Project based learning not only helps students to see the practical examples of the subject matter they are learning, but also aids the development and strengthening of skills that will help young minds to problem solve and innovate, rather than simply regurgitate key facts and syllabus content. It is this approach to education that will help prepare students for employment and creative endeavours in future life – not just prepare them to pass exams.
Microsoft is proud to be part of a fantastic project that is underway in the North of England that sees collaboration between different parts of Microsoft, a local health organisation and a number of different schools in the area.
One hundred Year 6 students from Horbury Primary School and Hendal Primary School in Kettlethorpe have taken up the challenge to work with health professionals from West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing and Microsoft to develop a digital tool that will help provide health and wellbeing support and advice to young people and the wider local community.
The project, which links into the school computer science curriculum and will help pupils learn coding skills at the same time as finding out more about health and wellbeing issues, has seen the students working in teams to create paper-based concepts for their Apps over the last 6 weeks.
So far, the two schools have produced 20 fantastic early-stage App concepts that have since been shortlisted down to six that will progress to the next prototyping stage. Reaching the final six was a combination of peer review, as the students judged each other’s efforts, as well as input from their teachers, clinicians and Microsoft mentors, who joined via Skype from London and Poland.
Mr Benson, Year 6 Teacher from Hendal Primary School said: “I have been really surprised at just how good the students’ ideas have been and how much time and effort they have put into the project. As we go into the prototyping stage I am looking forward to extending my own understanding of coding at the same time as seeing the childrens’ knowledge grow.”
Frankie and Henry Year 6 students at Hendal Primary School said: “We loved doing all the design work and presenting our concept to the judging panel. It has also been great to have our Skype mentor there, we took on board her advice and our final concept was much better for it.”
With working titles such as ‘Health Monster’ and ‘Happy Healthy’, the short-listed concepts covered a wide range of physical, mental and dental health and wellbeing topics and demonstrated a fantastic array of creative and fun ideas on how to engage and educate young people on how to get and stay healthy.
Chris Jones, Programme Director at West Wakefield Health and Wellbeing, who was also one of the judges at the shortlisting sessions, said: “It has been fantastic to see the team imagination come to life. All the concepts showed how having a healthy lifestyle is important but can also be fun.”
At present the students working on the short-listed health apps are working through a series of TouchDevelop tutorials, including 'First steps with turtle" to learn some of the fundamentals in programming. They are exploring how to bring some of their highly creative paper ideas to life through design animation and gamification environments.
To help with the project, our Microsoft Education Team have been working with our colleagues at Skype in the Classroom to provide a range of tools and tech expert time to the students throughout the project as well as supporting West Wakefield Health and Wellbeing build the final winning App, which will be decided at a ‘Dragon’s Den style’ judging panel in June.
Amy Harms, a Skype in the Classroom guest speaker who has been mentoring some of the teams, said: “The students all worked so hard that it made being a judge challenging. I found something unique and different in each app design, which meant the winning designs had to do several things really well to progress. The top apps showed strong character sketches, menu design, as well as good health research and team work.”
The project as a whole is a fantastic example of what can be achieved when students are given the opportunity to tackle a broad range of skills and disciplines when underpinned by a common theme. We’ll be waiting with keen interest to see which app is chosen by the panel of judges as the overall winner, and we look forward to welcoming them when they come to visit one of our coding studios in July.
Microsoft Health and West Wakefield
Microsoft’s partnership with West Wakefield Health and Wellbeing goes further than this education and digital skills collaboration project. The team in Microsoft Health have been working closely with the organisation on a number of different initiatives, such as using Microsoft Lync as a way of reducing the need for all patients to travel to the GPs’ surgeries. When the barrier of distance between doctor and patient is removed, the effect is obvious. Instead of a difficult journey or an interminable wait, a patient can get help right from their computer screen.
Telemedicine can improve efficiency, lower costs and improve outcomes while protecting important patient information. But it does more than that. It brings help to the people who need it most, in a timely and efficient manner.