Tony Parkin appreciates Barnet schools' practical and creative approach to computing
With the emphasis on creating and making in the new computing curriculum, many schools are seeking more creative ways to adapt their teaching. Rather than settling for merely using tablet technology, there is a huge growth in interest in having pupils design apps, and even build their own or have their designs produced professionally.
Pupils from Tudor Primary School in Finchley recently took part in a special event to celebrate the official launch of their prize-winning app, Barnet Run, alongside pupils from other Barnet schools. It was held at Manorside Primary School.
The Barnet Run is a game, a treasure hunt where players have to collect keys to unlock clues and facts about Barnet. They travel through the borough’s streets, learning about the history and culture of the area as they solve puzzles and challenges. And it's available to download from major online app stores.
The app had won the @mybarnet competition run for Barnet schools by Barnet Council, Capita and Excite-ed, a community interest company that specialises in teaching digital game development to teachers and youngsters. At the event the winning Tudor Primary team were presented with their prize of £1,500 of digital technology equipment (iPad Mini).
Nine schools and more than 700 local pupils had taken part in the competition to design an app, with Tudor Primary School being crowned the eventual winners. However, some elements of ideas that teams from two runner-up schools, Manorside Primary School in Finchley and Wessex Gardens Primary School in Golders Green, had included in their games have also now been incorporated into the winning game. These two schools also each won £500 worth of digital technology, with Manorside choosing iPads and Wessex Gardens opting for a robotic arm.
The competition organisers had held several workshops to teach pupils how to create a storyline, understand the basics of games design, develop a project plan, turn their ideas into a viable, technical app specification, working together as a team. It was a tough task as the game needed to be fun, educational, attract repeat players and teach people facts about Barnet as they advanced through the game.
The project was specifically aligned for computing and design technology. It aimed to harness the children’s enthusiasm for technology and gaming, and encourage them to think about how gaming could be used to improve the lives of Barnet residents while still being entertaining.
Head of Tudor Primary School Jude Stone said: “The children were incredibly excited to see their game come to life and to play it, especially on the big screen. They learnt a lot about the process of creating an app using their own ideas and about their Barnet community when they were creating and designing the game. All of the pupils at Tudor Primary have enjoyed being part of this competition. We are really proud of the children.”
Julia Bateson, managing director of Excite-ed, added: “This is the first time we have run a competition like this and the outstanding quality of the entries goes to show how hard the children worked on their games and understood the process of app development.
“Engaging young people with technology at an early age is absolutely vital in helping them develop the skills they’ll need later on in life but we also wanted to show them how apps can be used to help their community and improve the lives of residents in Barnet.”
Robert MacDougall, Capita’s Transformation director for its partnership with Barnet Council, said: “There was some tough competition, but overall the judges decided Barnet Run was the game that best got to the heart of the competition.
“It’s a really inventive and fun game, and the children can be very proud of coming up with something that will let people find out more about Barnet’s interesting history. I had a go at the game myself and it is a challenge to play! We hope that the children will continue to build on the skills they have developed and apply them to their school and personal lives.”