Pupils in a north of Scotland high school are looking at ways to explore some of society’s biggest issues by developing and building apps. Led by the inspirational Chris Aitken, Chris’ pupils not only learn the basics of coding and programming but also, they get a taste of real-life problem-solving as they develop new and easy-to-use software packages.
Since 2012, Chris has been using the ‘Apps for Good’ framework to teach his pupils not only the basics of computer science but to boost creativity and imagination in the classroom. ‘Apps for Good’ is an open-source technology education movement who partner with educators across the UK to help deliver their course.
Chris said: “When we got involved three years ago, Apps for Good had just run a pilot scheme in London and they were looking to expand it across England; I don’t think Scotland was even on their radar at that point.”
“We were the first school in Scotland to sign up for Apps for Good. It was quite interesting to see a map of the UK, with everyone teaching Apps for Good down and around London or surrounding areas and then just Wick in the very far north.”
Not only have Wick High School seen an increase in the number of pupils taking Computer Science into National 5 and beyond, they’ve also enjoyed national success every year at the Apps for Good awards in London. This year saw three teams reach the finals with their apps. One was for metal detecting enthusiasts to use historical map data to find interesting sites to search; another app helps people to make charitable donations; and the third was designed to help teenagers get more interested in politics.
S3 pupils John Sutherland and Konrad Szewczyk’s team won in the Thomson Reuters’ Information category for their app, ‘One Click Politics’ which was created after the team saw a need to get more young people interested in politics. Konrad said: “20,000 people entered the Apps for Good awards and for a group from a rural place in the Highlands to win is amazing.”
One of the most interesting aspects of the curriculum is that a lot of girls are becoming interested in the technology. Chris said: “Girls are seeing Apps for Good as a way into computer science and we’re starting to see more and more girls choosing it at National 5 and beyond.
One girl who has been inspired by the Apps for Good programme is Ellora James, who helped to create ‘Envirocache’, an app designed to provide a fun and educational way of getting children outside to engage in outdoor exercise and other activities. Her passion for Apps for Good has seen her future ambitions move towards a career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
Ellora said: “I completely changed my mind because I wanted to be a vet and then I did Apps for Good. Apps for Good has helped me because I have never done coding in computing and so when I did the course I thought, I want to be a software developer now.”
Wick High School has enjoyed a lot of success with Apps for Good over the past three years and Chris credits that to his pupil’s drive to succeed, their rural location not preventing them from participating in the digital world. Chris said: “Although they’re from Wick, a remote area in the far north of Scotland, they are no longer constrained by their geographic location. Due to advances in digital technology and broadband access, Wick High School can compete with anyone.”
See the pupils in action below: