Technology and health awareness. Two highly important aspects of our children’s lives.
As a parent, I have a daily battle with both: a battle with my conscience and a battle with the lovely little S.H.I.T.s.
They want as much screen time as they can possibly get their little mitts on. Meanwhile I fight it, for fear they will turn into exercise-deprived, acne-ridden YouTubers, whose sole purpose in life is to sit in a darkened room talking about Minecraft, surviving on bags of Cheesy Wotsits.
However, whether we like it or not, technology is an integral part of our childrens’ lives. And due to their more sedentary way of life (not so much of the riding around on Choppers from dawn to dusk these days), it is more important now than ever, to get them thinking about health in the right way, from an early age.
How, then, can we engage the digitally minded youth of today in the importance of physical and mental wellbeing?
By combining the two, of course – engaging children to use technology to raise health awareness. And that is exactly what the Schools App Challenge is doing.
The purpose of this competition is to encourage year 5 and 6 pupils, in as many primary schools as possible across England, to create their very own app to help children better understand the importance of healthy living.
Children giving advice to children: a far more powerful way to educate each other than boring old adults telling them what they should think.
Not only do the students get the chance to develop their skills in the digital world through coding and gaming, they also learn to research, collate and design their ideas, create storyboards, use flows, gain the valuable life skills of teamwork, listen to feedback and ultimately pitch their concepts to peers and expert judges across the health education and technology sectors (think Dragon’s Den but with no nasties telling you your idea is pants).
The 5 month challenge is structured to mirror the school year and add value to the existing curriculum, with links to DT, literacy, citizenship and coding.
I know firsthand as a teacher, that often these projects feel like they add extra work to the already heavy commitments of the school year, but the Schools App Challenge enhances what’s in place already, and adds an exciting angle.
The children get to witness imaginary ideas coming to life in technology, with the help of the experts at Microsoft. What an exciting and lasting impact that must have on young, technologically aware minds.
Microsoft help mentor teachers and students throughout the challenge via skype calls and an e-learning platform, so it’s not just the children who are learning, but the teachers too.
And let’s not forget the main goal behind the competition: to create health awareness amongst our kids.
The winning ideas so far have been Healthy Island (designed by Horbury Bridge Academy), aimed at raising awareness of childhood obesity and oral health, and Dragon in the Attic (Horbury Primary School) whose all-girl team addressed bullying, cyber safety and how to approach adults with your worries.
It is important to note that each year the new cohort of students work to a new brief, whether that be updating and improving one of the existing apps, or creating a new one that offers a different approach.
I left my 10 year old daughter playing around with Healthy Island and she ended up spending most time on Mount Mindful, which explored how you’re feeling today, and how to manage those feelings.
The cartoon monster suggests various ideas to work through emotions, with ways of relaxing such as yoga moves.
There are lots of replayable games, with one called Cloud Jump, for example, which highlights how important sleep is.
The concept that interested her the most though, was that children her own age had actually co-created these apps themselves, and they are now real live working apps, downloadable on all digital devices.
Dreams can be made into reality. And that’s pretty special.
Over 1,500 children have taken part in the challenge since it was successfully piloted in Wakefield in 2015, and now it’s being rolled out to give every primary school in the country the opportunity to enter.
Last year’s winners, Sandal Castle Primary, have recently spent a day behind the scenes at Microsoft-owned Rare Studios, learning how the games of tomorrow are made.
Microsoft continue to support the challenge but there is the hope that more corporate partnerships will get involved in the future, to allow it to continue to grow further.
As with all these things, funding is vital to enable this enriching competition to get off the ground for the first time as a national endeavour from September 2017, with a target of 600 schools taking part.
With 200 already signed up, schools can register their interest to take part at any stage at http://www.schoolsappchallenge.com/register. But if they want to vote with their feet to ensure it happens, making this part of their school’s plan next year then pledge…whatever you can afford.
But rewards start at £50 (your name on the website ‘Monster Applaws’ Wall); £200 (nominate your school, your name appears on the website as their entry nominee); £2000 (become an expert judge (1 of 20) who will be one of the first to see the shortlist, and help us decide our Final Six; Corporate – £60k founding partner and access to all elements of the program.
For more information go to http://crowdfunder.co.uk/schools-app-challenge.
As Schools App Challenge says:
‘We want every child to have the opportunity to shine and we believe that Schools App Challenge provides the foundation to do that. If you can imagine it – we can build it.’
Let’s help make it happen.