Children’s book publisher Usborne has launched two new titles about computers and coding aimed at young children. At the same time it has made pdfs of its 1980’s computing titles freely available online.
Usborne deserted the computer scene at the end of the microcomputer era so it is really good news to see them re-entering it.
More coverage (this time from Digital Book World) of the new Foyles store – going to be worth a trip to Birmingham just to visit…
The 4,300sqft bookshop, designed by lustedgreen, stocks a range of 15,000 titles and includes a number of digital innovations for enhancing customer service and experience. Only the second branch to be opened by the family-owned business outside of London in recent years, Foyles Grand Central employs fourteen expert booksellers under the management of Steven Harmon.
Digital enhancements include:
– three audio-visual author pods and a children’s story pod, where customers can hear and see best-selling writers read their work aloud
– booksellers with handheld tablets, running a new Foyles web platform offering access to a range of millions of books
– digital signage throughout the store including a floor-to- ceiling display screen
Positioned on the upper concourse, it sits next to John Lewis and The White Company in the landmark new retail development.
The first authors to feature in the AV pods, designed by Audionation, will be Simon Schama, Neil Oliver and some of the Man Booker Prize shortlisted authors. In the story pod children will be able to enjoy Michael Rosen performing his new poems.
A live author talks programme is also planned for an events space accommodating 30-40 people. Cressida Cowell, author of the multi-million selling ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ series will open the children’s department on Saturday 17 October. Foyles has today announced further events including face-painting and a goody bag give-away on Saturday 26 September, and a Star Wars Reads Day on 10 October to mark the publication of the official new novel ‘Star Wars: Aftermath’ by Chuck Wendig.
Family audiences are central to the vision for Foyles in Birmingham, with children’s books a particular focus. Readers will also be able to enjoy the usual extensive Foyles range of fiction and non-fiction, with cookery, travel, music and more stocked alongside specially selected stationary and gifts.
The new in-store version of the Foyles website is designed for iPads, which all of the staff will be carrying to help them handle customer enquiries and orders on the go. The platform allows staff to respond to stock enquiries and, if an item is not in stock, order books for customers for delivery straight to their homes.
Recently recruited by Foyles as manager of the new store, Steven Harmon brings with him a wealth of retail experience in a number of different sectors in the region, having previously worked at Superdry, Hotter Comfort Concept shoes and most recently the stationery specialist Blott. He will report to Foyles Trading Director Siôn Hamilton and work closely with Janette Cross, Head of Customer Experience, to deliver excellent service.
Foyles Grand Central Birmingham is similar in size and style to existing Foyles branches in Westfield Stratford City, London Waterloo Station and Royal Festival Hall, also designed by lustedgreen. The opening brings the total number of Foyles bookshops up to six, with four branches in London, one in Bristol and one in Birmingham.
Siôn Hamilton, Trading Director of Foyles, comments:
“This is 21st century bookselling. We wanted a shop that affords a wide range of options to delight customers however they wish to connect with us. We are using technology to empower our staff, to share their love of books and to provide a more interactive and personal experience for our customers. By enabling booksellers with hand-held digital devices, we also are able to greatly increase the range that we can provide in our smaller stores and to respond better to customer needs.”
Simon Heafield, Marketing Manager of Foyles comments:
“With Foyles Grand Central, Birmingham we’ve embraced the latest digital technology to bring books to life, and author and readers closer together. We have taken the opportunity to enliven the instore experience by showcasing great books in an exciting new way. All of these technologies can be turned on and off and will be used in a sensitive manner. We are aware that many customers think of bookshops as an oasis of calm and these customers will be just as happy in the shop.”
My impressions of BETT, the annual educational technology show, now held at EXCEL, were very similar to the ones I had last year . The new venue has some advantages – better air conditioning being one. But still, on balance, I preferred the show when it was at Olympia. There it was good to have two separate halls to explore, plus the balcony, which was often the haunt for tiny startup firms.
The costs of having a stall at BETT are now prohibitively high for newly-established companies, and it was noticeable this year that practically all the exhibitors (especially the UK exhibitors) were ones that have already achieved a successful status.
I could find only limited evidence of genuinely helpful attempts to grapple with the requirements of the new computing curriculum (see Rory Cellan-Jones TV news report on the challenges facing schools). I am quite a fan of what the American startup, CodeHS, is doing in terms of teaching programming to high school students. I have used their video teaching units with KS2 children and the early units are easily accessible to Y4 and up.
A few months ago I asked Zach Galant, one of the co-founders of CodeHS, if he and his partner Jeremy Keeshin were planning to come to the UK to spread the word about CodeHS here, but when I told them the cost of even the smallest BETT stand he unsurprisingly told me it wasn’t going to be worth the investment.
It’s not as if, on the evidence of this show, there are many other enterprises offering the same kind of video-tutored course that these two young American entrepreneurs have developed.
Some of the programs being used and recommended in schools, at KS2 and KS3, are great as far as they go. I am as big a fan of Scratch and Khodu as the next person, but ultimately that kind of software teaches only the building blocks and logical thought-processes of programming. It’s a bit like painting by numbers. Sooner or later students need to get into the actual language of coding, and that’s where CodeHS is a really strong solution, especially for highly-motivated students, eager to learn at their own pace.
At an adult level I am a big fan of Lynda.com and believe that UK education still has a long way to go to really effectively deploy the full strengths and possibilities of video tuition. If anything there was less evidence this year of solutions aimed at supporting screencast creation, and I saw one presentation that gave the impression that Mediacore was an entirely new video management tool, whereas I clearly remember marking it as extremely noteworthy in my write-up of BETT2013.
Just as last year there were stands and stands devoted to visual displays, 2D and 3D printing and to course creation and assignment management. If the exhibition is anything to go by, the move to replace Smartboard-style whiteboards with big interactive TV-type screens seems to have abated. It was also noticeable how few of the Learning Platform or VLE providers retain a profile high enough to warrant exhibiting. There was Frog of course (a huge stand) and the Brighton-based DBPrimary. But that was about it.
For me personally BETT was valuable for being able to hear Stephen Heppell present (tirelessly throughout the day, it seemed – I stopped by his stand three times) and to hear the always-interesting Miles Berry‘s tea-time talk on possible ways of approaching one particular aspect of the new curriculum with KS2 children (teaching children to know about the internet – there’s more involved with that than it sounds).
Heppell has a marvellous (if somewhat haphazardly organised) arsenal of videos and images on his laptop (many of these can also be found on his website) that he is able to use to illustrate his talks. In particular I enjoyed seeing the photos he has taken inside inspirational schools, of rooms within rooms, and of informal shoeless learning environments. I missed most of the live Skype conversation he had with students in Denmark, but he clearly likes the Scandinavian approach, in particular their willingness to let children take risks (he showed photos of young students being allowed to cross a busy road and climb to the top of tall trees opposite one school – all in school time). He was also fascinating and inspiring on the subject of Big Data and how empowering (I usually dislike that word, but here it is apposite) it is to give children as much information as possible about how they are doing (I don’t like the word ‘performing’), and allow them to share that amongst themselves, and thereby learn from and instruct one another.
I just wish there had been a greater level of interest in these presentations (I can remember the days when a talk by Stephen Heppell would fill one of the very large auditoriums at Olympia), but the majority of visitors seemed focused on hardware and software – on the mechanics of delivery rather than the dynamics of pedagogy (teaching & learning). BETT has always been a trade show as well as an education show, but the emphasis on trading and commerce seemed greater than ever this year, with many oversees visitors on the opening day, and large areas of the exhibition floor given over to business meetings.
Again as last year I lament the absence of Adobe. The educational pricing of the Creative Cloud to my mind represents excellent value. I’m not suggesting every teacher/student should be given access to the Adobe suite of programs, but for key individuals in a school, yes, it would make a great deal of sense. For example, if admin/office staff were trained to use InDesign rather than relying on Word and Publisher, the immediate professionalisation of documentation produced would greatly benefit the school’s image.
I may have missed it (and if so let me know) but I saw little or no mention of markdown at the exhibition. I would like to see all teachers (and students from about Y4 up for that matter) being shown how to write and compose documentation using markdown (it can be learnt in half an hour), so that anything they produce can easily be converted into an HTML page for the web. The days of linking to Word documents should be long gone, and PDF files are hardly more mobile friendly.
The risk of attending trade shows such as BETT is that you go away thinking, if only we could afford to get this solution or that bit of kit, but we can’t so it’s just tough. But for all its limitations in the new venue and the shift in emphasis from teaching to commerce, BETT can still be inspirational. In particular, attend the right talk sessions and demonstrations (in addition to Heppell and Berry, I enjoyed a talk by James Guinevan of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on ‘Designing Mobile Apps for Pre-Schoolers’, and a presentation on the Young Digital Planet – a Polish company – stand by Tomasz Boszko, demonstrating their impressive digital publishing component, Bookshelf) and you’ll realise you can transform the way you work very easily and very probably with the technology you (or the students themselves) already own. Heppell is a great believer in the power of the smartphone, and simple measurement apps such as light and sound meters. In Denmark, according to Heppell, even KS1 children have mobile phones on their desks. All too often in the UK we are too cautious, too risk-averse. Time to step forward into the future more bravely.
Paula Cocozza’s feature about iPads and young children in today’s g2 section of The Guardian is headlined differently in the print edition of the paper. Underneath a fullpage photo of a boy and a girl leaning over a tablet screen and playing a game, the headline reads “Children of the revolution“. The sub-heading (reproduced below) is a good indication of the balanced, level-headed nature of the whole piece.
In the middle of the feature comes a welcome debunking of the story that surfaced last-year about a four-year-old who was reported to have needed treatment for iPad addiction. Cocozza manages to get the doctor involved with this case to concede that the ‘treatment’ “comprised a single informal phone call… in which he gave advice.” He is also quoted as saying that “addiciton” is not an appropriate word to use in relation to such young children.
The whole piece is definitely worth a read.
Tablet ownership has more than doubled in the past few years – and as many parents are finding, children are highly proficient at using them. But are these devices harmful to their development? Or do they encourage ‘technological intelligence’?
Mark Zuckerberg’s sister has defended her decision to publish two children’s books encouraging people to stay away from social media – even if it doesn’t with her brother’s business plan.
Randi Zuckerberg, 31, worked at Facebook in its formative years, serving as marketing director for six years before leaving in 2011 to strike out on her own…
Since leaving Facebook in 2011 she has formed Zuckerberg Media, a media and production company that so far has a failed Silicon Valley reality show under its belt, had a child and produced the two books based on her ruminations on lifestyle and technology.
The sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has written a children’s book about a little girl who discovers the joys of life away from her computer.
Randi Zuckerberg, 31, was inspired to write the book Dot after worrying about her own son’s future.
“Life’s a little bit richer when you look up from the screen,” Ms Zuckerberg writes on her blog.
“As I watch my two-year-old begin to discover technology, I feel certain that this is an important message to share with a younger audience.”