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Education wellbeing service developed in Bath launched today

A new web based service launched today by a company in Bath ensures children are heard in the primary school classroom and helps teachers monitor the wellbeing and happiness of their students.
Speakr makes it easy for teachers to see which of their students need some extra support, and can act as an early warning system alerting teaching staff to children who might be having difficulties at school.
Wellbeing and happiness are areas of increasing focus at a national level, with the UK Government spending £2m per year on research to understand the happiness of our children.
Speakr is the first and only online tool available that allows children to record their own feelings, from their perspective.
To use Speakr, children log into the system, either on a school computer or on an iPad. They can log in as often as they like, and can record how they feel throughout the school day by clicking on the ‘Speakr face’ that most closely reflects their emotions and entering some words to describe why they feel that way. Pupils can also use Speakr to send and receive messages with their teacher or another trusted adult within the school.
Teachers have their own login details, and can quickly and easily see how their whole class is feeling. They can identify whether a particular child appears to be out of sorts and follow this up with a conversation. Teachers can also provide ‘wellbeing’ reports to parents as part of their feedback about a child’s progress in their class.
Bath-based Anthony Lewis, father of two and founder of Speakr, said: “Often when children come home from school the only update you get as a parent is that their day was ‘Ok’ – it would be so helpful to know how they’ve really felt at school over a period of time. My original idea came from thinking about better ways to help children in care, but in talking to teachers it felt like there was an opportunity here for all children of primary school age.
“When Speakr was just a few ideas sketched on a piece of paper, the first teacher I spoke to about it – Hugh Thomas, Head of Science and PE at Broomhill Junior School in Bristol – said: “In my class of thirty, sometimes I don’t know if children are quiet because they’re quiet, or they’re quiet because there’s something wrong. If I had this tool, I’d know.” From that point on I believed we were on to something potentially amazing.
“Today’s primary school children are digital natives, so engaging them through technology they’re profoundly comfortable with seemed to offer an ideal way for them to record their feelings. We trialled Speakr in eight schools around the country and have had fantastic feedback from the children and their teachers.”
Mrs Delyth Williams, Head Teacher at Ysgol Bryn Teg in Llanelli, piloted Speakr. She said: “Assessing wellbeing is a challenge for all schools and Speakr will be a boost to all the schools that use it.”
Speakr is highly secure, with each school being allocated its own Speakr site, controlled by unique usernames and passwords for teachers and children. Children can’t share information on Speakr with classmates, everything they enter is kept between them and a minimum number of school staff.
Speakr has been trialled in schools around Britain over the past nine months and is now available to all schools and classes from September 2013. For a limited time, schools and classes can sign up to try Speakr for free. For more information see http://speakr.co.uk.
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24PullRequests – Andrew Nesbitt

At the last BathCamp I met Andrew Nesbitt, who has recently moved to the area and was the driving force behind 24PullRequests – a hugely popular festive project to encourage developers to contribute back to open source software. The project ran from 1st to 24th December 2012.

Andrew describes himself as a ‘passionate, full stack developer, who loves experimenting with new technologies and techniques to help ship kick ass products on the web’, and he has kindly put together this post about his ’24PullRequests’ experience. 

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andrewnesbitt“I came up with the idea for 24PullRequests during November when a few friends were participating in Movember, the viral nature of everyone growing moustaches made me wonder if the same approach could work for contributing to open source software on GitHub.

As a web developer, I use open source software on a daily basis. Ruby on Rails, Node.js and WordPress are all open source – you can download and view the source code of the project.

One of the most popular places to find open source software is GitHub, which provides a great way to contribute, the “pull request“.

The idea behind 24PullRequests is for developers to try and send 24 separate pull requests to open source projects during the month of December – think of it like an advent calendar for developers.

When I launched the site on 1st December it was a very simple, static HTML web page that explained the idea. I made the site open source and uploaded the site to GitHub and submitted the site to Hacker News.

The initial reception was excellent and developers quickly started to add functionality to the site, like the ability to login using your GitHub account and record all the pull requests you sent.

Over 1000 developers signed up to the site over the first couple days. This popularity caused a couple of problems!

The influx of traffic began to slow the website down, but luckily we had used Heroku to host the site so scaling up was a piece of cake.

The second problem was the sheer amount of pull requests being sent to the project itself. The developers participating were fixing bugs, adding features and even correcting typos on the site – managing all of them was taking a long time.

Thankfully the developers stepped up again and a team formed around the project to help out with the influx of activity.

By Christmas Day we had recorded 3175 pull requests on 1498 different projects from 886 developers, a massive success and some brilliant contributions to the world of open source software.

After the success of 2012, we’re are going to run the project again in December 2013. If you would like to get involved you can sign up to the site now and you’ll receive an email a bit closer to Christmas.”

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Uni of Bath event set to revolutionise school IT

An event hosted at the University of Bath is set to change the way children learn about computing at school.

Most of us see computing as one of the most exciting subjects to study, yet as we’re aware, current arrangements for teaching it in schools leaves many of the country’s brightest students feeling that the subject is irrelevant and uninteresting.

This autumn sees the launch of a national Network of Excellence, run by the organisation Computing at School in collaboration with BCS (The Chartered Institute for IT) and with the support of the Department for Education, Universities, OCR, CPHC, Microsoft and Google.

The network aims to improve the curriculum and train computing teachers with the ultimate goal of including a greater level of computer science study in the classroom.

Professor James Davenport from the University’s Department of Computer Science is supporting the initiative. He said: “Hosting the kick-off event in Bath is our way of showing our total support for this extremely important campaign.

“School computing lessons are mechanistic and don’t prepare students for the study of any computer-based course further down the line.

“Moving away from current IT lessons to computer science focused lessons will benefit all school pupils, not just those who are interested in a career in computing. Computer science is primarily about problem solving, and is a useful core skill.

“At Bath we’re very keen to work with Computing at School to provide training and support for teachers, to lobby government over the syllabus, and to support schools in introducing new programmes of study.”

Bill Mitchell, Director of BCS Academy of Computing, said: “There is a great deal of interest in teaching computer science, but a shortage of teachers with the expert knowledge to do so. The Network of Teaching Excellence aims to address this by partnering schools with local universities which will provide teachers with the relevant training they need in order to offer computer science.”

The network will now begin offering a programme of training to teachers. If you have friends or family working in schools, you can encourage them to register online to take part in the Network of Excellence.

For more information about the programme at Bath click here.

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University of Bath Centre for Digital Entertainment

Digital entertainment research from the University of Bath is benefitting organisations across the UK.

Double Negative is one of the countries leading animation companies, responsible for the dragons in Harry Potter and cheeky alien Paul. Research carried out at Bath’s Centre for Digital Entertainment is feeding into the development of this internationally recognised company.

And outside the film sector the Centre continues to have impact. The National Trust is working with researchers to harness cutting edge technologies that will allow it to better engage audiences, and bring cultural artifacts to life.

To learn more about Bath’s Centre for Digital Entertainment see this new video produced through the University’s Knowledge Transfer Account:

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HashBang.TV Episode 8 “The Prime mover in the developer community”

Episode 8 of HashBang TV has arrived.

On this weeks show we are joined by community legend Thayer Prime. We talk about her awesome name, and how she got started in tech. Thayer provides some killer tips on how to break into the industry, discusses how brands are attempting to engage with developers, the challenge of marketing to developers and her latest project, recruiting for the Government Digital Service. We finish off talking about work life balance, being open on Twitter, and Chris talks about his experiences with Air B&B.

As always, the episode is available as a 15 minute video edit with the extended interview available on the Podcast.

Links

Government Digital Service
Air B&B

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Hashbang.tv: Episode 5

Introducing you to Hashbang.tv – a tech blog & podcast hosted by Bath’s very own Chris Book (founder of Bardowl and winner of TheSPARKies Best Startup award) and James Parton. The podcast is not Bath-centric, but covers interesting tech products and stories.

This is Episode 5: Oded Ran is on the show to talk about Touchnote, the mobile app to physical postcard service. Topics include preloading apps on handsets, and how to react when Apple launches a copy cat product in your space. James talks about the Developers Guide to the Parallel Universe.

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Bath app developers – shaken not stirred

Coding and drinking might not always be the wisest of bedfellows – but the combination has paid off for one Bath firm.

App developers Riot have teamed up with their local bar,  Door 34, to whet the appetite of cocktail drinkers.

Inspired by evenings at the bar, staff at Riot set about devising an iPhone app that generates new cocktail recipes.

With the shake of a phone, the Shaken app comes up with the recipe for a new drink with a novel name.

Andy Walsh, owner of Door 34, with guys from Riot. Photo: Lloyd Ellington The Bath Chronicle / Bath News & Media

“It’s a bit like drinking roulette,” says Andy Walsh, owner of Door 34.

Elliott Kember, of Riot, said the app had been developed during one of his firm’s regular hack nights.

“It only took about half-an-hour to get it working and then we all trooped back down to the bar to try it out,” recalls Elliott. “To everyone’s great surprise it worked really well. That was a great night!”

Shaken is available from iTunes priced 69p

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Frintr launches on the App Store

Frintr is a new iOS app that turns any image on your iPhone or iPad into a mosaic made up of images of all your friends on Twitter or Facebook. And, what’s more, the idea was born right here in Bath.

The idea originally started out as a website, which was the brainchild of developer Tom Buckley-Houston. On Tom’s site you log into your Facebook or Twitter account and the service will then create you a so-called ‘Frint’ mosaic from your friends profile pictures.

You can create Frints from any image using the app

You can then buy the resulting ‘Frint’ as a digital download for $1, while for Twitter Frints you can also choose to create a Frint from a random user or even a Twitter search. (You can check out our attempt at a Frint here.)

The iPhone, iPod touch and iPad app works in much the same way, but has a single up-front cost.

App developer Neil Stanley met Tom during Bathcamp 21 at the Innovation Centre in Bath last April and the pair both presented on “The top 10 things I learned in startups”

Neil takes up the story. “When Tom and I met he had already built a fantastic website. Having put heart and soul into the site Tom was humble enough to admit that net it had lost money.

The final Frint

The final Frint

“Having developed Apps for a number of years I felt the functionality was better suited to a smartphone because of the built in camera.

“I also thought that the business model of selling apps rather than physical printed Frints was likely to be a better one. So I proposed we worked together on an app with me designing the app and Tom building the API to the Frintification magic!”

Neil describes the development as “relatively uneventful” but adds that it still took around four months to do.

So has the app been a success? “I knew from experience that just putting a paid app in the App Store on its own is almost certain to sink without trace,” continues Neil. “However if you have an established user base and a website to promote [the app] it can lead to commercial success.

The original Frintr website enabled you to create and download your Frint for $1

“This has been true to an extent but not as much as we would have liked. So we are now working on a freemium version of the App which will allow it to be downloaded for free and tested with most of the features accessible through In-App purchasing. This is a strategy that has worked well for another of my Apps, iHi.”

And Neil also has advice for anybody else in the Bath area that has a great idea for an app. “I wish I had a pound for every time someone has said to me ‘I’ve got a good idea for an App’. Well if you do, go to one of the Bathcamp sessions at the Bath Innovation Centre. There you will meet people like us who have done it before and will freely share our experience with you.”

The Frintr app costs 69p on iPhone/iPod touch and £1.49 on iPad – you’ll need iOS 3.0 or later. Find out more about the app at frintr.com and follow at twitter.com/frintr.

 

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