In recent weeks we’ve been following the progress of students from two schools that have been taking part in the Schools App Challenge, an initiative led by West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing, with the support of NHS Wakefield CCG, Wakefield Council and two of Microsoft UK's Public Sector teams - Health and Education.
From an education point of view, the wider aims of the challenge were to support the school curriculum by getting children into coding and encouraging digital thinking, and through the entrepreneurial aspects help build 21st century skills by presenting a project based learning experience that exposed the students to scenarios beyond simply having to turn their hands to coding. On the other side of the coin there was a real opportunity to make an impact on the way the children - and their families - considered personal health, and increase local community knowledge and access to digital Primary Care.
The two schools involved were Hendal Primary and Horbury Primary, with a total of 100 students involved at the start of the project, creating 20 initial concepts that were shortlisted through some peer to peer judging down to six teams who would then make a Dragon's Den style pitch during the final. Along the way, they were aided by the involvement of mentors provided through Skype in the Classroom, and local GPs from West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing, who provided judging and feedback. Using Touch Develop to help them understand the details in app designing and development, they then correlated this to health and wellbeing topics using technology for research, linking two seemingly disparate primary school topics together into one grander project.
When it came to the final round of the competition, the students presented their health app concepts to a panel of judges, seeking to impress them with a Dragon's Den style pitch. Those on the panel included Jo Webster, Chief Executive from NHS Wakefield CCG; Andrew Balchin, Director of Adults Health & Communities at Wakefield Council, those behind the initial idea for the competition - Dr Chris Jones and Sarah Fatchett from West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing - and lastly our own UK Schools Business Manager, Anthony Nneke.
The notion of personal wellbeing isn’t just about taking care of our bodies, and the judges' eventually crowned the team from Horbury Primary behind anti-bullying app 'Friendship Forever' as winners of the competition. Emma Savage, the Project Lead for the Schools App Challenge, said:
“The winning app concept had some unique creative design ideas, and we are looking forward to working with developers now to bring the concept to fruition. The team had researched their health resources and information well, providing a virtual care navigation that embedded some of West Wakefield’s key service innovations such as the Health Pod, SystmOne and the service directory into their App."
Jenni Scott ICT Lead at Horbury Primary School said “We are incredibly proud of all our students today, who have worked very hard and thought carefully about what health apps would most help and interest them. As much as we have all learnt new coding skills through being involved in this competition, more importantly the students have learnt some invaluable life skills too that will stay with them forever.“
For the others who took part, the experience was also hugely beneficial. Reece, a Year 6 pupil from Hendal Primary School said:
“At first getting up and doing the presentation was a bit scary but we got better as we went along. We are really proud of what we have achieved. Although we didn’t win, we learnt a lot about coding and what it takes to develop an app and I will definitely be looking to learn more coding in the future.”
Visit to Rare Studios
As part of their prize, the team from Horbury Primary were treated to a trip to Rare Studios, where a number of popular video games are made. Emma Savage was kind enough to send us some feedback from last week's visit:
I have to say the Rare team put together a fantastic day for the students (and teachers!) yesterday. The students learnt so much behind the scenes info on what it takes to make video games - and were blown away with the level of thought and detail that goes into every animation and graphic element. They also came away appreciating how much fun everyone has as Rare - together with all the hard work that goes on there day in day out.
In honour of the Sea of Thieves game, they got to see the latest trailers, dress up as pirates and act out scenes in front of the green screen; do a pirate soundtrack and see first-hand how the unique sounds are made (shin bones and a hurdy gurdy to name two!), see not-yet-released footage on the summer game release Rare Replay and learn about Rare's exploits with Captain Bones at last month's E3 Expo in LA, as well as of course play some of the Rare Replay games.
The winning team, Friendship Forever, also got to present their health app concept to the Rare team and got some fantastic feedback not just on how confidently they presented but on the design and gaming elements of their health App.
Work starts next week on the build process for the School App Challenge health App - lots of user testing and co-creation to come before we are ready to release the App in September '15. The plan being for the Schools App Challenge 2.0 competition to re-launch in the new school year with a new wave of primary and secondary school students who will work on adding and improving the app with a focus on addressing oral hygiene and childhood obesity.
For more information about West Wakefield’s work with Microsoft, please visit Microsoft Health.