and share documents in colour and black and white. They are also equipped with a biometric fingerprint authentication system which quickly identifies and authenticates individual users and gives them access to their own secure print queue. IT Service Manager, Richard Shaw, said: “With students and staff able to log-on at any device within seconds to release print and scan documents, there are no delays.”
Having logged on, students and staff can use the MFPs to scan learning materials and documents to email or save them to a USB drive, saving print costs and paper. The implementation of the MFPs has also reduced the administrative burden, for example, a simple one-touch interface supports scanning to SIMS (Schools Information Management System), enabling paper-based records to be captured and recorded digitally.
Schools like Leeds West Academy, investing in technologies to modernise processes and future-proof learning environments, are benefitting from reduced costs and administrative loads as well as more effective management of student records and governance. More importantly, students are enjoying a more engaging, interactive and collaborative learning environment where their familiar digital technologies are now at the heart of their educational experiences.
This is a guest blog by Mark Chambers, chief executive of Naace who warns that coding has been given too much emphasis in the new curriculum.
There are currently many exciting projects around coding in schools, and it’s been great watching children getting involved with computing both within the classroom and in extra-curricular groups. It’s quite evident that a number of teachers and students in the classroom are motivated and enthused by the creation of gaming projects, application development and even the solving of coding conundrums for their own sake – just because we can.
However, the number of teachers and students engaged with computing is still small and significantly smaller than those who used to engage with digitally creative projects involving the broader ideas of ‘Information Technology’. It is my argument that we have “thrown the baby out with the bath water”.
The direction of thought that branded ICT as “bad” is well documented with anecdotal evidence such as, “my child was subject to endlessly tiresome Microsoft Office activities”, dominating any discussion that politicians and industrialists had with the education community. The subsequent development of the Computing Curriculum was intended to specifically redress this situation with the strong feeling that by introducing more explicit Computer Science all would be well. This decision and political endorsement was followed by an injection of millions of pounds of public money to upskill our teachers in Computer Science.
Yet the reality is that there are huge gaps in the provision of sufficient high quality professional development that would improve the experience of young students. Indeed, if Information Technology was taught badly (the original argument for changing the curriculum), then nothing has been done to alter this fact apart from “moving the goal posts”. There is no national commitment to improving the teaching of Information Technology or Digital Literacy and the private sector provision which used to exist is being destroyed in the face of publicly subsidised but narrowly focused Computer Science training.
Unsurprisingly, schools have picked up on the importance of Computer Science and are understandably leaping at the opportunity of having volunteers from the parental community or from industry delivering the subject. However, many are also demonstrating an attitude that suggests they feel this provision is enough and that consequently the timetabled Computing Curriculum can be made a lower priority. Two thirds of the Computing Curriculum is in danger of both poor teaching and perhaps even disappearing from our schools. This abdication from developing digital creativity is shocking and will significantly impact our competitiveness as a global economy, with UK plc rapidly falling behind in the creative industries.
My argument is not that Computer Science and specifically the glamorous “coding” is unimportant; but actually that there is far more that must be considered. There are a number of skills and competencies enshrined within the Computing Curriculum that are capable of providing young people with a varied, imaginative and creative learning experience, equipping them for higher education and employment in a much more balanced way than simply being able to repeat code.
What unites all three strands of the Computing Curriculum is a focus on “Making”; solving problems to a purpose and for an audience. For a couple of years, Naace has been developing the Third Millennium Learning Award and some associated tools to support schools in developing their pedagogical approaches when making effective use of technology. This project has shown us that when students are offered the opportunity to experience problem-solving using digital tools in an increasing complexity of circumstances, they can achieve amazing progress and outcomes.
There is a significant danger that too much of the touted practice in Computer Science is artificial, abstract and removed from the involvement of real problems and real people. Indeed, I recall with distinct clarity one strategic meeting on the development of the Computing Curriculum where the participants remembered with great fondness their days of copying code from books and magazines. For me this recollection was a personal nightmare; what I recalled was the opportunity to use building blocks, short cuts and libraries to design and make the solutions I was looking for. Why reinvent the wheel when what I need to know is how to select the right one and fit it correctly to the other components of the car to get it moving safely and effectively from A to B?
The problem with the previous approach to the Computing subject was as much the way it was taught as the skills pupils learned, which are now being neglected. These skills, such as e-safety, using search engines effectively and online communication, may lack coding’s glamour but are an essential part of learning to use technology. Coding is important, but not everything under the sun is coding. It takes the development of a variety of digital skills and knowledge if we want students to use technology, understand how it works, solve problems effectively and communicate those solutions to clients. Students who can do this will be in high demand in employment and will drive the future success of our economy.
This is a guest post by John Yurkschatt, director of the IT Services Practice Area for Direct Consulting Associates (DCA), an IT consulting and staffing firm.
It is often in conversations with leaders in the IT industry that I hear references to past mentors and how someone else played a significant role in their success. The more successful people I meet, the more I hear individuals speaking of their mentors or those they are mentoring.
I am a huge believer in a strong mentorship program. To this day, I make sure that I am continuously mentoring as well as being mentored. Although I have experienced success in my career, I am humble enough to realize that luck and good circumstances can often play a bit of a role. Now, if I can identify where I need to get better, improve, and develop additional tools, I can benefit from being on both sides of a mentoring program.
The opportunity to share success stories, horror stories, and times where we’ve hit the proverbial brick wall can benefit everyone, especially the mentee. Mentorship programs require humility, an eagerness to learn, and an eagerness to grow. A successful mentorship program requires both parties to share openly, freely, and put knowledge/insight into practice.
There are four types of IT mentorship programs:
• Career Mentoring: Assists mentee’s with the opportunity to work towards a predetermined career path. This type of mentoring is designed to allow individuals to work from point A to point B with the help of the mentor assisting with that development.
• Networking Mentoring: Enables individuals to meet others in the market place to allow for idea and name sharing. Often times this type of informal mentoring leaders to insight and knowledge transfer.
• Orientating Mentorships: This type of mentoring usually begins within the first few weeks that a new employee is at an organization. Orientating mentoring allows for newer employees to become acclimated into a new climate/culture/work environment much quicker.
• Untapped Potential Mentorship: My favorite type and often the most challenging.
Untapped potential mentoring takes place when an average or underperforming employee has a fantastic skill set or potential but has other components of their being preventing them from reaching their potential.
Without question, there are numerous types of mentorship programs, but nearly all try to accomplish the following:
-Foster personal & professional growth
-Create and/or develop a sense of career awareness
-Generate a thirst for knowledge
-Instill a desire to be great
In today’s IT marketplace, mentoring programs are often put on the backburner due to a shortage of time and availability. However, mentorship programs should not be taken lightly. In fact, a study done by Sun Microsystems University Mentoring Program followed the career progress of mentees over a five year period and it showed that mentees were 20% more likely to get a raise sooner than other employees and were promoted five times more often than those who did not have a mentor.
Here are 4 ways mentors help mentees get ahead faster:
1. Talent Development: Everyone wants top talent. A mentoring program can allow an organization to use its top performers to help others grow into top performers.
2. Knowledge and Contacts: Mentoring programs often lead to introductions, networking events, and knowledge transfer. As top performers progress in their careers, it is often more about who you know than what you know, to help get to the top.
3. Wisdom/Insight: One of the most important aspects of a mentoring programming is preventing the mentee from making the same mistakes the mentor has made. If it took the mentor 10 mistakes before they earned their promotion, sharing that insight could lead the mentee down a much quicker path to reaching new heights.
4. Improved Performance: A good mentor will provide you with valuable feedback or make suggestions that will enable you to improve your skills or to experience personal growth, ultimately leading to your improved performance.
As an organization, if a mentoring programming can help our new hires, average, struggling, or even most successful employees continue to grow, it will in-turn, allow our business to grow and will continue to push that ceiling even higher. About 70% of Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs because the results give them a competitive advantage. If an organization not only values the success of their business, but also the relationships and long term growth of their employees, the organisation will likely better retain top employees.
To conclude, mentorships can be invaluable. The wisdom, insight, or development that employees gain today, may lead to a career track that may have never been possible.
This is a guest from David Wright, director UK Safer Internet Centre at SWGfL, who explores the dangers to children’s wellbeing posed by political extremists on social media and outlines the steps schools can take to protect students from indoctrination online.
According to estimates, approximately 700 UK citizens, including many teenagers, have travelled overseas to join conflicts. They include three teenage girls from Bethnal Green in East London who were thought to have travelled to Syria.
The BBC reported that the families of the three 15 year-olds have appealed for them to return and said that there were no signs they were planning to go to Syria.
Prevent, the government’s counter-terrorism strategy, was written in 2003 with prevention as a key priority. It focuses effort and resources on ‘priority areas’. In these areas, those working with children typically have a general understanding of the threats posed by radicalisation.
However, the increasing use of online tactics and social media by extremists has changed how these ideas spread. These technologies don’t recognise ‘priority areas’; they extend across the entire country.
The threats we are seeing take many forms. There are the high-profile incidents of young people travelling to countries such as Syria and Iraq to fight, but there are less obvious and wide-ranging risks. The Internet, and in particular social media, is being used as a channel, to not only promote and engage, but also, as suggested by Robert Hannigan (Director of GCHQ), as a command structure.
In response, towards the end of 2014, the UK Safer Internet Centre issued a briefing to all local safeguarding children boards to highlight this issue.
Clearly, everyone has a responsibility to report a concern about a child but the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 obliges schools and other authorities to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. The guidance lists five key areas:
– Risk assessment: Schools must assess the risk of their children being drawn into terrorism, as well as their support for extremist ideas and terrorist ideology. They should have robust safeguarding policies to identify children at risk, and appropriate intervention and referral options. The policy should also cover the suitability of visiting speakers.
– Working in partnership: Schools in England are required to ensure that their safeguarding arrangements take into account policies and procedures of their local safeguarding children board.
– Staff training: Schools should ensure that their staff are equipped to identify children at risk of being drawn into terrorism, as well as challenge extremist ideas. They should know how to refer children and young people for further help. The Home Office’s free training product about radicalisation awareness, Workshop to Raise Awareness of Prevent (WRAP), may be a suitable option.
– IT policies: Schools are expected to ensure that children are safe from online terrorist and extremist material in school, typically using filtering systems.
– Monitoring and enforcement: Ofsted inspectors will assess a school’s approach to keeping children safe from the dangers of radicalisation and extremism and what is done when the school suspects that pupils are vulnerable to these threats. If a school is considered to be failing in this regard or if their staff or children’s safety is threatened, maintained schools will be subject to intervention and academies or free schools may be subject to termination of funding. For independent schools in England or Wales, they must remedy any failing or be subject to regulatory action. Early years settings are also covered by this monitoring provision.
The power of the Internet and social media has highlighted a need for an open and ongoing dialogue in our communities – among children, young people, parents, carers, schools and wider – to ensure that young people have the skills to be critical thinkers online and are resilient to online extremism, whether from groups like Islamic State or from others.
To support schools with e-safety, South West Grid for Learning (SWGfL) has created 360 degree safe, a free online self-review tool and Boost, a comprehensive online safety toolkit.
This is a guest post by Ben Dowd, business director at O2 who shares why connectivity should lie at the heart of every startup operation.
While it is true that access to broadband and transport links are essential in enabling the growth of digital start-ups, it is even more important that businesses of all sizes understand the true benefits that connectivity can bring.
It’s no secret that one of the major advantages UK small businesses have over larger enterprises is their agility and ability to respond quickly to ever changing landscapes. The rate at which the UK creates and adopts new technologies is increasing all the time and it is those businesses who are the quickest to react who will see the biggest benefits. Small businesses are able to simply avoid many of the challenges of scale that come with size, whether that’s coordinating the work of hundreds of employees across multiple locations or sharing knowledge across disparate functional groups. As a result of this greater flexibility, small businesses are naturally better able to respond to new challenges and opportunities – but it is possible for businesses of all sizes to do this and the secret to success lies in better connectivity.
Many larger businesses have already realised this and are embedding digital at the heart of their strategies. O2 research commissioned recently, showed that digital interaction in businesses leads to increased job efficiency and business productivity.
In fact, a third (36%) of senior management and a quarter (24%) of employees in Britain’s largest organisations believe using more business technology for customer and employee interaction will lead to greater business productivity and more than 70% of senior managers think the use of technology for customer interaction has already had a positive effect on their organisation.
I would urge start-ups to take heed of these statistics and ensure connectivity lies at the heart of their operation from the outset. I also have three key pieces of advice for start-ups wanting to make the most out of technology for their business.
Firstly, employees must be equipped to work anywhere. Research that we conducted with CEBR last year found that 80% of businesses report that staff do not have full access to the key business systems that would make their working lives easier and more efficient, including the technology to work away from the office. We can easily overcome this problem by something as simple as ensuring that every employee has a company laptop and mobile.
Secondly, business owners need to consider the benefits to their customer service of accessing the fast and reliable connectivity of 4G, which allows them to respond to orders and enquiries quickly and efficiently, from any location with any mobile device. The cost of connectivity equipment isn’t prohibitive. Laptops, smartphones and 4G dongles are all easily available to businesses of any size.
Finally, businesses of all sizes spend too much time and money on travel that isn’t always necessary. Whether it’s between home and the office or between multiple locations around the UK, employers should make journeys more efficient. Our research shows that measures like investing in remote working technology, from webmail to 4G connectivity for laptops, could save employees 127 hours per year.
Every business must understand its own connectivity deficit and take measures to close it. Even small improvements, such as using smartphones, mobile apps, and cloud computing services, will help drive business productivity and restore the UK’s competitiveness within Europe and beyond.
Codio has released an Ask the Expert’s video which investigates the best ways of teaching computer science through coding in schools.
The video gives advice to teachers who are considering taking the computer science accreditation.
Throughout Sue Sentance, National Academic Coordinator at Computing at School (CAS) and Senior Lecturer in Computer Science Education at King’s College London speaks to Codio about the structure of the certificate and the benefits for teachers.
BCS e-assessors Ghita Kouadri Mostefaoui and Fintan Culwin also provide their insight.
Phillip Snalune, co-founder of Codio, said, “Our collaboration with BCS underlines Codio’s commitment to helping teachers reach the level of proficiency required to deliver excellence in the teaching of Computer Science.
“We hope that this video helps teachers understand what the certificate entails and how it could help them develop both their confidence and technical skills.”
You can watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7-DaG19yC0
Simon Harrison, CIO, Kingston University
As a leading UK university, we want to make sure that our students get as much as possible from their time with us, whether that be in their recreational time or during their studies. We know what technology can give us the upper hand here because students have come to expect the same level of technology in their studies as they do in their personal lives. They have been using laptops, smartphones and tablets on a daily basis and have constant access to hundreds of applications, from social media and email to online banking and retail. Why should they not have the same supporting their education?
Matching millennial expectations
Month on month, we at Kingston are seeing more and more connected devices being used across the university, including a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) community of 20,000 students. Not only do they expect their tech to work when they come to university; they expect to use their own devices to do their academic work.
Research by one of our key partners and suppliers – cloud computing and virtualisation company VMware – showed just how high up technology is in a student’s hierarchy of needs – it’s second only to food and shelter. Half (46%) of the 1,000 students questioned stated that they considered the level of IT on offer when choosing their university. Yet more than a quarter (26%) said they didn’t feel that the technology provisions at their university were consistent with the tuition fees they are paying. And of course with those fees being higher than ever, so are their expectations around technology. So, what can be done by IT departments to make sure they are meeting the needs of their students?
Using technology to enhance learning
From our experience, technology is absolutely crucial for enhancing the learning experience, from infrastructure and networking, to the applications they make available and how they are accessed. It’s also hugely important to be progressive and look forward, given that most of our revenues come from government funding or students. For us, that meant investing from the ground up by providing high-speed web and data access across the entire campus, and replacing our servers, storage and back-up hardware. Expanding on the existing infrastructure to create a ‘university without walls’, we then installed a virtual desktop solution with VMware. This means all students can work from anywhere on any device, with access to the applications they needed to study in a secure and efficiently managed environment. Given that we have around 600 teaching applications, which range from design and geoengineering through to statistical packages, access to these from any location is absolutely critical to support academic learning for our students.
Ultimately, universities need to realise how important technology is to students; 92% claim that having IT facilities can help them work in a more flexible way and enhance their studies. IT departments need to ensure students have a positive experience and that they can easily and reliably access the university systems and information to support their learning from any location and device – whether that is on campus or at home, in the UK or abroad. Supporting a generation of people who have grown up with the most advanced technologies at their fingertips is something we should all aspire to do.